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Mark Steyn’s New Year Assessment

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HH: It’s Thursday, and we begin when we are lucky with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s work at Happy New Year, Mark.

MS: Happy New Year to you, too, Hugh.

HH: Thank you. I want to read to you the first paragraph of a story from the Times of London today. “Nigerian opposition politicians are demanding visual proof that the country’s president is still alive and fit to govern, six weeks after he left the country for medical treatment.” My question, Mark, are Nigerians better off than Americans where we do not get six minutes without seeing our president on TV?

MS: (laughing) Yeah, I would love to have six weeks without Barack Obama. In fact, you know, people complain that he had nothing to say about the Christmas Day pantybomber until whatever it was, the 27th or the 28th or the 29th. I mean, that three days, I think, was the longest he’s been off TV since he took office. So I’m up for the Nigerian option, six months without seeing the head of state.

HH: Yeah, I think the Nigerians may not be aware of just how lucky they are. Here are a couple of excerpts from today’s Obamafest, Mark Steyn. Cut number one.

BHO: I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistake to make us safer. For ultimately, the buck stops with me. As President, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people. And when the system fails, it is my responsibility.

HH: What do you think, Mark Steyn? Does he really believe that?

MS: Well, you know, I think there’s a tinny sound to Obama. The more…there’s a very funny thing he does when he has to sort of correct course, when he goes too far to the left and he has to rein himself in. And he gives these great sonorous banalities that I think now ring totally hollow. When you look at what’s actually going on here, he’s…the whole pitch here is far too bureaucratic. The idea that they’re going to institute new systems now so that this guy, who was fingered to the CIA, not just to an embassy official, but to a CIA person at that embassy, by his own father, that didn’t get anywhere. So now we’re going to have a whole department dedicated to examining young jihadists who are leaked to the U.S. Government by their fathers or whatever. The response is always a bureaucratic one. And it’s not going to do anything for Americans.

HH: Here’s a second response from the President today, and it’s…this one is just as risible.

BHO: Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans.

HH: Try telling that to the people in the New Jersey terminal the other night, Mark Steyn.

MS: Yeah, that’s the point here. Why do al Qaeda need to blow up planes? Right now, they just have to walk through an airport, or make a phone call, or just like this guy in Miami, some bonehead called Mohammed gets on the Detroit flight Northwest out of Miami, and he says let’s kill all the Jews. So they, he goes bananas, and they take him off the plane, but they make everybody else on that plane go back and be rescreened. So the 87 year old granny, who’s never expressed any desire to kill all the Jews, has to go through and be rescreened. So the President’s thing is a joke, and that joke won’t change until all three hundred million of us are on the no-fly list. That’s my solution now. I think we should all get on the no-fly list, and then they’ll have to start from scratch all over again.

HH: If they stop flying people who express the desire to kill all the Jews, it’s going to cut down on the Middle Eastern air traffic quite a lot, isn’t it?

MS: (laughing) It is. I’m not even sure if that guy wanted to file suit, I’m not even sure that’s a bona fide reason for being thrown off planes these days. But you know what I find interesting about this, Hugh, is I was at the airport the other day. And as you go in, the guy looks at your picture ID, my driver’s license. And he gets out this little thing that jewelers have to examine diamonds. And he’s looking at it to see if it’s a fake driver’s license. Now nobody has ever tried to blow up an American airliner with a fake driver’s license.

HH: (laughing)

MS: The guys on 9/11 all had real Virginia picture ID, which they acquired through the illegal immigrant network, because anyone can get real driver’s licenses now, so why do you need to fake them? But what was interesting is that in the course of all this, he never looked me in the eye. He never looked at me.

HH: Right.

MS: They look at the driver’s license, they look at the bottle of shampoo. So if you’re, say, like a nervous 23 year old student who’s underwear is packed with explosives, I would imagine that’s actually quite a tense situation for you. But nobody in the TSA is ever going to look you in the eye. They avoid looking people in the eye, because they know that three hundred millions despise them. And all they can see when they look in your eye is total contempt for them and their absurd security kabuki.

