The Best Quotes From Mark Steyn’s 2009 Columns (51 Quotes)


Mark Steyn is one of the best columnists in the business and he’s also eminently quotable. So, with that in mind, I decided to put together : a list of his best quotes from his 2009 columns. Enjoy!

After all, when President Sarkozy and other European critics bemoan Israel’s “disproportionate” response, what really are they saying? That they expect better from the despised Jews than from Hamas. That they regard Israel as a western society bound by civilized norms, whereas any old barbarism issuing forth from Gaza is to be excused on grounds of “desperation.” : — “Clashing Civilizations”

So when Channel 4 says that we don’t get the chance to see (Radical Islamists) speak for themselves, it would be more accurate to say that they speak for themselves incessantly but the louder they speak the more we put our hands over our ears and go “Nya nya, can’t hear you.” We do this in part because, if you’re as invested as most western elites are in the idea that all anyone wants is to go to university, get a steady job and settle down in a nice house in the suburbs, a statement such as “England’s demise is on our agenda” becomes almost literally untranslatable. — “Clashing Civilizations”

Even if you don’t deplore Fatah and Hamas for marinating their infants in a sick death cult in which martyrdom in the course of Jew-killing is the greatest goal to which a citizen can aspire, any fair-minded visitor to the West Bank or Gaza in the decade and a half in which the “Palestinian Authority” has exercised sovereign powers roughly equivalent to those of the nascent Irish Free State in 1922 would have to concede that the Palestinian “nationalist movement” has a profound shortage of nationalists interested in running a nation, or indeed capable of doing so. — “The ‘Oldest Hatred’”

CAIR and other Muslim lobby groups’ eternal bleating about “Islamophobia” is in inverse proportion to any examples of it. Meanwhile, “moderate Muslims” in London warn the government: “I’m a peaceful fellow myself, but I can’t speak for my excitable friends. Nice little G7 advanced western democracy you got here. Shame if anything were to happen to it.” — “The ‘Oldest Hatred’”

As I always say, the “oldest hatred” didn’t get that way without an ability to adapt: Once upon a time on the Continent, Jews were hated as rootless cosmopolitan figures who owed no national allegiance. So they became a conventional nation state, and now they’re hated for that. And, if Hamas get : their way and destroy the Jewish state, the few who survive will be hated for something else. So it goes. — “The ‘Oldest Hatred’”

As Mister Incredible shrewdly observes to his kid in The Incredibles, when everybody’s special, nobody is. Likewise, when everything’s an emergency, nothing is: We live in a permanent state of routine emergency. — “Inaugural Disaster”

The most basic of conservative principles is that if you reward bad behavior you get more of it. We now have a government offering trillion-dollar rewards for bad behavior to the financial system, to the housing market, to the auto unions, and to individual voters. — “Inaugural Disaster”

The rules in this new “post-partisan” era are pretty simple: If the Democratic party wants it, it’s “stimulus.” If the Republican:  Party opposes it, it’s “politics”–as in headlines like this: “Obama Urges GOP To Keep Politics To A Minimum On Stimulus.” — Where Nations Go to Die

Tom (Daschle) and Tim Geithner and Charlie Rangel and all the rest are right: They can do more good with the money than the United States government can. I only wish they followed the logic of their behavior and recognized that what works for them would also work for every other citizen. Instead, they insist that the sole solution to our woes is a record-setting, wasteful government-spending spree. — “Obama, All at Sea”

This is the biggest generational transfer of wealth in the history of the world. If you’re an 18-year old middle-class hopeychanger, look at the way your parents and grandparents live: It’s not going to be like that for you. You’re going to have a smaller house, and a smaller car – if not a basement flat and a bus ticket. — “The Brokest Generation”

The 44th president is proposing to add more to the national debt than the first 43 presidents combined, doubling it in the next six years, and tripling it within the decade. — “Obama’s False Choice”

When the Bolsheviks chose to introduce Russians to the blessings of a “command economy” 90 years ago, they were dealing with a relatively simple agricultural society largely contained within national borders. Obama and Geithner are trying to do it with a sophisticated global economy in which North American consumers, European bankers, Asian suppliers, Saudi investors, and Chinese debt-holders are more tangled than an octopuses’ orgy. Even with “global oversight” – with the Toxic Tims of Germany, Argentina, and India all agreeing on how to fix the game – it can’t be done. — “Obama’s False Choice”

