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Warning Signs and U-Turns With Mark Steyn

Friday, June 24, 2011

HH: Joined as we are when we are lucky on Thursdays by Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s work at Mark, I’m very frustrated with you this week, because my computer audio wouldn’t work, and I see a video of you in a hunting jacket, taking it off into a very natty suit, talking to the Australians about…what was that all about?

MS: I did a special video speechette for Australia’s most prominent political columnist, Andrew Bolt, who’s facing a hate speech type situation similar to what I faced in Canada. And I began with, I thought as I was speaking to them direct from New Hampshire, I ought to begin with…you know that moment in, I think it’s the beginning of Goldfinger, where Bond comes up out of the sea?

HH: (laughing)

MS: …and he’s in a wetsuit.

HH: Yes.

MS: And he peels off the wetsuit, and he’s got an immaculate tuxedo, I believe even with a carnation in his buttonhole underneath it. And so I thought I’d have, I took off my plaid coat, and I had my suit on underneath it.

HH: Is that video available with the audio? I got it in an email, and the audio wasn’t…is it available at

MS: Yeah, it’s actually available at something called the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia, which I think is IPA.something or other. And it’s actually gone all over the internet in the last couple of days, so it’s on a lot of other websites, too. So you should be able to find it fairly easily.

HH: People duly noted and on alert. Now, Mark Steyn, I want to start today with the fact that the Justice Department announced the arrest of Abu Khalid Abdul Latif, also known as Joseph Anthony Davis, and Walli Mujahidh, also known as Frederick Domingue, in Seattle, where they were planning to machine gun a recruitment station, as well as Yonathan Melaku, 22, who was, “not on our radar screen,” even though he was in the Marine Corps Reserve, and he’d already shot at the Marine Corps Museum, and a Marine Corps recruiting substation in Virginia, as well as a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting office in Woodbridge. So we’ve got sudden jihad syndrome on both coasts.

MS: Yeah, well it’s not that sudden. There was a curious decision by the secretary of the Army a couple of days ago to grant conscientious objector status to a Muslim serving in the United States Army on the grounds that he shouldn’t have to go off and fight Muslims in other countries. Now this is fascinating to me, because a conscientious objector is supposed to be guys who object to violence in general, object to killing people and shooting people in general, that they’re principled about it, whereas the objections of these people are that they don’t want to have to go off and fight other Muslims. In other words, they’re not conscientious objectors. They’re choosing sides. And the secretary of the Army’s curious decision seems to acknowledge, or seems to suggest, that an American, being an American Muslim is incompatible with serving in the American military. If that’s true, then it puts a real question mark, I think, over a basic sense of identity. And I think that’s what you see when you look at the backgrounds of these guys who were arrested in Seattle and in other parts of the country.

HH: That is true. I hadn’t seen that Army decision. I’ll have to look that up. But I bring this up because people have been talking about what did the Taliban think of the President’s speech last night. I’m just wondering what jihadists around the world, including home grown jihadists in the United States, thought of the President’s speech last night. What do you think they thought, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, I think his speech validated their view of the United States, which is that it’s like a sort of late period, puffed up, Ottoman sultan. You know, it’s ostensibly extremely rich and powerful, but it’s gotten all soft and decadent, and plumped up on its cushions, and it doesn’t have the staying power. There’s a Taliban saying, supposedly, that they like to say out there in Afghanistan. The Americans have the watches, but we have the time. And Obama confirmed that. He basically said to them, look, all you guys have to do is run out the clock on this. We aren’t in the victory business any longer. I wrote a big cover story for National Review a couple of weeks ago pointing out that it’s two-thirds of a century since the United States unambiguously won a war. And Obama is now basically saying victory is not in my dictionary. You can flip through all the pages until you get to V, and you ain’t going to find it in there.

HH: He also had a curious line in the speech last night about America, it’s time to do our nation building at home. What does that mean, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, what it means is that he reads too much Thomas Friedman, the supposed great thinker of the New York Times. Thomas Friedman is about the world’s worst prose stylist, and he uses the same six or seven phrases, like ticks of a man with columnar Tourette’s every couple of weeks, and one of them that he likes to use is nation building at home. But the fact is, we’ve had nation building at home. They dug a big hole, and they stuck trillions and trillions of dollars in it to no effect. And now they’re saying, now he’s saying forget the last two years. That’s just the warm up. The serious nation building is yet to begin. I think that’s just, I hope that’s just lame spin, because if he’s serious, that what we need is not just Obamacare speed stimulus, but double Obamacare speed stimulus, then we might as well all move to Waziristan, because the standards of living are going to be higher there by the time he’s done with us.

