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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn questions Harry Reid’s sanity.

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HH: The United States Senate has just turned back an effort to pass the Webb amendment, attach it and force a manufactured withdrawal from Iraq. That’s important news. To discuss that and many other issues with me, Columnist to the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s works at It’s like Christmas early, because he’s here on a Wednesday and not a Thursday. Mark, always a pleasure, thank you for joining us.

MS: My pleasure, Hugh.

HH: Before we get to the Congress, I want to run by you the headline in the New York Sun today that the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is in discussions with the New York Police Department to visit Ground Zero on Monday. Your reaction?

MS: I think the correct attitude to these things is a very simple one. Under the agreement by which the United Nations sits in New York City, the United States cannot deny entry to any foreign head of state. That being so, he should land at the airport, he should go directly to the United Nations, and no state or municipal or other officials should offer him these courtesies in any way. This would be a disgusting photo op that he would use to his advantage back home. And the City of New York should not be cooperating with him.

HH: Now you know, both Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney have issued denunciations. Romney’s saying it is unthinkable that the president of a state sponsor of terror would be allowed to get near this site. And he didn’t mention, but I would have, maybe he should visit the site of the American barracks in Lebanon that his people blew up in 1983.

MS: Yeah.

HH: And after he acknowledges that, he can come to Ground Zero.

MS: That’s right. If he wants to see the results of Islamist terrorism, there are a lot of places he can visit much nearer to home. In fact, Mitt Romney, one of the best things he ever did was to deny the state troopers protection facility to Ahmadinejad’s predecessor when he was invited to speak at Harvard. And Mitt Romney had the right line on this. If Harvard wanted to issue these idiotic invitations, that’s up to them. But the taxpayers of Massachusetts are not going to fund the visit by providing protection for these guys. And in the end, the event was cancelled. And that’s exactly the line that the state of New York should be taking, too.

HH: Now earlier today, a powerful bomb killed another Lebanese official, a pro-government parliament member. Six others died in a Christian suburb. Antoine Ghanem, 64, was a member of the Phalange Party, and of course, Mark, this is the Syrians and the Iranians doing what they’ve been doing, a campaign of terror against a neighboring state.

MS: Yeah, and it’s particularly sad in the case of Lebanon, because you’ll remember a couple of years ago, there appeared to be whatever we were calling it then, the Cedar spring, or whatever term the papers used when the streets were full of all those very attractive young ladies demanding an end to being run as a vassal state by Syria, which is itself a vassal state of Iran. And it looked at that moment that the Bush doctrine had developed its own kind of domino momentum. The war was happening in Iraq had inspired events in Lebanon, and would inspire events in Syria and beyond, too. And instead, what’s happened is that this little twerp, Assad, who should really be back practicing ophthalmology in London, is about the weakest of these enemies of the United States, has in fact been emboldened by the sort of defeatism emerging from Washington over the last couple of years, and feels he’s under no threat, and he can get back to doing what he wants in Lebanon. And it’s a sad comment on the Harry Reid’s and Co. that Assad have drawn the message that American simply has no will to enforce the Bush doctrine in the Middle East.

HH: You know, that is the connection I was driving to. It is no surprise that weakness is understood to be the American policy when the Webb amendment gets 56 votes, almost the 60 it needs to manipulate American troop policy in Iraq. And yes, we continue to win, but they continue to keep coming back and doing and saying stupid things. Harry Reid on the weekend said that a million Iraqis had been killed since the invasion, Mark Steyn. That is simply giving propaganda to Al Jazeera that it doesn’t have to manufacture on its own now.

MS: Yes, exactly. The fact of the matter is that there are no million dead in Iraq. He has essentially flown the coop. He has now embraced the nuttiest of nutso theories, that in effect, his country’s troops have been responsible for a mass murder on an industrial scale throughout Iraq. And it’s disgusting. This is the man who is the Senate majority leader, and he’s doing more damage to the image of his nation at a time of war than the wackiest kook writing in the most hostile anti-American newspaper on the planet. This is just, this is simply something that is beyond any reasonable policy difference, and I do think it’s not a question of questioning his patriotism. God forbid we should do that, because they’re so touchy about it. I would question his sanity making statements like that.

