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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn, the Collapsist, on the left’s Palinization of Rick Santorum

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HH: We begin this hour with Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read all of Mark’s writings at www.steynonline.com. Mark, welcome back, but last week, you sparked a Henry VIII backlash. I got a lot of emails from people who thought you’d been unkind to Henry VIII, comparing him to President Obama.

MS: (laughing) Well, Henry VIII has his defendants. The Prince of Wales, a couple of years ago, who says we only have seven years and three months to save the planet, the Prince of Wales said that Henry VIII was in fact basically the first pioneering conservationist. And he certainly lowered Anne Boleyn’s carbon footprint. So there is that.

HH: Well, I just think you’re got to be aware. Whenever you say something, there are these small ecosystems on the web that spring up to push back. One of those ecosystems is Daily Kos. And it’s where the Kos kids go to congregate. It’s the left wing lunatic bin on the online world. And yesterday, Mr. Kos, Markos, posted this. “It’s time for us to take an active role in the GOP nomination process. That’s right, it’s time for those of us who live in the open primary and caucus states of Michigan, North Dakota, Vermont and Tennessee in the next three weeks to head out and cast a vote for Rick Santorum.” What do you think about that, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, they figured that Rick Santorum is already kind of semi-Palinized, basically that around the time he ran unsuccessfully for his old Senate seat in Pennsylvania. And in a sense, they figure half the battle is done, that all the damaging soundbytes about women’s rights, and contraceptives, and gay marriage, and all the rest, are already out there on the web. I think they may be over-emphasizing the effect on that. They’ve made the calculation that Mitt Romney would be tougher. Mitt Romney basically polls what generic Republican does. He is as close to a generic Republican as you can get. He’s a bit too generic for the base’s taste. But I think, I’m not persuaded that their analysis is entirely correct on this.

HH: Well, I think it was a gift to Romney, because the thing he would love to have is the enmity of the left. That would mark him as someone worthy of support for some of our Tea Party friends.

MS: Yeah, that’s true, but you know, Mitt has fought a very un-nimble campaign in this primary season. And he basically has a strategy, he’s still sticking with this strategy of running out the clock by running on biography. And I think that is really the most unsatisfactory part of his campaign. I think people would cut him some slack on things he did in Massachusetts. We all understand the realities in his life. But he’s fallen behind now in Michigan because he hasn’t got a big idea. And I would urge him, I mean, I don’t suppose he’s interested in taking advice from me, but he certainly takes advice from you, Hugh, and I think he needs to lay out a big idea here. He needs a Reagan-Thatcher-sized big idea. And just simply saying I’m a businessman and I believe in America isn’t enough, and it hasn’t been enough as he’s ricocheted back and forth across the existing primaries and caucuses.

HH: Now he does not take advice from me. If he had, he would be spending a lot more time on talk radio, which has been one of my arguments why Rick Santorum has risen, is his accessibility on every platform at any time for any questions.

MS: OH, I know. I mean, whatever one feels about Rick Santorum, I love the way he can’t kind of wait to get back on the air with you and answer whatever you throw at him. And I think that speaks well for him.

HH: It does, and it speaks well for the general election where Obama will control three-quarters of the MSM, if not four-fifths of the MSM. And the existing guerrilla media has got to be exploited by whoever the nominee is. Speaking of exploiting media, I want to talk about Syria, Mark Steyn, because it’s a butcher at work here. This is a massacre. Thousands of people are being mowed down. And I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone refer to it other than CNN in passing. What do you see?

MS: No, and this was the great question about Baby Assad. At the time he inherited the dictatorship, he was working as an ophthalmologist in London. I spoke to someone, actually, who worked with him in a hospital in Aleppo many years ago, and she said she thought he was a very pleasant person, and that he didn’t have his father’s appetite for blood. His father, Hafez, was a total butcher whom they remember to this day for the industrial scale slaughter. And what Baby, Junior Assad has demonstrated in the last couple of months is that he’s perfectly willing to kill on the scale of his father. And it is amazing to me that this has not been brought up at White House press conferences, it’s not on the news. This is a leader that Hillary Clinton described as a reformer just last year. This guy is a butcher, and he ought to be called on it on the evening news every single night.

