Mark Steyn On What’s Left Of Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy, And Hillary Clinton Trying To Run On It While Distancing Herself At The Same Time
HH: IT’s Thursday, and we are lucky, thus, to have Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn with us. Mark, coming up later in the program, I’m going to be joined from Vienna, Austria by David Sanger to update us on the Iran nuclear talks. The Iranians are offering to help us in Iraq if we make nice with them. Before I play the President’s clip on that from earlier today, what do you make of that offer from the mullahs to be the go-between between Maliki and ourselves?
MS: Yeah, this is fascinating. As I understand it, and you’ll obviously get the word direct from the scene a little later, but that most of the action in Vienna is not in the nuclear talks, but the side corridor talks in which they’re talking about various forms of Iranian and American cooperation on the present situation in Iraq. And of course, the big danger there is that you know, Iran uses this to make itself respectable in the eyes of the world, and in fact, to smooth its path to nuclear weapons. And one has no confidence that the President or anybody else in the administration would be up for resisting that. So it is interesting. It is an interesting dynamic in play, and a lot of the chips are falling Iran’s way on that.
HH: Yeah, pay no attention to the nuclear scientist behind the curtain. Here is what the President had to say about this today, cut number five:
BO: You know, our view is that Iran can play a constructive role if it is helping to send the same message to the Iraqi government that we’re sending, which is that Iraqi only holds together if it’s inclusive, and that if the interests of Sunni, Shia and Kurd are all respected. If Iran is coming in solely as an armed force on behalf of the Shia, and if it is framed in that fashion, then that probably worsens the situation and the prospect for a government formation that would actually be constructive over the long term.
HH: Mark Steyn, the absurdity of the idea of the Iranians arriving at Prime Maliki’s palace with a message of inclusively is too much, actually, to bear with a straight face.
MS: Right, no, I know. And actually, it’s not just that that is a ridiculous message from the mullahs. It’s actually a ridiculous message for the President. This is a guy who doesn’t even, you know, tell Dianne Feinstein what he’s up to with the Bergdahl-Taliban swap, never mind including any Republicans, inviting John Boehner to sit down and chew over the problems with Obamacare. But suddenly, the minute you get him away from Washington and dump him in Baghdad, then suddenly, he’s Mr. Inclusive. Everybody is entitled to a seat at the table. Everyone has a voice at the table. We don’t know who the Iraqi version of John Boehner is, and the Iraqi version of Kevin McCarthy, but they ought to be in the room around the table, too. Why doesn’t he try this at home? And if it works in Washington, then maybe Maliki will take it up.
HH: In the meantime, they’re desperate to try and pin the collapse of Iraq, and it’s a nightmare, but they want to pin it on W. So today, the President, and yesterday, Hillary, I’ll play them both, here’s the President explaining why Iraq isn’t his fault, cut number 6:
BO: Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me. That was a decision made by the Iraqi government. We offered a modest residual force to help continue to train and advise Iraqi security forces. We had a core requirement, which we require in any situation where we have U.S. troops overseas, and that is that they are provided immunity at the…since they are being invited by the sovereign government there, so that if, for example, they end up acting in self-defense, if they are attacked and find themselves in a tough situation, that they’re not somehow hauled before a foreign court. That’s a core requirement that we have for U.S. troop presence anywhere. The Iraqi government and Prime Minister Maliki declined to provide us that immunity.
HH: And Mark Steyn, this is exactly what Hillary said when asked about this by Christiane Amanpour yesterday, cut number two:
DOROTHEA WOLFSON, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Dorothea Wolfson from Johns Hopkins University.Secretary Clinton, Iraq is in crisis and may fall to the terrorist group ISIS. Do you believe that President Obama was wrong in quitting Iraq, as he did in 2011? And what should the United States do moving forward?
CLINTON: Great question. And, obviously, it’s very much on everyone’s minds.Let me just give a little bit of history, not too much, but context. When — President Bush decided, before President Obama became president, that we would leave Iraq in 2011, the United States would end its combat mission, unless the Iraqi government agreed to ask us to stay, under the same conditions that we have all around the world. It’s called a status of forces ingredient. I was involved in a lot of the efforts to come up with what our offer would be. And we made such an offer to then Prime Minister Maliki. And he would not accept the status of forces agreement. Some now say, well, you should have made him or you should have — but that’s not the way it works. You have to — if you’re going to having American troops in harm’s way — and we knew Iraq would be quite dangerous for a long time, unpredictable, at the very least — you have to have the host government, in this case Iraq, say, OK, here’s what we want. We’re signing this agreement which will protect American soldiers. We didn’t get that done. And I think, in retrospect, that was a mistake by the Iraqi government. And…
HH: Mark Steyn, Fred Kagan came on this show yesterday and said this is absolute revisionism.
HH: We walked away from that table. We absolutely wanted out for political reasons.
MS: Yeah, yeah.
HH: And here are Obama and Clinton both trying to blame Maliki for our taking a powder.
