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'The shutdown is a disaster' | Q&A with Michael Medved
A nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Michael Medved reaches an audience of 4.7 million with his daily broadcast on politics and pop culture.
Medved is on the Talkers Magazine list of top 10 political talk shows in America. A bestselling author of 12 books, he is a Yale graduate who was once a Hollywood screenwriter and New York Post chief film critic. His columns are published in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Daily Beast.
"One of the things that I have argued about for years is what I call 'do-it-yourself conservatism,' which means that you don't wait for people in Washington, D.C., or Olympia, or even in the Mercer Island City Hall to fix things. You do it yourself," Medved said.
Medved's show airs on Seattle's AM 770 KTTH, "The Truth," daily from 12 to 3 p.m. The show, launched in 1996, is carried on 200 stations nationwide and can be streamed online at www.michaelmedved.com.
Medved shared his views on national politics and local issues with the Reporter.
What is your view on the federal government shutdown, and how have both sides contributed to the deadlock concerning the budget and where we are now?
My view of the shutdown is that it's really unnecessary, a self-imposed disaster that's bad for the country, bad for the Republican party, bad for the Democratic party, and it's bad for politics in general and people's sense of a functional government.
The contribution of both parties was the absence of any meaningful negotiation on budgetary issues over the past (almost) three years. The Republicans took over the House of Representatives, and it's one of those things where it would have been very easy for President Obama to call the leaders of both parties into the White House and to reach accommodations early on. And the fact that he hadn't done that left the door open for this truly disastrous policy of trying to link the rollout of Obamacare to funding the government.
What do you think will result from the shutdown if it is not resolved soon?
It will probably cause increasing numbers of people to tune out from following the political ups and downs in Washington, D.C., which is the opposite, ironically, of what Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and their allies wanted. They thought that "standing for principle" would rally the people into involvement in politics.
My point all along has been, that only works when the stand for principle actually proves successful, whether it accomplishes something. If it fails to accomplish something … it only leads to disillusionment.
Do you think the Obama administration is trying to make this shutdown as inconvenient or difficult as possible for the American people — with extra measures, for example, taken to barricade off national parks and monuments — or are both sides making this difficult for ordinary people in order to apply pressure to the opposition?
I think the Obama administration deserves all the blame in the world for making the shutdown more painful than it needed to be. The question that the people need to ask about President Obama is a twofold question: Has his leadership made the shutdown experience more painful or less painful than it needed to be, and no. 2, has his leadership helped to heal the divisions between Republicans and Democrats or made those divisions more intense, combative and unbridgeable? I think that the answer is obvious. You don't have to hear the answer, you can see the answer: the barricades in national monuments.
You were once a liberal activist. Can you briefly describe what led you to change sides and become a conservative Republican?
It's tough to describe briefly, which is why my 2005 book, "Right Turns" was written, describing that transition. The simple answer is that there were a series of world events, including the terrible end of the Vietnam War, the 1973 War in the Middle East, that led me to a more conservative position in foreign policy issues.
It's hard to believe, but in the 1970s, certainly, people were much more likely to be defined as liberal or conservative based on their attitude toward the Cold War and national security than their attitude toward any domestic issues.
First of all, I started voting Republican a long time ago.
One of the things I wrote about in my book is the three keys that lead to conservatism: parenthood, paychecks, and prayer.
Parenthood, because all of a sudden when you see a baby you and your wife have produced, and you're responsible, it focuses your attention on the long-term.
Paychecks, because when you start actually earning money and are done with grad school and being an undergraduate … and checks start coming in‚ you notice how much the government starts taking out and you wonder if that's a good investment.
And, prayer, because when people become more religious, they tend to rely on the big "G" (God) rather than the little "g" (government).
What do you think about tolling I-90 and how the Mercer Island City Council is handling it?
I think the members of the Council who are fighting against the tolling are right to do so. And of course I think everybody, all of us, I think that there are many people who just hope that they can find allies and prove effective in that fight. The thing about the tolling that bothers me most is that these (I-90) changes, many of them are for the sake of light rail, which no one will use, which is really the dumbest public initiative (in the almost 18 years I've lived in the Northwest). I don't know anyone who regularly uses the center lane, light rail, and the idea that there will be a huge number of people who use the new light rail lines as opposed to buses is absurd — none of this makes any sense.
We are committing billions of tax dollars and making untold concessions of convenience for the sake of investing in cutting-edge 19th century technology — it's not even 20th century. How can anyone look at the light rail line that's currently functioning and think that it's a success? It's done absolutely nothing for traffic or to enhance convenience. I think that Kemper Freeman has been fighting a good fight. As a conservationist, I care more about parks that need to be not only preserved but enlarged, than I care about a stupid train that people want somebody else to ride.
What do you think about the changes in the Mercer Island town center, particularly the new apartment buildings?
I was very skeptical about changes in the town center … but I think the local businesses and the city planner have handled it in a way that has been fairly intelligent and sensitive to values of community.
There's one other area in which I think that Mercer Island can stand as a good example, of government isn't always wrong (usually, but not always) — the Mercer Island Community and Event Center. I was very much opposed to investing money into developing that, and I think they did a great job. I think it turned out very well and seems to be very popular. It was well designed and well handled.
What I think in terms of local issues — the problem that I see with local leadership is sometimes (and this is true for leadership for every level, not just in the city of Mercer Island), it's everywhere — people get elected to office, and they want to change things, build things. I hated that proposal to spend nearly $200 million to tear down schools and build new schools. I was thrilled to see a grassroots resistance to that, and this ought to be a lesson to the people that we elect to office. Rather than having some compulsion to do major projects, I think what people most want is to fix things around the edges, especially if you actually like where you live.