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, which over the centuries did more than anyone to rid the civilized world of the menace of piracy, now declines even to risk capturing their Somali successors, having been advised by Her Majesty’s Government that, under the European Human Rights Act, any pirate taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in the United Kingdom and live on welfare for the rest of his life. I doubt Pirates of the Caribbean would have cleaned up at the box office if the big finale had shown Geoffrey Rush and his crew of scurvy sea dogs settling down in council flats in Manchester and going down to the pub for a couple of jiggers of rum washed down to cries of “Aaaaargh, shiver me benefits check, lad.” From “Avast, me hearties!” to a vast welfare scam is not progress. — “Our Reprimitivized Future”

As my colleague Andrew McCarthy wrote, “Civilization is not an evolution of mankind but the imposition of human good on human evil. It is not a historical inevitability. It is a battle that has to be fought every day, because evil doesn’t recede willingly before the wheels of progress.” — “Our Reprimitivized Future”

Decrying a “monstrous tax code that is far too complicated for most Americans to understand,” the Tax-Collector-in-Chief pledged: “I want every American to know that we will rewrite the tax code so that it puts your interests over any special interests.” That shouldn’t be hard. A tax code that put my interests over any special interests would read: “How much did you earn last year? [Insert number here] thousand dollars? Hey, feel free to keep it. You know your interests better than we do!” — “Live Tea or Die!”

That’s why these are Tea Parties – because the heart of the matter is the same question posed two-and-a-third centuries ago: Are Americans subjects or citizens? If the latter, then a benign sovereign should not be determining “your interests” and then announcing that he’s giving you a “tax credit” as your pocket money. — “Live Tea or Die!”

(Obama) has the knack of appearing moderate while acting radical, which is a lethal skill. — “Intrusion of Reality”

The problem in the Western world is that governments are spending money faster than their citizenry or economies can generate it. As Gerald Ford liked to say, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” And that’s true. But there’s an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give Phil from Cathedral City everything he wants isn’t big enough to get Phil to give any of it back. That’s the stage the Europeans are at: Their electorates are hooked on unsustainable levels of “services,” but no longer can conceive of life without them. — “Intrusion of Reality”

The aim of a large swathe of the Left is not to win the debate but to get it canceled before it starts. — “Climb”

But, when the going gets tough, you don’t, as General Powell advises, “move toward the center.” You move the center toward you, as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did. It’s harder to do it that way, but if it’s a choice between more government and more taxes, or more liberty and more opportunity, I’ll stick with the latter, and so should the Republican party – however difficult it is. — “Climb”

It’s the Miss USA standard of political integrity: Carrie Prejean and Barack Obama have the same publicly stated views on gay marriage. But the politically correct enforcers know that Barack doesn’t mean it, so that’s okay, whereas Carrie does, so that’s a hate crime. — “Fun with Dick and Nancy”

America and its few real allies fight under the most constrained and self-imposed rules of engagement ever devised, and against an enemy that rejects every basic element of the Geneva Conventions. Perhaps we are so rich, so smart, so advanced that we can fight with one arm and both legs tied behind our back and still win – eventually. Along the way many innocents will suffer. But better that than that a Gitmo detainee with a fear of insects should have a caterpillar put in his cell. — “Fun with Dick and Nancy”

(Obama’s) principal interest in the rest of the world is that he doesn’t want anyone nuking America before he’s finished turning it into a socialist basket-case. — “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Teleprompter”

It is remarkable in just five years how the world has adjusted to the inevitability of a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear Iran. Nudge it on another half-decade: Whose nuclear ambitions will be unstoppable by 2015? Syria’s? Sudan’s? Selected fiefdoms in Somalia? — “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Teleprompter”

We are building a world in which the wealthiest nations on the planet, from Norway to New Zealand, are all but defenseless, while bankrupt dysfunctional squats go nuclear. Even with inevitable and generous submissions to nuclear blackmail, how long do you think that arrangement will last? — “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Teleprompter”

Big government depends, in large part, on going around the country stirring up apathy – creating the sense that problems are so big, so complex, so intractable that even attempting to think about them for yourself gives you such a splitting headache it’s easier to shrug and accept as given the proposition that only government can deal with them. — “Retreat into Apathy”

When President Obama tells you he’s “reforming” health care to “control costs,” the point to remember is that the only way to “control costs” in health care is to have less of it. — “Retreat into Apathy”

A society of children cannot survive, no matter how all-embracing the government nanny. — “Retreat into Apathy”

