Mark Steyn On The Passing Parade Of Boehner’s Speakership, Herb Gray, and John Kerry’s Mid-East Peace Deal
HH: I begin as I do on Thursdays when we are lucky with Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World himself. Hello, Mark, how are you?
MS: I’m doing great, Hugh, how are you?
HH: I’m terrific. Now I see that you have brought out The Passing Parade as an e-book. Now this is, I’ve had this collection since it came out of your wonderful funeral orations in a way, your passing on the baton for people who pass on. But I think you should add John Boehner’s speakership to this after he mocked his colleagues over immigration reform today.
MS: Well, I’ll say this about my book, that when I write about someone who’s deceased, even if they’re someone who is not wholly admirable, there has to be a little bit of something in there, in their life, the spark of humanity to which you respond. And I’m not sure that John Boehner’s speakership meets that criterion, to be honest.
HH: No spark at all?
MS: I would find it very difficult to say anything, to find a human chord to respond to in there.
HH: Well, here’s how the article begins: “House Speaker John Boehner theatrically mocked his fellow Republican Congressmen for being afraid to reform immigration policy when he spoke Thursday before the Middletown Rotary Club in his home district. ‘Here’s the attitude. Oh, don’t make me do this, oh, this is too hard,’ Boehner whined before a luncheon crowd at Brown’s Run Country Club in Madison Township. ‘We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems. And it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to. They take the path of least resistance…I’ve had every brick and bat and arrow shot at me over this issue just because I wanted to deal with it. I didn’t say it was going to be easy.'” Not the best way to mobilize your colleagues, Mark Steyn.
MS: No, and the problem here isn’t his representatives and the members of his caucus. The problem here is the Republican base. The problem here is in fact the American base, who throughout the country have to live with the hard consequences of vast, illegal, low-skilled, transformative immigration, which has all kinds of implications for school budgets and hospital emergency rooms. And unless life has been as good to you as it has been to John Boehner and to the political class, you’re at the sharp end of what for the political class in this country is mainly a problem of pool boys and the nice ladies who leave the chocolate on the bed in your hotel room in the evening. And I would be in favor of immigration reform if it was serious immigration reform. I just, a couple of weeks ago, I was in Ottawa, and I played the, effectively, the Canadian version of CPAC, the big conference of Canadian conservatives that is held in Ottawa every year. And one of the big differences of that was it was much more diverse, as we now say. That’s to say there were persons of ethnicity all over the room, and they came up after my speech, and were photographed with me, and there were people of many different hues. It was a total rainbow coalition in there, very different from Republican ones. And the reason for that is that Canada has an immigration policy that attracts, makes it easy for entrepreneurs and people to come into Canada, and they’re the kind of people who when they get there, they want to run their own businesses. And they’re interested in conservative policies from the get-go. That is not the case with what has happened to U.S. immigration. And everybody knows, everybody knows that this is essentially the Democratic Party during the old Bertolt Brecht line of, as he famously said after the East German election, maybe it’s time for the government to elect a new electorate. And essentially, that’s what’s going on here. The Democratic Party is importing voters. And John Boehner doesn’t get that.
HH: One of my friends in the caucus said that the Speaker’s so out of touch on this issue that it’s not that people don’t want to do immigration reform. They don’t trust the President to do whatever is passed. They think he’ll just do whatever he wants further. Even John Boehner’s staff doesn’t want to do this. It’s really the Speaker looking for a legacy, and I think that’s the most dangerous thing in the world, is an elected leader looking for a legacy, Mark.
MS: Yeah, I don’t even know where we get that kind of thinking. Who cares about his legacy? He’s the Speaker of the House. And what’s important is what’s in the interest of this country, and more specifically, the interest of the people who are existing, legal, U.S. citizens as of this moment. That’s to whom the Speaker of the House of Representatives owed his duty. I don’t believe…I’m here legally. And believe me, I wouldn’t make that mistake again if I knew everyone would be wooing me for the amnesty.
