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July 6, 2005
Bernard Goldberg Interview, Part I: Liberalism's Damage

Here is the first part of the transcript for my interview with Bernard Goldberg. In this part of the conversation, Goldberg talks at length about his disenchantment with liberalism and his frustration at the revolution in the liberal approach since the days of John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey.

CQ: Thank you for being here. Im a big fan of your previous book, Bias --

BG: Thank you.

CQ: One of my inspirations for becoming a blogger was the work you did in Bias, and I think thats true of half the blogosphere, at least. That resonated, as you know, not just with the blogosphere but with a large portion of America that felt disenfranchised by the media at large. It seems that your new book speaks to that same constituency, but maybe on a broader basis. Is that your goal in writing this book?

BG: Thats exactly right. What Bias did, Ed, was to talk about a very specific part of our culture, a very specific institution that I felt was doing a lot of harm, and that was the big-time news media. This takes on a much bigger subject, and thats the culture at large. Look, I think whether somebody is a Democrat or a Republican, or a liberal or a conservative, I think we can agree I hope we can agree that weve become a nastier, less civil, more selfish America than we ought to be. And theres a tendency to believe that, Well, these things just happen, its the natural evolution of the culture, nobodys really at fault, it just happens.

Well, thats not true. People really are at fault. There are real people with real names, and what this book is about is those real people who, in my view, are doing real harm to our country, in various parts of the culture. I touch on the media; thats only one very small part of this book, a very small part. We talk about the Hollywood blowhards

CQ: Right.

BG: Ill go into each of these specifically, but let me just get the overview. Hollywood blowhards, which is a liberal institution out there. Intellectual thugs nobody will disagree that colleges are run by the left, and these are people who impose speech codes. Whats liberal about that?

CQ: Right, exactly.

BG: The TV people who put on shows in prime time who put on shows that at eight oclock at night, I dont want to have sit in front of the TV with my kids You know, I say kids, but my son is older now, but people dont want to sit there with there kids and watch one cheap sex joke after another. I will tell you, Ed, that Im not the Church Lady. I dont care at all how people talk or what people do in their private lives. What this book is about is the public arena, the public square and whats going on in that area of our lives. In terms of private stuff, people can say and do whatever they want, I dont care. But this is the public arena, and I care very much about that, and I think a lot of Americans are just fed up with whats going on.

CQ: One of the things you touch on, you mentioned about not making judgments, and right in your introduction you write about that tolerance has turned into an indiscriminate tolerance. People must tolerate everything or be considered, like you said, a prude.

BG: Or a square.

CQ: Right.

BG: I think that may be the single most important sentence in the book, to be honest with you. Over the years, we grew tolerant of all the right things. We grew tolerant of civil rights, we became more tolerant of womens rights. We became tolerant of various kinds of rights, and it was a good thing that we did. But over the years, we became indiscriminately tolerant. We became tolerant of crap! To tell somebody, to make a comment about this crap is to be judgmental somehow. And somehow, being judgmental of crap has become a bad thing.

Lets talk about the TV stuff in particular. As I said, this used to be called the Family Hour. Now, its one cheap sex joke after another. But if you complain about that, youre a prude, or youre a square. You know what? This is why I come down harder on liberals than I do on conservatives, because the Left has decided to look the other way. They dont want to complain about this, because if they do, now theyre on the side of the morality police. Oh, they couldnt possibly want to be on that side.

So they make believe this isnt a big deal, but you know what? The very people who care the most about the environment, as they rightly should, suddenly believe that what we put out in the cultural environment doesnt mean anything. Air pollution means something; it affects how we live. What we put out into the culture means something, too, because that affects how we live. It affects the kind of America we live in.

CQ: In the past, youve called yourself classically liberal in talking about liberals versus conservatives. Would you consider yourself more of a conservative now, in this political climate?

