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On Interviews, Past and Future, and Mess Night

Friday, October 27, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

GodBlogCon 2.0 has opened and I will broadcast from there today, with many interviews scheduled with some of the blogosphere’s finest writing talents.

No, Andrew Sullivan isn”t scheduled to be there, but if he’s in LA, I’m sure he’d be welcomed.  My interview with AS has attracted the attention of the smart fellows with PhDs and serious resumes when it comes to arguments about God. Sullivan’s smash-up on Con Law was pretty easy to demonstrate.  It appears that his claims as to Vatican II and other doctrines of common Christian belief are similarly eccentric.

Deep Thought opens the Catholic critique.

Dr. Mark Roberts, like Sullivan a double Harvard, with his PhD also from the GSAS, begins a series on Sullivan’s understanding of Christianity.  This series will be fascinating to read, because Dr. Roberts is not only a brilliant theologian and superb writer, but a gentle and loving pastor who will want to encourage Sullivan to reconsider error and explore a better understanding of the Christian faith.

We have different jobs, though not unrelated.

And JunkYardBlog is making my job more difficult, suggesting to guests how they can avoid answering questions.

(Funny aside by JYB:

Dude, Andrew, you’re English. Be cool. Americans know all you Brits are unstoppable and vicious in a word war. For us, Question Time is frighteningly fast and overwhelming–it’s the rhetorical equivalent of dapper gentlemen juggling chainsaws back and forth, trying to kill each other in the process. Tony Blair is pretty much the rhetorical Chuck Norris for us. And that Galloway v. Hitchens debate? That’s Hagler v. Hearns. Most of us are awed by the spectacle and we know deep down that we wouldn’t last five seconds in that ring. Don’t debate that Englishman, says that little voice in the back of our plainspoken, laconic, homespun Yankee Doodle heads. Shoot him, sure, but don’t get in an argument. That way lies humiliation. Because Englishmen are much cooler than you.

Except when they lose their cool, as Sullivan did, and they go overboard and wig out. Then they just look pathetic and petty.)

Memo to JYB: If your suggestions get traction among guests, I’ll serve papers.  The point of the interview isn’t a conversation at all –it is to inform and entertain the audience!

I have been interviewing guests on radio and television since December of 1990, and have probably conducted well in excess of 10,000 interviews. 

A good interview elicits information that the audience finds fascinating, and it may be information about the guest, not the guest’s ideas.

A great interview provides unique insight into the guest that wasn’t there before –the audience understand the man or woman much, much better than before the interview began.

Great interviews bring truth closer to the audience.  The exchange with Sullivan did just that.

Great interviews are memorable, not just another sit down in the endless promotion machine.

The exchange with Sullivan was a great interview.  Another one is coming up.

Monday’s show is given over to a three hour interview with Mark Halperin, ABC News’ political director, overlord of “The Note,” and author with John Harris of The Way To Win.  Halperin is everything Sullivan wasn’t: Informed, engaged, civil, funny, confident and candid.  (I taped the interview on Tuesday.)

Why such an extravagant amount of time?

First of all, because it isn’t.

We have become used in this media age to the idea that a seven minute exchange can yield up useful information or insight.  On rare occasions it can, but not if the guest is hostile or the meeting the first between host and guest.  (I can accomplish a lot with Mark Steyn or any of my regular guests in a single segment because we have gotten to know each other over the years, and the questions can get to the serious stuff asap without the preliminaries that first time guests need in order to establish them in the mind of the audience.)

Halperin, unlike Sullivan, matters a great deal in modern American politics because he is running a supply train to the Gang of 500, as he and Harris brand the slightly mythical cabal of Beltway-Manhatten opinion mongers. 

Unless the MSM changes, and soon, it will continue to undermine the war effort.  I invest the time I do with MSMers because I hope to make dents in their consciousness about what they are doing, collectively and unconsciously, to bring about the West’s defeat.

Last night I had the honor of attending a mess night with First Battalion, First Marines, hosted by the City of Newport Beach. 

As mess nights go –so I am told, as this was my first– this was a rather tame affair as ladies were present.

But the 250 Marines and Navy corpsmen in attendance humbled me and should humble every talking head in America.

Major General Michael R. Lehnert gave a brief but powerful speech about the USMC and the war, and about the quality of the 1/1, which has just returned from Iraq.

At my table were three amazing gentlemen, SSgt Steven Pyle, SSgt Andrew Rhodes, and SSgt Alberto Pereztorres (referred to by many of his fellow Marines as the luckiest man in the USMC as a mortar round pierced his vehicle’s roof and passed through its floor –inches from his head and only moments after he had been leaning forward– to explode underneath the vehicle.)

These warriors work too hard, brave too many dangers, and are too good at what they do to have their work undone in part by a MSM insisting on defeat and retreat.

They deserve a public much better informed about the war than the American people are.

And they especially deserve the thanks of a grateful nation, one aware of their sacrifices and their wounds.

Civilians should thus be filling the coffers of the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, and enrolling in SoldiersAngels.

And media should be working overtime to tell their stories while informing the public of the enormous stakes.

Media in war time should be aware of the enormous potential for evil their work involves.  The holocaust that descended on southeast Asia after America abandoned South Vietnam and Cambodia was in part enabled by a MSM that couldn’t see what was coming, obvious as it ought to have been to any serious student of communism.

Today’s MSM seems almost perfectly ignorant, again, of the enemy and the war.  How many MSMers have read even one of the three crucial books of the last year, The Looming Tower, America Alone or Imperial Grunts?Generally ill-informed about the military, in love with Abu Ghraib and every other story that casts doubt on the military, and indifferent to the astonishing professionalism and success of that military, the MSM goes on its merry way, celebrating its power and influence, confusing celebrity with significance.

The self-assured and self-congratulating dance paused for a few months after 9/11, but it resumed soon thereafter and is in full swing today.  Ten days out from a crucial election, and much of the media is talking about Michael J. Fox.  Could even Rome in its most profligate  years have been so unaware of the approach of the barbarians?

I’ll ask Joe Carter at GodBlogCon 2.0.  He is the real Montaigne at work today. As a Marine-turned journalist-turned-blogger-without-parallel, his answer will be worth hearing. 





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