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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn returns to the Hugh Hewitt airwaves

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HH: And as usual, on our best Thursdays, I’m joined by columnist to the world, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark Steyn’s work at And Mark, congratulations. We got to listen to some of your guest hosting for Rush when he was out. It was tremendous. You’re a natural, and we’re going to have to push you over a cliff, because we don’t like competition like that.

MS: (laughing) That’s very kind of you, Hugh. I made a joke with the producer, because I was just kind of en route back from Australia, and he said when does jetlag hit from Australia? And I said well, it usually hits at mid-day, Eastern time, on Thursday.

HH: (laughing)

MS: And in fact, I shouldn’t have made that joke, because the very next morning, I woke up, looked at the clock, and it was 20 past 10:00AM. I’d overslept. And so I wound up having to have a 90 second shower, and run nine blocks down 6th Avenue in New York, panting to the studio. So I think that may be the secret. I was still having my first cup of coffee of the day about an hour into the show. So that may be the secret.

HH: Now this is a little tradecraft before we get to the important issues of the day. But I was sitting around with Lileks and the Powerline guys, and the crazy people from Fraters, talking about that along with Duane, and we were all very impressed. But were you tired? Or do you just think hey, that was easy, let’s do that again?

MS: (laughing) No, I was in a kind of…you know, I think you have to have…and funnily enough, I don’t want to name drop here, but it was actually Frank Sinatra who some years ago, who said this to me, that if you think of something as being not what you do, and you look on it as just as a kind of bonus, then often, it will go quite well. And Sinatra was talking to me in that respect about acting. He was saying you know, basically, he’s a singer. So when he is making a movie, he just thinks of it as a kind of sideline, and he’s kind of slightly more relaxed about it than he’d be if he was making a CD. And I think that’s good advice. If something isn’t what you do…I mean, I regard myself as a writer, and I thought well, if this is nice, and it works out, fine. And if it’s not, it’s not my kind of core activity. And I think that’s the attitude I had to it.

HH: Well, congratulations. I hope we hear you doing more of it. And on the notion of you’re being a writer, and I have had the advantage over most of America of actually having gotten to read America Alone. And I mentioned that in passing on the air, and I was immediately bombarded with pub date requests. When does the next Mark Steyn book appear?

MS: Well, I think it’s officially October the 2nd in the United States, although for some reason, it seems to be September the 30th in Canada. So…

HH: Maybe Canada needs it more.

MS: (Laughing) Well, Canada does need it more. I’m not sure whether the two days difference, if you want to order from Amazon’s Canadian site, is going to make much difference if you’re in San Diego, by the time it gets across the international mail. But for some reason, the official date seems to be two days earlier up in Canada.

HH: Okay. Well, we look forward to that. We’ll talk about it specifically. Until then, I won’t blow your cover on that first. Let’s turn to the issue of the day, the President’s speech. I want to play 1:55 of it, Mark Steyn, because it’s so important to set the stage for what follows. Here’s George W. Bush at the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City today:

GWB: This Summer’s crisis in Lebanon has made it clearer than ever that the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran. The Iranian regime arms, funds, and advises Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than any terrorist network except al Qaeda. The Iranian regime interferes in Iraq by sponsoring terrorists and insurgents, empowering unlawful militias, and supplying components for improvised explosive devices. The Iranian regime denies basic human rights to millions of its people. And the Iranian regime is pursuing nuclear weapons in open defiance of its international obligations. We know the death and suffering that Iran’s sponsorship of terrorists has brought, and we can imagine how much worse it would be if Iran were allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Many nations are working together to solve this problem. The United Nations passed a resolution demanding that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment activities. Today is the deadline for Iran’s leaders to reply to the reasonable proposal the international community has made. If Iran’s leaders accept this offer and abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions, they can set their country on a better course. Yet so far, the Iranian regime has responded with further defiance and delay. It is time for Iran to make a choice. We’ve made our choice. We will continue to work closely with our allies to find a diplomatic solution, but there must be consequences for Iran’s defiance, and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

HH: Mark Steyn, that’s the heart of the speech. Your reaction?

MS: Well, I think realistically, he’s put down a marker there. I mean, clearly the expectation is that he feels more strongly about this than the other permanent members on the Security Council. So in other words, he’s saying that the diplomatic angle is not the only thing, is not the only thing. And if that’s understood that way in Tehran, then that may have some effect. But I think realistically, the Iranians look on this, that they’ve managed to gain the kind of international talking chops for a couple of years now, and they can carry on doing that with impunity, because they understand that there is simply no real appetite among China, Russia and even Germany and France for serious sanctions, and particularly oil sanctions, against Iran.

