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Mark Steyn with a realistic remembrance of Ted Kennedy

Friday, August 28, 2009
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HH: I begin as I do every Thursday when we are lucky with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s work at www.steynonline.com, and you can get a brand new coffee mug there, and a fine coffee mug, I might add. Gordon Brown is coming to the United States to participate in the funeral of Ted Kennedy. Mark Steyn has gone to England. I think we lost on that deal. Mark Steyn, welcome, how are you doing over there?

MS: Yeah, I’m doing great, and it’s kind of a double for me if Gordon Brown is out of the country while I’m here, although in fairness to Gordon Brown, the one thing I like about him is he has a painting by my great-Aunt hanging at Number 10, Downing Street, so I’ve got to say that for his taste in art.

HH: Oh, what’s her name?

MS: Stella Steyn. She was an Irish artist, and his wife is apparently a big fan.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, we have all, the president of the United States, all four former living presidents, the prime minister of Great Britain, and the world, basically, coming via CNN and the networks to Ted Kennedy’s funeral. What is Ted Kennedy’s place in history?

MS: Well, you know, I generally subscribe to the idea that one should not speak ill of the dead. But I think when you witness an entire culture, media culture, certainly, recoiling from speaking the truth about the dead, then I think a corrective is needed. I think he is certainly, in terms of policy, the most consequential Kennedy, because he was well to the left of both of his brothers, Bobby and President Kennedy, and he managed to inflict a lot of what he believed onto the nation at large. But leaving aside for the moment Chappaquiddick, which I think is, would be a stain on any man’s record, and the way he dealt with it, in a way, is an even greater stain, putting that to one side, I think I would credit him, by and large, with the politics of the modern era. And when I listen to Orrin Hatch talking about his terrific geniality and bipartisan spirit and all the rest of it, I think back to what he said about Judge Bork at those confirmation hearings twenty years ago, and I think actually a lot of the poison in our politics dates from that. I mean, it was an absurd caricature of Judge Bork’s views, it was utterly false in many respects, the idea that Robert Bork is in favor of segregated lunch counters and all the rest of it, I think it was a disgusting act from a disgusting man. But it helps you understand that a man who could behave as he did at Chappaquiddick would think nothing of doing what he did to Judge Bork in 1987.

HH: Now obviously because of his long service in the Senate, there’s one reason for a lot of Senators to come. But is this really more about a passing of the Kennedy family than it is a particular Kennedy? Is that why the world is so transfixed?

MS: Well, he was a rock star in Senate terms, which admittedly, you know, isn’t the same as being a real rock star. But I walked down Piccadilly on the day he died, and the lunchtime fliers for the Evening Standard said Ted Kennedy died. There’s no other Senator who would be splashed on fliers on London streets, and I would assume in Paris streets and Rome streets, too. He was a star in that way, and I think he was the last star, too. As I said, I don’t agree with much of what he believed in, or about his conduct. But he had a natural glamour that the Kennedys of that generation had, and the Kennedys of the successor generation, and I don’t just mean Kathleen Kennedy Townsend or Patrick Kennedy, but Caroline Kennedy herself simply do not have that natural glamour. And so I think this is the end of the Kennedys in that respect, and on the whole, I think that’s good for the health of the republic.

HH: Now putting aside Ted and all of his family, et cetera, I want to focus on the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time, which is that American ought to pass Obamacare because Ted Kennedy died.

MS: Yes, and nobody’s going to do that. And if they want to try that, they can. I mean, I am struck as I often am by Kennedy deaths, at the way that the media go overboard, and I regret in a way that Dan Rather isn’t around to do his usual thing when a Kennedy dies, where he starts reading out the lyrics of Camelot and all the rest of it. But I don’t honestly believe that a septuagenarian man who has spent half a century in the United States Senate will resonate with the vast mass of three hundred million Americans as a reason for an utterly disastrous transformation of American health care. And if the Democrats want to try this, then bring it on. They can call it Kennedycare, they can say pass it for Ted, they can do that all they want. I don’t think that is enough to save this Obama’s health care plan.

