10 Questions with ... Michael Medved
December 8, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
An honors graduate of Yale with a major in American Political History, Medved also attended Yale Law School before working four years as a speechwriter and political consultant. He's the author of thirteen books about history, politics and pop culture, from "What Really Happened To The Class Of '65" (1976) to "The 5 Big Lies About American Business" (2009). Medved has also worked as a Holywood screenwriter, co-hosted the PBS movie review show "Sneak Previews" for 12 years, and served 5 years as chief film critic for the New York Post. His daily three hour radio show began in Seattle in the summer of 1996, and was nationally syndicated the next year by Salem Radio Networks. It's currently broadcast on more than 300 stations, from LA to NYC, and from Honolulu to Anchorage.
1. As we asked just a few months ago, the most important question is: How are you feeling? And how long did it take to feel comfortable being back in the saddle after the time off?
I feel great to be at work, and enjoying my normal (and abnormally crowded) schedule. This is a wonderful gift after missing 11 weeks due to my treatment for stage 3 throat cancer. When I first came back on the air at the end of April, my voice was still shrill and raspy, and I was coming into work with a pump and feeding tube for nourishment. In the hospital, by the way, while heavily medicated with pain killers, I apparently would lie in bed with my eyes closed and do a strange, doped-out version of my radio show -- leading into commercial breaks, introducing guests, even arguing with (purely imaginary) callers. Fortunately, I have no recollection of this bizarre behavior, but my wife and son at bedside found it hugely amusing.
2. You renewed your deal with Salem through 2018, and you've been with the company for 18 years, so, obviously, your relationship with Salem continues to be strong. What do you think accounts for your longevity with the network? What bonds are there beyond the straight business relationship that have contributed to the lengthy tenure with Salem?
My connection to Salem is one of the most important relationships in my life - no doubt. It's been strengthened considerably by the fact that after the company syndicated my show, they subsequently syndicated my very good friend (for 40 years) Dennis Prager-- who was an honored guest at my wedding to my wife Diane 31 years ago! I'm proud of my colleagues, and genuinely fond of them -- Hugh Hewitt and Mike Gallagher are also consummate pros and two of the unequivocal good guys on the planet. In a talk radio world where some voices have become embarrassing and irresponsible, the Salem crew remains sincerely conservative and reliably sane.
3. Earlier this year at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, a bomb threat came in just about 90 minutes before you were to go on the air live from the hotel; you did go on as scheduled, and later addressed the conference. Was there any fear in your mind when that happened? Do you think of yourself as a "show must go on" guy or are you a "safety first" person?
I'm definitely a show-must-go-on kind of guy. Having faced down cancer (very recently) a stupid bomb threat seemed much less worrisome. There's also an element of fatalism after recovery from major illness: if your time is up, wouldn't it be great to depart from the scene while doing the work you love to do?
4. Are you surprised at how the Republican campaign has played out so far? Granted, it's still well before the actual voting starts, but do you see Trump or Carson fading any time soon, or do you see them holding on, and for how long? If not, who do you expect to emerge as the ultimate nominee?
As of the beginning of December, Dr. Carson has already begun to fade and unless he finishes in the top two in Iowa I don't think his campaign can credibly continue. Trump, on the other hand, looks likely to carry on with his riveting reality show all the way to the convention, where his prime time speech will garner record ratings. I don't think he'll be the nominee, but he will come into the convention with 20-30% of the delegates and he'll play a prominent role in positioning the party. The most probable nominee looks to be Marco Rubio: with peerless natural gifts as a communicator, and a personal narrative that makes him an ideal example of the upwardly-mobile impact of conservative virtues. The crucial primary will come in Florida: if Marco loses there, he loses all chance of the nomination. But if he wins in the nation's first big winner-take-all primary (ahd he should), then he's on his way with unstoppable momentum. Ted Cruz, the other much-discussed contender, is too divisive and polarizing to provide the needed unity and reconciliation necessary to provide any real chance of defeating Hillary.
5. Related question: You've had the chance to talk to most of the candidates, in interviews or in person; who, in your encounters with them, has surprised you the most, and why? Who, if any of them, was different in person than you expected them to be, or are they all what-you-see-is-what-you-get?