HH: Now the United Nations general assembly, potent that it is not, voted 137-12, with 17 abstentions, to condemn Assad today. But it really requires, if any kind of change is going to come rhetorically, it would require the President to pound the podium, wouldn’t it?

MS: Yes, and he’s demonstrated, I think, that he’s not in the least bit comfortable with this role. I mean, it’s pathetic in a way that Gaddafi played ball with the West. He renounced his nuclear program, he came on side, he was actually very helpful, I’m told, on the war on terror. And in the end, all that meant was that the British, the French and the Americans ganged up to knock him off in nothing flat, because he was easy. The measure of a Western leader, whether it’s the president of the United States, particularly, but also of the British prime minister and the French president, is whether they’ve got the guts to stand up to the tougher fellows. They know that Assad has the backing of Iran. And that makes him a tougher nut to crack than Gaddafi, who had no friends in the end. But that’s the measure of the man. And it’s certainly the measure of the president of the United States on foreign policy.

HH: Do you, this is whole speculation, but do you think the President asks about Syria? Do you think he wants updates? This is not yet Rwanda. It is not a mayhem approaching civilization destroying level of violence. But it is systematic slaughter. And if we hear 7,000, I’m thinking it’s at least 20 [thousand]. And artillery buries people in rubble that you would never know. Do you think that Obama demonstrates the kind of conscience one would expect in a leader of the West?

MS: No, I think generally speaking, he’s uncurious about the world. His view of the world is, which you can tell from his apology tours, is that many of the problems of the world stem from what he sees as U.S. imperialism. That’s because he’s been marinated in an American college campus worldview all his adult life. And that’s where they take this sort of stuff for granted. But the great advantage of that is that it absolves you from knowing the slightest thing about what’s going on out there one the edge of the map. And that’s why that kind of anti-Americanism is really a kind of loser parochialism, because it says oh, I don’t need to know anything about the stuff on the State Department maps marked “The Rest of the Planet”, and I can just get on with bullying the Catholic Church, or what happens to be my priority this week.

HH: Later in the program, I’m going to talk with Robert Kagan, the Washington Post columnist, Brookings Institution fellow, and the author of the new book, The World America Made, which is turning a lot of heads in D.C. And his argument in The World America Made, Mark Steyn, is that decline is not inevitable, it is a choice, and that America can reverse the perceived decline that it’s in, and that in fact, we’re not over-committed. We’ve got twice as much the population as we did 50 years ago, and we had 100% more troops abroad, and we’re not spending anywhere close to the 7% GDP on Defense that Reagan did, et cetera. I will raise with him America Alone and After America, but his slight, little book is a rebuke to declinists. What do you think about the attempt to push back on the declinist argument?

MS: Well, I agree with him that decline is a choice. It’s essentially a psychological condition. It’s fascinating how post-war Germany, and a post-war Britain found it relatively easy to choose decline. That’s because decline in many ways was the soft option, certainly for the people, because they benefited from increased domestic expenditures on welfare and social programs. America doesn’t have that option. I don’t regard myself as a declinist. If anything, I’m a collapsist…

HH: (laughing)

MS: …because Europe’s decline was cushioned by the United States, by the world America made, to use the Kagan title, the post-Second World War order. There is no one out there willing to play that role for the United States of America. And when he talks like that, to be able to muster those statistics, you have to ignore the elephant in the room, which is a total accumulated debt that nobody in global history has ever previously accumulated.

HH: Boy, it would be a fascinating conversation to have you and Kagan in the studio. Did you survive your C-SPAN ordeal?

MS: (laughing) I did, actually, and I found it very agreeable. They’re nice chaps over there.

HH: A three hour interview?

MS: Yeah, I loved it. I’m going for the seven hour one next time.

HH: Oh, Cuba. It’ll be on Cuba television. Mark Steyn, thank you. www.steynonline.com, America.

End of interview.

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