The Michael Medved Interview
John Hawkins:: Why do you think the left hasn’t made it in talk radio yet?
Michael Medved:: Because of the nature of successful talk radio stations. One of the factors in radio is that you have stations that occupy very clearly defined niches. For instance, people wouldn’t enjoy it if a country station was suddenly playing Mozart a couple of hours per day or if there was a hip-hop station that decided to do oldies for a couple of hours a day. People want a reliable brand name. A brand name called “Limbaugh” emerged 15 years ago and revolutionized the industry. What people discovered on those stations fortunate enough to have Rush was that people didn’t want a “balance” to Rush, they wanted a point of view that was consistent with his. So conservative talk radio emerged in that context where entire stations ended up getting taken over by what the market seemed to want. I do believe that it might be possible in some markets to establish liberal or moderate talk stations, but they most surely are going to be different stations than the ones that currently exist.
John Hawkins:: So if the issue is that left-wing talk show hosts aren’t going to really fit in between you and Rush and Hannity and the other conservative syndicated hosts, if they did a nationally syndicated liberal network, do you think it could work then?
Michael Medved:: Only if they have enough programming to cover the entire day and I don’t think they will. I think some of the people that they’re turning to as the liberal “great white hopes” are just not going to play well on radio. I know Janeane Garofalo is one of the people who has been signed up for this new AnShell Media liberal network as has Al Franken. I don’t think that either Franken or Garofalo will work in talk radio.
John Hawkins:: Why so?
Michael Medved:: Most people who make it in this business are people who other folks like and who are good company. One of the things about Rush that people got wrong for years was that Rush was the voice of angry white males and that he was angry all the time. Rush is tremendously optimistic, most hosts who are successful on a national basis are positive and optimistic. They’re the kind of people you would invite to ride to work with you or ride home with you. Knowing Al Franken a little bit, he’s not a happy camper, and I think that even if you agreed with him, it would be difficult to listen for hours and hours a week which is what we ask of people in talk radio.
John Hawkins:: Let me ask you another radio related question. If the Fairness Doctrine were implemented again as so many on the left want, what would it do to talk radio?
Michael Medved:: It would destroy it. The problem with the Fairness Doctrine is not that it insures balance, there’s nothing wrong with balance, it’s that it insures less political conversation. In other words, if people knew they had to balance a very successful broadcast of the Michael Medved show with some new liberal show that might or might not succeed, that makes my show a much less attractive investment.
John Hawkins:: Because they’d have to give three hours to a show that’s not going to make money like your show does.
Michael Medved:: Exactly. If you’re going to be regulated in terms of content, why mess with political content? You can just go with Tom Leykis, with shock talk, sort of FM talk, or sort of the bland, non-controversial, a little bit of this, a little bit of that type of show.
But the striking thing about talk radio today is not that there is more conservative talk, but that there is more political talk. This entire format did not exist at one point. Basically, the Fairness Doctrine has always had and would have again a chilling impact on that kind of public dialogue.
John Hawkins:: Let me switch tacks here. I ran across an absolutely fantastic quote that you wrote back in 2001 that may be even more applicable today than it was then. It reads, “The truth about our current enemy may prove painfully difficult for Americans to accept. Islamic fundamentalists don’t want America to change; they want America to die. That’s why they strike out with no goals in mind, with no lists of demands, with no suggestions of how and when they and their colleagues might be placated.” Even today when we have terrorists blowing up the UN and the Red Cross, so many people on the left refuse accept the truth about the terrorists. What is it going to take to get through to them?
Michael Medved:: A total rejection of their liberal pieties. I mean, part of the problem with liberalism is that it denies the existence of evil. If there’s a serial rapist, or child molester, of killer, we have to understand that it is because of his bad childhood. If a bunch of very wealthy kids from Saudi Arabia and Egypt come to America and murder 3000 Americans one September morning, we have to understand what drove them to this level of unhappiness and pain. The truth is that I’m not a Christian as you know, but General Boykin is right. The real enemy in this war is a guy called Satan. That doesn’t mean that Osama Bin Laden is Satan or Saddam Hussein is Satan, they don’t rise to that level.