HH: It’ll be interesting to see how long it lasts, because we are, I do believe, reaching a point where people are going to say no mas, no mas.

MS: Yeah.

HH: And actually, it’ll be in their first language in many instances.

MS: Yes.

HH: Mark, there’s another three stories with English overtones and English origin today. The first is that in Jerusalem, excuse me, from Jerusalem, protests over an international aid envoy to Gaza, led by British MP George Galloway, turned violent yesterday, killed an Egyptian soldier, and injured dozens. Now this is a scoundrel. George Galloway is a bounder and a scoundrel. Why is he still walking around in public?

MS: Well, the reason is that he speaks to, he is supported broadly by a big swathe of British, and wider European opinion, which is that the Europeans have fetishized the Palestinians as their kind of house pets. No matter how depraved and disgusting what goes on in Gaza is, the Europeans have fetishized them as their cause du jour. And really, I think now, have turned against Israel in ways that are quite vile, and speak very poorly for that, not just for the Continent, which has a bad track record on this, but also for the United Kingdom, which on the whole has a much better track record than the Continentals. And I think this is just sad and wretched, and speaks very badly for where Europe is headed.

HH: All right, a literary question for you. I have recently been reading the work of Alan Bennett, including his novella, Uncommon Reader. And do you know him? Do you know much about him?

MS: He used to be a neighbor of mine, and you’d see him, I’d see him wandering around up the street and going and buying groceries and what not, occasionally. He’s a very funny writer in a sort of small observational, lower middle class way. And it’s a comedy of a peculiar kind of observation about certain aspects of life. And he’s written some things that I think are quite funny. He wrote a wonderful thing about the Cambridge spies a while back, and about the Queen. But he’s…a little of him goes a very long way with me.

HH: Well, I’m just wondering, though, why can’t…does America produce anyone in that sort of vein? And that’s exactly what he is – small observations of interesting aspects of parts of life we otherwise wouldn’t see, and a good novella, in An Uncommon Reader. Do we have anyone like that that springs to mind?

MS: No, I mean if I were make a very broad cultural generalization, I think America demands something on a slightly bigger scale. It’s why I think, you know, the great American novels have a kind of epic quality about them, whether you’re talking about Mark Twain, or you’re talking about Mark Twain, or you’re talking about something more recent like Bonfire Of The Vanities. It’s very…British writers find it difficult to come up with something on that scale, and I think that’s because in some ways, they are too focused on small, little details in the picture, whereas the Americans like a certain size of canvas to paint on.

HH: And a last question. This is political. Back to Gordon Brown, just survived yet another political coup in the Labour Party. Never have so many rocks been thrown at a prime minister from behind, and I think that goes for Margaret Thatcher as well. What is it about Gordon Brown that drives his own party crazy? And can we hope that the same thing begins to develop in the Democratic Party?

MS: (laughing) Well, there is a difference, in that Gordon Brown is a slightly dour personality. In Westminster systems, the long suffering finance minister, which is what he was under Tony Blair, sees and chaffs at having to be the deputy to the charismatic glamour boy who gets all the kudos. And then eventually, he takes over, and everything goes south. That’s happened to Gordon Brown in London. It happened to Paul Martin when he took over from Jean Chretien a couple of years ago in Canada, and sort of self-destructed in a couple of months. And I think that’s just the nature of parliamentary politics. It’s the opposite with Obama. I think Obama is so cool, he’s the opposite of Gordon Brown. He’s so cool, he’s so narcissistic, that in fact I think the glamour, the sheer sheen, the klieg lights of his celebrity, are in fact turning into a vast black hole for him. And I think that’s a very, I think that’s a very different problem he’s got.

HH: And very quickly, do you see any prayer for Scott Brown in Massachusetts? We’ve got about 30 seconds.

MS: Oh, I would love it. You know, Massachusetts is a one party state. 70% of seats go uncontested. To have Ted Kennedy’s successor rejected by the Massachusetts electorate would be a fantastic start to the year. Go Scott!

HH: The Massachusetts Miracle. Mark Steyn, always a pleasure,

End of interview.


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