MS: No, and actually, in the real world, which is where Maliki lives, I don’t really know where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama live from the sound of what they’re saying, but Maliki lives in a place that is very much in the real world. This is why, this is why you have to think very carefully about whether you get mixed up with the Americans. The reality is that Iraq five years ago was an American protectorate. That’s what it was. It was a nominally sovereign country, but it existed at the behest of American might. And certain privileges come along with that. I mean, for example, Jordan in 1946 was a nominally sovereign country, and the commander of King Abdullah’s forces in Jordan was a man called General Sir John Glubb, Glubb Pasha as they called him in Amman, because that’s what the British wanted. And the fact that Jordan was a nominally sovereign country made no difference. They wanted British officers to be in command of the Arab legion there, and they got their way. And clearly, the Americans were in a position to get their way three years ago, but, but, as Hillary Clinton says in that clip, we didn’t get it done.
MS: “We didn’t get it done,” because they didn’t want to get it done.
HH: That’s exactly right, and Fred Kagan said yesterday, Maliki offered to do it with us, but we insisted he take it to the parliament, which for reasons of Arab face wasn’t going to happen. So we set a condition we knew that could not be met, and now they’re trying to blame Maliki, who might not be the world’s greatest representative of democracy, but we pulled the rug out on this country, and now we are reaping the whirlwind. It makes me incensed, actually, that we are blaming dead Iraqis for what Barack Obama in essence demanded they put up with, which is the disintegration of their country for political reasons.
MS: Yes, I think that’s true, and there aren’t any good answers now. There’s a de facto three-way split. The President sounds ridiculous when he says that three parties could have lived together in a loose confederal arrangement. The Kurds did relatively well out of it. But America chose not to impress that when it was in a position to upon the Maliki government. And the result is a de facto Kurdish north, a de facto terrorist state in the Sunni Triangle, and a de facto Shia buffer state that suits Iran very well in the south. And I don’t see any, I mean, for a start, you know, John Kerry is off talking about the rise of the oceans with Leonardo DiCaprio or something. That’s been his priority the last few days. And I understand that’s a big priority to him when you own as much beachfront property as John Kerry. But these are not serious people to trust with the fate of a strategically important area. And John Kerry is a great yachtsman, but he’s a lousy secretary of State.
HH: And that de facto terrorist state, the leader of it said to an American colonel, I’ll see you in New York. They’re not kidding, Mark Steyn.
MS: No, they’re not. There are thousands of nominally Western citizens, that is to say young men who hold the passports of the United Kingdom, Canada, Europe, the United States, who are fighting over there at the moment. And they’re having a grand, old time going from town to town. And one day, they will stop, and they will use those Western passports, and they will return home. And the idea that they will suddenly be content to become feed store clerks or train conductors or whatever else, and not remember this is what…to this generation, this is what the Bosnian War in the 90s was to those young men.
HH: We’ll be right back with Mark Steyn on the Hugh Hewitt Show. Stay tuned.
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HH: Mark, Hillary has been on a book tour, and I know you’ve read Hard Choices probably a couple of times by now. But she said a few things which I just needed to get your commentary on. This first one is her discussion of Benghazi and the much, much looked for admission that indeed, answers must be found, cut number one:
HRC: There has been, as you know, a number of investigations, including the independent one that the State Department commissioned, as well as many in Congress. There are answers, not all of them, not enough, frankly. I’m still looking for answers, because it was a confusing and difficult time.
HH: So Mark Steyn, I think that Christiane Amanpour set that up so that she could say I’m not going to participate in a political witch hunt, but she read it, she got it wrong, and she basically gave cover to Trey Gowdy and everybody else to carry on.
MS: Yeah, this has been the fascinating thing about this disastrous, really, book launch, where she staggers from one duff interview to the next. These are, all the worst interviews have been with people who are friendly to her, and who will be voting for her, and have no desire whatsoever to see a Republican in the White House. And if you’re Christiane Amanpour, or if you’re Terry Gross over at NPR, or if you’re like that fellow from the Globe and Mail in Toronto, you must be really marveling. You walk into the room sympathetic to Hillary, and you must leave it thinking my God, is this the best the Democratic Party can do?
HH: Yeah, maybe Rove is right. Maybe she really hit her head. And it kept getting worse. Here, she throws the President under the bus on the Syria meltdown. This is remarkable, cut number three:
TATIANA SABAI: Hi, Secretary Clinton. My name is Tatiana Sabai And I’m wondering on the issue of Syria, what you believe the administration can and should do into engage and support what remains of the moderate opposition and take a more active role in addressing the humanitarian crisis?
CLINTON: Well, thank you for that. And I — I wrote a whole chapter about Syria in my book, “Hard Choices.” And I call it a wicked problem, because it is. And in the book, I obviously write about what is now publicly known, I recommended that we do more in the very beginning to support the moderate opposition, because I believed, at the time, that they would be overwhelmed by Assad’s military force and that they would open up the door to extremists coming in….
