Mandeville, LA - Exclusive Transcript - There's a lot more to Mike's interview with Mark Steyn, from Christmas albums to American banking, but this quote just about sums it up: "We have a man under Mrs. Obama’s anti-obesity campaign, a man who sits in a basement in Washington somewhere who is the commissar of school lunches for a nation of 300 million people. A couple months back, he reduced the maximum calorie intake in an American school lunch from 785 calories to 700 calories. Nuts to that. How do we arrive in a world where 300 million people think it’s necessary to subcontract the calorific intake of their middle schoolers to a bureaucrat in Washington? This stuff is nuts. Your grandfather, your great grandparents -- your great, great, great grandparents landed in wilderness and hacked their way through the wilderness and cut down trees and built a cabin. You’re not responsible enough to decide the calorific intake of your sixth grader? This stuff is nuts." Check out the transcript for more...
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Let’s go to the Dude Maker Hotline. The one and only Mark Steyn is on the line, his brand-new paperback edition of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon is out in bookstores, probably tucked behind some liberal’s book, and you can also find it at Amazon.com and in our library. Mark, always a pleasure when I get to speak with you in the morning. How are you?
Mark Steyn: I am humbled to be with you, Mike, humbled.
Mike: And he’s ever playing to the audience, too.
Mark: By the way, my book isn’t behind some liberal’s book. It’s actually propping up the wonky leg on the table at the rear of the store with the unsold copies of the Dixie Chicks’ box set. It’s way in the back.
Mike: That’s one of the things I admire so much about you, Mark, not only your humor and your study and your brilliant, readable prose, but some of the things you have done that folks may not know about, in addition to After America and America Alone. The Mark Steyn American Songbook, people don’t even know that Steyn is one of the foremost promoters of classical -- I mean Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson -- not Al Jolson -- classical American music.
Mark: My late father loved Al Jolson. Once my best pal and I were chasing these two chicks, who were not quite as interested in us as we were in them, around a rather dreary, depressing summer resort. I won whatever it was, about 15 bucks at the time, by coming first in an Al Jolson impersonator contest and having enough money to take these two gals out for the night. Don’t knock Al Jolson because he came up gangbusters for me that night.
Mike: One of your pieces you wrote a long time ago in The New Criterion, you mentioned a joke. I think I was the only person of my age that got it, about Schubert and his mates going down to the pub for an unfinished . . .
Mark: That’s right. Schubert died at the age of 31. I was a classical disc jockey for a couple years. Schubert’s great work Unfinished Symphony, I was thinking about this as I was watching Sandra Fluke, who finished school a couple weeks ago at the age of 31, or grade 26 as I like to think of it. She finished school at 31, the age that Schubert was when he died. Schubert didn’t finish his symphony; Sandra Fluke would never have started it. That’s progress. Mozart would never have written a note of music. He would have become head of the Vienna Conservatory free contraceptive lobby group and he would never have written a note of music.
Mike: By the way, Mark, I will also have you know that I’m one of 13 people that purchased a copy of Gingerbread Man.
Mark: Don’t knock that. I’ve got my Christmas album out. What I love about America -- I don’t claim to be a perfectly assimilated immigrant in any way, but the minute I got off the boat at Ellis Island, I figured out the great thing about America is not everybody can become rich, not everybody can become part of the one percent, but every American can have their own Christmas album. It’s not just the late Andy Williams Christmas album, Dolly Parton Christmas album, Dick Cheney Christmas album, Don Rumsfeld Christmas album, Sandra Fluke Christmas album, so the Mark Steyn Christmas album fits right in there.
Mike: Mark, let me ask you, we just had -- the caller previous to the one you heard about his soapbox was talking about how [mocking] “Mike, I tell you what Romney’s got to do there, bud. He’s got to get up there on that stage, stand across from that socialist and say, ‘You know what, Mr. Obama? I’m all about freedom. I’m for freedom and I’m good to the core.’ That’s all he’s gotta do, Mike, and the people are going to swallow it up.” You’ve written about this. The American today is pretty deluded when it comes to the issue of freedom. You write about this in After America, don’t you?
Mark: I wish it were that true. I loathe the constraints of government, the hyper-regulatory state, the way at any one time, any one of us is in breach of at least a dozen laws we didn’t even know existed, the way every single simple act now is bureaucratic and sclerotic. I wish people took stuff like my license plate slogan in New Hampshire “Live Free or Die” seriously. I’m all for freedom. I love it when people talk up freedom. The short version of the history of the Western world since 1945 is that whenever they’re given the chance to vote A for freedom or B for more government security, for more of the nanny state cocoon, free people opt for the nanny state cocoon. It’s one of the most incredibly depressing things.
