Mark Steyn on Trump and hope for the West

Conservative warrior sheds light on the cultural factors that led to Trump’s victory at Restoration Weekend.

Editor’s note: Below are the video and transcript of remarks given by Mark Steyn at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2017 Restoration Weekend. The event was held Nov. 16th-19th at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.

Mark Steyn: Thank you. Thank you very much.  I’m stunned to hear that Mark has put my image on his kid’s Onesie.  If there’s anybody from Florida Child Services’ SWAT team in the house, you should take him down now, and it’s very flattering.  It’s very flattering.  To be described as a fearless warrior.  I blush after we’ve listened to what Clinton had to tell us earlier, because it’s one thing to be introduced as a fearless warrior when you’re a medal of honor recipient, but to be introduced as a fearless warrior when you’ve made a cat album, I think that speaks to the devaluation of “hero” in our society that Clinton was actually speaking about a little earlier.  I will come back and say a word about Afghanistan later because on one turn, I think it’s particularly important after what Clinton was saying.

But I’ve listened to a lot of people in the couple of days we’ve been here in Palm Beach.  David always assembles an amazing array of speakers; not just from the United States, but from around the English-speaking world, and I’ve listened to people talk about Trump.  Monica was talking about Trump last night, and Ann Coulter was doing it earlier today, and I want to say what I think.  It was his contribution too.  People have talked about his personality and people have talked about his policies, but there were other things he did.  The fact of his victory was a huge – just the nature of it was a huge rebuke to all the conventions of American presidential politics, which, I must say, speaking with the foreigner’s eye, I think have grown very, very stale.

Donald Trump managed to win with no consultants, no ads, no donors.  He spent the least money, I believe, since Benjamin Harrison or maybe William Harrison, and he had, as he cheerfully admitted after Iowa, he didn’t know he was supposed to have a ground game.  And he performed a terrific service to the republic in demolishing all the professionalization of presidential politics, though I think it’s made people cynical about it, and I loved it.  I saw him in Burlington, Vermont in the heart of Bernie Sanders’ kingdom, and it was about 6 days before Iowa, 13 days before New Hampshire, and I’d seen Karl Rove on TV about an hour or so before I set off to go and see Trump in Vermont.  And Karl Rove had said, “Well what’s important at this stage?  It’s 6 days to Iowa, 13 days to New Hampshire.  You’ve got very limited time to get your message out,” so message discipline is critically important.  Time management is critically important.  If you’re not staying on message, if you’re not absolutely critically managing your time, you are not going to get your message out to the voters.

And then I went to see Trump on stage in Burlington, Vermont, and he talked for 15 minutes about Martin O’Malley.  And it was the funniest thing I had ever seen on stage in Vermont, and under no conceivable scenario was he ever going to be up against Martin O’Malley.  No.  No way.  And he told this hilarious story, and Martin O’Malley had held an event in New Hampshire and one person had shown up.  And Martin O’Malley had talked to the guy for 2 hours from the stage, so imagine if all of you get out except you leave David sitting there, and I’m on stage pitching David for 2 hours, and at the end of the 2 hours, the union leader journalist says to the guy, “Well, would you consider voting for him now?” and the guy goes, “Sir, no not really.”  And he was there for one reason.

Do you remember that time that Hillary was late coming back out for a debate, and that was because Martin O’Malley’s staffer had been in the ladies’ bathroom, and I was completely stunned by this.  Absolutely stunned though because there was that tension though where for 3 minutes there was no Hillary on stage, and then she walks out late, and I was stunned by this revelation that Martin O’Malley’s staffer had been in the bathroom.  I was actually stunned by it.  I had no idea the O’Malley campaign could afford a staffer.