HH: He also said in last night’s speech, Mark Steyn, that it is time to live within our means. And yet today, and I’ll talk to Jon Kyl next hour, Jon Kyl and Eric Cantor threw up their hands and said we’re done. They want us to raise taxes. So when he says live within our means, he means live within the means that we have after we soak the rich even more, and raise taxes on every conceivable activity in the country.

MS: Yeah, and there aren’t enough of the rich to soak. So he’s soaking, what he’s doing is soaking the guy who runs the hardware store, and the lady who has the hair salon. They’re the people he’s soaking. And to be honest, all those people give enough. They give enough to the United States Treasury, and the United States Treasury wastes it. There is waste everywhere you look. If you stand at any crossroads in this country and look in any direction, you’re seeing government waste. The civil rights branch of the Department of Education wants to crack down on romantically flirtatious jokes at American colleges. The make work project of wasteful government know no end. The government has to live within its means. And if the government lived within its means, the American people would find it a lot easier to do so.

HH: Mark Steyn, I don’t know if you saw yesterday’s New York Times, but front page, above the fold, was a story by Charles Duhigg – Public Unions Take On Boss To Win Big Pensions. It focuses on the city of Costa Mesa, California, one of the city councilmen from which, Jim Righeimer, will be on today after I talk with you. And the unions there are attempting, quite thuggishly, to take over a city. And even the New York Times has now figured this out. Do you think the moment of Waterloo has arrived for just, for government generally, both federal, state and especially at the local level, that the public is saying we’re done?

MS: Well, I think some of the public is saying that. But I think as you see in Continental Europe already, there’s actually quite an…and to a certain extent in Wisconsin, there’s actually quite a large chunk of the public that has a vested interest in keeping this racket going. And so it’s less of a clear, it’s not, you know, the people against wicked rulers. It’s actually something closer to civil war, and that’s why if they were responsible, unions would recognize that they cannot bleed the productive class any further. They’re killing this country. And if they don’t get that, then the options, the likelihood of Greek-style violence and worse, becomes inevitable.

HH: Now I rode out to see a district attorney today with a client that I’m representing, and he’s in the construction business. And he told me tales of woe and horror in California about the construction business – houses, commercial, residential, everything is dead except the government sector.

MS: Right.

HH: And that our unemployment rate is actually, he believes, quite much higher than 12%, which California advertises it. I got the sense from him, Mark Steyn, that the whole country knows what’s up.

MS: Yeah.

HH: That’s what reassures me, that if we can survive another 18 months, a big U-turn is coming. What do you think?

MS: Yeah, I think it really has to be a big U-turn. I hope that the polls overstate the base of Obama support, that in fact there’s a big chunk of people who are just kind of reluctant to be explicit about their antipathy toward what the administration is doing, because they’ve actually, once they’ve destroyed the property market, there isn’t a lot left for most people, most small businesses and most ordinary families, to fall back on. You know, in other words, what’s going on in this country is chipping away at the very base of people’s security. And if that isn’t reversed in November next year, then we’re in huge trouble.

HH: Karl Rove has a piece in the Wall Street Journal today, Mark Steyn, last question, where he says people still like Obama. I commented on my blog that that ought to be people say they like Obama to pollsters, because I think people feel an obligation not to root against the first African-American president, but that his numbers are actually much worse than they record. What do you think?

MS: Yes, I think that’s true. I mean, I’m often struck by, for example, after the Kerry-Edwards fiasco in 2004, people kept those bumper stickers on their cars. I noticed driving around liberal Vermont that you see these kind of ghostly shadows where the Obama sticker from 2008 used to be.

HH: A hint of an O.

MS: And it’s been peeled off and left, just leaving that sort of faint, magic rectangle of what might have been.

HH: Mark Steyn,, thank you, Mark.

End of interview.

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