That’s one of the problems, by the way, when so many of us on the right have been stung by some of these polls. We think everything is worse and it’s going to get worse still. For some of us, that means we’ve got to roll back the government, get rid of agencies, get rid of regulations. We’ve got to fire up individual human liberty to spark economic recovery. For millions and millions of people out there, the fact that everything is worse means that’s all the more reason to cling to the big government nanny who’ll give you more food stamps and let you, even though you’re an able-bodied man, let you go on permanent social security disability for the rest of your life.
Romney has to do more than just talk up freedom and just say live free or die. It is not entirely clear to me the 50.0000001 percent of Americans who are hot for that. There are tens of millions of people who love the dependency -- you know the worst thing about that “you didn’t build that” line, when Obama said, “You didn’t build that”? I don’t mind him saying the “you didn’t build that line.” What rattled me was the way everyone in that crowd cheered. Those people would not be cheering for freedom. There are tens of millions of people who prefer the big government nanny over freedom.
Mike: One of the great ironies that’s going to come up in the debate is they’re going to talk domestic policy Tuesday night. The President is going to boast and brag about saving General Motors, which he did not know. The taxpayers of 48 states that don’t have General Motors plants in them saved General Motors. That crowd is going to love it and they’re going to buy it. How do you combat that? How do you say, “No, actually you didn’t save General Motors, my five sons and my grandkids saved General Motors”?
Mark: I think people need to get more aggressive about that. I think Romney needs to get more aggressive about that. Your caller is right, that Romney needs to do some big picture stuff. The reality is, regardless of whether one is in favor of freedom or the nanny state, it can’t go on like this. America is broke. America is broker than anybody has ever been in the history of the planet. This President, what I found weird, his thing with Letterman -- Letterman asked him how big the debt is now. They say it’s around $10 trillion. It’s $16 trillion.
This guy spent $6 trillion and he can’t even remember it. Do you know how difficult it is to do that? There isn’t anybody on the planet, not a single other human individual out there among the 7 billion inhabitants of planet Earth, who has spent $6 trillion. Given that that is his unique achievement, that’s more unique than him winning the Nobel Peace Prize or being Chicago’s number one community organizer. He’s the only guy on the planet who’s actually spent that much money and he doesn’t even remember it. That’s amazing. That’s astounding. If people are foolish enough to vote for a second term of that, then they will be opting for national suicide and posterity will rain curses down upon them unto the end for that.
Mike: Mark Steyn’s book is After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. Of course, it’s just the paperback version. The book actually came out earlier this year. You have a new introduction to the book. I have to ask you, I know that you’ve done some touring. You went to Canada. I read your columns every week faithfully. I remember the one where you wrote that you were enjoying the simple life in Scotland, by choice. What have you learned since After America came out that prompted a new introduction?
Mark: Well, I think the fact that everything is happening rather faster than people think. That’s the thing. I’m all about the urgency. My problem with Paul Ryan is I wish he was that guy who was shoving granny off the cliff in those Democrat commercials. Even Paul Ryan is the least unserious guy on the national ticket. He’s talking about plans to reduce the multi-trillion-dollar debt by 2025 or 2035 or whatever. These aren’t mid-century problems, they’re mid-decade problems. I did do a bit of traveling with respect to another book I’ve got in the back of my mind. I was down in Australia and a very prominent Australian political figure had just gotten back from the United States. His great fare was that America is way beyond decline and is actually on the brink of collapse. You hear this spoken. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a politician in Australia or Beijing or Tehran, you get the fact that America is shrinking faster than great powers have shrunk at any time in the modern era.
That’s why the pitiful sight of Obama at the United Nations, telling 200 countries the future belongs to nations that empower women or invest in education and don’t slander the prophet Mohammed and all the rest of it. If I’d been the prime minister of Uzbekistan or whatever, I would have just looked back at him and said, “Yeah, that’s great. We don’t know what the future belongs to. One thing we can say for certain is that the future doesn’t belong to people who are broker than anyone has ever been. You’re the President of Brokistan, Obama. Who the hell are you to lecture?”
