Mark Steyn’s Passing Parade Of White House Press Secretaries
HH: It’s Thursday, and when we are lucky, we are joined by Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. And Mark, welcome, it’s always a pleasure to speak with you.
MS: Hey, good to be with you, Hugh.
HH: Now Mark up at the top of www.steynonline.com is my favorite, personal favorite Steyn book, Mark Steyn’s Passaing Parade. Now I’ve always said Joseph Epstein is my favorite essayist, but in Passing Parade, you do what Epstein always does, which is you condense lives into these beautiful, little essays. But it’s now available on Nook, and it’s available on Kindle, but it’s available on something called Indigo, about which I am simply unfamiliar.
MS: Yeah, that’s big in what we non-Americans call the rest of the world, Hugh.
HH: Okay, so Indigo is…
MS: It’s the big murky space on the map where it says here be monsters. Indigo is like the equivalent, is like Canada’s Barnes And Noble.
HH: So if I click that, I won’t get the Heartbleed virus or anything like that?
MS: No, no, no. You might, you’ll just get, you know, you’ll get the Canadian virus. You’ll start taking an inordinate interest in hockey and old Gordon Lightfoot LP’s, but other than that, it will be completely harmless. You won’t feel a thing, by the way.
HH: I can’t tell, everyone has got to go and get the e-book of Passing Parade. But I thought in honor of Passing Parade, I would do a mini version of a passing parade of White House press secretaries with leading to a conclusion. So I’m going to give you the name of a White House press secretary, and just want your instant reaction to them, beginning, of course, with Ron Ziegler.
MS: Hugh, you’re not going to go through all White House…
HH: Not all of them, just a few of them.
MS: That’s, well, if you want to talk about Nixon and Watergate, he had a much easier thing to defend than did, than does the current guy. That’s the Watergate guy, right?
HH: Yeah, Ziegler was Watergate, so…
MS: Yeah, and I mean, just to make an important point here, by the way, when Ron Ziegler had to get out and address a third-rate burglary, nobody died. Four people didn’t die during the Watergate burglary, and Ron Ziegler didn’t have to defend covering up, in effect, a quadruple murder and pinning it on some other guy, which is what’s going on here.
HH: Let’s jump forward a few years, Marlin Fitzwater served both Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, and was a fan of funny hats.
MS: Yeah, and Marlin Fitzwater, who was a guest on a BBC show I used to do many years ago, and was, I found, painfully honest to a fault, not least about his own shortcomings. And I would have, I could not imagine in a thousand years Marlin Fitzwater standing up and defending the sort of stuff that the press secretaries for this administration are expected to defend.
HH: Now Bill Clinton holds the record. He actually had five – Dee Dee Myers, George Stephanopoulos, Mike McCurry, Joe Lockhart, and a man I cannot actually remember, Jake Siewert. Do you remember Jake Siewert?
MS: No, no I don’t, but actually, I remember all the other guys. I remember all the other guys very well, and Dee Dee Myers as well, to attend to the distaff side. And they were, they, within a very narrow reductive sense, they were entirely different from the Marlin Fitzwater types who were like, who understood that in some sense, they represented the people’s government. But these guys, Dee Dee Myers and her successors, were brilliant at framing everything in the best possible light for a guy they served with absolute loyalty.
HH: Now W. had four. He had the wonderful Ari Fleischer, the incredibly smart Dana Perino, my friend and my favorite, Tony Snow. He also had the worst press secretary until our present press secretary in Scott McClellan, who I honestly, I do not understand how he got the job. I don’t know what he was doing there. But three out of four is not bad for George W. Bush.
MS: No, it’s not, and Scott McClellan represents the sort of death throes of the administration when everything had gone off the rails, and in a sense, they weren’t even trying anymore. Scott McClellan wrote a book, which if you go into Barnes and Noble, you can probably find somewhere at the back propping up the wonky table leg under the display of my book, I would like to think, an almost unreadable and pitiful book in which he claimed that somehow, he was some kind of media Stockholm Syndrome in which he almost went the full-scale David Brock and went over to the Media Matters side, but without doubt, the worst appointee as press secretary in the last third of a century or wherever it was we started, four decades, wherever it was we started.
HH: And every day, Dana Perino demonstrates, Tony Snow was a wonderful man. He was a gentleman, and we miss him.
