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Michelle Obama’s stand up routine in North Carolina amuses Mark Steyn.

Friday, May 9, 2008
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HH: We begin this Thursday as we do those Thursdays when we are lucky with Columnist to the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Steyn’s musings at www.steynonline.com. Mark, I gather we find you in Canada today.

MS: Yeah, I’m up in Toronto for the Canadian launch of the paperback of America Alone. And speaking of Michael Yon, incidentally, I did a big, standing room only at the big bookstore, Indigo, here in Toronto last night, with the president of the chain, who’s like, which is like Borders and Barnes & Noble combined. And a guy came up her afterwards, and pressed into her hand a little piece of paper with Michael Yon’s name on it, saying that she needed to fly Michael Yon in for the next big author event. He’s got a lot of fans up here, too.

HH: Good for her. Moment of Truth is the book, we’ll be talking a lot about it, and you can get a free copy, by the way, America, if you go to www.townhallmagazine.com/truth, and you’ll get a free copy. Hey, Mark, I’m surprised you’re in Canada. I thought you risked arrest whenever you went north of the border these days.

MS: (laughing) I do. I’ve got, as you know, these outstanding human rights complaints. Ontario, which ruled that it didn’t have jurisdiction to try Macleans Magazine and myself, nevertheless said you know, we don’t have jurisdiction to toss these guys in jail, but we would if we could. That was absolutely extraordinary. They said if we had put this on a sign rather than in a magazine, they would have jurisdiction to prosecute us. So I actually, I’ve actually taped the magazine article to a sign, and I’m going to deliver it to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and invite the relevant thought police to actually go ahead with their threat. I mean, if it’s just the medium, I say bring it on, as John Kerry would say.

HH: They’ll find a way to duck that. They want no part of that, and well that they should not. Now Mark Steyn, you had a full house at the bookstore? So how is America Alone in paperback selling in Canada if it’s such an offense against all decent and proper Canadian thinking?

MS: Well, I think…I don’t know how many people, I think it was like four hundred people or something. I think that’s the four hundred non-anti-Americans in the entire province of Ontario, all came out to see me. And I’m very glad to see them, and America Alone is doing well up here. The hardback edition was number one in Canada. You know, the reality is, there’s a lot of people who are disturbed by various trends in the world. They’re not all conservatives, they’re not all Republicans by any means. There’s certainly a lot of liberals, not as many as one would like, but there are people who think of themselves as liberals and progressives, and who are nevertheless a little rattled by some recent trends.

HH: Well, let’s turn to recent trends down here. I like to give you new audio each week, and Michelle Obama was out speaking again. I’d like to give you a couple of cuts of Michelle Obama from this past Friday. Here’s cut number one.

MO: Well, what did Barack do? He became a community organizer.

MS: (laughing)

MO: …working in some of the toughest neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago, worked for years in neighborhoods where people had a reason to give up hope, because their jobs had been lost, steel mills shut down, living in brown fields left by those closed steel plants, unsafe streets, schools deteriorating, grandparents raising grandkids. Barack spent years working with churches, busing single mothers down to City Hall to help them find their voice, building the kind of operations on the ground, just like he’s doing in this race, block by block, person by person. Now you tell me whether there’s anybody in this race who can claim to have made the same choice with their lives. You tell me. But I think that Barack Obama is the only person that can claim that kind of choice…so trust me, we’ve seen it all. Barack has seen it all.

HH: Mark Steyn?

MS: (laughing) Well, you know, that’s…I don’t know…Chicago doesn’t sound like part of America. It sounds like we need to fly in some U.N. relief agency. They should all pull out of Burma and fly into these derelict parts of Chicago. The fact is, community organizer is a bogus term. She ought to knock it off. Real people…one of the most pathetic aspects of this race is that somehow, a guy like Mitt Romney, who runs successful companies, he’s regarded as Mr. Bloated Plutocrat like the guy in the top hat on the Monopoly board. A guy like that actually makes a contribution to people’s lives, to generating the great wealth in corporate America that pays for everything else. And a community organizer, which most functioning communities in the United States don’t have the need for, is an entirely bogus term. She is becoming, I miss Teresa Heinz Kerry.

HH: (laughing)

MS: God bless here. I used to love going to John Kerry events, and John Kerry would be droning I say to George Bush, bring it on, and Teresa used to stand there next to him looking board out of her skull. God bless her. She was a, you know, she’s a genuine, a very genuine woman. And Michelle Obama by contrast seems to have all the condescension of Teresa Heinz Kerry, plus this weird bitterness and anger. I think she’s a very strange woman.

HH: What about the idea that Barack has seen it all? You know, I played this for John McCain yesterday. He’s the only one whose done this sort of thing, and Senator McCain, to his credit, didn’t mention his five and a half years as a guest of the North Vietnamese when talking about things that perhaps he hadn’t seen.

