While visiting this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), I was able to spend some time with the great Michael Medved, a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, bestselling author and film critic. Medved’s daily three-hour show reaches 200 stations across the country and an audience of 4.7 million placing him, for nine years in a row, on the Talkers Magazine list of the top ten political talks shows in the United States. The following is the first of a two-part interview covering politics, pop culture and film.
Kevin Williams: In your speech here at CPAC, you asked the audience a great question about how the Republicans can defeat President Obama if the economy improves. Do you think any of the candidates have an answer for that question?
Michael Medved: Not yet. And they ought to face it. I think all of the candidates have been inadequate on that issue so far. And the problem is and I think this is the point I was trying to make very strongly in the speech … is that it is simply unacceptable for Conservatives to take the position, “Obama has mismanaged the economy, he’s in over his head, he can’t handle it … I can.” We don’t want a President to manage the economy. We oppose a managed economy. The problem here is the growth of government and if the unemployment rate was six percent, it would be a problem. It’s sort of a sloppy short cut to try to win the Presidency based on people’s suffering. We should be able to win the Presidency based on the idea that we have better ideas and better policies and better proposals that make more sense.
Williams: How much of a role do you think the media will play this time around versus last time?
Medved: I think it will be a lesser role because even people in the mainstream media are far less adoring of President Obama. There are a lot of them who believe he is a sell-out and not a true Progressive. I think there is a great deal of disillusionment with Barack Obama from some of the “Progressive” voices in the Media. They’ll all rally to his support of course, because what is the alternative? But, I think that the pixie-dust is gone. It is much less a magical sense of the Chris Matthews “tingle up the leg.”
And the other thing is that there is an institution-push, and you know this very well from Big Hollywood, toward an interesting story line. And last time, the interesting story line was The First Black President. And look at this fascinating guy and he’s so brilliant and so lucid, he’s so handsome and so wonderful. This time that’s kind of old news and I’ll think they’re going to go for a much more traditional story line which is more of a rock’em-sock’em campaign that is competitive right down to the very end. And I think they have an interest in that. I think it is unlikely that this campaign will devolve or develop into a one-sided landslide-style outcome unless the economy really collapses.
Williams: What impact do you think Conservatives can have on American pop culture, if any?
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Medved: It remains to be seen. I think that some of the alternate movies that have come out, particularly those movies from Albany GA. Movies like “Fireproof,” “Facing the Giants” and “Courageous.” The success of those films has been profound. I think the success of “The Passion of the Christ” was profound… and no, I don’t think it was anti-Semitic. But then again, that was an issue on which I was very outspoken and very controversial at the time.
Williams: I remember.
Medved: It is really the early stages of this experiment of trying to offer… and it is a complicated thing and I think a lot of people on our side don’t understand it. What they don’t understand is that most of the people who create Liberal entertainment or who operate Liberal media don’t think they are biased. Or they think “Well, yes. We’re biased towards goodness and decency and generosity and kindness and fuzzy bunnies and world peace.” They only see politics… you see it in the ridiculous dispute about the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It never occurs to them that it was political to send money to Planned Parenthood. It only occurs to them that it’s only political to them to be opposed to Planned Parenthood.
I saw this a long time ago. I was going around for my book, “Hospital,” and was sitting in the “green room” of the Today Show. And Jane Alexander, who had not yet become head of the National Endowment of the Arts was on the Show before me. Jane Pauley was the host and [she] said to Jane Alexander, “in addition to being a great actress, you are known as a great humanitarian in Hollywood. Tell us about some of your humanitarian efforts that you are so proud of…” And Jane Alexander went on to talk about the nuclear freeze movement.
Now I’m sorry, but the nuclear freeze moment is many things… it is political, but it’s not humanitarian. It doesn’t benefit anybody. You may say in some kind of alternate cosmic sense that we are doing battles with the dangers of nuclear weapons. But it was an “a-ha” moment for me. Because it was an indication that for Jane Alexander, who is not a stupid person and is a fine actress… being Liberal, being on the Left wasn’t political. It was humanitarian. That’s what they think of. That is why Sean Penn and Brad Pitt and all the rest of them are great humanitarians. George Clooney [is] so selfless whereas Jon Voight… he’s a political hack.
Williams: Or Gary Sinise…
Medved: Well, Gary Sinise because he plays for the troops and he is involved with charities. They will give him a little bit of credit. But, what is interesting is that if someone went out and campaigned for Obama … that’s a beautiful thing. It’s like Will.i.am and that stupid music video that they did. That’s a beautiful thing, it’s selfless, it’s noble. But Chuck Norris campaigning with [Mike] Huckabee? Not so much.
That’s why the thing is complicated. Because when we start … trying to create media, films and television … particularly entertainment media with a Conservative point of view … then they will say, “Oh look at this. They are politicizing something that shouldn’t be political. It should be about goodness and decency.” And because they don’t acknowledge that if they have a TV episode about “Homophobia” or about “Global Warming,’ that’s just humanitarian, it’s not political. But, if you have a TV episode about “Global Warming Denial,” that’s political.