HH: Now yesterday, Victor Davis Hanson on this program said he thought Harry Reid was unbalanced.

MS: Yes.

HH: I think he’s captured. I think owns him.

MS: Yes.

HH: And he’s under…the mortgage holder says you can’t do anything but this.

MS: Yes, and I think it’s a very interesting question. You know, the American people are not defeatist. They’re not where the Democrats are, but they’ll end up where the Democrats are if they don’t understand the game the Democrats are playing. The Democrats are relying on the kind of, what Niall Ferguson, the British historian, calls America’s attention deficit disorder, that in effect, the talking down of the mission in Iraq will develop its own momentum, and people will end up embracing Harry Reid defeatism just out of sheer exhaustion. And if he does that, it’s going to be Vietnam to the Nth degree in terms of its domestic consequences.

HH: After the break, if we can get the connection working, we hope to talk to Michael Totten in Ramadi, or…no, I guess he’s back in the country. He just came back. Have you read his piece from Ramadi yet?

MS: No, I haven’t. I’ve been kind of away from the computer most of the day, so I’ve been in what we used to call the real world, and I haven’t seen it.

HH: Well, it’s extraordinary. It’s extraordinary, the amount and completeness of the progress and stability in al Anbar now. He can’t stop exclaiming this, but it doesn’t matter to the Webb’s and the Reid’s and the defeatists in the Republican Party.

MS: No, and I think what’s sad about this is you can argue that there were mistakes made in Iraq. There certainly were mistakes made, not so much by the Pentagon, but by the other agencies that had responsibilities there. But the fact of the matter is that a superpower is not passive. A superpower, if it has the will, can change the facts on the ground, and that’s what we’re seeing in Anbar and other parts of Iraq. And the fact of the matter is that the Democrats resent this. They’ve booked the caterer for the grand Iraq defeat parade, and they don’t want to have to change. They don’t want to have to cancel that caterer. They don’t want to have to send back the Iraq defeat balloons. They are so invested in defeat, and to their shame, a number of the squishiest Republican Senators, which is basically a number that can expand every day, the squishiest Republican Senators are going along with them.

HH: Mitt Romney released a new ad today which targets his own party in some respects. Let’s take a listen to it and get your reaction. This is Mitt Romney’s new ad:

MR: If we’re going to change Washington, Republicans have to put our own house in order. We can’t be like Democrats, a party of big spending. We can’t pretend our borders are secure from illegal immigration. We can’t have ethical standards that are a punch line for Jay Leno. When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses. It’s time for Republicans to start acting like Republicans. It’s time for a change. And change begins with us. I’m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.

HH: Mark Steyn?

MS: Yeah, and I think, I don’t know how that will play in the rest of the country, but I think that’s exactly what cost the Republicans my state of New Hampshire in 2006, is the fact that as Mitt Romney says, when Republicans act like Democrats, America loses. People want a choice. They don’t want two parties who both support big, bloated, money no object government. They don’t want two parties who are both in favor of revoking the sovereignty of this nation, and letting millions and millions of people come stampeding across the border with impunity. They’re not in favor of two parties that are both committed to defeat once you get into a war, that Mitt Romney is right. The American people are entitled to a choice, and they were not given a choice by the…in the 2006 elections, thanks to the disgusting behavior, in large part, of the Republicans in Washington.

HH: Last question. Israel made something go boom last week in Syria, and Syria made themselves go boom last month in Syria, blowing up some Iranians in the process. Are these just ordinary events? Or do they tell you something, Mark Steyn, is over the horizon?

MS: They tell me that events are moving very fast in that part of the world. You mentioned that second incident, the so-called Syrian work accident in which according to reports, some Syrians and Iranians were trying to strap a chemical weapon onto a scud or something, and wound up getting the nasty chemical stuff all over themselves and dying. The fact of the matter is that Iran and Syria both make explicit what they plan to do, and we should take them at their word.

HH: We need to take them seriously indeed. Mark Steyn, thank you, always a pleasure,, America.

End of interview.


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