Thank you so much SanS for sending this my way. Steyn is a wonderful read always
MY CONVERSATION WITH MARK STEYN
I was delighted to speak with the brilliant columnist and wit, author of the must-read America Alone: The End of the World as we Know It (Regnery), just released in paperback:
RUSH: Mark, my man, how are you, sir?
STEYN: I’m doing great, Rush. It’s an honor to talk to you.
RUSH: I appreciate that. What I want to hit on first is you. You have been on trial for “flagrant Islamophobia.”
STEYN: That’s right.
RUSH: With Maclean’s magazine, which published an excerpt from your book, America Alone. You have been brought before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal in Vancouver by the Canadian Islamic Congress “on behalf of Muslim residents in the province of British Columbia.” Closing arguments were Friday [June 6]. What are some of the highlights of the tribunal? Where does it stand?
STEYN: There is no First Amendment in Canada. Canada, like a lot of other Western governments, has become very comfortable in the business of regulating speech. It always sounds terribly reasonable when these people say, “Of course I believe in freedom of speech, but it’s a question of where you draw the line, how you strike a balance.” All that line-drawing and balance-striking appeals to Canadians’ sense of their own moderation. They set up these human rights courts 30 years ago and they have tripped over a couple of cases a year since then. Along comes the Canadian Islamic Congress, which wants to shut down discussion of Islam and Islam’s relationship to the West. They spotted their opening and have been using these pseudo-courts to basically go after anybody who wants to talk about this issue.
RUSH: You have said you hope you lose.
STEYN: That’s right. I want to lose here so that we can take it to a real court, to a court of appeals, and eventually, if necessary, up to the Supreme Court of Canada, and get this particular hate speech provision struck down as unconstitutional.
The whole position of the human rights nomenclature up there is that America is out of whack with the rest of the world, and they say, “There’s no point telling us that people have freedom of speech in America.” As the Canadian human rights commissioner put it: the international community has decided there are limits to free speech, and Canada – unlike America – being a member in good standing of the international community, has to respect that. In other words, you take Canada, France, Sweden, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen, you find out what the consensus on freedom of speech is, and you pitch it halfway between Yemen and Sweden and that should be fine for anyone. I returned from this cockamamie trial yesterday [June 8] and believe me, I have never been so glad to cross the border and get south of the 49th parallel again. The guy at the border said, “What was your business in Canada?” I said, “I was on trial at the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal for crimes against humanity.” He said, “Oh, well, welcome home,” and waved me on.
RUSH: I would maintain that even though freedom of speech is enshrined constitutionally here in the United States, it is still under assault. It is being eroded by political correctness. People in this country are afraid to say things out loud. It’s almost like the Soviet Union, where people would go to their bathrooms to talk, to make sure the state didn’t overhear their real opinions. Down here you have CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, trying to shut up anybody who says anything that happens to be true about jihadists. You have sympathizers in the U.S. State Department. You can’t use the word jihad now, because it is too explosive – so to speak.
STEYN: That sentence is a hate crime in itself, Rush.
RUSH: I know. So how do we deal with this? It is one thing – and I have been doing it myself for years – to use humor, and there is no question it is effective in persuading people. But it is not effective in stopping the people who are trying to shut us up.
I recently read a news story that really riled me up. In Seattle, which is a purely leftist community, the city council is seriously considering banning bonfires, claiming they lead to global warming because of the supposed carbon footprint. It got me thinking: when are people going to stand up and say, “Enough!” Every day little freedoms are being eroded in the name of saving the planet or some other leftist cause, and people are willingly giving up their liberty. There’s a drought in California, not because of a lack of water, but because a federal judge refuses to pump enough water from Sacramento down to the southern part of the state due to smelt fish having difficulty with the pumps.
STEYN: I heard you talking about that a couple of hours ago. I have thought about this sort of thing for a long time. When President Bush was keenest on the Bush Doctrine, when he was saying that freedom is the aspiration of every human heart and that was why he was going to bring freedom to Iraq and Gaza and anywhere else on the planet, the fact is there is not a lot of evidence that people in Gaza do prioritize freedom. If it’s a choice between blowing up Jews or having freedom, they prefer to blow up Jews. But whether or not bringing freedom to the Middle East is a good idea – it’s an open question – we know for certain that in the Western world since 1945, invited to choose between the big security blanket of the state or liberty, that free-born peoples in Oslo and Amsterdam and London and Belfast and Toronto and also Minneapolis and Boston and Seattle, choose big-government security blankets every time. So if freedom really is the aspiration of every human heart as President Bush says, I think we should try it in Boston and Minneapolis and Seattle and if it works there, that will be a great example for Gaza.
