- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 24, 2004

Maybe I’m getting old. I have been covering politics for 53 years, and that’s just since John Kerry’s convention speech. I’m sick of this election, even before the Democratic Party’s chad-diviners have managed to extend it to mid-December. These are serious times, and the senator is not a serious man. And so we have a campaign that has a sharper position on Mary Cheney’s lesbianism and the deficiencies of Laura Bush’s curriculum vitae than on the central question of the age.

There are legitimate differences of opinion about the war, but they don’t include Mr. Kerry’s silly debater’s points. On the one hand, the Tora borer drones that Mr. Bush “outsourced” the search for Osama bin Laden to the Afghans, though at the time he supported it. (“It is the best way to protect our troops,” he said in December 2001. “I think we have been doing this pretty effectively.”) But, on the other, he claims he’s going to outsource Iraq to the French and the Germans, though neither of them wants anything to do with it.

As for this Bush-failed-to-get-bin-Laden business, 2 years ago I declared that bin Laden was dead and he’s never written to complain. There’s no more evidence for his present existence than there is for the Loch Ness monster, who at least does us the courtesy of showing up as a indistinct grey blur on a photograph every now and again. Bin Laden is lying low because he’s in no condition to get up.

But, even if he weren’t, that’s a frivolous reductive way of looking at this war. He’s not a general or head of state; he can’t sign an instrument of surrender, and make all the unpleasantness go away. The enemy is an ideology that appeals to various loose groupings from the Balkans to Indonesia, as well as to entrepreneurial freelancers like the shooter who killed two people at Los Angeles International Airport on July 4, 2002. If Mr. Kerry’s oft-repeated “outsourcing Osama” crack is genuinely felt, it shows he doesn’t get this war. And, if it’s just cheap-o point scoring, it’s pathetic.

Almost everything falls into that category. Iraq’s messy. So? What isn’t? The United States has no Colonial Office, no political administrators with decades of experience in far-flung climes; its occupation of Iraq was learnt on the fly, because there was no other way. But the ludicrous defeatism over what’s at worst a partial success is unbecoming to a great nation. If the present Democratic-media complex had been around earlier, the United States would never have mustered the will to win World War II or, come to that, the Revolutionary War. There would be no United States. You would be part of a Greater Canada, with Queen Elizabeth II on your coins and government health care.

Speaking of which, if there are four words I never want to hear again it’s “prescription drugs from Canada.” I’m Canadian, so I know a thing or two about prescription drugs from Canada. Specifically speaking, I know they’re American; the only thing Canadian about them is the label in French and English. How can politicians from both parties think that Americans can get cheaper drugs simply by outsourcing (as John Kerry would say) their distribution through a Canadian mailing address? American pharmaceutical companies put up with Ottawa’s price controls because it’s a peripheral market. But if you attempt to extend the price controls from the peripheral market of 30 million people to the primary market of 300 million people, all that’s going to happen is that after approximately a week and a half there aren’t going to be any drugs in Canada, cheap or otherwise — just as the Clinton administration’s intervention into the flu-shot market resulted in American companies getting out of the vaccine business entirely.

The war against the Islamists and the flu-shot business are really opposite sides of the same coin. I want President Bush to win on Election Day because he’s committed to this war and, as the novelist and Internet maestro Roger L. Simon says, “The more committed we are to it, the shorter it will be.” The longer it gets, the harder it will be, because it’s a race against time, against lengthening demographic, economic and geopolitical odds. By “demographic,” I mean the Muslim world’s high birth rate, which by mid-century will give tiny Yemen a higher population than vast empty Russia. By “economic,” I mean the perfect storm the Europeans will face within this decade, because their lavish welfare states are unsustainable on their shriveled post-Christian birth rates. By “geopolitical,” I mean that, if you think the United Nations and other international organizations are antipathetic to the United States now, wait a few years and see what kind of support you get from a semi-Islamified Europe.

So this is no time to vote for Europhile delusions. The continental health and welfare systems Mr. Kerry so admires are, in fact, part of the reason those societies are dying. As for Canada, yes, under socialized health care, prescription drugs are cheaper, medical treatment’s cheaper, life is cheaper. After much stonewalling, the Province of Quebec’s Health Department announced this week that in the last year some 600 Quebecois had died from C. difficile, a bacterium acquired in hospitals. In other words, if, say, Bill Clinton had gone for his heart bypass to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, he would have had the surgery, woken up the next day with a chance of swimming in diarrhea and then dying. It’s a bacterium caused by inattention to hygiene — by unionized, unsackable cleaners who don’t clean properly; by harassed overstretched hospital staffers who don’t bother washing their hands as often as they should. So 600 people have been killed by the filthy squalor of disease-ridden government hospitals. That’s the official number: unofficially, if you’re over 65, the hospitals will save face and attribute your death at their hands to “old age” or some such and then “lose” the relevant medical records. Quebec’s health system is a lot less healthy than, for example, Iraq’s.

One thousand Americans are killed in 18 months in Iraq, and it’s a quagmire. One thousand Quebecois are killed by insufficient hand-washing in their filthy, decrepit health care system, and kindly progressive Americans can’t wait to bring it south of the border. If one has to die for a cause, bringing liberty to the Middle East is a nobler venture and a better bet than government health care.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator and a nationally syndicated columnist.