HH: Well now that I know there are many different hues at the Canadian conservative movement, I might become one of those myself. If there are a hue welcoming party, I might just go up there. Now let’s turn abroad. This afternoon, New York Times, Russia announced that it was immediately starting military drills involving its army and air force along the border with Ukraine. This is almost like a Mel Brooks replay of the German-Poland, the whole theater that Germany went through when they invaded Poland.
MS: Right, right. I think that’s true, and it’s for the same reason, in many ways. After the Versailles Treaty, there were significant German populations let outside the redrawn German borders. As a consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union, there are significant Russian populations that are living outside the borders of the present Russian federation. And Putin’s message to them is don’t worry. You may be technically living in some other sovereign state, but we’re the guys who are going to make the running around here. And the fact of the matter is that there’s a vaccum of Western power, people like Francois Hollande in France, and David Cameron in Britain are jokes. And that’s as may be, but the question is with Obama. What is unsettling to people is that the post-American world seems to be something that he is actually quite well-disposed to. If you look at his bizarre remark about how America supports the peaceful rise of China that he said a couple of days ago. He seems to welcome the running out, the withdrawing, the retreat of American power from the world.
HH: Now Mark, I was thinking about your book, The Passing Parade, and I have a list here from Wikipedia of people who have died thus far in 2014. And I was just, if you were to retake up this, would Herb Gray, who was the deputy prime minister of Canada qualify? I mean, who this year would have attracted your attention?
MS: Well, I liked Herb Gray.
HH: I knew it. I knew you’d know him.
MS: He was the first Jewish cabinet minister. He’s actually, I hate to be a pedant here, Hugh, he’s actually the Right Honorable Herb Gray, since there’s a mark of his greatness. That’s normally an honorific reserved for prime ministers and viceroys and the chief justice of the supreme court of Canada. But the Queen graciously conferred it on him. He’s the longest-serving MP in the history of the Canadian Parliament, and he was the first Jewish cabinet minister. So I appreciate that you’re losing affiliates for every ten seconds we talk about Herb Gray, but in fact, he was also on the U.S.-Canada border commission, if you really want to lose affiliate, which is responsible for looking at water rights along the 49th Parallel.
HH: I just thought I could stump you with someone from this list, but about whom there was a marginal chance you would know. Any chance you know who Little Joe Cook is?
MS: No, I don’t know. Who is Little Joe Cook?
HH: Oh, thank God. He’s an American doo wop singer and songwriter, otherwise…
MS: Oh, right. I should have known that, actually. That name should have rung a bell.
HH: Well, I hope, are you going to take up the Passing Parade again? I always thought the Atlantic was nuts for having you stop that. And I would love for someone to let you go back to your obituary machine-like efforts.
MS: Well, you know, the owner of the Atlantic, David Bradley, he said, and I probably shouldn’t say this, but it’s been a few years, so who cares? He said the thing with the magazine is it tends toward the earnest. And my monthly obituary, he said what he liked about it was that it was a break from the earnestness. And at times when I pick up that magazine, I feel it could use a break from the earnestness.
HH: Okay, last question, Hamas has joined up with the Palestinian Authority, and Netanyahu says that’s it, whoever chooses the terrorism of Hamas does not want peace. Do you think John Kerry is going to try to rescue this one?
MS: No, John Kerry is bizarrely invested in something that cannot happen. And it cannot happen, because the side that he absolves of any responsibility for the situation is not interested, is not really interested in creating a sovereign state and running that state. It’s in the business of expunging Jews from that part of the world, and John Kerry doesn’t get that.
HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure. Go to www.steynonline.com, America, for all of his books, including the Passing Parade. And maybe he’ll write something about Herb Gray now that his memory has been jogged. And if he can work in Little Joe Brown into that, that will be a truly magnificent effort at writing.
End of interview.