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National Review editor Rich Lowry on the Iranian crisis and Obama’s reaction to it

Monday, June 22, 2009

HH: To discuss all of these things and more, I am joined by National Review editor Rich Lowry. Rich, welcome, always a pleasure to talk to you.

RL: Hi, Hugh, how’s it going?

HH: Good. How goes Banquo’s Ghost, by the way, your very, very wonderful novel of espionage? Is it in a paperback edition for the summertime, or still hardcover?

RL: Not yet, still hardcover. You can, it’s a little heavier than the paperback, but you can still carry it to the beach, I expect. And the best thing that happened to that novel, Hugh, was you.

HH: Well, I’m glad to hear it. I’m doing an interview next week with Alex Berenson, continuing on in my love affair with thriller and espionage writers.

RL: Oh, yes.

HH: And you know, are you moving on to a sequel given the reception that Banquo’s got?

RL: We’re considering it. The publisher is interested in one, and it’s just a question of whether we want to make that leap or not.

HH: Oh, go for it. Now what about, have you seen Soraya M. yet, The Stoning Of Soraya M?

RL: No.

HH: Oh, you’ve got to, for anyone who cares about Iran, I’m just talking it up today because I watched it last night on a DVD, and it’s an amazing movie with the backdrop underway of what’s going on in Iran. What do you think is going to happen this weekend, Rich Lowry?

RL: I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone can know. I was talking to a friend who’s following the situation extremely closely, and his guess, unfortunately, is that the protests are going to fizzle, and that they’ve, unfortunately the regime has handled this as shrewdly as possible with a crackdown that’s been very kind of under the radar, relatively under the radar screen and very targeted, you know, arresting hundreds of people but not killing people at these mass rallies, especially yesterday, where that’s really where you get the revolutionary ball rolling, is if you have these mourning protests for people who have been killed, and then you kill more people at those protests. And the regime has avoided that to this point. But no one can know. I’m hoping and praying that those brave people are back out in the streets, and that it produced something.

HH: This evening, there is tremendous audio and video coming out of Iran of the echo of thirty years ago with people on the rooftops of Tehran shouting Allah-u akbar, which is a way of sort of a round of protests from the rooftops where the secret police cannot see them.

RL: Yeah, that…I’ve been listening to that stuff all week long, and it’s so eerie and so moving. It is probably, maybe an inappropriate analogy, but it reminds me a little bit of whale calls. There’s just something, you know, when you hear a whale call, there’s something just profound about it, and I’ve had that feeling listening to that audio. But this so-called supreme leader, he really laid down the gauntlet in his speech on Friday. And he basically dared Mousavi and the others to jump one way or the other, and made it clear if they jumped against the regime, they’ll be considered traitors, and they’ll kill a lot of people in the streets. So we’ll see what happens.

HH: There is an Iranian expat blogger in Canada, pseudonym Winston, who blogs at, and he’s used the word massacre. He is afraid that if people show up tomorrow, there will be a massacre. Have you heard that concern uttered other places, Rich Lowry?

RL: Yeah, I mean, that’s basically…I mean, he said it in so many words. So it could just be a very distressing and depressing weekend.

HH: Now what do you, I have been arguing President Obama has not done what he ought to have done. A lot of people disagree with that, most conservatives agree with that. Where do you come down, Rich Lowry?

RL: I’m with you. I think if Iran really wanted to get criticized so it can use the criticism for its purposes. It would be the only dictatorial regime in the history of the world that likes being criticized and likes being called on its true nature and on its conduct and what it’s doing. And look, realistically, obviously there are limits to our influence and leverage over this situation, but the U.S. government should be doing everything it can to make the regime think twice before it institutes that kind of massacre we were just talking about a second ago. And maybe it’s understandable the first day or two. The President of the United States is going to be cautious. But he said some truly shameful things, and it’s very speculative when you get to motives, but I certainly get the impression that he is so dead-set on his policy of negotiating with this regime that he considers on some level the protests a nuisance and a distraction.

HH: Now yesterday on the program, Mark Steyn made the observation that this is the effective repeal of the Cairo speech, at least those portions having to do with demands for democracy in the Middle East.