HH: Mark Steyn, four years ago, George Bush ended his vacation in August, with a speech at the U.N. that simply said Iraq will be brought to justice, or they will either comply with the U.N. resolutions that had piled up like hotcakes at a Denny’s, or will do something about it. Is he replaying that now?

MS: Well, I certainly hope so. I mean, I think George W. Bush is in the situation now where he has, you know, he’s got a couple of years to go. And he’s not a Bill Clinton. He’s not going to boot this down the line, and leave it as unfinished business for the next guy to deal with. I think he understands that this is a war presidency, and that’s how it will be judged. And clearly, the growing power in the region of Iran is the next big issue, and I think he’s determined to deal with it. And I think…my concern is that obviously, we’ve got to go through the usual diplomatic falderal, because effectively, we have a broken international system. It’s actually as broken as it was in the 1930’s, during the League of Nations days. And in fact, it’s much worse, because the kind of hollowed-out, broken, this pseudo-postmodern international system, has become a kind of voodoo zombee type thing all of itself. We have this thing that’s absolutely, sort of meaningless falderal, but that the other countries still use as a wedge against America. But I think he’s serious about this.

HH: Given that, and I agree with you, can you in any way explain the inexplicable, and I think frankly insane decision to issue a visa to the Ayatollah Khatami, to roam around the country like a Cingular wireless man, meeting with Jimmy Carter, addressing us from the National Cathedral. It’s obscene in my view, Mark Steyn.

MS: I think it is absolutely disgusting, and I think it gets, really, to the heart of much of what’s been going on in the Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame business, that significant agencies in the U.S. government do not share the President’s view of the war, and basically have gone their own merry little way on it. Now I think the idea that Khatami is basically coming here, there’s going to be television footage beamed back to Iran, showing him speaking at American venues, in American cities, with prominent American figures. That’s handing them a huge propaganda coups. And I wouldn’t mind, if, for example, Dick Cheney could go on a speaking tour of Iran, and do the same thing, and we could get to see those pictures of Dick Cheney meeting people who disagree with the Iranian government, prominent figures in Iran, and get those beamed back on CNN and the BBC, and all over the world. I think it’s inexplicable, and it’s frankly disgusting.

HH: Should it be cancelled by the President?

MS: I think it should.

HH: I agree.

MS: I think this man has no business…he’s someone…he’s one of these sort of fraudulant reformists. I think I said once on this show, Hugh, that Iran has this kind of phony diversity in its politics, as if the Soviet Union offered a choice at election time between the Communist Party and the even more Communist Party. And Khatami is this kind of phony moderate end of the mullah’s act. But in fact, he presided over an absolutely disgusting, repressive, grotesque regime. He has no business on American soil. It’s time to stop pretending that a guy like this is no different from the prime minister of Sweden or New Zealand. It’s ludicrous.

HH: And Mark Steyn, in the President’s speech today, he announces, as did Abizaid on this program, and other people in different places, that Iran is arming the people killing American soldiers.

MS: Yes, and I said something about this in the current issue of National Review. I compared it to something that I bet maybe .01% of your listeners will have heard of, the so-called confrontation in Indonesia, which the British and other commonwealth forces fought in the 1960’s. This was where Indonesia was setting out to destabilize the new Malaysian federation, sending troops over the border, arming insurgencies, fomenting secession. And they sent their troops, the British sent their troops back into Indonesia, and played a fence. That’s what America needs to do. It should be playing a fence with Iran and Syria.

HH: Mark, there’s quite a bit of twitching on the left in America today, particularly among Chuck Schumer, Jack Reed and others, because Rumsfeld two days ago, and the President today, talking about defeatism, Rumsfeld specifically talking about appeasement and parallels to the 30’s. And my, does this upset the left.

MS: Yes, and deservedly so, because I do think the problem with the Democratic Party is that it has absolutely no serious offering to make on the subject of the…not just Iraq, but the broader war on terror. You know, I’m reminded Lennon and McCartney gave an interview, I think it was to the Daily Mirror back in the 1960’s, and they were asked how they went about writing a song. And they said there are two things we always do when we sit down to write a song. First, we sit down. Then, we write a song. And that’s basically the same thing with the Democrats, when they go on about their plan for Iraq. You know, first, they sit down, then they make a plan. But there’s nothing more to it than that. We have no idea of knowing what it is they want to do. And if they’re only thing is just to keep up talking up defeatism, essentially arguing for a strategy that would look to the world as if America had lost in Iraq, then I think they are entitled to be compared with the people who essentially let down the Western world in the 1930’s.

HH: Now today, the mainstream media rose as one to defend the honor of the Democratic Party. Tim Russert and Matt Lauer were talking, and Tim Russert said look, no Democrat’s calling for cutting off aid, and therefore, it’s not fair cutting off appropriations to the military in Iraq. And that is not the definition, Mark Steyn. They are all on record, every member of the Democratic leadership, is on record of a mandatory timetable to get out. That is retreat.

