Hugh Hewitt (HH) interviewed Mark Steyn (MS) on Hewitts radio show and the transcript of the interview appeared on the Townhall.com website on Thursday, October 16, 2008. Here is that transcript:
HH: Joe the Plumber is under the skin of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. To discuss the amazing Joe, Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. Mark, what do you make of the Joe the Plumber episode in the campaign now?
MS: Well, I think this is actually critical. I think Joe the Plumber is worth more than all the expensive campaign consultants that John McCain has got on his payroll, because he’s usefully crystallized what’s at issue here. You know, McCain didn’t actually explain it very well last night. Joe the Plumber does a rather better job of it. But he’s got it right. The point about Obama’s line to Joe the Plumber, that he wants to, “spread the wealth around,” that’s what Joe the Plumber does. That’s what you do, that’s what I do. The idea that people who make a lot of money, like plumbers, the idea that they sort of hoard it under the bed is ridiculous. Joe the Plumber spends it at local businesses. He spreads that wealth around in his community, he spreads it on expanding his business, and perhaps down the road employing more people. And he’s better at spreading the wealth around than some hack life-long government type that Barack Obama thinks should make the decision on how to spread the wealth around.
HH: You know, Mark Steyn, today I’ve been talking to small business people, and my friend Bud the Contractor, when he gets two, three, four jobs going, it’s not just Bud the Contractor. He’s got crews going, and he’s running down to Home Depot or Lowe’s or one of these places, loading up the truck full of the stuff that he needs, driving it over, putting it in, making the wheels go around. I don’t think they understand this in Chicago.
MS: No, I don’t think so, and I really think that’s what comes of being in this hermetically-sealed environment that Obama lives in, in which his contact with the real world involves getting $50 million dollars from William Ayers through the Annenberg Challenge to spread, radicalizing Chicago schoolchildren. That’s not how real people spread the wealth around. And I would go back, you know, to Joe the Plumber’s point, that actually, if you just let people spread their own wealth around, they’ll make more sensible decisions than, for example, Congress interfering in the mortgage and credit market by making certain requirements of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and all the rest of it. Joe the Plumber, the three hundred million Joe the Plumbers across the land, will make better decisions on that than the federal government will.
HH: Let’s listen to Slow Joe Biden on the Today Show today with David Gregory, cut number three:
DG: We’ve moved through the debates, and we’re moving into that final stretch. What happened in this debate that will be the basis of a final pitch from an Obama-Biden to undecided voters?
JB: Where John’s priorities are, and Sarah Palin’s, and where Barack and my policies are, and that is if you notice, John continues to cling to the notion, you evidence the fact this guy Joe the Plumber. I don’t have any Joe the Plumbers in my neighborhood that make $250,000 dollars a year and are worried. The Joe the Plumbers in my neighborhood, the Joe the Cops in my neighborhood, the Joe the Grocery Store Owners in my neighborhood, they make, like 98% of the small businesses, less than $250,000 dollars a year, and they’re going to do very under us, and they’re going to be in real tough shape under John McCain, because John McCain’s going to continue this policy that if you take care of the people who are doing the best, particularly large corporations, which is not Joe the Plumber, even the two fifty guy, in fact, they’re going to, somehow this is all going to trickle down. They’re going to pay no capital gains under us, they’re going to get a $3,000 dollar credit for hiring new employees. They’re going to be able to move in a way to get help for providing insurance for their employees. They’re not going to pay a single solitary penny more in taxes, and they’re going to get their taxes cut.
HH: Mark Steyn, he doesn’t know any Joe the Plumbers.
MS: No. Joe the Senator ought to get off that stupid Amtrak train he rides every night, which is his main claim, apparently, to blue collar status, being given a first class rail ticket at public expense, and actually get out there. This is why I loathe Senators, by the way. John Kerry came to my neighborhood in the 2004 campaign. He stood up at the Barge Inn in Woodsville, and said he was proud to have created jobs in the North country. John Kerry has never created any job in his life except when he was the sleeping partner in a donut business for six months in Boston. I’ve created more jobs in the North country, and I’m a foreigner. I don’t even, you know, what he doesn’t understand is that whether or not Joe the Plumber in his personal income earns $250,000 dollars a year, millions of Americans aspire to create a business that generates $250,000 dollars a year. If you’re a plumber, and you’ve got a lot of business, so you take on some young guy to work in it with you, if you’re a hairdresser and you own a salon, and business is pretty good so you set up a second chair and look for a trainee hairdresser to take on, pretty soon, if you’ve got a three or four person business, you know…
HH: You’re in the magic zone.