But that time management thing, the professionalization of politics is one of the things that people have come to loathe about politics, and it has helped make the political class a breed apart, and I cannot believe that the political class seriously intended that the 2016 election should be a contest between the wife of the previous President and the brother and son of two previous Presidents, and that was what they were planning for us.  Jeb versus Hillary.  And that makes a mockery of a republic of 300 million citizens.  And I say that as the subject of the tyrannist crown that you guys threw off, but one thing you can say about her hereditary monarchy is that at least you get a non-hereditary political class in Britain and Canada and Australia and so on, and it was absolutely absurd.  And it’s actually obnoxious.  It’s obnoxious that both Hillary and Jeb thought it was appropriate that they should run for the presidential nomination of their parties.  That in a nation of 300 million people, the Bushes are so indispensable, they have to supply three Presidents in the last 30 years.  And that is ridiculous.  It is unseemly, and it emphasized everything that is wrong with the remoteness of the divide between the political class and the rest of us.

I don’t know how many of you – I live in New Hampshire, and if you’re in Palm Beach, there aren’t a lot of reasons to visit New Hampshire, and indeed, half the population of New Hampshire is living here for 6 months of the year.  One of the great disadvantages of living in New Hampshire is you get political ads 3 years before a presidential election.  And they’re all super professional and they are all generally terrible, and they all have these kinds of moist teary-eyed, sentimentalized biographies.  The John Kasich one that drove me nuts, it was playing every 8 minutes on New Hampshire television stations, is the one about how he’s proud to be the son of a mailman.  Any sons of mailmen in the house tonight?  Have we got any?  I thought it was Knights of Columbus.  I thought it was a fraternal order at first, but it’s the Dusty Springfield song, the only man who could ever reach me was the son of a mailman.  And he’s actually not only the son of a mailman, he was a Lehman brother, John Kasich.  Oddly enough, he didn’t do any moist, sentimental, soft-filtered, teary-eyed commercial about how he’s proud to be a brother of a Lehman brother.

And I was waiting for Jeb to do the “I’m proud to say I had it hard growing up.  I had to grow up as the son of a President.  We had it tough in those days.  We only had the 20-car motorcade not the 40-car motorcade like they got today.”

Trump blew through all that phony identification with the ordinary man.  When I saw him in Vermont, he had just been given Secret Service protection, and he was complaining about now he had to ride around in an armored van that they deliver the $20.00 bills to the bank in and that they opened the door and the Secret Service guy shoves him in the back and throws him into the car and shuts the doors, and he goes, “Do you realize what I’m in for if I win this thing?” he said on stage.  “I’ll never get to drive a Rolls Royce ever again,” and the whole room roared with laughter.  Guys who drive Ford F150, 1993 pickups, and wives going around in Toyota Corollas were weeping with sympathy for a guy complaining he would never get to drive.  And there’s a lesson in that.  There’s a lesson in that, that the fake authenticity thing.  The fake authenticity doesn’t work.

Now I’m a bit like Ann.  I’ve been a bit disappointed at the way things have.  I like Trump.  I love Trump pre-January 20.  I loved all his instincts.  His instincts were brilliant.  I get very nervous when I wander around an event like this and see people like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, whose here, who I would rather they were still inside the White House, but I would like to echo, I would like to echo what Steve Bannon said yesterday.  That I have particular contempt for the Never Trumpers.  I’m amazed that people could seriously vote, leave their ballots blank as the Bushes did, vote for that guy.  What was he called?  McMullen?  McMuffin?  Whatever the guy was.  What was he called, the guy in Utah?  That’s what Lindsey Graham did.  Bill Kristol wanted to put up David.  I didn’t know that was the way to be a big hit, mention Bill Kristol.  It’s like an English pantomime if you’ve ever seen that, like when Captain Hook comes on and Peter Pan and everyone boos. Well that’s what he is.  I mean I couldn’t get over Bill Kristol, so fascinating to me, Bill Kristol.  Yeah, he’s twirling his mustaches in the wings.  He’s tying the damsel to the railroad track.

Bill Kristol, actually, he held a meeting on a private island off South Carolina or Georgia or somewhere where all these people flew in in these private planes.  The donor class, the council or donors all flew in on their private jets to see how they could destroy Trump, and I’m not sure if this was the meeting where they picked David French, my former colleague at National Review.  He’s a very nice fellow but he has all the qualities of leadership except followers, and this happened about 6 months after the last James Bond film came out, and Bill Kristol basically held a Spector board meeting just like in the Bond film where they’re all, What do you have to report from New Hampshire No. 2?”  And “I’m afraid you’re growing rather tiresome Mr. Trump.”  It was doing all that.