I love the way Obama is always either apologizing for the past or telling us what the future is going to be. He’s not the president of the past or the president of the future. He’s the president of the present, right now. This is his term, not 20 years ago and not 30 years in the future. His term is now. Why doesn’t he worry about the present instead of lecturing us on the future? I don’t understand how a mature, settled, democratic republic the electorate can swallow that nonsense. The rest of the world, those Australian politicians, European politicians, Arab politicians, they’ve all moved on and they’re discounting this hooey.
Mike: Does it bother you at all -- you have some tangential connection to Canada -- that the Canadians, who we call socialists, we call all the things we claim them to be against, that the Canadians actually stared their dilemma in the face in 1992 and 1993 and said, “Hey, mate, we’re going to get all about this deficit thing and right this ship, otherwise that ship is going to ride us and we’re going to be underneath the sinking Titanic”? The Canadians were able to do it, weren’t they?
Mike: I thought you were a citizen of ours these days.
Mark: Well, I was born in Toronto and I’ve spent much of my adult life mocking and jeering at Canada for being a bunch of socialist pansies, not to put too fine a point upon it. As you say, during the ‘90s, the Canadian Liberal Party paid down the national debt, in real-time. You could watch it getting smaller every month. As someone said to me in Washington a year or two back, “If only we could get American conservatives to be as radical and fiscally responsible as Canadian liberals.” Canada has certain advantages. It didn’t wreck its housing market. Fannie and Freddie, there’s no Fannie and Freddie in Canada. Fannie and Freddie totally ruined the American property market, which is most people’s wealth is concentrated in the property they own. It didn’t wreck the banking system. It has a functioning banking system.
Many of your listeners will have noticed the recent trend of their Main Street banks -- it used to be the First National Bank of Dead Moose Junction. Now they’ve all got these weird initials. The reason they’ve got initials is because you can’t actually say -- like TD in the northeast, a huge bank in the American Northeast now. TD’s slogan is “America’s Neighborhood Bank.” TD stands for Toronto Dominion. RBS, Royal Bank of Scotland. HSBC, Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. We’re awash in initials because none of those words can be used in public. They testify to the truth, that the American banking system is entirely dysfunctional, which is why all these sinister foreigners have moved in and started using their initials. Some of these things are difficult and require fixing.
If you vote for Obama in November, you are voting -- whether or not Romney can turn this thing around -- if you vote for Obama in November, we know for certain that he will accelerate toward the cliff’s edge. He thinks that’s the place to be. He sees the bottom of the abyss as America’s natural endpoint. Whether or not Romney and Ryan can turn this thing around in the next four years, at least they’re going to give it a try. Maybe we’ll go over the cliff in the third year or second year, but that’s better than going over and flooring it, which is the only thing Obama intends to do.
Mike: Final question for my good friend Mark Steyn. After America: Get Ready for Armageddon is out in paperback. It’s a good read, folks. My good friend, the author Kevin Gutzman, has the saying: there are two great forces in American politics: one is inertia and the other is apathy. We have not enough of the former and too much of the latter. How would you respond to that?
Mark: I think that’s true. Mrs. Thatcher’s deputy, who was a lovely, old-school Tory called Willie Whitelaw. At one point he complained during an election campaign that the Labor Party was going around the country stirring up apathy, which is of course a paradoxical concept. I think that’s actually what the left, throughout the developed world, has been brilliant at doing, saying to people: look, the things that your grandfather and great grandfather took for granted, that a man should be responsible for providing for his family, for building his own home, for taking care of his own health, those are all too complicated in the modern world.
We have a man under Mrs. Obama’s anti-obesity campaign, a man who sits in a basement in Washington somewhere who is the commissar of school lunches for a nation of 300 million people. A couple months back, he reduced the maximum calorie intake in an American school lunch from 785 calories to 700 calories. Nuts to that. How do we arrive in a world where 300 million people think it’s necessary to subcontract the calorific intake of their middle schoolers to a bureaucrat in Washington? This stuff is nuts. Your grandfather, your great grandparents -- your great, great, great grandparents landed in wilderness and hacked their way through the wilderness and cut down trees and built a cabin. You’re not responsible enough to decide the calorific intake of your sixth grader? This stuff is nuts.
Mike: I could talk to you all day, but I know you’ve got to go. I share your passion for it being all nuts, my friend. Best of luck with the book and the Christmas album. Could we get you back to sing Gingerbread Man in November?
Mark: Mike, now you’re talking. I’ll come back and plug my Christmas album. I’d love to do that.
Mike: Be well and God bless, my friend.
End Mike Church Show Transcript