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HH: www.steynonline.com, you can read all of Mark’s many works. Mark, let’s listen to the new McCain ad that came out today, cut number nine:
I’m John McCain, and I approved this message…Americans are catching on…your new tax plan’s going to tax me more…it’s not that I want to punish your success, I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody…Everybody? Leading papers call Obama’s taxes welfare, government handouts. Obama raises taxes on seniors, hard-working families, to give welfare to those who pay none. Just as you suspected, Obama’s not truthful on taxes.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, that’s hard-hitting. Does he need more of those in the next three weeks?
MS: Yeah, he basically, I think he needs to reclaim the language. You know, Democrats in the Clinton era got cunning. They realized people, Americans don’t really like the word welfare. In a lot of countries, they do actually like it. In parts of Continental Europe, welfare it not a bad word. It is, generally, a bad word here. So they renamed it “tax credit.” In effect, the government will, when he talks about cutting taxes for 95% of people, an awful lot of people don’t pay any tax at all. What he means by that is he’s going to give them money that people who pay tax and do work make. And likewise, this phrase investing in this, he used it all the time last night. Obama thinks we need to invest in this and invest in that. What that means is he means a government subsidy for it. And again, I think this is a fundamental difference. One of the reasons that the financial services industry, and the sort of credit business is in Joe the Plumber’s toilet, is because the government interfered in it. This idea that smart government officials is such an outdated Galbraithian notion, that technicrats can decide better than the market where to direct the wealth of a society, I cannot believe that in the Year 2008, where electing a guy whose never actually spent any time generating any private sector business of his own, aside from his highly-lucrative book, I can’t believe in 2008 we’re electing a guy who believes all this clapped-out stuff that most of the Western world figured was ludicrous back in the mid-70s.
HH: But didn’t all of Europe have to go through their phase where they thought they could simply print money and everyone could have eight weeks off, and everyone could be supported by the state, and that it would…they’ve all been through it. Now they’re all rejecting it. We’re the only…
MS: Well, they’re not rejecting it, and this is where it gets difficult, is that when you set up these programs, particularly if he has plans for at least initially semi-socialized health care, and these other forms of entitlement, which is what a lot of this stuff is, it becomes very difficult to wean the citizenry off them. And that’s a huge problem in Western Europe.
HH: When I meant rejecting, I meant that Sarkozy has won, Merkel has won, Berlusconi has won, Harper won yesterday.
HH: It looks like the Tories will come in Britain. We’re the only major advanced industrial economy that’s going away from market-based politicians, Mark.
MS: Well, also, we’re at odds with the right of center trend in the rest of the Western world. I mean, as you mentioned, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party picked up another fifteen or twenty seats in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday. At G-7 meetings, Barack Obama will be the most left-wing leader there. He’ll be to the left of Stephen Harper, he’ll be to the left of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, he’ll even be to the left of Gordon Brown in London, and that’s before the Labour Party, as you say, is replaced by the British Tories. I mean, this is extraordinary. This, if you thought George W. Bush was out of step with Europe, wait ‘til this guy’s at some of the meetings.
HH: Now let’s talk about, again, the Joe the Plumber stuff. The $250,000 dollar a year is such a head fake, because of course it’s two incomes. A lot of Americans aspire, if they’re not already there with two incomes, to get over that. But that’s really not the point. The point is the impact on the people employed by businesses generating $250,000 dollars a year.