RUSH: One of the problems that really bothers me is that the leftists who are intent on encroaching freedom, slowly but surely, have no opposition, no elected opposition. The Democratic Party has been taken over or is subservient to people like Move On, but on our side in the McCain candidacy we seem to be seeking the same votes. We’re wanting Democrats and independents to join us as Democrats and independents, not as conservatives. Our Party does not stand up to any of this. We would rather accept their premises, be it global warming or what have you, and then try and tweak it along the edges. What kind of progress can be made that way? I wonder at what point people are going to” stand up and say, Enough. Your desire to lose your case is a great strategy in order to call attention to what’s going on. But people have been losing their private property rights for animals, smelt fish, snail darters, kangaroo rats, and so forth for a hell of a long time.
STEYN: Or the big puddle that gets declared a wetland or some absurd thing. My town beach in New Hampshire wanted to bring in some more sand for the beach and were informed, by I guess the EPA, that it was illegal to put sand on a “wetlands.” So my select board wrote back, “You are saying that in the United States of America it is now illegal to put sand on a beach.” This kind of crazy overregulation is not death by a thousand cuts, but by a thousand soft, beguiling, nanny state strokes. The problem is that one and a half of the two political Parties are wedded to the direction that has proved so disastrous for Europe.
Barack Obama says, “This is the greatest country in the world and I cannot wait to begin remaking it.” I’m not interested in the remaking of America, although I would like a couple of these recent laws to be repealed. Basically I came to America because in many ways it is the last unwrecked part of the Western world. I tend to take the view that if it ain’t broke, don’t get Barack Obama to fix it. This is a huge problem – Senator Obama and his Party are moving essentially in the same direction that is driving Western Europe over the cliff. For immigrants like me that means if he succeeds in screwing up America, we have nowhere to go. For a guy like me, this is the last foxhole. I noticed the other day that he pledged to lower the sea level worldwide. I don’t know whether that is in his first term or in his second term, but if he manages to do that perhaps the lost city of Atlantis will reemerge above the waves and there will be somewhere to move to.
RUSH: The sad thing about it is the Democrats and Obama himself are really sitting ducks. “Change”? “Hope”? His foreign policy is 60 years old. His domestic policy is 30 to 35 years old. There’s nothing new about it. The only distinguishable thing is that it has failed everywhere it is tried. Yet these people are willingly, purposely, and knowingly inflicting great harm on the engine of the country, which is liberty and freedom, all for the sake of their own power, larger government to control people’s lives. To me it is far more serious than people are willing to acknowledge. The left has set this up brilliantly, because this loss of freedom is based on the allegation that we have all committed sin by driving SUVs or polluting in other ways. We are destroying the planet and have to pay for it. We are too big. We steal all the world’s resources and do nothing for the world. It’s genuine anti-Americanism that has taken over the Democratic Party. You might have heard me say this, 30 years ago Barack Obama would have been disqualified from being a Presidential candidate once the first Jeremiah Wright sermon had been heard. “G–damn America”? It would have been, “G–damn you, buddy, you’re out of here.” The voters would not have put up with it.
STEYN: I was looking at some of the reaction to that. Peggy Noonan, who I have a lot of respect for, thought Wright was just sounding off. She compared it to sentimental Irishmen in Boston pubs singing old rebel songs; it doesn’t mean they are going to go out and kill anyone. A lot of people think like that. A reader emailed me, “We don’t need to worry about any of this stuff; we’re so rich we can afford to be stupid.” But it is actually an interesting question: Are we so rich that we can afford to have 20 or 30 years of disastrous policies – and not just policies, disastrous indoctrination of your grade school children, and still not have any long-term damage?
I think it matters. I have worked in different countries and it seems to me that American business is extremely overregulated. When liberals go on about “outsourcing,” for example, everyone assumes businesses are outsourcing to Rwanda for six cents an hour. They’re not. They’re outsourcing to countries that have educated workforces but don’t yet have the same level of onerous government regulation that America does. I think at a certain point you are in danger of reaching a kind of tipping point. I don’t have any time for the Obama racket. Never mind what all these terrorist pals of his and what his crazy Uro-centric, neo-segregationist preacher say. But I don’t like the way he and his wife put down corporate America.
You were talking about resources. When Obama says America is three percent of the population but uses 25 percent of the resources, that is nonsense. How we define resources is actually driven by ingenuity. The greatest resource on this planet today is American entrepreneurial ingenuity. That is the thing that finds cures for diseases. That is the thing that ensures when a tsunami strikes in Indonesia or in Sri Lanka, that America can get aid there; the Belgians, God bless them, are incapable of doing it. The greatest resource on the planet is American ingenuity and Americans have 100 percent of it.