MS: Oh, come on, Hugh. You know, that may have been mildly discomforting, but it’s not like being a community organizer in Chicago, is it?

HH: (laughing) No, it’s not.

MS: Come on, come on. Barack’s seen it all. Go on. He would have…you know, you think having your fingernails pulled out by the Viet Cong is tough? You should try being in brown field Chicago. Ugh. Honestly, Hugh.

HH: Here’s some more Michelle. Cut number two.

MO: Well see, his mother had a lot of nerve on her own, right? She thought that she could be something special, even though she grew up in a little town in Kansas.

HH: Mark Steyn, even though she grew up in a little town in Kansas.

MS: (laughing) We’re not in Kansas anymore. I don’t recognize…

HH: (laughing)

MS: I simply don’t recognize this vision of America. You know, the problem is that Barack hasn’t seen it all, that in fact, and I speak as a foreigner here, but you know, it takes one to know one, that he seems to have been exposed in his adult life to a very narrow sliver of the United States, and that’s why when he talks about these God-fearing gun nuts in rural Pennsylvania, he talks about them as an anthropologist would about a remote tribe in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. That actually is Barack Obama’s biggest problem, that he hasn’t seen enough of America.

HH: Now how in the world did Hillary Clinton not beat him like a drum? How could she not, as Rush likes to say, as everyone on the radio, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, Bill Bennett, he’s as green as ivy, and yet she could not beat him.

MS: But he’s out-punched her. He’s trumped her on the identity politics thing. You know, the first woman candidate would be viable if it weren’t for the fact that Hillary Clinton is very well known. Generally speaking, the Republicans vote for the bore who’s next in line. And it’s just a question of whether you get someone effective whose turn it is, as it was for Ronald Reagan, or you get someone whose relatively disastrous, like Bob Dole. The Democrats are fixated on novelty, so if you’ve got an identity politics trump card with a fresh face, that trumps identity politics with a stale, old face, which…and I don’t…like Rush, I’ve got a crush on her, too. Let’s face it. We all have now, just because she’s making this race interesting. I don’t mean that in a misogynist sense, but just that she’s been around a long time, and the Democrats value novelty in their primaries.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, in terms of the media’s treatment of Barack Obama, and I’m hoping I can keep you for two segments today, but the media treatment of Obama, John Roberts brings him onto CNN on the morning of the primary, and says this is a Jeremiah Wright-free zone. Is that just what we’re going to have to get used to between now and November?

MS: Well, I don’t quite understand how the pastor who married this guy, and has been responsible for the religious education of his children, and in whose pews he sat every Sunday except for AIDS Conspiracy Sunday and Post-9/11 America Had It Coming Sunday. And I mean, I don’t know. Apparently, Barack is now the most irregular regular church attender in the United States. But I don’t see how that can suddenly become like the Swift Boats, or like Gennifer Flowers. There’s something rather scandalous and vulgar that these genteel dowitcher duchesses of the mainstream media simply recoil from going anywhere near, because it’s all too frightful and vulgar. I mean, that’s a remark that just makes the journalist in question look like a total bonehead.

HH: But will it keep up? Will it go on?

MS: Well, I would think so, and that’s what’s ridiculous. I mean, this is where Michelle Obama becomes interesting, because she in fact, you know, you get the sense that she pretty much shares the Jeremiah Wright worldview. It’s easy to open up your show by saying, by being all prissy and saying oh, we’re going to be a Jeremiah Wright-free zone. It’s a lot more difficult, with Michelle Obama giving these speeches, to say oh well, we’re going to be a potential first lady-free zone. I mean, essentially, the mainstream media will make themselves look even more of a joke if they try to apply these same kind of kid gloves treatment to the candidates’ wife.

– – – –

HH: Mark Steyn, I’ve more for you of Michelle Obama to play, but before that, since you’re in Canada, within a week, we will learn if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declares the polar bear to be endangered, and thus, every federal action of the United States subject to review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Do you find much polar bear panic in Canada?

MS: No, there is no polar bear panic. Essentially, this is the sort of Disney-fied anthropomorphization of public policy, all because of that ridiculous shot that appears in the Al Gore movie of the polar bears clinging to this piece of ice. Polar bears…anyone whose been to the north knows that polar bears…well, you don’t have to have been to the north. All you have to do is have watched a couple, two or three wildlife documentaries, and paid reasonable attention. Polar bears can swim in water. They’re perfectly capable of swimming in water. This picture is of no significance, yet we are about to impose yet another absurd, unnecessary, crippling level of regulation in the name of this ludicrous sentimentalization of the environmental issue. The fact is, it’s getting to the stage now where environmentalism is, which was a new religion, is now becoming a kind of, a form of mental illness, I think. Whatever happens, it gets hot, it gets cold, the ice shield firms up, the ice shield melts, it’s all the symptom of the same thing, man is responsible, global warming, we have to wreck the global economy. To put the polar bear on the endangered species list is an act of economic suicide, and people shouldn’t be doing it.