It means that what we’re dealing with is an utterly unreasoning hatred and one that will not be easily placated. This is something frankly that the Israelis have found out very, very, belatedly and very, very, painfully. The point that Alan Dershowitz of all people conveyed effectively in his: new book: is that the real desire of the Palestinians has not changed for 70 years. It is not a desire for a Palestinian state. They have had a dozen opportunities to establish a Palestinian state, but what they want is all Jews out of the Middle East.
John Hawkins:: Speaking of that, in your opinion, what would it take to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict within let’s say a decade or so, if it’s solvable?
Michael Medved:: A total reformation of Palestinian society and a much more firm assertion of leadership from those sane voices that do exist within the Palestinian madness. People are right about this, that basically what is going to be necessary is something like a Palestinian civil war. The truth about Hamas and Islamic Jihad is that they don’t prevent Israel from existing or even flourishing, they prevent Palestine from coming into existence. The only way a Palestinian state will ever exist is if those terrorist structures are dismantled, even if they will never be entirely eliminated. I don’t think America will ever totally wipe out Al-Qaeda, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to do our best to degrade their ability to harm us.
One of the things that I think is the absolute crucial focus for any peace in the Middle East, is the figure of a Palestinian cop. Cops are good people, it’s one of the lessons that I learned many years that helped make me a conservative. Cops are on the side of civilization. Even troubled and unhappy cops exist to try to make normal, peaceful life possible. It’s one of the reasons I think Israel went along in Oslo with the creation of these paramilitary forces. It’s because they recognized that if you have enough Palestinian cops, it becomes their job to work with the forces of civilization on the Israeli side. That’s truly what’s necessary. The emergence of Palestinian cops will facilitate the removal of Israeli soldiers who do not want to be there anyway.
My nephew is about to join the Israeli army and my brother lives in Jerusalem with his 4 children and trust me on this, my nephew has absolutely zero desire to risk his life and limb at the age of 18 walking the streets of Jenin, Nablus, or Ramallah. That’s not what a bright, young, Israeli kid wants to do. But, a lot of bright, young, Israelis are willing to do it if the only alternative is that a piece of slime, some animal in human form, comes into their living room and murders their little sister.
John Hawkins:: You know, you said a “total reformation of Palestinian society” would be what it would take. But of course, I’m sure you know that doesn’t look likely. Nothing is moving in that direction right now. Do you think the Israelis can take another decade of this?
Michael Medved:: Sure. I think Americans tend to have a very skewed vision, a “television eye vision” of what’s going on in Israel. Which means that what is highlighted is the blood, guts, severed body parts, the horror, & the fear. Because my brother has lived there for 15 years and has raised his kids there, I have a different sense of it. Israel has been going through some tough times economically, but they seem to be coming out of that. It’s a nice place to live, the crime rate, the total chance of being murdered, is less than Washington DC, even with the terrorism. You don’t have people saying, “How much longer can we go on in Washington DC,” which by the way is a real question with the murder rate as high as it is. You adjust.
I think the real question is not “how can the Israelis go on,” it’s “how can the Palestinians go on”? At some point or another, rational people look at the situation and say, “our gross domestic product has been reduced by 2/3rds, we’ve lost up to 3000 people, our cities are in wreckage, our one-time flourishing economy is in wreckage, this isn’t working. This Intifada was a bad idea & we were betrayed by our leaders who led us into it. Now let’s figure out some alternative.” When there are voices that say that, again there are Israelis including Sharon who will move very quickly.
John Hawkins:: Let’s switch over to another topic. Why do you think Hollywood slants so far to the left?
Michael Medved:: That’s of course one of the most perplexing questions in life. It’s like why is the sky blue? It is profoundly irrational and there’s no normal, rational way of understanding it. After all, most of the people in Hollywood, when they favor higher taxes, when they favor bigger government, when they favor a generally leftist, anti-American agenda are undermining their own interests. It’s completely absurd, it’s nuts. By the same token, part of what I’ve written about in the past and continue to write about, is how they undermine their own interests by making sleazy movies or sleazy TV shows.
John Hawkins:: Because “G” & “PG” rated movies generally do better at the box office?
Michael Medved:: On average, for 25 years, they’ve done better at the box office. It’s what I proved in “Hollywood Vs. America” and at the time everybody scoffed and said, “Oh no, Medved’s crazy,” and now it has been confirmed by countless studies.