BG: Yeah, thats a good question. The answer is yes, because liberals have made it really difficult for a lot of us to be liberals. What I said was that I was a liberal in the old-fashioned sense. I was a liberal the way Hubert Humphrey and John Kennedy were liberals. But I am not -- underline not -- a liberal the way Al Franken and Michael Moore are liberals. They have made it more and more difficult. Ill tell you, I think most liberals in this country are decent people. They go to jobs, they work hard, they support their families, they care about their mother, their kids, their wives, their husbands thats not the issue.

The issue is the people who speak loudest for the liberals, the voice of Liberal America. They are the ones doing a lot of harm to this culture. Theyre the ones who put out these shows in Hollywood that are so cutting edge and daring and all that, that offend well, I dont want to say who they offend. They do get an audience. The liberal community is the one putting out all these shows in Hollywood. Liberals are the ones running the college campuses where they have speech codes. Can you imagine if George Bush imposed speech codes, or if Congress imposed speech codes? Liberals rightly would be screaming bloody murder. But only a few brave souls on the Left have complained about speech codes on campus.

Liberals look the other way when it comes to gangster rap. Gangster rap if you wanted to come up with something that would make young black men look like buffoons, youd come up with gangster rap. Youd think the Ku Klux Klan came up with this stuff. And yet feminist liberals, or liberal feminists, are silent and their liberal friends are by and large silent. Why? Because its a black art form. Because its a black art form, its off limits to criticism. This is a world in which women are bitches and hos, and feminists have gone deaf, dumb, and blind about it.

So the answer to your question is yeah, Ive become more conservative. I consider myself more conservative than I do liberal, and its because liberals are betraying liberalism. Ill tell you what, and this is really important. Even when I agree with liberals on this issue or that issue, I no longer want to be associated with them, because theyre elitist snobs. Again, these are the ones who speak for liberalism in America, the ones who speak the loudest. Theyre liberal snobs, and Im with Tom Wolfe, who recently said, I want it registered that Im not one of them. Im telling you, even when I agree with them on a particular issue, I dont like being seen in that group any more. Theyve done that to me; I havent done that to them.

CQ: You mentioned gangster rap. One of the things I found remarkable about your book, and pretty courageous, is that you tackle race issues, not once, but several times, and really in very clear terms. Now, being that youre a rich white guy, do you find that a bit dangerous? Did you worry about how that was going to be received?

BG: Race, as you know, is the one area where if you open your mouth, you take a chance. I dont think you should open your mouth unless you have enough time to explain yourself. If you read the stuff I write about Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Julian Bond lets take those three I write that stuff with sadness. I grew up during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. I grew up during that time. That was the most important moral issue of my lifetime. It was more important than Viet Nam in term of domestic [politics], its the most important issue. With terrorism, its taken on a whole new light. But civil rights, equality, was the most important moral issue certainly of the 20th century. Martin Luther King was one of the great Americans in the history of our Republic. And who took over after that? Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, even my old friend from when I was a reporter in Atlanta with CBS, Julian Bond. And what did they turn this movement into, this great moral movement? They turned it into cheap partisan politics. I write about race with sadness.

CQ: One of the other things I found remarkable about your book is that the first fifty-four pages is the heart of your book, I think. I mean, thats where youve built that. The list is almost like dessert

BG: The list is fun, but the essays, I think, are pretty damned good.

CQ: Yes

BG: If I do say so myself. [Laughter]

CQ: The essays are terrific. Would you agree that the essays are really the heart of the book?

BG: I think you summed it up very well. The essays talk about how this country has become nastier, less civil, and more selfish than it ought to be, and it takes on some awfully big areas of the culture. It takes on America bashers, it takes on TV, it takes on universities, it takes on feminists gone wild, it takes on race it takes on all the big issues. The list is fun. As I say, there arent two people in America who are going to agree with every name on the list. I think that will provide a brief, fun read for the audience, but the essays the first fifty-something pages really, really come from the heart and talk about where this great country of ours has gone in recent years. Its not a good thing, in many cases, not a good thing.

Later today -- Part II of the interview.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 6, 2005 12:51 AM

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