MS: Right, yeah.
HH: But Dana Perino is smart, funny, everything you want. And Robert Gibbs, for all of what he had to defend, did so ably.
MS: Yeah, no, I think that’s true. I mean, he had an easier job. Just to be clear on this, I think Ari Fleischer and Dee Dee Myers and Robert Gibbs have, it’s always easier when you come in…
MS: …in the first flush, in the first couple of years, and you’re the guy who’s there for the so-called honeymoon period. There’s no doubt that when you’re five years in, you’ve got a much more difficult job than the guy who was there half a decade ago when you were the new guy, you were the incoming guy, and you didn’t have all this stuff you’d trot in that was still sticking to your boot heel that you’re being asked questions about day after day after day. Although having said that, if you recall with the Clinton era, Clinton was in trouble with the whole Whitewater thing and was being asked about that daily almost from the beginning.
HH: And the Travelgate. And the Travelgate.
MS: And yeah, yeah.
HH: So now that brings us to Jay Carney, and I did this elaborate set-up to prove a point. Even Scott McClellan is only remembered as being forgettable. Jay Carney is going to be remembered for lying through his teeth about Benghazi. And today, he was lying through his teeth again. Yesterday, we played eight minutes without comment, because the Jonathan Karl exchange was so revealing.
HH: Mark Steyn, it’s a cover-up and they’re lying.
MS: Yes, and I think as I said a couple of minutes ago, I think it’s a more serious cover-up than in the Nixon era. In the end, four people are dead. They knew the reason why they were dead within half an hour of this protest starting. They didn’t know those guys were dead, but they knew that there was a sustained terrorist assault on a U.S. diplomatic facility. And from that point, they began constructing the most despicable lies, including the President and the Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, the designated president-in-waiting, lying over the coffins of those four Americans when they came back to Andrews Air Force Base, lying to their relatives when Mrs. Clinton tells the bereaveds’ family that we’re going to find, we’re going to get that video maker, and we’re going to throw him in jail. Mrs. Clinton said that to the families of the bereaved. There is…and we’re told, and it’s not just…Carney can do this, because Democrats and the court eunuchs in the American media have assured him and the President, and the Secretary of State, that it’s a big nothingburger. Ha, ha, Benghazi, if you say Benghazi to a Democrat, they laugh. Ha, ha, ha, ha. It’s nothing. Only Fox News and a couple of other freaky weirdos care about it. If the American people don’t care about four dead Americans, if they don’t care about the President and the Secretary of State, and the press secretary, and everyone else lying about those four dead Americans, if they don’t even care about them blaming it on this poor schlub in California, they sent more, there was more firepower sent to arrest that nothing little video maker for some parole violation, more firepower sent to drag him to the county jail than there was outside that facility in Benghazi.
HH: And here is U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell today talking to Jim Jordan on the Hill. It’s cut number three, and I’ll get 30 seconds of Mark afterwards.
JJ: You had two statements in your testimony that I think are most telling. The first is always move to the sound of the guns. That means something to you, doesn’t it, General?
RL: Yes, sir.
JJ: It means something to anyone who’s ever worn the uniform of our country, doesn’t it?
RL: Yes, sir.
JJ: If you take seriously the airmen who’ve been under your command, the soldiers, the sailors, the airmen who you’ve had a chance to be an officer for, you take that seriously?
RL: Yes, sir.
JJ: And you couldn’t do that on September 11th, because you say in your testimony we were “waiting for a request for assistance from the State Department.” You couldn’t react normally, customarily the way the military always reacts. In this situation, you couldn’t do what the military always does. Is that accurate?
RL: From my perspective, yes, sir.
JJ: And you’ve been in the military 33 years, deployed all over the planet, all over the world. Has that ever, has there ever been a situation prior to this where you couldn’t react in the normal customary way that the military reacts?
RL: No situation.
JJ: First time in your 33 years rising to the rank of general, first time in your 33 years you couldn’t do what the military always does, run to the sound of the guns.
RL: Yes, sir.
HH: Mark Steyn, that’s pretty damning, ten seconds. I don’t know how they’re going to get out of this.
MS: Yeah, and it is pretty damning. They didn’t know how long it was going to go on, and they say it would have been too late. They didn’t know how long it would last. We don’t know if it would have been too late.
HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America.
End of interview.