I think the secret to both the Hollywood leftism and Hollywood’s obsession with what they call “cutting edge material” comes from the same tendency among decision makers in Hollywood. These are terribly insecure people. They are people who want to look like and sound like tough guys, adventurers, rebels. Now I don’t know if most people out there have a good sense of what Steven Spielberg is like, but Steven is not a macho man. If you have a good sense of what Michael Eisner or Jeffrey Katzenberg or any of these people are really like, they are not captains of the football team. These are guys who have to go some distance to show their he-man status. People in Hollywood will do that in one of two ways.
The most direct way is by using a lot of “F-words” in your conversation. One of the things that strikes me and it’s very peculiar, is in Hollywood meetings among top executives, people will talk like stevedores. I don’t think there is any other business in the country, with women present, in very public meetings, where people will be “F”ing this and “F”ing that and using the kind of language that of course that you could never ever use on the radio. So it naturally spills over into the movies and it has to do with this sort of prolonged adolescence in which guys want to show how tough they are.
The sort of rebellious leftist stand has to do with the same thing to some extent. They idea that, “Well, we may drive in limousines and have big houses in the hills, but we are really people of the street. We are in solidarity with the proletariat. We are ordinary folks”. What’s ironic is that Hollywood has gone in an Ivy League direction. Stars like Jodie Foster, Angela Bassett, Sigourney Weaver, Meryl Streep, Oliver Stone, — all of those of those people are Yalies for example. The more that Hollywood has become a province for people who were born with privelege rather than the sort of shop girls and truck drivers who once busted their way into the business, the more it has tried to pretend, absurdly, that it is not an elite and corporate industry. The more guilty they feel about their status, the more desire they have to assuage that guilt with leftist pieties.
John Hawkins:: Now let me ask you another question related to the movies. You’ve seen Mel Gibson’s controversial new film, “The Passion”. What do you think? Is there any truth to the claims that the movie is anti-semitic?
Michael Medved:: No, it’s absurd to say that it is anti-semitic. The people who say that it’s anti-semitic haven’t seen it. I believe that there is a political agenda in some of the attacks on, “The Passion”. Part of that agenda is very simple and direct and part of it is a little bit more complex.
The simple and direct part is that organizations like the: Anti-Defamation Leaguemake their money by scaring people about anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League cannot survive if it tells people the truth. The truth is that nearly all Evangelical Christians love Jews. They do not view Jews as “Christ Killers”, they do not want to consign us to the lower reaches of hell, they love Jews, they support Israel, & they accept Judaism as one of the world’s great religions. That reality can never be accepted by the Anti-Defamation League…
John Hawkins:: …Or they’ll go out of business.
Michael Medved:: Exactly, it’s very, very, bad for business. The acceptance of Jews, particularly by traditional Catholics and Evangelical Christians is very bad for business for the ADL. On one level the attacks on “The Passion” relates to that, but there is another aspect as well.
The ADL is liberal like most organizations in the Jewish community. It’s not as liberal as some, it’s more mainstream, more moderate, but it still tilts liberal. The ADL has been critical for twenty years of what they call the “Christian Right”. They are frankly horrified by the growing cooperation between the Jewish community and conservative Christians and particularly the heavy defections of Jewish leadership to the campaign of George W. Bush. Emphasizing Jewish/Christian differences on the most gut level, which is what this “Passion” controversy does, serves the agenda of breaking apart Christians and Jews who take their traditions seriously. That’s why I think it’s so important to say repeatedly that “The Passion” was not made for the Jewish community. “The Passion” was not made to either offend, please, or to inspire religious Jews. It was made for that overwhelming majority of people in the world who are not Jewish. There’s nothing in “The Passion” that takes gratuitous liberties with the Gospel in a way that is intended to insult Jews. In fact, if anything, the version of the film I saw showed Gibson going out of his way to try to spare the feelings of the Jewish community.
John Hawkins:: Now you have a big problem with “Libertarians” or “Losertarians” as you call them. Why is that?
Michael Medved:: It’s because they cheapen whole definition of politics…You’re talking about thousands of people over election after election, wasting their time, accomplishing absolutely nothing. See, I take politics very seriously. If God forbid, there had been a switch of 300 votes in Florida, if 300 people had voted differently or if 500 Republicans had decided to stay home, we would have had a very different President right now. This is serious business.