You always have a dog in the fight, whether you know it or not. — “Neutrality Isn’t an Option”

“Why are politicians so weird?” a reader asked me after the (Mark) Sanford press conference. But the majority of people willing to live like this will, almost by definition, be deeply weird. So big government more or less guarantees rule by creeps and misfits. It’s just a question of how well they disguise it. Writing about Michael Jackson a few years ago, I suggested that today’s A-list celebs were the equivalent of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria or the loopier Ottoman sultans, the ones it wasn’t safe to leave alone with sharp implements. But, as Christopher Hitchens says, politics is showbusiness for ugly people. And a celebrified political culture will inevitably throw up its share of tatty karaoke versions of Britney and Jacko. — “Let’s Burst the Bubble”

Environmentalism…seeks to return us to the age of kings, when the masses are restrained by a privileged elite. Sometimes they will be hereditary monarchs, such as the Prince of Wales. Sometimes they will be merely the gilded princelings of the government apparatus – Barack Obama, Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi. In the old days, they were endowed with absolute authority by God. Today, they’re endowed by Mother Nature, empowered by Gaia to act on her behalf. But the object remains control – to constrain you in a million ways, most of which would never have occurred to Henry VIII, who, unlike the new cap-and-trade bill, was entirely indifferent as to whether your hovel was “energy efficient.” — “Gaia’s Right”

Beginning with FDR, wily statists justified the massive expansion of federal power under ever more elastic definitions of the commerce clause. For Obama-era control freaks, the environment and health care are the commerce clause supersized. They establish the pretext for the regulation of everything: If the government is obligated to cure you of illness, it has an interest in preventing you from getting ill in the first place – by regulating what you eat, how you live, the choices you make from the moment you get up in the morning. Likewise, if everything you do impacts “the environment,” then the environment is an all-purpose umbrella for regulating everything you do. It’s the most convenient and romantic justification for what the title of Paul Rahe’s new book rightly identifies as “soft despotism.” — “Gaia’s Right”

The environmental cult is itself a product of what the prince calls the “Age of Convenience:”:  : It’s what you worry about it when you don’t have to worry about jobs or falling house prices or collapsed retirement accounts. — “Gaia’s Right”

The wealthiest 1 percent already pay 40 percent of all taxes, the top 10 percent pay 70 percent of taxes – and there simply are too few of them – or, more to the point, of you: You’ll be surprised what percentage of you fall into “the top 2 percent” by the time Obama is through with you. — “The Gelded Age”

As Professor Gates jeered at the officers, “You don’t know who you’re messin’ with.” Did Sergeant Crowley have to arrest him? Probably not. Did he allow himself to be provoked by an obnoxious buffoon? Maybe. I dunno. I wasn’t there. Neither was the president of the United States, or the governor of Massachusetts, or the mayor of Cambridge. All of whom have declared themselves firmly on the side of the Ivy League bigshot. And all of whom, as it happens, are African-American. A black president, a black governor, and a black mayor all agree with a black Harvard professor that he was racially profiled by a white-Latino-black police team, headed by a cop who teaches courses in how to avoid racial profiling. The boundless elasticity of such endemic racism suggests that the “post-racial America” will be living with blowhard grievance-mongers like Professor Gates unto the end of time. — “He Said/V.I.P. Said”

President Obama has no choice but to move fast, in part because the image he presented during the campaign – a post-partisan, post-racial, post-anything-unpleasant-and-controversial, pragmatic centrist – was a total crock. He has a vast transformative domestic agenda and – because most of its elements are not terribly popular – he has to accomplish it at speed, or he won’t get it done at all. — “A Liberty Issue”

Freedom is messy. In free societies, people will fall through the cracks – drink too much, eat too much, buy unaffordable homes, fail to make prudent provision for health care, and much else. But the price of being relieved of all those tiresome choices by a benign paternal government is far too high. — “A Liberty Issue”

America is the Afghanistan of the western world: That’s to say, it has a slightly higher infant mortality rate than other developed nations (there are reasons for that which I’ll discuss in an upcoming column). That figure depresses our overall “life expectancy at birth.” But, if you can make it out of diapers, you’ll live longer than you would pretty much anywhere else. By age 40, Americans’ life expectancy has caught up with Britons’. By 60, it equals Germany’s. At the age of 80, Americans have greater life expectancy than Swedes. — “You’ve Had a Good Innings”

