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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Dennis Prager reacts to the Mitt Romney speech

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HH: As you know, throughout the day, I’ve been canvassing value voter influencers, that is people in the public eye who influence the values vote about Mitt Romney’s speech. And one of the most influential is my pal, Dennis Prager. He joins me now. Dennis, Happy Hanukkah and Shabbat Shalom to you.

DP: How sweet of you. Thank you so much, and an early Merry Christmas to you.

HH: Thank you. So Dennis, I didn’t get to hear your show today. What did you think of Mitt Romney’s speech yesterday?

DP: I thought it was magnificent, and I have not been in the Romney camp. I have not been anti-Romney, but I’ve certainly not, you know, been a partisan here. It was a terrific speech about the role of religion, about the role, what it means to be open, the role of religion in American society, what we are, how he takes truths, how he sees beauty in all of the religions, but he’s still deeply committed to his own. I had zero fault with it.

HH: Wow. Okay, you’re with, you’re where I am. I hadn’t heard that. Now Dennis, I want to give people some background. I don’t think there is a pundit, journalist, commentator, analyst in America who has spent more time discussing religion than you. I think that’s a true statement because of your years…

DP: I think it’s a fair statement, and I already began, and will continue on Monday, analyzing the speech to show how terrific it is. Now I don’t know what…it’s very interesting. I’ve just spoken in Santa Barbara, so I don’t know what’s going on media-wise. Is it being criticized?

HH: There are two strains of criticism. One is that he left atheists out, and he’s exclusionary and divisive to do so. What do you think of that?

DP: The talk was not about atheists. The talk was about religion in America. It is inconceivable to me that he thinks that an American who’s an atheist doesn’t have the same rights as any other American. But he doesn’t believe that atheism has contributed to the American values experience, and I don’t, either.

HH: And then the second criticism, which is much more subtle, and I have to think about it, he made the statement there can be no freedom without religion, which I agree with and many people agree with, and no religion without freedom. And I, a lot of people point out that many people of faith have endured, as Solzhenitsyn did decades in the camps, without losing their faith.

DP: Oh, God, that’s not what he meant.

HH: I thought so.

DP: He didn’t say there can’t be any religious people in and unfree society. He said that religion, when it doesn’t allow freedom, fails. And he would give the example of the Islamic society of Saudi Arabia.

HH: Very well put, Dennis. That is the rejoinder, and I hadn’t gone through it, yet. That’s why I wanted to talk to you about this. Now again, I want to remind people, you did Religion On The Line for how many years?

DP: Ten years to the day, five hundred shows, one thousand hours with people of every single faith.

HH: And so you know how difficult it is to talk about faith in an intelligent way, without people hearing you wrong. It is a very tough thing to do.

DP: Very tough, but he did it, and that’s why I said to you, Hugh, what have been the critiques? I can’t think of any.

HH: Those are the two. I gave you the two, and I’ve been reading about it all day long, and you’ve answered both of them. Now tell me as a Jew, especially, I talked to Michael Medved to start the show. As an orthodox Jew, sitting there listening to this, does it have any special significance for you?

DP: Well, I have to be always honest on this. I am religious and a believing Jew, but I’m not orthodox.

HH: Oh, you’re right. You’re right, okay.

DP: Of course, listen, it resonates with me, because if America loses its Judeo-Christian values, as and American and as a Jew, forgive my language, I’m screwed.

HH: Yup.

DP: The strength of America and the strength for why it has been the greatest blessing for Jews is not because it’s been secular. France is secular, and it stinks for Jews. It’s been Judeo-Christian America. That’s why it’s been such a blessing to Jews.

HH: Now Dennis, just curious, the media’s trying to get their arms around this, and what I’ve said about your resume in this area is well known. Have you had any calls from MSM, elite media, to discuss this?

DP: Yes, I did. What was it? Well, wait a minute, no, no, you’re right. I did not get. That’s interesting. Oddly enough, and you would have seemed they would have, no.

HH: You know, what do you put…I got into a fairly heated exchange on CNN International yesterday, making the argument that elite media is basically secular absolutist populated in the decision making. And they don’t understand what this conservation is about at all.

DP: Hugh, there’s proof. There is proof. The mendacious, and I don’t use that easily…

HH: No, you don’t.