Jeb Bush is vastly more engaging, charismatic and kind when you meet him in person than he comes across on TV-- one of the reasons that those who know him best expected him to enjoy much more conspicuous success in this campaign. Jeb projects a natural warmth and concern for other people -- but without that seductive spark of mischievous energy that his brother George W. uses to such great effect. Chris Christie also differs from his public persona. One-on-one, he's a good listener - funny, self-deprecating, and not at all a blustery bully.
6. What do you make of the reaction to the Paris attacks -- are you encouraged by world reaction or not? Do you see concrete action and effective world cooperation in fighting ISIS/ISIL, or do you think that complacency will set in again? (NOTE: The interview was conducted prior to the San Bernardino attack)
The world-wide reaction sends contradictory messages -- one reassuring, the other alarming. Hollande, Cameron, Merkel, Netanyahu and many other world leaders reacted with appropriate emotion and resolution. The disturbing aspect of the international response has been the lack of US leadership, which is sorely needed, while the Obama administration displays a demented determination to underplay the danger. It's also dispiriting to see the new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing his determination for his nation to play a lesser role confronting jidadism than did his predecessor, the heroic Stephen Harper.
7. Okay, obligatory movie question as the year's end approaches: Based on what you've seen up to now (and keeping in mind that some key eligible movies have yet to be screened or even finished), what, for you, has been the Best Picture of 2015, and why?
"The Revenant," with Leonardo di Caprio assured of yet another Oscar nomination, is the best movie I've seen so far this year -- a breathtakingly beautiful evocation of the American frontier, in all its unspeakable brutality and other-worldly weirdness. "Brooklyn" is also a superb film with a wonderful ensemble cast, memorably recreating NYC and Ireland of 1952, and providing richly appealing characters who collide with one another in rewarding and unexpected ways.
8. You've written several books, but it's been a while, so... any plans for another? What's the next topic you want to examine in book form?
I've been working on my new book "God's Hand On America" for three years and my long-time publisher, Random House/Crown Forum, likes the results well enough that they're bringing it out in two volumes, not one. The first installment will be released right after the election in November, 2016. The subtitle of the book is "The Case For Divine Providence In U.S. History." Volume One covers amazing stories of odds-defying blessings and haunting coincidences, from the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke in 1588 to Lincoln's assasination in 1865. The second volume (tentatively scheduled for 2017) will highlight enduring assumptions about heavenly entanglement in American affairs down to the present day.
9. And in the vein of things you haven't done yet, what's at the top of your list (I'm not gonna call it a bucket list) of things you want to do or places you want to go? What's the next (metaphorical or literal) mountain to climb?
Mountain climbing is not for me -- it can be dangerous and uncomfortable and I can get some of the same thrills by staring out at Mt. Rainier (14,400 feet high) from our back yard deck. I do love hiking, however, and every year since 1999, I've been walking 20-35 miles with friends on the second day of the Jewish spring festival of Shavuot (Pentecost). That personal tradition was interrupted by cancer this year, but I fully hope to resume it in 2016. Meanwhile, I'd also love to some day find the time to hike a substantial portion of the Appalachian Trail, if not making the entire trek (from Maine to Georgia). I will admit, however, that the Robert Redford/Nick Nolte movie about making that journey ("A Walk in the Woods") was so singularly awful earlier this year, that my appetite for this adventure has dimmed, to some extent.
10. Finally, going back to the contract renewal, there was yet another story in the paper the day I composed these questions about people who are working past retirement age because they can't or don't want to retire. Leaving aside the political and socioeconomic reasons for that, let's keep it personal and simple: Ideally, how long do you think you'll want to work? How long, economic and contractural issues aside, do you expect you'll still want to get behind the mic and talk to people on the radio?
My late father loved his career, as I love mine: he worked as a physicist, academic (at UCLA), leader of the scientist astronaut program at NASA, and a high tech business entrepreneur. He lived the last 19 years of his life in Jerusalem and continued working up to three days before he died, at age 83, on March 11, 2009. I'd love to follow - and even extend - his example. I genuinely relish my work because it gives me a chance to play a role in the ongoing national conversation about the issues that matter most to me. My dad used to say that there's no Hebrew word for "retirement" - the concept doesn't exist in the Bible. If my health and the support of my audience allow me to continue my work, that concept won't exist for me either.