HH: The one last favor that Ted Kennedy did to the Democrats is that his death may obscure a report that was published in the Telegraph today where you are – Cruel and neglectful care of one million NHS patients exposed, one million National Health Service patients have been the victims of appalling care in hospitals across Britain, according to a major report released today. I’ve linked it at Hughhewitt.com. It comes from the Patients’ Association. And the comments to this are just, they make your hair stand on end, Mark Steyn. Who in the world would want to duplicate the National Health Service in the United States?

MS: I don’t think anybody would, and I mentioned at National Review earlier this week that it’s not just death panels. In a sense, they’re also birth panels. 4,000 women, they’ve identified 4,000 women who have been forced to give birth in toilets, in elevators, in corridors, because of shortages of beds at National Health hospitals. I often joke, Peter Robinson, who wrote Reagan’s marvelous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech, I mentioned to him some of these, I said to him, you know, that’s socialized health care – the ten month wait for the maternity ward. And he said oh, I wish I was still writing for President Reagan. He would have loved that line. And that is true. That is where it leads – the ten month wait for the maternity ward.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, there was a brief bit of candor last night on the part of a Democratic Congresswoman. Her name is Betsy Markey. She’s in Colorado’s 4th Congressional district. She is being challenged by a friend of mine, Tom Lucero. But Rush mentioned this today, and I have been all over it. Betsy Markey admitted last night that we’re just going to have to cut Medicare benefits, and then she went on and said there’s going to be some people who are going to have to give up some things.

MS: Yeah.

HH: But we have to do this, because we’re Americans. So now we have arrogant, condescending Congress people telling us we have to give up our medical care. I’m not sure why. But they’ve added, at least it’s explicit now. They’re going to cut Medicare, begin to ration.

MS: Right. So if you’re Ted Kennedy’s age, but you’re not a Kennedy, you’re the easiest person to stick it to. Canada, the United Kingdom, all socialized health care systems, end up rationing. And the easiest people to stick it to are always the oldsters. They’re the ones, I happen to know this because of circumstances in my own family at the moment, but they’re the easiest ones to deny new treatments to, to deny new pills to, to deny new procedures to. And you know, people can say oh, well, you know, that’s still better than the United States, because there’s a kind of equality of awfulness about it. I don’t think there’s anything American about embracing that system. And what I love about America is that in the end, if you choose to have something, that’s between you and your doctor. And people write to me whenever I say this, oh, no, this insurance plan won’t allow you this, and Medicare won’t allow you that. In the end, if you stand there and you get out your checkbook, you can have the procedure. And if you need to mortgage your home or sell your care to do that, you can have that procedure, too. What happens in Canada and the United Kingdom is in effect the state tells you no. You may, your appendix may be crying out for this procedure. Your hip may need this procedure. But we, the government, have ruled that you’re not entitled to it, and that is entirely un-American, and this Congresswoman let the cat out of the bag when she says that is an inevitable consequence of the governmentalization of health care.

HH: She did let the cat out of the bag, and I think that the contributions to Tom Lucero are going to flow as a way of sending a signal to Congress people in the way that, I’ve been running a little campaign for three days, Mark Steyn, urging people to give $10 bucks to a guy named Danny Tarkanian in Nevada who’s running against Harry Reid…

MS: Right.

HH: …as a way of sending a message. Thousands and thousands of people have done that, because they are so angry about this. Do you think the Democrats, not just Betsy Markey who is going to get Tom Lucero against her, or Harry Reid who is going to get Danny Tarkanian against him, but Democrats generally understand that the ground is moving beneath their feet on this?

MS: Yes, and I wish in a way some conservatives did. There was a column in the New York Times earlier this week that seemed to think it was all about Obama’s relations with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. No, it’s more primal than that, that at a certain level, the American people have looked this thing in the eye, and recoiled in disgust and horror from it. And if the Democrats are so out of it that they think simply renaming it Kennedycare is going to get every Camelot groupie saying wow, we’ve got to do this for Ted, then that reveals, I think, a serious and profound disconnect between them and the American people. This is one of those moments where the American people are actually saying whoa, no, this isn’t right. It’s primal, it’s visceral, and it’s getting stronger.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America. Read all of Mark’s stuff there. Check out the coffee mug as well.

End of interview.

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