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Mark Steyn’s triangles of serenity in circles of opportunity

Thursday, November 6, 2008
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HH: 48 hours after the big blowout, the big Obama win, we’re still here, and we’re going to be here for the next four years, eight years, twelve years, however long it takes, however long I’m blessed with. And I hope I’ll always be able to find Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World, www.steynonline.com. Mark, we’ve had a couple of days to reflect on this. What’s the GOP do next?

MS: Well, I’m glad you think you’re going to still be here in four years. I just got Aunt Zeituni’s deportation order redirected to my mailbox this morning. So I don’t know whether I’ll still be here. But I think what the GOP needs to do, it needs to wake up fast and figure out a way to counter the stuff that’s going to be coming their way in January and February. The Democrats don’t sit around. Newt Gingrich, when he appeared in New Hampshire and he was asked why the Republican Congress was proving such a mess, he said well don’t forget, we’ve only been in power for ten years. Been in power for ten years, and they hadn’t quite got the hang of it. The Democrats are in power for ten minutes, and they start passing a lot of stuff and doing a lot of stuff. They don’t waste any time. And the Republicans in Congress have got to be ready for that, and they’ve got to have a strategy to counter it.

HH: Mark Steyn, the need for speed never seemed to get through to either Trent Lott or Bill Frist, blessedly retired now. I’m not sure John Boehner gets it, either, and it looks like he’s going to be returned as GOP leader because Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is apparently not going to seek that job. Is Boehner’s return a big deal or no deal at all?

MS: I think it falls into the no deal category. I think if you talk to Republicans on the ground, what they’re disgusted by, I think it was Normal Lamont in Britain put it this way about the Tory Party under John Major in the mid-90s. He said we give the impression that we’re content to be in office but not in power. And that’s what the Republicans in Congress did, and that’s why so many Republicans on the ground are disgusted by them and have no expectations of them, and which is why fellows like me think that essentially what Obama did was do an end run around the political system, around legislative and electoral politics, and basically presented himself as a broader cultural figure and projected himself in the broader sphere. And that’s what we on the conservative side need, too. We have people who don’t depend primarily on who their legislative and electoral contacts are, but have a base beyond that. And that’s why the next leadership of the conservative movement in America is not going to come from the rump Republican Party in Congress.

HH: Now there is a story today that Newt is considering becoming, or at least seeking to become the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. What do you make of that, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, I think Newt is a fantastic organizer. And if he takes this, I hope it means he’s abandoned his dreams of becoming president, because I think that is unfeasible for various personal reasons. When he talks organizationally, he sounds a bit like one of these cultist nuts who’s always going on about the seven triangles of serenity inside the twelve circles of opportunity. He gets, starts talking a bit nutty like that. But the fact is he has got graphs and pie charts for everything, and he does see the bigger picture, and he does understand how non-political Americans relate to the political sphere. And so in that sense, he might be better than some of the alternatives. That might be a job that uses his talents.

HH: Now which part are you skeptical of? The circles of serenity or the triangles of opportunity?

MS: (laughing) Well, right now…

HH: (laughing)

MS: Right now, I’m not sure, I’m not feeling terribly, I’m feeling the serenity of a guy who’s in a canoe without any paddles, and he’s had a time to get used to the fact that the falls are coming up and he’s going to go over…

HH: (laughing)

MS: …because I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of opportunity, and I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of individual liberty in Barack Obama’s America. I think the virtues of this country, which is individual liberty and self-reliance, are not part of Obama’s vision for America.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, I was exiled to California not long after Jimmy Carter won, and got out here, and a friend said let me take you to a hotel dinner, which meant about two hundred people in a dank hotel room in Carlsbad. And there was Ronald Reagan with his jacket off talking to 150 people in that basement about the glories of liberty. Do you see anyone on the Republican Party side, the conservative movement, who not only is willing to do that, but will actually be able to draw 150 people to a dark ballroom with their jacket when the air conditioning’s not working?

