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Mark Steyn’s Thanksgiving thoughts

Thursday, November 22, 2007
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HH: Normally, he joins us on Thursday, but because we will be replaying a great broadcast from the past tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day, I’m pleased to welcome a day early Mark Steyn, Columnist to the World. Mark, is your turducken in the oven?

MS: (laughing) It’s not in the oven, but the turducken has landed. He flew in from Johnsbury, Vermont a couple of hours ago. It was circling the house, and landed on the porch, and is ready to go for tomorrow.

HH: Now do you have any idea how to cook a turducken, Mr. Steyn?

MS: Well, actually, I was asking my wife, and I was disgusted to find she didn’t have some old family turducken recipe that had been handed down since the 18th Century. So we’re going to be winging it tomorrow. But I’m confident that it’ll work out okay.

HH: Well, www.cajungrocer.com should have sent you some directions, so just don’t blame me if it all goes very, very badly in the kitchen tomorrow. I love your Nationalreview.com column, American Treasure: Giving Thanks. Thanksgiving, you write, excepting the premature and somewhat undernourished Canadian version, is unique to America. You write that Europeans really just don’t get this.

MS: No, it’s very strange that Europeans don’t quite understand what the Thanksgiving holiday is all about. You know, holidays in countries tend to be ancient religious holidays, obviously Christmas and Easter, or ones named for battles, or dead kings or queens, or whatever. And what I like about Thanksgiving is it’s very small-scale, very modest, very intimate, very American, and absolutely gets to the key of things, which is thanking God for the blessings of this great land. And I, it’s my favorite holiday, and I love it more each year I’m here.

HH: Listen to this.

Oklahoma! Music: We know we belong to the land. And the land we belong to is grand.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, why did you include this in your column today?

MS: (laughing) Well, Oklahoma is celebrating its centennial as statehood. And whatever one feels about which is the best state, I’m happy to say that I think they have the best state song, because that is just a great rouser. I wrote about Oklahoma! a while back, and I don’t agree with Garrison Keillor about very much these days, but I saw him on stage years ago, and he said how much he loved this song, not the first part of it about the hawk making lazy circles in the sky, but when you get to the we know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand, he said that’s a real pick-you-up when, if you want to sing it, belt it out in the shower in the morning. And I think there’s a lot of truth in it, too. I think there’s an implicit connection between the people who come here and the land, and the great republic that they have built on this land. It’s a unique experiment in human history, and it’s worked for two and a quarter centuries.

HH: Mark Steyn, when you write in the column today, when something terrible and destructive happens, a tsunami hits Indonesia, or an earthquake devastates Pakistan, the U.S. can project itself anywhere on the planet within hours and start saving lives, setting up hospitals, and restoring the water supply. Aside from Britain and France, the Europeans cannot project power in any meaningful way anywhere. I was struck, has any other empire ever done so much for, with so little expectation in return?

MS: No, and that’s because America isn’t an empire, and one can have arguments about that. And some of us draw the conclusion from the last six years, Max Boot, and to a certain extent, Don Rumsfeld, and fellows like Niall Ferguson, that America, in a sense, needs to develop more of the conventional attributes of empire. But Americans don’t have an imperialist bone in their body. And they just give to the world. They give to the world. Who is it, when the tsunami strikes, who is it who comes in and restores the water supply? It’s an American task force. The U.N. will accept your checks. People in Ireland, people in Norway, wrote plenty of checks when the tsunami struck. But the people who get there on the ground and save lives, and provide shelter, and restore the water supply, are the Americans and a few other countries. It’s a very select group. And if America was to do…you know, when you drive around those, seeing those cars, saying it’ll be a great day when the school district has all the money it needs, and the Pentagon has to start to hold bake sales, well, if the Pentagon has to hold bake sales, all those people are going to die when the tsunami strikes, when the earthquake strikes Pakistan. It’s that infrastructure that enables America to help the world.

