Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – Daniel McCarthy is the editor of The American Conservative magazine. Is it your take or thought that Rand Paul is part of a movement or is he an enigma and a gadfly like his father who may just be a little more skilled, have some more media skills? Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: You have written an awful lot in the last couple of months. I don’t know if I want to use the word ascendency so much as maybe I should use the word emergence one senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, beginning with the foreign policy speech a month or so ago at the Heritage Foundation, culminating in the filibuster last week that the world was watching. Is it your take or thought that Rand Paul is part of a movement or is he an enigma and a gadfly like his father who may just be a little more skilled, have some more media skills?
Daniel McCarthy: It’s really hard to say. Rand is in his first term. Every event he does kind of becomes a new phenomenon. Whether it was his foreign policy speech at Heritage, whether it was the filibuster a week or so ago, he’s someone who still has a lot of capacity to surprise everyone. There are people who are huge fans of his father who initially had some reservations about Rand Paul. There were people who were very critical of his father who have actually found themselves somewhat drawn to him. It’s been interesting to watch people like Rush Limbaugh have to scramble to try to figure out what to make of Rand Paul when they clearly had a particular view of his father they thought they could always refer to offhand as a sort of stereotype. Rand is someone who really upsets the apple cart that people have in mind about ideology. He’s someone who seems to be putting things together in a very new way. I think he’s fundamentally coming from the same source as his father, but he’s doing it in a very different way tactically. It’s interesting to see where that’s going to go.
Mike: I am intrigued by a couple things that Rand has done in the last six months or so. I say intrigued. That doesn’t mean I’m encouraged by them, I’m just intrigued. It seems to me that he has very adroitly put together the best of the best from the Campaign for Liberty crowd that was so supportive of his father — these young people are very good at what they do in working the new media. The Republicans really haven’t had any candidate whatsoever that has been skilled at working the new media, social media and what have you. Rand has my friend Kurt Wallace, at some level, helping him out with things. Jack Hunter, of course, is actually working with Rand. He’s brought other people into his office that, as I said, are skilled at these things. Does that tip to you that there are higher aspirations there or is he just trying to be a message for liberty?
McCarthy: No, no, I think he’s someone who’s going to be a major name on the national scene in three years’ time. He is someone who clearly wants to take his message to a much wider audience. It’s been interesting to watch the effect that especially his people have had on social media. During the whole filibuster, you saw the “Stand with Rand” Twitter hashtag took off. As people were constantly tweeting support for Rand Paul, you saw so many opportunistic Republican senators suddenly get the message and decide they wanted to join in on the filibuster. It was interesting to watch that kind of chain reaction triggered by Rand Paul’s message resonating and reverberating and getting stronger as it echoed through Twitter.
Mike: Daniel McCarthy is the editor of The American Conservative magazine. Find it online. I read it every day and so should you, amconmag.com. That brings me to my next question for you, kind sir. I assume this is by choice or with some kind of design in mind, but I have noticed of late — and I’ve even seen a comment or two from your pen in some of the comment strings on the site. It seems that the last year or so, I have noticed that there are more American Conservative magazine authors and writers that are taking very nontraditional points of view on issues that I never would have expected — when I say nontraditional, I mean nontraditional from the most radical man in all of radio here. For example, you have been running a series of articles from a contributor that is a proponent of an increase in the minimum wage. I can respect that and I have read his work. Are you trying to start conversations or are you trying to get people to think outside the box? Maybe you’re trying something else. What’s the goal here?
McCarthy: It’s somewhat twofold. Partly it’s to force conservatives to go back to their roots and sources and think through where they stand on all these issues. There are too many people, I think, who have taken pretty much everything for granted. Instead of thinking why they have a view on a particular issue, it’s simply been a matter of somebody else has come up with a position decades ago that has now been defined as canonically conservative and people follow it without thinking it through. That doesn’t mean one has to come down on a particular position about it. It just means before one arrives at a position, it’s worth thinking through exactly what the effect of a policy is and also what the philosophical sources are.
Beyond that, there’s also the idea that we want to reach out and get people outside of the usual conservative constituencies thinking a lot more about where conservatives are coming from. That means entertaining some ideas that are maybe unorthodox as far as the establishment to the right are concerned. Ideas that show we’re sincere about trying to figure out what kinds of policies are important for shoring up the middle class, for example, or making sure there are opportunities for everyone in this country. It’s been very easy, I think, for a lot of people to dismiss conservatism and especially look at the kinds of gaffes and mistakes the Republican Party has made and pigeonhole conservatism as something that is only for a very narrow set of people. We’ve been trying to shake that up. It’s a combination of those two things. Hopefully it helps people, even those who are striving to orthodoxy, to be able to reexamine where they’re coming from and think things through in a powerful way.
Mike: I like it because I always like a challenge. I think you hit on it when you said there are these things that people just take as canon and gospel that were coined for presidential campaigns 30 years ago, didn’t work very well when they were implemented them, but have somehow survived. You have campaign from the Reagan administration that are still being used as policy crutches in GOP circles, don’t you?
McCarthy: That’s right. It’s become kind of a nostalgia fest.