MS: No, I don’t, and my worry is that the conversation, and both the push from the media, the convention wisdom from the media is Republicans are too strident and right wing and have to move to the center, move to the center. And you know, the problem with that analysis is that as I always say, George W. Bush is essentially Tony Blair with a ranch. He’s a classic third way politician who occasionally wears jeans and a cowboy hat. But his approach to government, compassionate conservatism, no child left behind, is already way, way down toward the center. If you look at John McCain, John McCain is nothing but the center. He spends his whole time talking about reaching across the aisle, a phrase I never want to hear again. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts was a centrist politician. Giuliani a centrist on all the social issues. So the idea that we are this movement of crazed right wing kooks is hard to detect either from the last eight years or from this last primary season.

HH: And is the possibility that Palin representing…you know, there were a lot of people out there seeing Sarah Palin, thousands and thousands wherever she went. She’s being trashed now by the McCainiacs…

MS: Yeah, and shame on them.

HH: Shame on them indeed, because she was the one who drew the crowds But that tells me there remains a movement, although it may not have a figurehead or someone around which it can rally at this point. I mean, she’s got to govern from Alaska. She can’t come down here and run rallies. Anybody else out there?

MS: No, but I think what it shows is that there is a great, there is a yearning, there is a yearning for someone who can articulate the eternal truths in the American vernacular. And I think that’s what a lot of her critics, some of whom are friends of mine, people I like very much like Peggy Noonan and Kathleen Parker. But I think that’s what they don’t understand. The trick is to articulate the eternal truths in the American vernacular, and that’s what I hope to find sometime before we’re consigned to another four years of this in 2012.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, you’ve spoken on college campuses, and you know, that there are a lot of young conservatives and young Republicans out there. They don’t, however, 66-28%, I believe, was the youth vote under 30. And I don’t think we present well, either technically, technologically, or rhetorically to people under 30 in this country. Your thoughts?

MS: No, I think that’s a fair criticism. And if you mean that the McCain campaign was not comfortable with the internet generation, simply as a technical proposition, I think there’s a lot of truth in that. But we have to accept the reality of the situation, which is that by the time a lot of these students get to college, they’ve been raised in what is essentially a liberal environment for twenty years. In the school system in this country, liberalism is the air that you breathe. It’s the air that you breathe. If you look at these children’s books about the amazing Obama story that they’re going to start teaching in schools this year, he’s already being beatified as one of these Rosa Parks figures. So in a sense, that’s what you’re up against the whole time, that the founders’ vision of America is not taught in American schools.

HH: Now what about the opportunity that exists, however, to take a person like Pete Hegseth, and everyone he stands for, meaning the young returned veterans of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, who have actually come to grips with the enemy and are back here with that knowledge, and are young and are very mediacentric, they understand messaging? Is that where energy comes to the center-right movement, on foreign policy first and economics second?

MS: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of truth in the idea that somewhere among all these veterans who’ve been serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, I hear from a lot of them in the course of a week who are very plugged into what’s going at home, even though they’re sitting out in some hell hole out in the Sunni Triangle, or the caves of Afghanistan. I think that’s a very appealing idea, but, but, you can’t run on that alone. That was McCain’s mistake. You’ve got to be committed to economic liberty, too, which is the great driver of opportunity in this country. He made far too many stupid but very revealing remarks, John McCain did, that shows he doesn’t understand that in fact it’s the economic dynamism of America that pays for everything else.

HH: You know, when people wanted to drill, drill, drill, Mark Steyn, we’ve got thirty seconds, I thought we tapped into that again. People know you’ve got to go get energy by drilling for energy. I think people know this. The financial crisis obscured it. I don’t think it’s going to be long returning to the top of people’s agenda. Your last word?

MS: Yeah, and especially not when the Obama message is no, you have to drive a smaller car, when you have to eat less and you have to live in a smaller home. That is not the American idea, and that’s where he’ll trip himself up.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America.

End of interview.

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