The Never Trump crowd is the reason we got Trump, and they missed the point.  It’s a lot easier for the base to get itself a new elite than for the elite to get itself a new base, and those guys, so they can hold all the meetings.  They’re probably on their private islands off the coast of Georgia, next time they probably will go full Bond villain and book a whole all out volcano in which to have their secret meeting.  But they’re the reason we wound up with Trump.  Because we have a two-party system where it’s actually institutionally difficult to break through that.  In Northern Ireland, I think there are 19 political parties represented at different levels of the legislature.

If you know anything about politics in Olster, they all split up into internecine factions every 10 minutes of the day.  If you don’t like this new party, there will be another new party along in 15 minutes.  That’s how they do it there.  But here we have two frozen parties.  And neither of them were talking about anything that mattered to large numbers of working class Americans who have essentially been living with what Jimmy Carter called “malaise” for now for their entire adult lives.  And when Jimmy Carter used the word in the ’70s malaise was a blip in America’s golden post-1950 moment.  For too many people now, malaise is a permanent feature of life.  And they switch on the television and they watch the Democrats, and the Democrats are into identity politics, and they’re finding smaller and smaller slivers of identity groups in barely statistical, statistically detectable demographic numbers, so that you switch on the TV and they’re talking about transgendered bathrooms, and your mill is closed down and it doesn’t matter because no one’s ever going to be going to the bathroom in that mill every again.  Your factory is closed down.  You don’t care what bathroom policy it has.  You don’t know what a transgender — the whole point about having what we used to call a sex change is that you were supposed to be such a convincing woman nobody knew you used to be a man. So if you pull that off — and I recommend you don’t get that done on Obamacare; you want to have really premium health insurance if you have that operation — if you pull that off, nobody knows you used to be a man.  So, most people admit they don’t know.  Have we ever met?  What is a transgender about?  We have a transgender bathroom, but what is this about?  There are millions and millions of blue-collar losers whose lives have been ruined, and no matter how many millions and millions and millions there are, they don’t count as much as these boutique, barely statistically detectable demographic groups that the Democrats are talking about all the time.  These micro-demographic groups.

And they made the connection between the downward mobility of many Americans’ lives and issues such as these appalling trade deals and mass immigration, and I absolutely agree with what Ann Coulter was saying this morning.  It’s not about cyber wars.  It’s not about laser beams.  It’s not about computer tracking.  It’s about a wall on the southern border.  It’s not just about keeping foreigners out.  It’s also that the wall is a literal expression of the American people’s recovery of their sovereignty.  So, the wall is not just about the wall, it is about also about the right to build the wall.

Now I don’t like, I don’t like the sentimentalization of immigration at all.  I don’t like DREAMers just because I don’t like the stupid name.  I think the minute you call something the Dream Act, you’re actually telling jelly-spine, squishy, finger-in-the-windy politicians, you’ve got be be — what are you nuts?  You’re going to go up against something called the Dream Act?  Next, you’ll be opposing the Fluffy Bunny Act.  Next, you’ll be opposing the Disney Princess Act.  Are you crazy?  We focus-grouped it.  Everybody likes dreams and fluffy bunnies and Disney princesses, and the sentimentalization of public policy that represents has been a disaster.  I don’t like DREAMers because I don’t like the stupid name just on that basis.  I also don’t like DREAMers because anybody who’s been through U.S. Immigration legally, and boy I wouldn’t make that mistake again, knows that it’s the most undream-like place on earth.  “Hi, I’m here to have my eyeballs scanned for the 51st time and I’ve got five copies of the green form just like it says on your web site,” and they said, “Ah no, no, no, no.  You’re supposed to have six copies of the pink form, so you got to go away again.” And I said, “Well can I go back and get the six copies of the pink form and come back in an hour?”  “No, you’re just back to the back of the line now so we’ll see you in 18 months’ time.”  That’s if you’re not a DREAMer.  That’s what us non-DREAMers have to go through.  So, I’m not interested in sentimentalizing mass immigration.

