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Mark Steyn’s Return From Walkabout

Friday, September 3, 2010

HH: Boy, am I glad to welcome back Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can also catch up on what he’s been up to at Mark, welcome back, I hope you’ve had an enjoyable summer.

MS: Yes, yes, I have, and I’m glad to be back, Hugh.

HH: We’ll miss you for a couple of weeks after this, and then you’ll be back regularly. I have to assure the audience. I was listening to you sitting in for Rush today, Mark, and I heard you talking about Imam Rauf’s book tour. And I couldn’t stop laughing when you mentioned it’s just not fair, he doesn’t have to do 2 in the morning FM radio spots with the hate radio jock in the middle of nowhere like the rest of us who schlep books.

MS: Yeah, no, I’m astonished by this.

HH: (laughing)

MS: The State Department bought 3,000 copies of his book, and then flies him to Cairo to promote the book. So unlike you and me, he gets his book tour paid for by the United States taxpayers. I cannot understand this. It’s amazing to me. People talk about, and even Republicans do this. We had this with Trent Lott and that crowd a couple of years back. They kept saying well, there’s no more fat to cut out of the federal budget. Sorry, we’ve cut it all out. We’ve cut it all. Sorry, I think when you’re buying 3,000 copies of some imam’s vanity publishing exercise, and flying him to Cairo to promote it, I don’t think the United States taxpayers should be paying for that, and I’m sick of all that stuff. I want someone to take and ax to that kind of federal spending, and let’s pare things back to stuff the government is meant to do, which isn’t to pay for authors to go on book tours all over the Middle East.

HH: You know who’s really mad about that is Jim Wright, because when he did a vanity press, and had his friends arrange to buy it, the IRS frowned on that.

MS: That’s right. (laughing) And the whole thing with Imam Rauf, by the way, I don’t get it, because it’s supposed to be like a, he’s covered by the State Department’s multi-faith outreach program. What is multi-faith about sending a Muslim imam to the Middle East to talk to other Muslim imams? Where’s the multi part of the multi-faith bit? There is just so much waste, so much waste. Every…and it’s perhaps because I’ve been overseas, and I’ve been in jurisdictions that do not enjoy the bountiful scale of government that the United States does, but I’ve become madder and madder about this stuff in the 48 hours I’ve been back. It’s driving me nuts.

HH: Yeah, I’ve missed you through this whole Mosque debate, because there was a lot of obvious punch lines to be delivered. But here we stand at the end of the summer. Orrin Hatch I think came out for it yesterday. I’ve had on E.J. Dionne, I’ve had on Nicholas Kristof. The left or the people who defend the Mosque, they don’t really have an argument, Mark Steyn. They don’t have a way to distinguish between Imam Rauf’s project and a dyed in the wool, I’m with the Blind Sheikh guy who wants to build one right next to the crater. They don’t know how to distinguish anything.

MS: No, and they’re pointing out, they’re pointing out stupidities as well. I mean, the fact is yes, obviously, Constitutionally speaking, legally speaking, if a guy wants to buy a building and put a particular project in it, he’s entitled to do that. This pompous twerp, Bloomberg, who I think has come to embody the particular stupidity of the American ruling class, because it’s a very parochial kind of stupidity. Presuming to lecture his knuckle-dragging, moronic constituents on how they don’t apparently understand the United States Constitution? It’s nothing to do with that. There are all kinds of things that are Constitutional and are legal, but are not necessarily appropriate. There’s some big row going on at the moment between some church that’s across the street from a strip club, and the church congregants are taking the license plates of the strip club attendees, and the strippers are now protesting outside the church. Yes, there’s a perfect legal right for a strip joint to open up next to a church. But maybe it’s not the greatest idea in the world. And this whole stupid legalistic way of looking at it is actually part of what is killing American initiative and American energy. Societies operate on less legalistic understandings of what is appropriate.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, in the couple of months you’ve been on vacation, or actually abroad, President Obama has grown increasingly weary-looking, right to the point where on his speech this week, I began to think he is going to be a one-termer by choice. Has that thought crossed your mind yet?