DP: …the lying critique of his speech in the New York Times editorial page.

HH: Oh, I missed it. What did they say?

DP: Oh, that he wants to Christianize America.

HH: Oh. Now Dennis, they’re really afraid of a guy who gets it, aren’t they?

DP: Well, it’s worse than that. I wouldn’t even mind that. They literally, they literally don’t understand it. It would be as if someone who cannot carry a tune, and who had never heard classical music, were asked to review a Mozart symphony. That is asking the New York Times editorial page to review anything religious.

HH: You know, I was with…you’re going to have to unpack this…I was at a San Diego Republican even last night, and a man came up to me who was a Romney supporter, obviously. He went to the speech, and he said all around him were people with tears in their eyes of different faiths. Why that emotional a reaction to a speech?

DP: Well, I mean, this is going to be a cliché, but the truth is very powerful. You either hate it or you’re moved by it, and he has not moved me in the past. This was…so it’s even more credibility for my praise, because I have not found him to be the best connector with people. So I’m very happy to hear that.

HH: So given what you know about this race, and you know about Huckabee, and you know about Rudy Giuliani, and you’re a New Yorker, how do you see it stacking up, Dennis Prager?

DP: I’ll tell you this. Did you read, by any chance, and you read voluminously. I think you read more than I do. But I don’t know if you saw Krauthammer’s column on Huckabee.

HH: Yes, I did. It was a big hammer.

DP: Well, it’s very disturbing if it’s true.

HH: Oh, it’s very true. There are a lot of people who think he’s playing the Christian card in a way that is very divisive among values voters.

DP: Well, I’ll tell you why that’s troubling. A) it’s troubling about Huckabee himself, but B) that’s why my favorite community in America, as a community, in terms of its values, is the Evangelical community. So I have high expectations about community to think in terms of values, and not as a cheering squad, theologically. So that’s…if it’s true, then all they need to know is well, he’s the closest to us theologically, that’s disturbing.

HH: Now I’ve got to say I had Dr. Dobson on earlier today, and in fact, I’m going to replay that interview after our segment now, because of his very strong statement in praise of the speech. He does not endorse candidates, he never endorses candidates in primaries, but he came out and he said, I’ll quote to you, “Governor Romney’s speech was a magnificent reminder of the role religious faith must play in government and public policy. His delivery was passionate, and his message was inspirational. Whether it will answer all questions and concerns of Evangelical Christian voters is yet to be determined. But the Governor is to be commended for articulating the importance of our religious heritage as it relates to today.” That’s about as strong a statement short of endorsement as you can get from James Dobson.

DP: Well, see, he came through in my favorite community (laughing). I feel better.

HH: Now talk to me about Jews and Mormons, Dennis. You must have talked about LDS on your years of Religion On The Line.

DP: Oh, of course, and I not only had a lot of Mormons, I spoke twice at BYU.

HH: And so…

DP: I’ve been to Provo twice to speak, and I have tremendously good relations with Mormons. For a Jew, see, it’s truly a non-issue, because for a Jew, whatever variation, or even if you want to use the word heresy from some orthodox Christian perspective, it’s irrelevant to the Jew, because to the Jew, Christianity is not his religion to begin with, so an off-shoot of Christianity is no more of an issue to a Jew than Christianity. And since to any knowledgeable Jew, Christianity is not an issue, therefore an off-shoot of Christianity would not be an issue.

HH: And so among conservative Jewish Republicans, the Mormon issue never existed to begin with?

DP: I would say that it is as significant as his eye color.

HH: (laughing) Dennis, we’ve got about a minute left. I just want you to give me your assessment of what you think it going to happen over the next sixty days in American politics. Has the religion issue been put to bed by Romney’s speech yesterday?

DP: Has the religious issue been what?

HH: Put to bed. Is it behind us?

DP: Oh, put to bed? No. I think it helped, but for those for whom, and this is specific, really, to certain Christians, for those for whom Mormonism is truly a heretical sect, or even cult, as some have called it, being able to vote for a Mormon is a leap. I think that that community is big enough, God-centered enough, Christian enough to make that leap.

HH: We will see if you are right. I hope you are. Again, Happy Hanukkah, Shabbat Shalom, Dennis Prager, my good friend.

End of interview.

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