And what I loved about President Trump is that he was the first guy on either side to talk about immigration from the point of view of the people who are already here.  An Australian reader of mine left a comment on my web site the other day.  He said, “Margaret Thatcher famously said that the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money,” and he added similarly the problem with open borders is that eventually you run out of other people’s neighborhoods and that is what is happening in Europe in other parts of the Western World which are facing a demographic tsunami.  The rights to determine your immigration policy is actually the condition that enables all others.  So, if you’re like many Republican nominees, if you’re like, for example, Lindsey Graham who was running for President, Lindsey Graham is a very nice man, a very affable man.  He bumped into my daughter at the county fair in New Hampshire.  Do you remember he said because he’s a bachelor, he said he was going to have rotating first ladies, and whatever that means, and he bumped into my daughter at the county fair and offered to make her one of his rotating first ladies, and I don’t what it means, but if he done it a week after the Harvey Weinstein thing broke, my daughter would have been good for $8 million, and we wouldn’t have had to worry about college fees or anything like that.

Lindsey Graham’s thing is that somehow the war on terror is absolutely essential, we should be fighting it everywhere around the world.  We should have boots on the ground in Syria.  We should have boots on the ground in Yemen. Boots on the ground in Chad.  Boots, boots, boots, boots.  In the words of Rudyard Kipling, all around the planet.  And yet at the same time, we should have open borders.  Those two things do not go together.  And Trump’s instincts in that campaign were absolutely, absolutely right.  And I want to stay one more thing that I think he did, but he should be an inspiration to us, but he showed the best way to stand up to political correctness is to render it absolutely ludicrous.

Mitt Romney, who is the nicest guy on the planet, was damned as a racist, sexist, hater; a vulture capitalist who would fly in through the wings, close your factory down, and then he’d fly in through the window and give you cancer, bite you in the neck.  He was the most hateful guy in the world.  He put his dog on the roof of his car then drove the dog to Canada.  No American dog wants to set foot in Canada.  You know that.  And he was damned as racist.  Women, in his own bumbling way, Mitt said he so wanted to promote women in Massachusetts that he ordered his staffers to come up with binders full of women, and the left made “binders full of women” a punch line.  He was the nicest guy on the planet, and they told you he was a racy, racy racist, and hatey hater anyway, and the best thing that Trump did was to stand up to that and expose the total risibility of it all, and more of us should do that.  More of us should actually push back, say what we want to anyway, and not do this, “Oh I regret this.”  “I misspoke, and I didn’t mean to cause offense” and we shouldn’t do it.

The more diverse you get, the more stupid you get.  That is because the more and the more authoritarian you get — because the more you need people to police diversity and to police cultural sensitivities. And eventually you end up as a totally moronic society, and I will give you an example of that.  This is from Beverly Kopper, President of the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.  Anybody hear from the University of Wisconsin?  Yeah, I think, I bet at least one today.  No Whitewater.  She released a statement last year.  “Last night a disturbing racist post that was made to social media was brought to my attention.  This post was hurtful and destructive to our campus community.  The vice-chancellor for student affairs, Dr. Tom Rios, has formed a couple that has begun meeting with students and working on the development of an action plan that will capture the student voice and develop a collective response to these issues.  These are only the starting points.  Hear my promise that we will determine actions that will ultimately create a long-term cultural change,” and this was because of a racially charged picture that two female students had posted of themselves in black face.  In fact, they weren’t in black face, they were getting a facial.  So, they had all that gunk all over their face and a couple of cucumbers or whatever on their eyes, and when they took the cucumbers off, they had a giggle about how funny they looked and took a selfie, and Beverly Kopper, the President of the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, is perfectly happy to destroy their lives over this.

