Lifestyle

Medved deconstructs his `conservative" life in new book

By DeAnn Rossetti

Michael Medved wants people to know that conservative talk shows are not mean-spirited or unfriendly. Their hosts, he claims, are great people with sincere family values.

``I was recently interviewed by Tom Ashbrook on NPR, and he said, `You work in conservative talk, where everything is angry and negative all the time,''' recalls Medved, a radio talk-show host. ``I told him, `You don't listen regularly, because all the successful conservative talk shows tend to be warm, accessible and optimistic.'''

Medved, an Island resident, has written a new book, ``Right Turns: Unconventional Lessons from a Conservative Life,'' which details his life and career.

It is his ninth book, but it's the first in which Medved scrutinizes his early years working on the Democratic campaigns of candidates such as Connecticut's Joe Duffey, who was running for Senate, Ron Dellums, a congressman, and Robert Kennedy.

A Philadelphia native who was raised in San Diego, Medved attended Yale with Hillary Rodham Clinton, who he found ``frumpy but intelligent,'' and Bill Clinton (``an obsequious phony''). Medved remembers John Kerry as a ``pretentious, stuffy egotist.''

``We repeated the same determined mantra, `We can't turn out like John Kerry!' It wasn't that he came across as a bad guy, but rather that he ... exemplified a political hack that seemed dry, bloodless, pretentious, old and stuffy before his time,'' writes Medved in ``Right Turns.''

During his college years, Medved became fascinated by hitchhiking, and accumulated more than 80,000 miles before leaving Yale. Medved felt he learned more about America during his hitchhiking escapades than in class at Yale.

When asked if he would advise his own children, daughters Sarah,18, Shayna, 15, and son Danny, 12, to learn about their country the same way, he blanched. ``I don't recommend my kids do it, absolutely not!'' he said. ``Hitchhiking was bad for girls in the '60s, and now it's unthinkable. But if Danny started feeling like he wanted to hitchhike somewhere, he could go as long as he takes me along.''

After trying to write novels and screenplays, Medved reviewed movies for CNN and later for the New York Post. He then became the co-host of PBS's ``Sneak Previews,'' reviewing movies for 12 years with Jeffrey Lyons.

Medved, who avoided the draft by teaching seventh and eighth grade at a Hebrew school, said he became increasingly more disenchanted with the left side of the political spectrum as he was becoming more orthodox as a Jewish man. He teamed up with an old high school buddy to write ``What Really Happened to the Class of '65?'' a book about their high school class and by extension, about the '60s counterculture. The book became a bestseller and the basis for a short-lived TV series on NBC.

Medved wrote several other popular books, including ``The Fifty Worst Films of All Time,'' ``The Golden Turkey Awards,'' ``The Son of the Golden Turkey Awards'' and ``The Hollywood Hall of Shame,'' all about the worst movies Hollywood could produce. Following that, Medved wrote a history of the White House Chiefs of Staff called ``The Shadow Presidents'' that helped complete his transformation from liberal to conservative.

He has written several books since, including ``Hollywood Vs. America'' and ``Saving Childhood'' with his second wife, Dr. Diane Medved, a clinical psychologist.

After being interviewed for Rush Limbaugh's ``Limbaugh Letter'' newsletter in the early '90s, Medved was invited to substitute for Limbaugh on the EIB Network, and soon developed a strong taste for the talk radio limelight.

He became a talk show host in his own right on KVI in Seattle in 1996. Medved left KVI in 2002 under controversial circumstances, and jumped aboard the bandwagon at the new conservative radio station, KTTH, where his show has had higher ratings than that of his radio mentor, Limbaugh.

Medved said he wrote ``Right Turns'' because his most frequently asked question is, ``How did you get to be a conservative, since clearly you weren't raised that way?''

``The Talmud says, `Never be sure of yourself until the day of your death,' and that's what this book is meant to be -- an answer to the cornucopia of contradictions in my life,'' he said.

Medved said he doesn't feel his journey from left to right is exceptional. ``President Bush said that `so many of my generation (baby boomers), after a long journey, have come home to faith and family' and I think that's true.''

Because his life has been controversial and filled with odd coincidences and unusual people, Medved said the book will appeal to a wide audience. ``I wanted to do a book on do-it-yourself conservatism, but in the midst of that, I found myself writing a book in answer to that question that everyone asks, and I had a 100-page outline done one week later.''

Fourteen months later, the book was complete.

What Medved enjoyed most about writing his book was detailing his hitchhiking adventures, because few people know that about him. ``It was a very big part of my life,'' he said. ``I'm obsessive-compulsive and kept maps with lines drawn on them for where I was picked up.''

But the talk show host is most proud of his Mercer Island agenda. ``The whole last chapter is `litter-centric,''' he said. ``I devote more of my time than makes sense picking up litter on Mercer Island. Rather than going to a City Council meeting for conjuring litter patrols, if I could inspire 20 citizens of this town to do what I do and pick up litter each day, we'd have a spic and span Island!''

Besides cleaning up Pioneer Park and keeping the Island clean, Medved said he wants people to come away from his book knowing what's ``right.''

``There's a Jewish revival going on out there that parallels the Christian revival ... This is a vital tradition,'' he said. ``There's also the message that conservative values are not threatening, or mean or hate-filled. Conservatives are neighborly, homey and American.''

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