These people are of course exercising their rights, but I think it’s about time, particularly with a party that has been around as long as the “Losertarians”, for people to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. They’re not gaining support, they’re losing support.
…One of the big lies in American history is that third parties have played a prominent or constructive role, they never have. They’ve only played a destructive role. The Republican party was never a third party. This is another one of the big lies. The reason I say it was never a third party is because the first year the Republicans offered candidates under the name “Republican,” in 1864, they elected almost 200 members of Congress. They were second only to the Democrats.
I think it’s possible for one party to collapse as the Whigs did and then for another party to replace it. But, we’ve never had a situation where third parties have achieved anything in America. Let me give you a good example. People look on the Teddy Roosevelt campaign for president in 1912 as a great success….
John Hawkins:: With the Bull Moose Party….
Michael Medved:: Exactly. He got 27% of the vote, which is more than any other third party candidate ever got. The purpose of his campaign as historians recall was basically to move the Republican party in a more progressive direction. But what he did was killed the progressive wing of the Republican party, he killed it dead. Because basic logic here, you do not influence a major political party by leaving it. You influence a major political party by staying in it and fighting for the ideas and the candidates you care about. This is so simple that my 11 year old son can understand it, but obviously there are a lot of “Losertarians” who don’t get it.
The reason I enjoy talking to these guys on the air is because they are so utterly incapable of answering the question, “Ok, what have you accomplished with all of your activism?” The answer is absolutely nothing except electing a bunch of ultra-liberal Democrats and big government types like Maria Cantwell. Our Senator from Washington state, Maria Cantwell, would not be in office were it not for the “Losertarians”. She beat Slade Gorton by less than 3000 votes and the “Losertarian” candidate got 66,000 votes. That kind of outcome is sad and appalling and it’s unfair to decent people who work seriously in politics.
I do think it’s very telling that the “Losertarians” have all decided to have a mass migration to New Hampshire to try to takeover that state. Good luck to them and I think that’s a much more useful way to use their time than trying to run morons for President.
John Hawkins:: (Laughs) As I was reading your bio, I noticed that you went to Yale with Bill Clinton and you said that you, “always disliked” him. Why so?
Michael Medved:: He was a blowhard. I will confess that I liked Hillary. Not liked her in a social way, because she was like everybody’s den mother, she was not date-bait. But, Hillary was very pleasant and very nice. But, Bill was always just so full of himself. Almost everybody at Yale nourished wild dreams of one day running for high office. But, it was considered very bad form to talk about it. However, Bill Clinton talked about nothing else. You knew within oh, 5 minutes of making his acquaintance that he was planning to run for the Senate in Arkansas. He wanted to replace Senator Fulbright and then of course by implication, he wanted to go on to the presidency.
John Hawkins:: Really? Because I thought Fulbright was his mentor?
Michael Medved:: Right, he wanted to replace Fulbright after Fulbright retired.
John Hawkins:: Oh, I see, I see.
Michael Medved:: He adored Senator Fulbright. There was always that aspect of things and then there was always a feeling that he was too slick by half, that he was manipulating people, and that he didn’t care about people. You always had the feeling that he was constantly conning you. It was a “hold on to your wallet” type of feeling. Interestingly, it was not “hold on to your women” at that time, because he did not have a reputation as a ladies man. But, he did have a reputation for being an “operator”, sort of Eddie Haskell like…
John Hawkins:: (Laughs) That’s a funny image. I always find the stories of people who ideologically move from the left to the right to be fascinating and I noticed that you used to be a liberal who even worked for Ron Dellums…
Michael Medved:: Ron Dellums helped to make me a conservative.
John Hawkins:: How so? What caused you to move to the right?
Michael Medved:: First of all, even at the time I went to work for Dellums, I knew better. Because I was never that far out. I mean I supported Robert Kennedy, not Eugene McCarthy.
John Hawkins:: Dellums was even a Communist wasn’t he?
Michael Medved:: Yeah, he basically was. I worked for Dellums for 6 weeks and then I couldn’t stand it anymore. Because I think he so clearly demonstrated some of the most malign and malevolent tendencies of the American left. Corruption, drug use, Communist sympathies if not Communist party membership.