RUSH: Exactly right. Do we feed the world? Do we clothe the world? Do we save the world? Do we help people in need? The frigging Iranians can have a hurricane or an earthquake in Qom and we’re over there. Our goodness is totally ignored in this. Let me get to your book because it dovetails with what we’re talking about. Your book, America Alone: The End of the World as ~ Know It, is out in paperback now and you write this: “This book isn’t an argument for more war, more bombing, or more killing, but for more will.” How did we lose the will in the first place, the will to stand up when our freedom is lost, the will to defend our country at war? When did we lose this? You’re an immigrant. You may have a closer view of it than people born here, because we take it for granted.
STEYN: Somewhere along the way we got mired in a kind of self-loathing. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Mr. and Mrs. Main Street loathe America or loathe civilization. But almost all the cultural levers in our society are controlled by people who do loathe it, who abase themselves. By any measure, radical Islam is a weak enemy. It isn’t the Third Reich. It doesn’t have huge armies. Essentially all it can do is take our inventions and try to turn them against us. That ridiculous leftist professor at Columbia, Edward Said, said shortly after September 11 that we must stop talking about this clash of civilizations because there is a great interplay of civilizations. My friend Rich Lowry at National Review said, “Yes, that’s right; we’re the ones who invented the planes and built the skyscrapers; you’re the guys who slit the throats of the stewardesses on the planes and flew them into the skyscrapers.” That really is the only thing the enemy is capable of doing; it’s a weak enemy. But why do they think they can win? Because they smell weakness at the heart of the Western world.
The English and Welsh prison service paid to have every single toilet in English and Welsh jails reoriented so that it didn’t face Mecca. Their poor Muslim prisoners had been in the awkward position of having to ride side-saddle, because apparently you’re not meant to sit on the toilet and face Mecca. The minute this was pointed out, the English and Welsh prison system at huge expense had every single toilet in the system reoriented, so they are now – I don’t know – pointing toward George W Bush’s ranch in Texas. That’s the kind of ridiculous cultural cringe that our enemies rightly take as a sign of weakness.
RUSH: Two years ago, for the hardcover version of the book, you wrote that the “self neutered West” is “in danger of losing – without a shot being fired . . . Ground is being ceded, remorselessly.” Do you see any change in the last two years, now that the paperback version is out?
STEYN: Yes. I wrote it just before the 2006 election, arguing for a kind of small government at home and big cultural confidence in the national interest abroad. The Republicans in 2006 wound up running on almost the inversion of that. They had big pork-chop government at home and a tentative, defensive, semi colonial policing operation going on overseas. I think they understood they got the operating manual upside down in November 2006. After that the President announced the surge, and they certainly showed that America still has the will when it wants to, to change the facts on the ground in Iraq.
I would now like to see Republicans get to the other part of the equation, which is: chances are, if you have big government, the government is doing most of those things badly, including the small number of things it should be doing well. The minute you have government getting into the business of transsexual performance art, it is generally a good sign that it is perhaps not running the most competent fire department. I think those things are related. If you let government do a handful of things, it’s more likely to do them well than if it’s doing 300 or 400 things badly. I wish we had someone who said all those things that President Reagan said in 1980. I love that line from his first inaugural, “We are a nation that has a government, not the other way around.” The big problem in Canada is that it is a government that has a nation. The European Union is a government that has 25 nations. I like the way President Reagan put it, and I don’t think it’s dated. All these people say we have to be post-Reaganite, but I think we should try actually being Reaganite again and see how that works.
RUSH: Amen. I get so sick of it. It’s people on our side, Mark, who are suggesting that we have to get over Reagan, the Reagan era – from Newt Gingrich to the pseudo-conservative intelligentsia. I never hear the left saying we have to get over FDR.
STEYN: No. Part of the problem in this country is that FDR’s programs of the early 1930s are chiseled in granite for all eternity. I think we ought to try running with some of those Reagan lines for 75 years because they stand the test of time a lot better than FDR’s. Those are timeless principles. There is something very dangerous, particularly at a time of war, particularly at a time when many of our allies have slipped past the point of no return, when too many of the right say, “Look, people are hot for the global warming, we’ll meet them halfway, we’ll go along with it 50 percent.” When you do that you move the so-called center ground onto the left-hand side of the field and you wind up playing on their turf.
RUSH: Right. You accept their premise.