Even though the girls are not guilty of racial discrimination, the university is guilty of facial discrimination.  And it was too late.  Once she was informed it was a facial, it was too late because the great big expressed train of outrage committees and diversity working groups was already rumbling down the track and couldn’t be stopped, and so she compromised, and she announced that the two young ladies would be disciplined.  Disciplined for what?  Beverly Kopper blamed the students for “failing to think about the implications” of having a facial.  As I said, compared to Clinton, I’m not a big war hero, I’m a bit a effete Nancy boy, and I won’t fool you, I’ll say I like to get a facial from time to time because I want my skin to look nice if there’s any brutal close-ups when people ask for a photograph afterwards on nights like this, and so I well know that “can I get a seaweed wrap” is code for I’m a big redneck southern bigot who wants to look good under my clan hood.

If you go to any – there’s a big luxury spa right here in the Breakers by the way, and if were all to go around to the corner to the luxury spa now and push open the door there, there would be whole rooms of people covered in algae, coconut, moisturizing exfoliant all clambering around going “way down on the levee in old Alabamy.”  Sometimes, sometimes society becomes too stupid to survive, and the service Donald Trump performed for the republic was basically pushing back and exposing that nonsense and saying no, nobody cares, nobody cares about me saying this or me saying that or me saying anything else.  What they care about is getting their jobs back, getting their communities back.  They bought a house in what was a nice neighborhood 40 years ago and now they’ve got a heroin dealer living across the street and now they got no jobs in town, and their dad worked at the mill and was able to lead a rewarding life raising a family in a three-bedroom house on a nice-sized lot in a non-criminal part of town and now you’ve got a daughter who does a minimum wage shift at the Quickie Crap every night, and you’ve got a son who’s on meth or heroin, and the ruined lives, the irrelevance of the political class to the ruined lives that I see around me in my part of northern New Hampshire, that my Fox News pal Tucker Carlson sees when he goes to Maine, our friends like Victor Davis Hanson when he goes to Hillsdale College, and you drive 30 miles in any direction from Hillsdale, the ruined lives that you see in the nonfunctioning parts of America that used to function is why Donald Trump is President, and the Republican establishment has nothing to say to those people.

I want to go back to where we came in tonight with what Clinton was saying about what happened to him in Afghanistan, and he used the phrase that stuck with me, and I hope I’m quoting this correctly.  I think you said, “We didn’t quite have a mission.”  I think those were your words, and that was true not just for you, but for the United States and its allies as a whole from day one which I deeply regret as someone who thought that we were going into that ignited land seriously.  And, Afghanistan is something that is for my fellow subjects of her majesty the queen who are here from Canada and Australia and England and other places, you will know that in towns all over the British Commonwealth, there are Jalalabal roads and Kandahar roads named after famous battles that the British Army fought in those places, and I don’t think anybody is going to be planning a Kandahar Road or a Jalalabal Road in Palm Beach any time soon.  The war went wrong on the first night when, Mullah Omar who was fraud and a hypocrite, he was the man who banned music in Afghanistan and then when his compound, they went through his compound, they found he had all these Rod Stewart cassette tapes and not like what Rod’s been doing recently, Rod Stewart slays the great American song book, not that, but all the “If You Want My Body And You Think I’m Sexy,” that’s what Mullah Omar was grooving around to, but he wouldn’t let anybody else in Afghanistan listen to it.

Mullah Omar hitched up his skirts and he was fleeing on the first night of U.S. bombing, and a drone had him in its sights, and they were going to drop the bomb on Mullah Omar, and a voice comes through over the crackle that says, “Hold off of this.  My JAG doesn’t like it.”  And if you know what JAG is, JAG is an Army lawyer, and that guy was in Florida ruling on the legal implications of killing the leader of the Taliban whose daughter was — Osama bin Laden’s daughter was married to Mullah Omar which is all nice and cozy.  I think the Rolling Stones tried that at one point in the late ’70s ad it worked out, but other than the Rolling Stones, I’ve only ever known Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden to try that.  And Donald Rumsfeld to his credit was absolutely furious when he found that out, but it signaled, I think, a war that went wrong from day one.