MS: Well, it’s interesting what people mean by that. A lot of people think he’s going to be a one-term president. The interesting thing is whether he’s going to be a one-termer, as you say, by choice, like a James K. Polk. In other words, he figures he’s going to do what he needs to do in four years, and then he’s going to move on. And I said sometime last year, I think, that what I found odd about him is that he’s the first American president I can think of who gives the impression that the job is too small for him.

HH: Yup.

MS: And he’s just kind of killing time in it until something more commensurate with his abilities comes along. And given that his entire view of the world, as John Bolton likes to say, he’s the post-American president for a post-American world, the idea that he would be focused on reelection in the way a conventional politician such as Bill Clinton is, I think is not really part of his thinking. I think he’s much rather utterly transform the United States, and then swan off after a couple of years, and go be a secretary-general of the United Nations with enhanced powers, or whatever racket has been cooked up for him in those years. So I think you’re right. The idea of being a one-term president by choice, and making that one term far more consequential than any two-term president’s is.

HH: He is already transformed America to the extent we’ve got people like Rand Paul and Joe Miller nominated in Kentucky and Alaska, and leading, Mark Steyn. Do you think that we still have more to go in terms of the surge in general revulsion about how far to the left this country has gone? Or have we peaked?

MS: No, I don’t think so. I think in a sense, there’s still a lot of people waking up to it. I mean, for example, his approval rating, Obama’s approval rating, is at about 40%. I think actually, that overstates it some. I think it still has some way to fall. I mean, the big problem, the big problem being simply the multi-trillion debt he is piling on a very relatively small number of people. I mentioned on the radio yesterday that I was just doing some back of the envelope calculations, and it had occurred to me that not only has this level of spending outspent America, in other words, this scale of government spending has outspent what America has, but it may in fact have outspent the entire planet’s. I mean, the level of debt Obama’s piled up presumes that the rest of the planet will want to put 20% of its GDP into U.S. Treasuries.

HH: Yup.

MS: There’s no evidence for that, and that is not going to happen.

HH: No, it’s not.

MS: So these people are going to have to sort of, I think, still have some waking up to do.

HH: And that’s very ominous for what happens next year. Let me ask you, Mark, I had John Boehner on Monday, and the transcript for the audience is posted at, and I asked the Leader whether the Republicans were prepared to move quickly, if they understood the need for speed. Do you get a sense that the GOP, Beltway division, is in touch with, aligned with, and is committed as the country’s populist, conservative revolt wants them to be? To cut spending, extend the tax cuts, and rebuild the DOD and repeal Obamacare?

MS: No, I don’t think so. I think there are some people, obviously, there are people like Jim DeMint who are committed to that, and there are some of these newly-nominated candidates who are committed to that. But I listened to Trent Lott, who cashed in his rolodex for a big time lobbyist job, and Trent Lott is saying oh, we don’t want 60 Jim DeMints in the Senate. We are going to need to do some serious hacking away at the size of the federal government. Otherwise, I think this is do or die for the Republican Party. If people vote in the Republicans on a tide of revulsion at what the Democrats have done, and the Republicans just settle back and we’re back to 2004 all over again, I think the Republican Party will have blown their last chance, and we will, I have to be cautious here, because I believe it’s a condition of my Green Card that I’m not allowed to foment armed insurrection against the government of the United States.

HH: (laughing)

MS: But with that stipulation, I think we will be pushing the temperament of the people in a revolutionary direction, and that is something that the Republicans ought to understand.

HH: Last question, Mark Steyn. You’ve been away for a couple of months on your walkabout. Do you come back more or less optimistic about the future of the United States than when you left?

MS: Well, I am optimistic, because my big point is that this is still the only Western nation where when things head south, people don’t say why doesn’t the government do more for me. They do, as we’re seeing in primaries across the land, they say no, I can do just fine if you guys in Washington would just, and in the State Capitols, would just get your hand out of my pocket. That is a very American message. It’s not something you hear a lot of in Greece or in most other parts of the Western world.

HH: Mark Steyn, it’s great to have you back., America. Mark will be gone for a couple of weeks, and then he’ll be back again.

End of interview.

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