We’ve become the third most debt-ridden country after Japan and Italy. According to last month’s IMF report, general government debt as a percentage of GDP will rise from 63 percent in 2007 to 88.8 percent this year and to 99.8 percent of GDP next year. — “Why the Stimulus Flopped”

Obama’s leviathan sends a consistent message to business and consumers alike: When he’s spending this crazy, maybe the smart thing for you to do is hunker down until the dust’s settled and you get a better sense of just how broke he’s going to make you. For this level of “community organization,” there aren’t enough of “the rich” to pay for it. That leaves you. — “Why the Stimulus Flopped”

The minute a first-world country has “free” health care, it becomes the provider of choice to anyone who can get there, particularly for any long-term ailments requiring state-of-the-art medications. In 2004, Britain’s Health Protection Agency revealed that 44 percent of HIV patients being treated by the National Health Service were not residents of the United Kingdom at all, but from southern Africa. In essence, a huge number of AIDS patients in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland, and Lesotho have decided to outsource their health-care needs to British taxpayers. Similar trends will manifest themselves here in nothing flat. — “Where Is Obama’s ‘Center’?”

My National Review colleague Jay Nordlinger was reminded of an old observation by the great Theodore Dalrymple. During his time as an English prison doctor, Dalrymple frequently met ne’er-do-wells who said they’d “fallen in with the wrong crowd,” but, oddly enough, in all those years, he never met the wrong crowd. — “Where Is Obama’s ‘Center’?”

For Britain and other great powers, the decision to build a hugely expensive welfare state at home entailed inevitably a long retreat from responsibilities abroad, with a thousand small betrayals of peripheral allies along the way. — “The Long Retreat”

When you make the free nations and the thug states members of the same club (The UN), the danger isn’t that they’ll meet each other half-way but that the free world winds up going three-quarters, seven-eighths of the way. — “Dog-Feces Ice Cream”

If you say, “Chairman Mao? Wasn’t he the wacko who offed 70 million Chinks?”, you’ll be hounded from public life for saying the word “Chinks.” But, if you commend the murderer of those 70 million as a role model in almost any school room in the country from kindergarten to the Ivy League, it’s so entirely routine that only a crazy like Glenn Beck would be boorish enough to point it out. — “A Tale of Two Soundbites”

We were told that Obama would use “soft power” and “smart diplomacy” to get his way. Russia and Iran are big players with global ambitions, but Obama’s soft power is so soft it doesn’t even work its magic on a client regime in Kabul whose leaders’ very lives are dependent on Western troops. If Obama’s “smart diplomacy” is so smart that even Hamid Karzai ignores it with impunity, why should anyone else pay attention? — “Mister Tough Guy”

“Diversity” is one of those words designed to absolve you of the need to think. Likewise, a belief in “multiculturalism” doesn’t require you to know anything at all about other cultures, just to feel generally warm and fluffy about them. — “Tragedy or Scandal?”

Ezra Levant, my comrade in a long battle to restore freedom of speech to Canada, likes to say that the Danish cartoons crisis may one day be seen as a more critical event than 9/11. Not, obviously, in the comparative death tolls but in what each revealed about the state of Western civilization. After 9/11, we fought back, hit hard, rolled up the Afghan camps; after the cartoons, we weaseled and equivocated and appeased and signaled that we were willing to trade core Western values for a quiet life. — “Tragedy or Scandal?”

America’s enemies smell weakness, and our allies feel only the vacuum of U.S. leadership. About himself, the president speaks loudly. For America, he carries a small twig. — “The Superbower”

In his speech, the so-called “leader of the free world” all but physically recoiled from the job description. Sorry about that. Not his bag. In the more toxic presidential palaces, you would have to be awfully virtuous not to take advantage of such a man. And soon. — “The Unrealistic Realist”

(The Obama speechwriting team’s) usual trick is to position their man as the uniquely insightful leader pitching his tent between two extremes no sane person has ever believed: “There are those who say there is no evil in the world. There are others who argue that pink fluffy bunnies are the spawn of Satan and conspiring to overthrow civilization. Let me be clear: I believe people of goodwill on all sides can find common ground between the absurdly implausible caricatures I attribute to them on a daily basis. We must begin by finding the courage to acknowledge the hard truth that I am living testimony to the power of nuance to triumph over hard truth and come to the end of the sentence on a note of sonorous, polysyllabic, if somewhat hollow, uplift. Pause for applause.” — “Once More from the Top, Barack”

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