HH: All right, now back to Michelle Obama. Another cut for the edification of Mr. Steyn:

MO: The bar is shifting and moving on people all the time. And folks are struggling like never before, working harder than ever, believing that their hard work will lead to some reward, some payoff. But what they find is that they get there, and then the bar has changed. Things are different. It wasn’t enough. So you have to work even harder. And see, what happens when you live in a nation where the vast majority of Americans are struggling every day to reach an every-shifting and moving bar, then what happens in that nation is that people do become isolation.

HH: Okay, stop right there. Mark Steyn, the vast majority?

MS: Yes, the more I listen to Michelle Obama, the more I feel like struggling to reach the ever-shifting bar, and have a couple of martinis. I mean, this is an insane caricature of America. It is true that there are, and I run into a lot of them among my neighbors in New Hampshire, that you’ll meet people, you’ll meet women, for example, who are doing three jobs. They’ll be doing a waitressing shift, and a shift at the convenience store, and they’ll have a little home cleaning business. And when you actually ask them why it is that they’re doing this, it’s often for social reasons, but it’s also because of the fact that government is taking such a big slice of the pie, that in fact, if you were to trim down government, and the vast majority or largely superfluous services that it attempts to provide badly, and allow people to keep more of their money, they wouldn’t be having to do these two or three extra jobs. That’s the reason. It’s the metastasizing government and bureaucracy and regulation that imposes costs on the efficient part of the U.S. economy.

HH: And also because it occurred to me, Mark Steyn, if you remember the allegory in Plato’s Republic of the cave when you see the shadows on the wall…

MS: Right.

HH: If you come out of a machine politics city like Chicago, where everything depends upon the government, and government payoffs, and people really are not advancing, they don’t have entrepreneurial excellence in that sort of exploding capitalism, you develop a very perverse sense of what the rest of the country is like. You mentioned this in the last segment. They really have not seen it all. They haven’t seen very much at all.

MS: No, and everyone knows that when you try to do…I know this, in fact, from my days at the Chicago Sun-Times when the company that owned the Sun-Times at that point was trying to get permission to demolish the old building, and Donald Trump was going to build a new building. Now in those circumstances, what you do is effectively, you’ve got to deal with the city, you’ve got to deal with the administration. And almost every activity in Chicago involves dealing with government. And that makes it actually very different from, I think, the more dynamic parts of this country. I don’t believe that dynamism of a society derives from government. And I believe in that great Ronald Reagan line, and I wish John McCain would start using that, because it would do him a lot of good, Ronald Reagan said we are a nation that has a government, not the other way around. The Obamas come from a culture that thinks the government has the nation. They’ve got it the other way around.

HH: Let’s switch over to international affairs, because the news this afternoon is that the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayab al-Masri, has been arrested in Mosul, another blow to al Qaeda in Iraq, Mark Steyn. Do you think the significance…

MS: Yeah, he didn’t have quite as dramatic an end as Zarqawi, who wound up pushing up daisy cutters or whatever is was. But it was clear when this fellow took over, that it wasn’t a job with long term life expectancy. This guy is a foreigner, and I think that’s important to remember when you listen to the left bleating about the American occupiers in Iraq, that in fact, al Qaeda in Iraq is headed by foreigners like Zarqawi and his successor. They have no place there. The Sunni minority in Iraq, which has been the main source of such support as these guys have had, has now grown tired of them, is betraying them to the authorities, and is making it increasingly difficult for these fellows to operate.

HH: Does the incredible success of the surge combined with the Anbar awakening become an issue in this campaign? Or has it effectively been cemented into place by the agitprop of the MSM?

MS: No, I think what it is, is that the media and the Democrats have one narrative for Iraq – quagmire, quagmire, quagmire, defeat, defeat, defeat. So if you change that, if you say look, which is what a superpower should be able to do, change the facts on the ground as the surge did, what the media do is say simply oh, well, Iraq has moved from the top of the news, when we had the burning car of the night photograph from the Green Zone, it led the news. Now we don’t have the burning car of the night, we’ll get to Iraq at the 28th minute, just before the new fat pill. That is what the media and the Democrats are doing. Iraq is either a quagmire, or it’s no story at all.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure. Good, safe travels from Canada back to New Hampshire, good luck selling America Alone wherever you are. The paperback edition is out, America, soaring to the tops of the paperback edition of the bestselling lists in two countries, probably more in Europe, I just don’t know. And you can get it from www.steynonline.com.

End of interview.

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