Mike: I think the area that the magazine and this side, if you want to call it a movement but I think we’re more of a brain trust — I think one of the things that has been lost in conservatism, quite frankly, has been the brain. It has been the scholarly and studious attention to detail and due diligence that should be required of people that want to govern or influence government. I don’t think you should be running around saying things because you think they’re going to sound good on a sound bite. I think you ought to actually look it up, research it, do your homework on it and say: This actually was tried or there was precedent for this.
One of the things we find there is a very strong history of, and if you care to research it and look into it, is there has been, since the War of 1812, a very healthy opposition to America and war. Whether or not Gouverneur Morris and Timothy Pickering and his buddies were right to oppose the Madison administration — Jefferson even called them traitors. Whether they were right to oppose Mr. Madison’s War, as they called it back in 1812, this goes back an awful long way. We seem to have arrived at a point where there is no real opposition party and no real intelligent opposition to the bellicose foreign policy that has been practiced since the end of the Cold War. Your magazine has somehow miraculously found authors and contributors that can do exactly that. Where would you put, on a scale of one to ten, the progress of talking sense and getting people back to the traditional thought on American foreign policy? Where would you put that at right now and where was it let’s say four years ago?
McCarthy: That’s a hard question. In some respects I’m tempted to give, on a scale of one to ten with ten being the most progress, I’m tempted to say something like six or seven relative to where we were ten years ago. Ten years ago, it really did look as if the neoconservatives were going to completely wipe out any kind of opposition to aggrandizing imperial foreign policy that was basically going to tear up our constitution in the process of trying to accomplish regime change all around the world. It looked like very dark days indeed in 2003 and 2004. Things have come up remarkably since then. For as far as we still need to go, there’s actually a ray of hope now. In the past, I might have said we were at a one or two ten years ago. Now I think we’ve made a lot of progress since then.
If you put it in the frame of the last four years, it’s a lot harder to say because it doesn’t seem as if there’s been a tremendous amount of progress since 2008 or 2009. Certainly it was ridiculous to see someone like Barack Obama receive a Nobel Peace Prize. That by itself was a pretty big setback for any sense of movement away from empire. I’m kind of optimistic, so I’ll give it an optimistic six. The groundwork has been laid and people are now sick of the wars we’ve had in the past decade. I think there is a huge amount of hunger out there right now for a more traditional foreign policy, something that goes back to James Madison and Gouverneur Morris. Madison may have started a war or fought a war, but even he would be appalled by what we’ve seen in the country’s direction in foreign policy in the last decade, or the last 50 years for that matter.
Mike: You’ve also been able to bring some very, I think, thoughtful young writers in. I shouldn’t say young because I don’t know how young Rod Dreher is, especially since I met him. I ought to be able to answer that question. Dreher and Jordan Bloom seem to write about things that other conservatives are not writing about. Dreher has actually been writing and following the conclave and the whole selection process of the pope. You’ve commented on it a time or two. How important is a resurgence or at least a line of stability being formed for the traditional Catholic presence in the United States? I believe, if you are a traditional Catholic of the old Tridentine Mass and pre-Vatican II variety, that probably makes you a pretty conservative fellow, don’t you think? How important is that to the future?
McCarthy: Well, it’s very important. I think you’re quite right that there’s a key element of conservatism there, although it is conservatism that is, of course, primarily spiritual and cultural. I think that’s one of the most important contributions of traditionalist Catholics, that they’re able to step away a little bit from political parties and the immediate give and take of partisan warfare, able to set their eyes upon eternity and actually look at things in a much wider arc. It’s important also because in these traditional movements, whether it’s among Roman Catholics, whether it’s among what we’re seeing as a growing orthodox Christian movement as well — Rod Dreher himself is Orthodox as is Daniel Larison, one of our other bloggers. You see this tremendous return to traditional forms of Christianity and highly liturgical forms especially, which really signals, I think, a turning away from all the noise and vulgarity and degradation that characterizes not only our politics but also our culture. I think people who have turned away from that are a kind of leaven. I think even people who are not Catholic or not traditionalist Catholics, are going to benefit from the folks that are stepping away from what our mainstream culture has become and are generating something new and afresh from the deepest, most traditional sources of all.
Mike: We’re just about out of time. Daniel McCarthy, editor of The American Conservative magazine, before I let you run to your magazine editing duties, I have once pestered you and I think I nudged you. I’m going to pester you again publicly and ask, when are we going to do this symposium about the utility of the union? This needs to be done. Is this something for 2013? Can we work on this?
McCarthy: It should be, yes, I agree. Kirkpatrick Sale has just recently sent me a piece. That’s another reminder to me to go ahead and do this symposium. For listeners who aren’t familiar with what we’re talking about, it was the idea that we would have a symposium featuring Mike and a few other folks discussing in our pages what exactly the purpose of the union today is. This is something, again, that everyone takes for granted. If you go back and actually think through why do we have this great continental United States instead of a federation of smaller entities, it may be a question that is hard to answer or requires some answers that are a bit more creative and interesting and deeper than what people are accustomed to thinking of.
Mike: Daniel McCarthy, editor of American Conservative magazine, thanks for your time today. Daniel, thank you very much, we’ll talk again soon.
McCarthy: Thanks, Mike.
End Mike Church Show Transcript