HH: It is that American impulse to help that’s been going on in Baghdad for the last four years. And a real corner has been turned in the last six weeks, Mark Steyn. And now, the media, at least left wing mainstream branch, is attempting to come up with a narrative that doesn’t credit Bush or the surge. There’s a blogger named Bruised Orange. He’s a veteran, he was in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

MS: Right.

HH: And he contrasted today the New York Times writing, a correspondent, it’s not a simple cause and effect. The surge is a factor, but there are others, too, including shifts in tactics among the violent elements in the Sunni and Shia. In other words, it’s that Sadr has called off his dogs, even though Sadr’s dogs are getting rounded out by the Iraqi Army. I guess we’re just going to have to get ready for this, the effort by the left to disguise the results and the credit for stability in Iraq.

MS: Yeah, I think two things happen when things go well for America, in ways that generally, you would think would favor the American right. The American left tends to adopt the narrative that it would have happened anyway. I mean, for example, they say oh, no, Reagan had nothing to do with the fall of the Soviet Union. The thing was going to collapse anyway, it was never a threat. And in any case, we were always on board with that policy. And you’re seeing the same thing happening now, where people are beginning to reposition themselves for the kind of post-Bush narrative on Iraq. Now occasionally, I’m told well, you’ve gone very silent on the war. I really said my final thing on Iraq in America Alone, which was published over a year ago now, in which I said that I thought Iraq would be, would turn out all right, that in a sense, there was a hysteria to the media coverage that never bore any relation to events on the ground. And now that hysteria has become untenable, so people like Newsweek and Time and the New York Times and all the rest of it have to find a new narrative. And it requires a modicum of skill to find some way that does not give this administration any credit. Now you can fault this administration, but unlike the other party, they didn’t just want to surrender and pull the troops out. And the fact is you can criticize Bush, I mean, you can make the argument of oh, well, if the surge is such a great idea, why didn’t Bush try it a year earlier or whatever. You can make that argument. You can’t make the argument that the Harry Reids and Nancy Pelosis have anything to offer, because all they have to offer is defeat. So this is never going to be a Democratic Party victory.

HH: Now the effort to defund victory by the Democrats in the Congress, will that become understood as an effort to defund victory, and to take away an issue in the 2008…is the media going to be complicit enough to actually sell the idea of pulling the rug out now?

MS: I don’t think so. I think the media fundamentally understands the unpopularity of the Iraq war, because I think it’s true that there are a large number of people who don’t think we should be in Iraq, who are opposed to the war, who don’t want to fight the war, and subscribe to the Democratic Party position. But an awful lot of the people, who also come into that category of people who are opposed, who find the war unpopular and don’t support it any longer, didn’t support it because they thought we weren’t fighting it hard enough. They thought we were fighting it too tentatively, and effectively with one hand tied behind our back. And so they wanted to fight harder and faster. And I think the idea that there are going to be many takers for the Democrat position of defunding the war, and of bringing, so-called bringing the troops home, to have lost another major conflict that will hang over the United States for a generation, I think there are far fewer takers for that than the media think.

HH: Mark Steyn, since last we spoke, Obama has surged ahead of Hillary in Iowa. What’s going on in the heads of the Democratic electorate that favor him over her?

MS: Well, I think there is a strong constituency for a choice to Hillary, simply because Hillary is not Bill, she does not have Bill’s magic touch, she seems to have been around a long time, she seems tired, she’s not exactly charming. And when she starts going on about her experience, you know, she’s been in public life for 35 years, I don’t know what that means. She’s never had any executive of legislative authority for almost all of those 35 years. It’s hard to put your finger on anything she’s actually done in those 35 years. And I think generally speaking, the dynamic of a presidential nominating contest favors the future, and favors change. And if Obama was a little bit less inept on some of these points, he could tap into a huge wellspring of the Democratic base that wants something other than Hillary.

HH: 30 seconds, Mark, New Hampshire announced today they’re holding their primary on January the 8th, the earliest ever. What do you think? Good move by them?

MS: Yeah, I’m sorry that the snows of February won’t see candidates tramping around up here in the north country, but bring it on.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, Happy Thanksgiving to you, yours and your turducken. www.steynonline.com, America.

End of interview.

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