10 Questions with ... Michael Medved
June 2, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Yale B.A. (with honors in U.S. History); Worked as political speechwriter and consultant (for liberal candidates, in my reckless youth) after taking an "extended leave of absence" from Yale Law School. Author of thirteen non-fiction books, including four national bestsellers. Co-host of "Sneak Previews" on PBS-TV (1985-1996), Chief film critic for the New York Post (1993-97). Talk radio host since 1996; local in Seattle 1996-1997, Nationally syndicated 1997-Present.
1. First and most obvious question: How are you feeling? What's the progress report on your health?
I feel fine, most of the time, but frustrated that my throat is still recovering a full three months after concluding my radiation and chemotherapy. I seem to be out of the woods concerning cancer, but it still could be a few months before i'm eating normally, without dependence on a feeding tube and formula pump to provide my nourishment.
2. Were there times during your convalescence when you just wanted to get on the air right that minute to talk about a particular topic but couldn't? What was it like to know you had to rest your voice when talking about what's going on has been such a huge part of life for you for decades?
Actually, there were no times during my convalescence when i didn't want to get on the air.....That minute! i didn't have to "rest" my voice, but until i came back on the air in mid-April, my voice wasn't ready for prime time. It does get stronger, and becomes easier, every day.
3. What role do you think faith plays in recovery? How much did it help in your case?
Of course faith played a big part in my recovery, as it does in the rest of my life. It helps to maintain a belief system that sees even the most illogical and unwelcome occurrences - like throat cancer - as somehow purposeful. in terms of building up my strength, my long-term commitment to observing the Sabbath was particularly helpful. it's not just the joy of being surrounded by friends and family on Friday night and Saturday as i was, even in the hospital. The challenge of walking to services at our neighborhood synagogue - a trek of almost three miles - has also helped me get back to normal.
4. Okay, now, political topic: In last year's midterms, many pre-election polls, while indicating that Republicans would possibly win the Senate, nevertheless fell short of predicting the magnitude of the shift. Likewise, pre-election polls in the U.K. had the Tories and Labour close, but the election turned out with the Conservatives winning in a decisive manner. Why do you think the polling, and, for that matter, the buzz on social media are missing the mark? Pollsters, Twitterers, the media... what are they missing about the mood of the public, here and abroad?
You could add Israel to that list, where the conservative Likud party of Prime Minister Netanyahu was supposed to be running neck and neck with their chief opponents, but actually won decisively and easily when the votes were counted. i'm not sure there's some international theme here but if there were it would be that the party that's perceived as closest to the center - most pragmatic, and least ideological - will usually perform better than the polls indicate. Why? Because late-deciders are generally non-ideological themselves and will go with the choice that seems safest. that's why Obama outperformed many polls in 2012, when he seemed the less frightening, more reassuring choice to many people, and why GOP candidates - including some grizzled GOP incumbents who were supposed to be in trouble - did well in 2014. No, i don't suspect that the polling industry is biased to either left or right because they have too much at stake in making accurate projections.
5. It is, of course, still very early, a year and a half early, to be specific, but at this stage, what's your gut feeling about the 2016 election? Did the Clinton Foundation and email scandals break too early to knock Hillary Clinton out of the way? Who's your bet to break out of the G.O.P. pack? Or is there a left-field candidate lurking?
The lurking left-wing candidate is actually lurching -- toward doing serious damage to the Clinton express. Bernie Sanders' quixotic crusade bears a lot of similarities to Gene Mccarthy's quixotic crusade of 1968. The volunteers who went "Clean for Gene" helped McCarthy get 42% against President Johnson in the New Hampshire primary. No, McCarthy didn't win either the primary or nomination, but his unexpectedly substantial vote total drove LBJ out of the race. Could New Hampshire allow Vermonter Sanders to shake things up in a similar way? Not inconceivable to me. On the GOP SIDE, an embarrassment of riches, but i suspect it's likely to come down to two Floridians, Bush and Rubio. Whichever one of them captures the winner-take-all Florida primary seems to me a likely nominee. If Scott Walker wins Iowa, as many expect, and finishes strongly in New Hampshire and South Carolina, he could also become a serious possibility.
6. You're also, of course, someone whose movie criticism and scholarship are regularly on display on your show. What's your view of Hollywood's increasing reliance on comic book/superhero and action franchises -- is there a future for "adult" films in other genres, or is the focus on 18-24-year-old males and tween-teen females going to send older customers away for good? And of the genre and action franchises in the marketplace -- Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Fast and Furious -- which are your favorites (or least objectionable)?
I'm actually weary of all the franchises, which reflect the huge cost of producing movies today. A franchise film may not be fresh or familiar, but its familiarity is more likely to allow you to break even, at least. Despite this grumpy response, like everyone else i'm looking forward to the new Star Wars episode. For better or worse, that particular franchise has been a significant part of our culture for 40 years.
7. I might have asked you something like this before, but since it's been several years, it's worth asking: As a host whose personal style and treatment of topics can be a lot more nuanced and open to reasoned debate than the stereotypical talk radio ranter, do you think America will, or can, return to less polarized discussion of the issues on talk radio or cable news (and, for that matter, social media), assuming that the actual populace isn't necessarily as polarized as someone focusing on, say, Fox News vs. MSNBC might think? Can we at least get along better, and will we?
I do think that most of the country would prefer civilized conversation and even some cooperation - the polls certainly indicate that appetite. In talk radio, in nearly all elections at every level, the angrier, more strident candidate loses the race. Traditionally, we like candidates designated "The Happy Warrior," NOT "The Grumpy Warrior." In looking for business partners, or romantic partners, or selecting people whose company we enjoy, very few of us select enraged, touchy prophets of gloom. Why should we expect the mass audience to choose such personalities as their media favorites? The difference with talk radio, of course, is that the audience is so fragmented that even a relatively small audience share (say, 6 or 7%) can mean "dominant" ratings. Meanwhile, the most consistently popular master of the format, Rush Limbaugh, is often misunderstood, if not misrepresented. He's optimistic and likeable and often very funny - not the embittered "hatemonger" his left-leaning critics deride. It's his positive and fun-loving personality, not his ideological purity, that's given him his staying power-- as i think rush himself would cheerfully acknowledge.
8. For what are you most thankful?
My family, of course. Cancer doesn't necessarily reorient your priorities, but it does powerfully reinforce them. after thirty years of marriage, my wife Diane is still more than ever my principal partner and my best friend. We're also profoundly blessed with three spectacular children whose company we thoroughly enjoy. fortunately, two of those three kids (our 26-year-old daughter and our 22-year-old son) live close to us in the Seattle area. Our oldest daughter, 28, lives and works in New York City (in temporary exile, I'm hoping). We came together last year to celebrate the first wedding of the new generation (our son Danny married a glorious young woman who is just finishing nursing school). Our girls - like most girls, alas - are not talk radio fans. But our son very much is, and he may have a future in the business.
9. If you could change one thing about America by fiat, what would it be?
I'm reluctant to rule by fiat; i donâ€™t seem to have the dictator gene. But, if you insist --- it should be required that every american above the age of 12 listens to at least a half hour, daily, of the Michael Medved Show. Is that too much to ask?
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in radio and in life?
It's a terrible mistake to think that you get ahead only by defeating your rivals or opponents. Life's rewards - and radio's - aren't a zero sum game. That's why I dislike applying military analogies to politics or business. In war, of course you want to destroy the other side. But in other endeavors it's better to figure out a way to work with them, or to persuade them. I've often affirmed that in argument and competition, I don't want to destroy anybody. But I'd like to persuade everybody.