The long weekend begins today, and my eve of the 4th show will feature a long conversation with the late Dr. Harry Jaffa about the Declaration of Independence. Dr. Jaffa died in January, but no one living has spent as many years thinking about the great declaration, and this conversation, part of the genesis of the Hillsdale Dialogues, is an audience favorite every year. Enjoy.
I’ll also be on BookTV sometime next weekend I think, as CSPAN plays a lecture I gave on The Queen: The Epic Ambition of Hillary and the Coming of the Second “Clinton Era” on Tuesday night. It was actually a lecture on how to prepare for the role of asking questions at GOP presidential debates. The short answer: Read. Read in the current issues of the day, but also in the books that are presently shaping opinion, and of course talk, with candidates –as I have been doing a lot of in recent weeks– and smart people like Dr. Larry Arnn, Mark Steyn, NBC’s Chuck Todd, CBS’ John Dickerson, Adam Carolla (all of whom were either live or taping with me yesterday.)
The lecture begins with shameless plugging of The Queen, and then pays a long overdue thank you to Brian Lamb (Sundays At Eight), Susan Swain (First Ladies) and Peter Slen, the first two who are the “makers of the feast” when it comes to BookTV, and Brian and Peter Slen for demonstrating week in-and-out how to engage authors with serious interviews. Then I launched into the books I have featured in the past few weeks –the reading list I set for myself and my show– to demonstrate what serious journalists have to do to simply keep up, before closing with my favorite book of the year and perhaps the most crucial outside of The Queen for the upcoming election season. As I signed books after the talk, many asked me to post the list, so here it is:
*The English Spy by Daniel Silva (and I recommended to the audience that they read all 15 of the Allon novels by Silva, in order, which begin with The Kill Artist. My most recent interview with Silva is here. )
*End of Discussion by Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson
*Dana Perion’s And The Good News Is, The Silencing by Kirsten Powers, and Getting Real by Gretchen Carlson (all three women work for Fox News, and Dana came from the White House podium, Kirsten is a lefty activist and commentator, and Gretchen as hard-working a journalist with as interesting a career in news and life generally as anyone’s –revealing the diversity of the network reviled by the left.)
Then two books crucial to understanding the threats we face this Fourth of July: The Great War of Our Time by Michael Morell and Team of Teams by Gen. Stanley McChrystal. (My interview of Morell is here, and my interview of McChrystal is here.)
Before I launched into a review of the greatest strengths of each of the 16 GOP candidates seeking the nomination in 2016, I pulled one more book from my bag. I told the audience they needed to read Collision 2012 by Dan Balz and The Center Holds by Jonathan Alter to review in detail what happened in 2012, but that more than anything else they need to read:
*Believer by David Axelrod. (My interview with Axelrod is here.) I point out that David Axelord is the left’s Karl Rove, and if one of the big brains of messaging from the other side provides an open kimono look inside how it works on the other side of the partisan divide, everyone on the center-right should read it.
Those were’t the only books I mentioned, though they were the only three I pulled from my bag. I noted that the three new hosts of three of the big five Sunday shows had all written books: John Dickerson’s On Her Trail, Jake Tapper’s The Outpost, and Chuck Todd’s The Stranger. (My interview with Chuck about his book is here; the interview with Jake about his is here.) Is it any surprise that among the most accomplished and influential broadcast journalists in the country are three who have written serious books well received by critics for their content and style?
(I also noted but did not hold up because it is on my iPad, Ted Cruz’s new memoir/manifesto: A Time for Truth, which I interviewed him about the day after the lecture. I am working overtime not to favor one candidate over another, and invite them all to appear on the show regularly though some take more advantage of that invitation than others, and I nay mention Cruz’s book here because it was part of the reading noted at the Nixon Library.)
My takeaway from the lecture –other than plugging The Queen and reviewing the field and especially former Secretary of State Clinton’s strengths and weaknesses– is that if you want good debates, you need good questions, and those questions cannot come from people who do not spend their lives immersed in the stuff of the political debate, which means serious reading, not just the papers, blogs and Twitter feeds.