Basically, I’m writing about this right now. I’m supposed to be doing a book for Crown books about my political transformation. It’s tentatively titled, “Right Turn”.
John Hawkins:: Oh, that would be fantastic. Another book like: Radical Son?
Michael Medved:: Well, not quite, because I was never a radical son. I mean my parents were sort of good Adelai Stevenson liberals, they weren’t commies like David (Horowitz’s) parents. Interestingly, unlike David’s parents, my parents, particularly my dad, made the journey along with me. My dad is probably to my right at this point in his life.
For me, there came to be a basic recognition that liberalism didn’t work. It didn’t work for the country and it certainly didn’t work for me personally. Part of everybody’s story is the pursuit of happiness. In my own personal pursuit of happiness, I came to realize that more traditional conservative values, in my case, specifically religious values, were a better route to take to satisfaction, personal contentment, and the kind of life that I wanted to live.
I can tell you that working in Hollywood has also had an impact. I mean, when you see all these liberal icons like Tom Hayden & Jane Fonda for goodness sake, look at their lives, who wants to live like that? Who wants to be like that? I worked for Barbra Streisand once upon a time….
John Hawkins:: Really?
Michael Medved:: Yeah, who would want to be her?
John Hawkins:: There are a lot of people who would probably want to be her on the left.
Michael Medved:: I can’t imagine it.
John Hawkins:: Really?
Michael Medved:: If you read the prenup she did with her husband…you know Barbra means well, she really does, but she is a tormented person. A lot of those folks are. That was part of what also pushed me over to the right. I found myself increasingly not liking the people I was supposed to admire. When I worked on Capitol Hill, our office was next door to Bella Abzug’s office. What a piece of work she was, what a horrible person. I mean horrible, everybody hated her. Her staff hated her, she was just a very, very difficult lady.
See, part of this, and I know this sounds very personal, it sounds very pardon the expression “feminine”, but I think we all have personal reactions to events in our lives. Well as all this was happening at the same time, I was discovering that the people I liked best and felt most comfortable with, were conservative.
Just one small story here. I lived in “Bezerkley” for 4 years. I’ve often said that my 4 years in “Bezerkley” were two of the happiest weeks of my life. In Auden’s poem about the death of Yates he writes, “Mad Ireland hurt him into poetry”. I think that you could say mad “Bezerkley” hurt me into conservatism.
John Hawkins:: (Laughs)
Michael Medved:: Because it was just so bizarre. My home was burglarized, my apartment was repeatedly vandalized because I put up a poster for Democrats. They had a big council race in Berkeley between Democrats and Stalinists and I was supporting the Democrats. I was also working with these extremely unpleasant people on the Dellums campaign very briefly and then a couple of things happened.
I’ve mentioned cops before. I got a job doing an advertising campaign for the Oakland-Berkeley -San Francisco police department. I started working with cops and all of a sudden I said, “these are the guys I like”. These are the people who are good people who are making my life possible.
Then in the apartment upstairs, these two missionaries arrived who were trying to do Christian outreach to Berkeley and they set up a church in Berkeley. Originally I thought, “Oh no, holy rollers, Jesus freaks”. But they were the nicest people. Their names were Doug and Debbie Creeger. They forever changed my image of what a serious Christian was. When I was burglarized, when I was having problems, it wasn’t any of my liberal comrades who rushed to my defense or did what I needed, it was Doug and Debbie Creeger. These very devout Christian folks from upstairs.
Then in 1979, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney was so brilliant, so nice, so decent, and so funny. In fact, I wrote the first national publication piece that suggested Cheney for President. This was before he was elected to Congress. Dick remembers that.
John Hawkins:: Last thing, are there any political websites or blogs that you could recommend to our readers?
John Hawkins:: Outstanding, thanks a lot.
Michael Medved:: Thanks for your support of the whole movement. We’re all in this together and we’re winning too, people should never forget that. With all the frustrations and setbacks, we are winning and we will win.
John Hawkins:: Thank you for your time.
If you’d like to read & hear more from Michael Medved, go to the: Michael Medved Homepage.
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Interviewing Arthur Brooks On His New Book, “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise”
Arthur Brooks is the President of the American Enterprise Institute and his new book is called The Road to Freedom:
John Hawkins: You’ve criticized how the Bush administration has explained the war effort to the American people. If you were