MS: Yes, and to be honest, because I’ve been down in Australia for most of August, I was a little stunned, because I’d forgotten quite how parochial and self-absorbed and insiderish the mainstream American media is. But I thought, you know, Tim Russert’s point was absolutely ludicrous, as if the war is a budgetary item, a budgetary item. It’s like the bridge to nowhere in Alaska. And so the fact that they haven’t actually sort of exercised a line-item veto on national security proves that the Democrats are a serious party. They’re not at all. People like Jack Murtha and Ted Kennedy and all kinds of other senior figures have basically come out in favor of what would be perceived around the world as an American defeat. And you know, I love this country. I love America. But it has one huge question mark hanging over it, and that is that for basically two generations now, it’s got far too used to the habit of either losing wars, or ending them inconclusively. And it cannot afford to do that with this one.

HH: It has also begun to indulge nuts. Now your column from McLeans was on the nutter conspiracy theories of 9/11, and dispatched it. But the fact that there’s a number of publishing houses that will carry an audience to absorb it, and no Democrats to step forward and denounce it as nutterdom is, I think, alarming.

MS: Yes, and you know, I remember back in the Fall of 2001, just after September 11th, when a couple of conservative commentators were quoting the outrageous remarks of Michael Moore. You remember on September 11th, Michael Moore said oh, why kill people in New York and Washington, D.C.? These are constituencies that voted for Al Gore. In other words, why hadn’t they destroyed some buildings in Texas or Mississippi. And when people called him on that, the defense of prominent liberals was that Michael Moore represented nobody. He was just some freak show from the extreme left wing. A couple of years later, he’s sitting next to Jimmy Carter at the 2004 Democratic convention. A couple of years on, basically, essentially, kook candidates are now winning Democrat primaries. I mean, basically, this whole…the so-called fringe of the left is, in fact, has, in fact, swollen to take over large parts of the so-called mainstream of that party.

HH: Let’s use that moment to segue to Paul Hackett. He’s a veteran, he’s a Marine, served in Iraq, was on O’Reilly Factor last night with Pentagon spokesman Dan Senor. And Hackett, of course, the darling of the nutters. He was the nominee of the Democratic Party for Congress. He ran briefly for the nomination to the Senate campaign, and then withdrew, and the nutters were upset. But he is their darling, and here’s Paul Hackett last night with John Kasich, filling in for O’Reilly, with Dan Senor. Here it is:

PH: To have Herr Senor on your set as a military expert is somewhat of a joke. He knows absolutely nothing about the military. He’s never served in the military. He’s never been professionally schooled in the military. And frankly…

JK: Who are you talking about, Paul?

DS: Is that me?

PH: I’m talking about your guest, little unterfuhrer of propadanda, Mr. Senor there, who’s an apologist for the failings of the CPA. I mean, he ought to be ashamed of his service, or lack of service with the CPA, because that’s what got it all started.

JK: Paul, Paul…this is…wait, wait…

HH: Now Mark Steyn, Dan Senor’s mother is a Holocaust survivor. He’s a very long-serving public servant, even if he’s a civilian. And no one has stepped forward, as I can see from the Democratic Party, to rebuke Hackett for calling him Herr Senor, or an unterfuhrer.

MS: No, and again, this is what is so bizarre to me, having spent recent weeks in Australia, because I will say this. I met with, for example, the foreign affairs spokesman for the Australian Labour Party. And for a left of center party, the Australian and British center-left parties are not infected by this madness, the way the Democratic Party is. I think this is why I’m not impressed by the idea that they’re set for a sweep in November, because it would require the insane left to have a more advanced grip on the United States electorate than it does in Britain or Europe or Australia, or even Canada. And there is something entirely bizarre about this. If you seriously…it is the emptiness of the left, this complete hollowed-out husk that has nothing left in it except these meaningless, cheap slurs. Look, there’s a serious war on. We can have a discussion about how best to fight it. But just to have that pathetic display last night, what a small, shriveled man that guy is.

HH: And here is Keith Olbermann, also. Cut number seven, just a taste of another nutter rant.

KO: The man who sees absolutes where all other men see nuances, and shades of meaning, if either a prophet or a quack. Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet. We end the countdown where we began, our number one story, with a special comment on Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday. It demands the deep analysis and the sober contemplation of every American. For it did not merely serve to impune the morality or intelligence, indeed the loyalty of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse still, it credits those same transient occupants, our employees, with a total omniscience, a total omnisicence which neither common sense, nor this administration…

HH: I’ll play more of this later, but Mark, do you get the sense that the sportswriter has kicked in here, and he has no idea how foolish he sounds?

