Mark Steyn’s Arthur Godfrey Moment

In 1953, reporters asked television host Arthur Godfrey why he fired popular singer Julius LaRosa on the air. Godfrey answered that he had to do it because LaRosa had showed “a lack of humility.” Many decided that the notoriously egotistical Godfrey, not LaRosa, was the one who needed a lesson in that virtue. I wonder what he, and they, would have thought of Mark Steyn.

In a recent column, Steyn gives a Godfrey-like lecture to critics of the Pakistan regime for failing to show a “certain humility.” Rather than self-righteously hector Musharraf and Bush, he explains, the naysayers need to realize that an unstable Islamic U.S. ally long dominated by “corrupt political classes” might not be ready for democracy.

In 2005, Steyn just as confidently took on critics of Bush’s policy toward another Islamic country. In that case, however, he did not find them guilty of lacking humility but rather the necessary boldness to seize the moment to break the stranglehold of history: “In Europe, the wise old foreign-policy ‘realists’ scoff at the Iraq elections—Islam and democracy are completely incompatible, old boy; everybody knows that, except these naive blundering Yanks who just don’t have our experience.” By successfully holding elections, Steyn triumphantly proclaimed, the Iraqis had confounded the experts who worship “at the altar of stability.”

David Beito is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and co-editor of the Independent book, The Voluntary City.
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