STEYN: Yes. What separated Mrs. Thatcher from her predecessors in the Conservative Party was she was tired of playing defense. She said it’s not the job of a Conservative Party to demonstrate that it can run the left-wing state more efficiently than the left can. It’s the job of the Conservative Party to reverse that. Right now too many people in the Republican Party sound like the Canadian Conservative Party in the 1970s and the British Conservative Party in the 1960s. They did their movements no favor. Transformative leaders know that to make the left defer to you move the center ground over to the right-hand side of the field.
RUSH: Yes. We’re talking about the failure here of the Republican Party to maintain timeless principles, as you call them. One of the most timeless and easily defined principles of conservatism is individual liberty. Never goes out of style. That is the foundation of what conservatism is. I won’t mention any names, but I read, some of the people who are published at National Review Online, some of the so-called conservatives in The New York Times and other places, who actually advocate a larger active executive running a larger active and compassionate government. They say that Reagan is passé now, that we should apply Reaganism to today’s issues, whatever the hell that means. There are still millions of conservatives in this country looking for leadership. Right now it’s only being provided by conservative media. If some of our so-called best and brightest conservative media are going to cave on principle, even a little bit, it’s dispiriting.
STEYN: I would agree with that. I have a real problem with people conceding that the state is the answer. I accept there are lots of problems in the world, but generally speaking, the state is the last entity you want solving them. If the government ran the internet, as it does in some countries, it would take you two weeks to send an email. You would have to go to some government office in the next town and stand in line, and they would forward your email in 10 days.
The citizen expects to have individual liberty when he goes to the supermarket. He can choose from hundreds of different breakfast cereals. When he goes to the movie store, he can choose from thousands of DVDs. When he goes on the internet, he can choose from millions of sites. He expects choice in all those areas. Yet when it comes to matters of life and death like health care, he says, “I would much rather leave that to the government.” There is something absurd about the wealthiest society in human history saying, “We demand unlimited choice when it comes to our cable package, but we want all the grown-up decisions to be made by the government.” The conservative intelligentsia shouldn’t be making tactical concessions to the left. It should be saying, “No, this is a profound cultural teaching moment. Even if it’s temporarily unpopular, we have to go out there and sell it.”
RUSH: Amen. I call it “babyyboomeritis.” People in this country want cheaper gasoline, heating oil, and natural gas, but they won’t engage in the activities necessary to produce it.
STEYN: Absolutely. Take this stupid “NOPEC” bill that was passed by Congress, where they apparently think they can sue OPEC for restricting energy production. They don’t have sovereignty over OPEC. The U.S. Congress is responsible for the United States of America. In the United States of America, the United States Congress does more to restrict energy production than anybody else. The U.S. Congress, under that stupid NOPEC bill, should be suing itself The fact is Congress is opposed to all forms of energy. In a time of war, that is basically saying we’re going to fight with one arm tied behind our back, because every time we go to the pump and pay $4-a-gallon gas, we are enabling our enemies to fund more radical mosques and madrases everywhere around the planet. What we actually need to do is return the Saudis to penniless Bedouins and have more drilling and more coal and more nuclear right here in this hemisphere. That would take care of the Saudi problem more than anything.
RUSH: Back to your point about terrorists using our own inventions, airplanes and skyscrapers, to harm us. Are we taking the threat of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons seriously enough?
STEYN: No, we’re not. I’m not reassured that these so-called reports that say they are ten years away, 15 years away. A. Q. Khan basically took Pakistan nuclear when he was living, I believe, in the Netherlands. He just kind of swung by some bases and swiped it all out from under their noses. Simply by keeping an eye on what was going on and taking notes, he turned Pakistan into a nuclear power. So the idea that the Iranians, who are much wealthier than the Pakistanis ever were, can’t find someone who is prepared to give them nuclear information, and the idea that they are ten years away from a weapon, is complete nonsense.
Once they do get it, we know that Iran a) doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk; and b) is incredibly extraterritorial. The Speaker of the Iranian parliament was found guilty in an Argentine court of being behind the plot to blow up a community center in Argentina. That is on the other side of the planet. They whacked Salman Rushdie’s publishers and translators in very corner of the world. They seized a U.S. embassy, which even the Cubans and the Soviets didn’t do. They changed the facts on the ground and seeded their proxies in Gaza and Lebanon and turned them into Iranian satellites. The idea that they are just going to become nuclear for some deterrent effect I think is completely preposterous. They will use it to advance all their extra-territorial goals.
RUSH: You are President of the United States. You have just articulated these remarks in a national address. Now what do you do about it?
STEYN: There are things you can do without a national address. If you look at the money the U.S. spends on its intelligence operations, it should be possible – the Iranians have a Sunni triangle too – to seed discontent in Iran. It should be possible to do to the mullahs in Iran what the Iranians have been doing to us in Iraq. If we are going to spend this amount of money on the CIA and other agencies, that is the least you could expect.