AMANPOUR: — your own ambassador, the person you appointed, Robert Ford, to Syria, resigned and he told me in his first interview that he did so in protest and on principle because he could no longer defend the Obama administration’s policy…And we see where we are in the world because of this. I want to ask you…
CLINTON: But let me just…
AMANPOUR: — should you have tried harder…
AMANPOUR: — you were surrounded by the top national security people…
CLINTON: Right. Right.
AMANPOUR: — on a mission to stop terrorism.
AMANPOUR: Should you have pushed harder?
CLINTON: We pushed very hard. But as I say in my book, I believe that Harry Truman was right, the buck stops with the president.
HH: There you have it, Mark Steyn. She just threw him under the bus. It’s his fault.
MS: Well you know, this gets to the heart of the insanity of what is happening here. This is a woman who is going to be 69 at the time the election, has no executive experience running anything that matters, except for these four years at the State Department. So in effect, she has nothing to run on but the Obama foreign policy, which is a disaster. So she has to thread a very careful needle here, because she has to say my experience in charge of Obama foreign policy qualifies me to be president of the United States. But everything that matters about Obama foreign policy, the disastrous reset button, Syria, Iraq, whatever it is, Arab Spring, the whole lot, that’s all the fault of Obama, I had nothing to do with it.
HH: I know.
MS: And that contradiction, that circle cannot be squared. I mean, I’m sympathetic to her in a way. Were it not for the fact that she is the one who hailed Bashar Assad as a reformer, in other words, when the Arab Spring started, she thought that you know, Bashar Assad was a young reformer who could be on the right side of the Arab Spring. So her record is hopeless anyway, and that’s the problem for someone like her, is she’s always having to try and remember what her current version of events is.
HH: Oh, amen.
MS: And that’s why she trips up.
HH: And in this, as you rightly pointed out, this is a disaster of a book tour. It’s sort of like a Macy’s parade and a Rose Parade of gaffes.
HH: But the one thing that may not have gotten notice that I think your ears, given how many battles you’ve fought for the 1st Amendment, must have picked up is what she had to say on the subject of guns in response to a question demanding that assault weapons and high capacity magazines be banned. Here’s what Hillary said, cut number four:
HRC: I’m well aware that this is a hot political subject. And again, I will speak out no matter what role I find myself in. But I believe that we need a more thoughtful conversation. We cannot let a minority of people, and that’s what it is. It is a minority of people hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people.
HH: We cannot let a minority of people hold a viewpoint, Mark Steyn, that terrorizes a majority of people. Never, ever has a presidential candidate gone for viewpoint suppression before.
MS: No, it’s interesting. It was picked up initially, because they were talking about guns, as an attack on the 2nd Amendment. But it’s also an attack on the 1st Amendment.
MS: What she seems to be saying is that, and incidentally, it’s very strangely phrased, because she says we can’t let a minority hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority. Well, there are all kinds of minority viewpoints that the Democratic Party is in favor of, you know, transgendered bathroom rights or whatever. And they have no problem with that. But in this case, she is saying we, we, presumably the state, the government, the incoming Rodham Clinton administration, cannot let certain people hold certain viewpoints. And as you say, I fought battles for free speech. I would be astonished. I’ve heard apparatchiks from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, a disgusting man called Richard Warman used to say things like that. But the idea that a candidate for president of the United States would say it is really actually quite shocking.
HH: And if Amanpour were a real journalist, and had really been listening, she would have said well, what about Major Hasan? Ought he to have been allowed to hold the viewpoint that he held that eventually turned into action, because we didn’t do anything about his viewpoint when it was quite obviously intent upon terrorizing us. And the list goes on and on with the number of nuts we allow to hold crazy viewpoints in America. And you know, a robust defense of the 2nd Amendment is not a minority viewpoint that terrorizes people. It’s deeply rooted and widely held. I don’t know that she can hold up, Mark Steyn, under two years of scrutiny.
MS: No, no, I don’t think she can. I mean, as I said, for me, one of the most amazing mistakes in this sort of gaffe-ridden tour was what should again have been a friendly sit-down with a foreign newspaper, with the Globe and Mail, where she was asked about the Keystone Pipeline. And she just froze. She was asked whether she was in favor of it or she was opposed, and she basically just froze and said oh, I can’t respond. What kind of person, if you’re running for president and you’re doing an interview with the Canadian paper, what do you think’s going to be the first issue they’re going to ask about? She’s just poorly prepared, and she doesn’t have the wit to think on her feet.
HH: It’s going to be, I hope it goes on forever. You have read your copy, yet, haven’t you, Mark?
MS: Oh, yes, I thought the Syria chapter was absolutely captivating.
MS: This is the must-read book of the year.
HH: Mark Steyn…
MS: I’ve got it here, and the wonky table leg under the desk, it’s great for propping that up, Hugh.
HH: It is always a pleasure. Everything Mark writes about Hillary and everything else available at www.steynonline.com, America. Do not miss a word of it.
End of interview.