MS: Yes, well again, I think this is the sort of, the fake, this is where he really doesn’t understand how the world works, because he thinks that there’s hard-working people who, like Joe Biden’s always going on about, he doesn’t know a Joe the Plumber, but he knows Joe the Short Order Cook, and Joe the Busboy, the Joe the Shoeshine Guy at Union Station in Washington when he gets on the train. He knows a lot of Joes, and he thinks that’s what Joes are, those good people who make $30, 40 thousand dollars a year. And what he doesn’t realize, and then there are corporations which make bazillions of dollars, and it doesn’t matter how much you tax them. And what he doesn’t realize is that all those corporations, real people pay that money. And so if you increase the tax liability on American employers, then there’s going to be an awful lot of Joe the Short Order Cooks and Joe the Plumbers and Joe the Hairdresser, and Joe the Shoeshine Boy, and all the other regular Joes who are going to be out of jobs. And this is simply a defective understanding for Obama, from living in this sort of hothouse, college campus, radical, Jeremiah Wright-William Ayers Chicago atmosphere for his entire adult life.
HH: And by the way, you just brought them up. Are those guys going to matter in the next three weeks, Mark Steyn? I think there was a couple of exchanges last night, I talked to Rick Davis about it today. The question is, are the American people paying attention to the three thousand jobs that Barack Obama has to fill, and his record in filling jobs in the past?
MS: Well, I think if you’re going to bring up these people, you’ve got to connect them to the larger picture, which is what Obama believes insofar as we can tell, and what he’s likely to do when he’s in office. And McCain did not do a good job of that last night. And in a way, Joe the Plumber does. I think, I speak as someone who’s operated small businesses in various parts of the world, and I am staggered at the way Americans think you can continue raising taxes on corporations, and then be surprised that those corporations relocate to other parts of the world, and that American businesses end up being bought out by foreign business. I mean, there’s an explicit connection between that. American corporations are over-taxed, and Obama wants to tax them more.
HH: And they are also under trade difficulties, and he wants to raise trade barriers.
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HH: Mark, the most obvious question that didn’t get asked at all is about Patrick Fitzgerald, long the poster child of the left when he was investigating Rove and Libby. He is now investigating Tony Rezko and the Chicago Machine, of which Barack Obama is a huge part. But he serves at the pleasure of the president. He’s a United States Attorney. And someone should have asked him whether or not, Obama should have been asked if he would confirm Patrick Fitzgerald in that job until the investigation was done. He wasn’t asked that, and that leads me to my question. All the debates are done. How did the American media’s geriatric set, Brokaw, Jim Lehrer and Bob Schieffer do in these debates?
MS: Well, it’s extraordinary to me. There was one moment last night when Bob Schieffer, who in some ways was the least worst of all these moderators, but there was one moment last night when Bob Schieffer, in that characteristically prissy way that the American media big shots have, deplored all the negative campaigning in this campaign, and then he said Senator McCain, your TV ads have used words like disrespect. And you think to yourself, what planet are these fellows on? This idea they conducted these debates like these sort of genteel Victorian matrons who, apocryphally, it was said, used to cover up the piano legs because they were too shapely. That’s essentially what the mainstream media have done for Obama. He’s in many way a fascinating fellow, and what they did in these debates was essentially, they covered up all the interesting questions, all the interesting issues like those Victorians matrons with the piano legs. And so effectively, America is about to elect an enigma, and that’s extraordinary to me. That is extraordinary that the basic due diligence that Joe the Plumber would do if he was hiring some sub for a job, we are not doing with the guy who’s going to be this country’s head of state and head of government.
HH: Now I do think that there’s a small shift in the wind that augers well for John McCain. One, do you agree with that? And two, do you think Obama will fire Patrick Fitzgerald in the first month that he’s in office if he has the chance?
MS: Well, I think certainly it’s the sort of thing that a Republican president could not get away with doing. But oddly enough, I think it is the kind of thing that if Obama really wanted, really wanted to establish his muscle early on, he probably could get away with doing. And that’s the difference. There are different ground rules for the Democrats on these things. As to…you said you thought McCain’s position had improved a little. He is, I think, a terrible, inept candidate. But the fact of the matter is that Obama is not this Messiah figure sweeping all before him, that if you actually look at the numbers, the race is close and still winnable for McCain. I saw Sarah Palin yesterday. She’s terrific on the stump. And they could still turn this around if they get their act together.
HH: Indeed they can. Mark Steyn from www.steynonline.com, thank you, friend.
End of interview.