In the end, you do have to draw the line to say, “We will not permit this regime to go nuclear.” We have to be clear on that. When we use these non-proliferation terms, I think we sound stupid. I heard some non-proliferation expert say she was very concerned about proliferation. That is not the issue. Nobody would lose a minute’s sleep if New Zealand or Switzerland announced it had gone nuclear. But what you should be able to stop are terrorist regimes going nuclear, and if you can’t, that essentially impacts American credibility. Every time you can’t stop Iran, it means 15 other rinkyydink, no-account basket-cases around the planet think, “Aha, that’s our opportunity too.”
RUSH: Would you include the UN in a list of useless bodies to help in this effort?
STEYN: Absolutely. It’s the old line about mixing a pint of ice cream with a pint of dog feces. The result is going to taste more like dog feces than ice cream. That’s the problem with the UN. If you put the world’s democracies in a club with thugs, simple logic says you’re not going to come out with some grand clarion call for benign global government, like the left insists on deluding themselves about, but with something a lot closer to the thug states. Obviously, I’m a foreigner, so I’ve got nothing against foreigners, but I think you should pick and choose your foreigners. I spoke to John Howard, the then Australian prime minister, a couple of years ago, and I asked him about one of these big photo opportunities before the Iraq war. He said, “I didn’t need to have my photo taken with President Bush. He knows if he wants me he can get on the phone to me and I can get on the phone to him.” That alliance is real in part because they are not members of all these useless, waste-of-time global dinner parties. I think all that summitry is largely a complete waste of time.
RUSH: Domestic politics. What’s next for the Clintons, do you think?
STEYN: I was following Operation Chaos very closely. I think it’s in Mrs. Clinton’s interest for Barack Obama to lose on a nuclear McGovernite scale this November. The Clintons think about the Clintons. They ran the Democratic Party like a couple of kids who had stolen the keys to the vehicle, and the guys who owned the car didn’t really know what a wild ride they were taken on. I’m fully confident that Mrs. Clinton will calculate that it is in her interest for Obama to lose spectacularly this November and in her own small, vicious, vindictive way will do her bit to make that happen.
RUSH: Do you see Obama losing?
STEYN: The media have got their dream candidate, but he’s likely way too far to the left of Democratic voters. The more the media created all these Soviet-style magazine covers of Obama, with the head tilted, looking into the sunlit uplands, the cooler Democratic primary voters were. By the time he got to Kentucky, he wasn’t just losing all the women and white working class men, he lost young voters and he lost the college graduates. I think there is a big resistance to Obama among Democratic voters, and despite the Republicans’ general ineptitude, the reality is McCain starts out at least for the moment fighting on blue turf
RUSH: Have you noticed the striking difference between Obama on a teleprompter with a David Axelrod speech and Obama in a town hall meeting format?
STEYN: When I heard those clips on your show, I was actually driving on the interstate in Vermont and I was laughing so much I lost control of the wheel and was halfway across the median and about to get sliced in two by a logging truck. It’s hilarious to me. When he’s off, he is off in incredibly disastrous ways. He doesn’t seem to know how many states there are in the Union. It’s 57, it’s 58. Liberals love when he gives these big, fluffy generalities or when he promises to heal the planet. That appeals to them. It’s unspecific, but it’s going to be fabulously expensive. They would much rather hear those kinds of generalities than when he tries to get specific, as when he was talking about the kid with asthma going to the hospital and they wouldn’t give him the breathalyzer. What was the other word he used?
RUSH: They were going to give him an inhalator.
STEYN: That’s right. Like Bill Clinton’s drug experience at Oxford: he didn’t inhalate.
RUSH: Hey, let me ask you a personal question before you go. I don’t want to embarrass you, but you are brilliantly funny, both in your writing and in your articulated speech, and are very much adored by a lot of Americans. You’re as prolific as hell. Are you happy doing what you’re doing?
STEYN: I like doing what I do. This country has been wonderful to me. I’m incredibly grateful, particularly bearing in mind what has happened to me in Canada. President Bush sent me two very nice letters about it within two weeks of the book coming out, one of them from Air Force One, a long-hand written letter going into detail about some of the points in the book. I was incredibly touched by that. It’s a shock to find that in the United States my book was praised by the President and the Vice President, whereas in Canada it’s about to be declared a hate crime. I love this country and I wish the rest of the world would look at the reasons for America’s success and ponder why they have the problems that they do.
RUSH: Well, the country loves you too. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for your time today, Mark, and I look forward to seeing you sometime in person.
STEYN: Thanks a lot, Rush.