I listened to — and I want to talk about this because it’s the most important thing.  I was listening to General [inaudible] talk about military preparedness, military readiness, and he said we were technologically, we were superbly technologically prepared for Iraq in 2003, and in the end, there has to be more to it than that.  The great military strategists Sir Basil Liddell Hart used to say that the object of war is not to destroy the enemy’s tanks, it’s to destroy his will.  Because the only way to stop him getting into a tank is to destroy his will, and they understood that we had all the technical advantages, but in the end they wanted it more in Iraq, and they wanted it more in Afghanistan, and we talk about military budgets and all the rest of it and military preparedness, and you can do that.  You can do that.  But, if you’re not serious about going ot war, you shouldn’t be going to war.  And you think about who we’re losing to.  I listened yesterday to all the talk about the tanks and the submarines and all the rest of it, we’re losing to goat herders with fertilizer, and they’re not worried about whether they’ve got the state of the art fertilizer.  Ahmed isn’t saying to Mohammed, we need technologically higher grader fertilizer.  Go and get the goat from the other side of the valley.  That’s what we need for that.  We’re dealing with a primitive enemy that has nothing except the critical element which is will.

I listened to Clinton’s story, and I get very sad.  I don’t think as a society — I remembered George W. Bush when he was asked what Americans could do, and he said go out and go shopping, so everybody did go out shopping, and we basically subcontracted the war to you and your colleagues.  We subcontracted the war to a small professional soldiery the hell of whose lives we do not know a thing about, and we are completely disconnected from, and it shames us as a society that we know so little and we care so little about what they have been doing in Afghanistan for 16 years.  We are not worthy of that.

And I don’t understand the President on September 11.  I will leave you with another element, and I think Sebastian Gorka would agree with this because I think Dr. Gorka said something similar.  The President did not use the word Islam at all on September 11.  He talked about denying safe havens; never again we will allow our enemies to have safe havens.  We have seen terrorists kill the citizens of Western nations; not just in San Bernardino and Boston and Orlando and just a few days ago in New York City on a bike path, the supposed greatliberal panacea — only if we had bike paths the world would be a better place.  No, you can build a bike path, and they’ll kill you on the bike path.  Not just in San Bernardino, Orlando, all of that, but also in Ottawa, Saint Jean Sur Richelieu just across the border from me in New Hampshire, and Nice, and Manchester, and Paris, and Brussels, and Berlin, and Stockholm which real estate is valuable.  What’s the point of fighting to keep people from having safe havens in Helmand Province which nobody in their right mind wants to live in and letting them have safe havens in San Bernardino and Orlando and Boston and New York and Ottawa and Sydney and Paris and Nice and Brussels and Berlin?  Why don’t we fight for the real estate that is worth saving?  And I would invite, and I would invite the Never Trumpers to rethink their view of this war.  You have to be able to prioritize.  You have to be able to prioritize.  And I would much rather, instead of fighting, you talked about the hearts and minds strategy, Clinton, and you know as well as I do, the Pentagon are going to sock us for every sap, for every snake old salesman who comes along.  The guy who wrote “Three Cups of Tea,” all you have to do is have three cups of tea with an Afghan, and he’s your friend for life, and they gave this book, “Three Cups of Tea,” they put it in the knapsack of everyone shipping out to Qatar, and they thought it would work.  The book was a fraud, and the Pentagon, the world’s most lavishly funded national security bureaucracy fell for the fraud of that book and issued it to everyone heading out east to Afghanistan.

We should actually be saving what we quaintly used to call Christendom, what we used to call the Western world, we should prioritize saving the West from those who would do us ill.  I thought that was the great possibility of Donald Trump’s victory, and I still am rejoiced that he won on election day, but we do not want to be in a world where Western civilization slides off the cliff, where we wind up writing off Sweden because we’re still running around in Afghanistan.  We have to change the way we look at this and actually stand and defend Western values and Western civilization in every corner around the world.  Thank you very much indeed.

December 21, 2017 | Comments »

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