MS: No. I think it may be true that people do not have a high regard for this administration, or politicians in general. But in my experience in traveling around this country, Hugh, the one people they hold more in contempt are pompous blowhard news anchors, of which this particular fellow is a prime specimen. You know, he’s not…he’s by no means the most prominent. I thought Brian Williams’ interview with the President was absolutely ludicrous this week.

HH: It was. It’s becoming…it’s a carnival of MSM embarrassment.

HH: Mark, two completely different subjects in this segment. First, a man goes wild with an SUV, starts in Fremont, ends up in San Francisco, manages to pick two people off in front of the JCC in an historically Jewish neighborhood, and the story is gone from the news, and we’ve been assured that it’s got nothing to do with race or hate crimes. Your reaction?

MS: Well, I think the media are playing a very dangerous game here, because I think they’ll wind up utterly…people will just understand that in effect, they’re serving as propaganda organs. The problem with the so-called multi-cultural thing is that it requires you to invest in a sort of fantasy of reality. And the idea that this has got nothing to do with terrorism, it’s freelance jihadism, it’s freelance jihadism. What you have is a significant number of…they’re not millions, but you have a significant number of people now who are so…get the sort of jihad fever, and they go off and they shoot people, or they run people down. And not to be told about this, for the media in effect to present a fake version of what’s going on, to say oh, well, he was depressed because he was…of his marriage, or he’s mentally ill, or whatever. Well, by definition, to most of us, a jihadist is mentally ill. He’s a guy who thinks if he kills large numbers of people, he’s going to get 72 virgins in Paradise. A lot of people would say well, that guy must be nuts. But the fact of the matter is, this guy was motivated by his belief in jihad to do what he did. And for the media to collude in covering that up is disgraceful.

HH: All right. I just wanted to make sure you were on the same assessment as I was.

MS: No, but Hugh, it goes on all over the world. Down in Australia, there was a same case. And you read it in the newspaper about some guys who abducted some women in Sydney, and it says the men were described as having mullet hairstyles, mullet hairstyles. Well, that doesn’t narrow it down much. You look at actually the original statement from the Sydney Police Department, and it said they were men of Middle Eastern appearance. But somehow, the journalists chose to leave that out of the story. I mean, this is a disgraceful business, in fact, where the Western media are covering up what’s going on. It’s absurd.

HH: That is remarkable and very alarming. That’s what my column is about today, America, as well. Now I want to close, though, on your obituary from the most recent issue, because it caused quite an argument in the backyard of Lilek’s home. Your argument is that the maestro of jiggle TV, Aaron Spelling, whom you memorialized, actually produced classic television, and that the classic television allegations have been laid on the wrong programs over many years. Oh, was Lileks beside himself. He wishes to challenge you to a literary duel, I think.

MS: Well, my big point is that every few years, there’s a show that gets terrific raves, terrific notes, when all told, it’s classic TV, and it’s up there, and it’s on a par with Dickens and all the greatest literature in the world. And then a couple of years later, that show is completely forgotten, and something else comes along. How many people do you know who are talking about Northern Exposure? How many people do you know who are talking about St. Elsewhere? How many people are talking about Hill Street Blues? These are all shows that ten, fifteen years ago were regarded as classics. Well, as it turns out, that actually the stuff that lingers in the memory, unfortunately, for good or ill, is the kind of disposable eye candy. I don’t believe…I don’t honestly believe that St. Elsewhere or Hill Street Blues, or gosh, I don’t want to upset anyone, that even the Sopranos is not in the same category as Dickens. That’s…

HH: So is it your proposition that the Love Boat, Charlies Angels, and Dynasty, much less Dallas, will survive in people’s memories, and perhaps DVD players, long after Rome and Deadwood have vanished?

MS: Well, my thing is that I think when people think back to the 70’s…if you want to use a shorthand for the era, what people were watching, then people will think Charlie’s Angels and Love Boat. And you know, there are, in fact…I mean, the thing about these great series, for starters, they’re virtually impossible to get into, unless you already know you like them. So how many people are going to go and buy a $200 dollar set of DVD’s, because that’s the only way you can watch them. If you happen to be in a motel at Four in the morning, and episode 137 of Northern Exposure or St. Elsewhere comes on, or the Sopranos when that’s in reruns, you’re never going to figure out what the hell’s going on, or who any of these people are.

HH: And so, to Aaron Spelling, you doff your hat?

MS: (laughing) Well, I jiggle my sadly flabby chest to him.

HH: (laughing)

MS: I think I’ll leave it at that.

HH: Mark Steyn, a great pleasure having you back. Thanks for joining us. All of it available at, America.

End of interview.


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