RL: Yeah. You know, Tom Maguire at Just One Minute made that point yesterday or the day before. Why not just repeat the passage on democracy from that speech? And he won’t even do that.

HH: Now before we turn to the domestic stuff, I do have to bring you the news out of the Jerusalem Post, I think it is, maybe Ha’aretz, that the percentage of Jewish Israelis who believe that this administration is pro-Israel is 6% this morning, down from 88% that said George W. Bush was pro-Israel.

RL: Yeah.

HH: That’s astonishing.

RL: Yeah, it is astonishing, but you can understand why. The obsession with the settlements, I don’t mind having some running room between where the U.S. and where Israel is on some things, including the settlements, but if you look at how harsh the administration has been, and how full-throated it’s been in the condemnation of the settlements as opposed to the utter timidity in their statements, they can’t condemn cracking skulls in Tehran the way they do Israel settlements, which is just a stunning thing. And people obviously have picked up on that.

HH: Hopefully, the criticism of the President, which is pretty widespread except for the sort of odder precincts of the left will move him towards standing with freedom. Rich Lowry…

RL: Yeah, I think he’s embarrassed.

HH: Yeah.

RL: And so I think we’ll see him getting tougher. But Hugh, this is the most popular man on the planet, he has tremendous moral authority abroad, he’s gone way out of his way to demonstrate he has no hostility to Muslims whatsoever. And he can’t just simply say don’t kill these people, don’t abuse these people, and let the, honor the results of an election? I mean, that’s amazing. It’s stunning.

HH: There are way to be eloquent in that, too, without being threatening.

RL: Of course. It doesn’t have to be ham-handed.

HH: Now Rich Lowry, the giant public policy Ponzi scheme that is Obmacare was issued in legislative form today, an 852 page bill authored by George Miller, Henry Waxman and Charles Rangel. It has got to be the worst proposal since Hillarycare on the domestic side.

RL: Yeah. Well, I think a couple of things are going on. One, there was that kind of, for Obama, that kind of golden hour right after he got elected, when we were still in a real crisis atmosphere with the economy, when he could just slam anything he wanted through. And so he got the stimulus bill through, he got the huge budget through, but that period is over. And it’s partly over because he slammed so much deficit spending through that he’s created…the deficit is a huge issue, and an issue that people are more concerned about than health care, if you believe the polls. So that’s going to be a huge drag on this program. And I just think it’s so counter-intuitive to be kind about it, that you can create a one, two, even maybe more trillion dollar new government health care program as a way to save money. That makes no sense, and they’re not going to be able to sell that.

HH: I’m calling it Madoff Medicine and a giant Ponzi scheme, because the central promise is a government option that will not affect your private insurance if you like it.

RL: Right.

HH: He said that to the AMA again this week, which A) if you like your insurance…that is so dishonest, Rich Lowry, because employers will dump their employees into this.

RL: Of course they will. Of course they will, and I mean, that’s the whole scheme. The only way he can really get cost controls is you create the public option, you tip the playing field so that employers, as you say, dump their folks into that public plan. Then you kind of have that captive audience, and then you squeeze. You squeeze with rationing, with price controls, and you empower some bureaucratic body to do it. And that’s the only way you can possibly control costs. So it’s just extremely dishonest to say people are going to be able to keep their health care if they like it. And also, if you look at Medicare, I’m totally open to Medicare reforms. It’s a program that needs to be reformed. But Obama is talking about extraordinarily harsh, just flat-out cuts and reductions to payments to doctors and to hospitals. That’s going to make it harder for anyone in Medicare to find a doctor.

HH: No, health care will be paid for on the backs of old people.

RL: Partially, yeah, and then the middle class as well, because they’re going to have to have some sort of tax increase to pay for this thing.

HH: Last question, Rich Lowry, do you expect ABC to ask any tough questions of the President next week when they sell their journalistic soul to broadcast from the White House?

RL: I think there’ll be a few, just because there’s been such a hew and cry, so they’ll want to save their reputation, what’s left of it.

HH: Rich Lowry, a pleasure talking to you. Banquo’s Ghost is a great summer read, America, if you want to take something to the beach or on vacation with you, which is both entertaining and enlightening, a great thriller and a great read. Go get Banquo’s Ghost.

End of interview.

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