When I began doing these Quaz Q&As back in the day, my goal was never to feature only people I agree with. What I wanted, more than anything, was to offer jeffpearlman.com readers a wide variety of backgrounds, careers and viewpoints.
Even if it friggin’ kills me …
For those of you who don’t regularly follow the conservative blogosphere, Dan Riehl’s Riehl World View is one of the kings of the medium. Dan states his opinions with strength and passion and verve, and while I disagree with, oh, 99.99999 percent of what he writes (Palin for President? Really? R-e-a-l-l-y?), I do admire his commitment to speaking out.
Here, Dan explains why conservatives are genuinely empathetic; why the former Alaska governor would—no joke—make an excellent commander in chief; why climate change is no biggie and why you never want to enjoy some hash by his side. You can visit Dan’s website here, and follow him on Twitter here.
Dan Riehl, damn you, welcome to the Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN: In a recent post you called yourself a “fan” of Sarah Palin. And, from reading your blog, that’s very clear. As an old-school liberal, I just don’t get it; don’t get her. A. She quit her job as governor—as governor!—to become a media personality; B. She strikes me as a complete, 100% opportunist who will say whatever she must to remain in the limelight; C. She seems remarkably unintelligent—strikingly so; D. If she weighed 250 pounds with a couple of warts, you wouldn’t be talking about her. And neither would I. So, Dan, please explain how you can possibly like Sarah Palin.
DAN RIEHL: It’s ironic that the politically correct Left is always so quick to objectify women if they disagree with their politics. I realize that a lot of liberal broads remind one of an old house, in bad need of a paint job, everything’s sagging and the grass needs cut, but you shouldn’t allow yourself to be distracted because so many conservative women are so hot. It’s usually a reflection of the beauty within, a healthy respect for and sense of oneself apart from the collective hive. We’re individualists and it instills a sense of pride. I know several particularly bright individuals who have spent time talking with Palin, each has told me she is surprisingly well informed and articulate. If you want to buy into a media caricature, suit yourself. I also accept that she left the governorship precisely for the reasons she’s given. The Left was intent on filing bogus ethics charge after bogus ethics charge, it was expensive and wasteful of her time and government resources, because she was one in Alaska. True, that she resigned doesn’t fit into a neat little box—she’s always been someone who walks to the sound of her own drum. One could just as easily see it as a principled, bold choice, as a negative. From there, why should she not make as much money as she can as a media personality? Oh, that’s right, wealth creation is a crime on the Left. I guess if she stayed in Alaska and worked on a fishing boat you’d be a fan? Nah, you’d say she stayed in Alaska to hide because she wasn’t all that.
J.P.: One of the most important issues out there, for me, is climate change. I believe in it 100 percent; I believe the scientists who insist it’s happening; hell, I look at the weather patterns and am, at the least, insanely nervous. Now I get that you, and most Republicans, don’t believe in man-made climate change. But—in the absence of 100 percent certainty—isn’t this an area where we should err on the side of caution? I mean, if it is happening, you and I are both fucked. Even worse, our kids and grandkids are fucked. So why do conservatives continue to bark about climate change being a hoax—and to hell with anyone who believes (egad) scientists who study (egad) climate? Isn’t it merely an ignorant hope for sunny skies?
D.R.: What seems lost on you is that there are a great many reputable scientists who don’t accept it. On top of that, many of the same people pushing global warming were warning us of the coming ice age just a decade, or two ago. Look for the old Newsweek cover story on that and get back to me. The planet has warmed, cooled, frozen and boiled in cycles for billions of years. If anything, I see a lot of pseudo-scientists more intent on proving man is supreme over everything, than objectively looking at ALL the facts. I have. I’ve looked at the arguments from both sides and I am unconcerned. If global warming troubles you so much, by some shorts and T-shirts and keep the sun off your head. I’d hate to see the rest of your brain cells melt.
J.P.: How did you get here? What I mean is, you’re a widely read conservative blogger with a genuine voice. What was your life path to this point? And is this what you envisioned yourself doing—to some degree—back in the day? And what inspired you to start the blog?
D.R.: I wanted to write from a very young age but life intervened and I didn’t pursue it until I began to blog. From a blue-collar, working class family, further education wasn’t encouraged after high school. The need to support myself and the steel mill, police or fire department were. I had family in those areas and they were great people. I didn’t have a problem with it, so much as a feeling I didn’t fit in, or wouldn’t be happy there. I worked enough through high school to know I wanted a different kind of job. I split the difference and went into retail, while taking college courses at night and eventually ended up both working and attending college full-time. During that period I had studied journalism and also edited a school paper. By the way, my first ever vote was for Jimmy Carter, but I haven’t voted for a Democrat since.
When I graduated, Malcolm Forbes spoke at the commencement. He said, if you want to get rich, don’t do want earns you the most money, do what you love most. Unfortunately—LOL—I didn’t listen to him. Faced with the choice between a very low paying entry-level job in journalism, or a slot in the Fortune 20 paying 3 times as much, I went into sales, then marketing as a career and spent a couple of decades there. I discovered blogging from news reports early in the 2004 election cycle. After looking around a bit I thought, hell, I can do that and became a hobbyist. While not here at the very beginning, nothing thrills me more than to have been a part of it as it all started to explode.
A couple years ago the relationship I had been in for some time was at a crossroads. Oh wait, I mean, dead-end. We had decided to sell the house and split-up and three weeks later it became apparent that the company I was with was going away, too. Hmm. A lovely older woman I won’t name—and a reader of my blog—talked to me now and then in email. When I told her what was what, she said she had a place on Chincoteague Island she wouldn’t be using for the summer and I was welcome to hang out and re-group if I wanted. I wanted!
As fate would have it, a dear friend from childhood lived just outside D.C. with her husband and their kids were grown. I was talking to her about the options I was considering and she said, ‘Do the blogging thing, come stay with us until you settle in.’ So, I moved to D.C. One of my first consulting projects was helping the good people at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation to understand new media and blogging. I’ve also worked with those evil automobile company people, lest I damage my conservative cred. From there, I settled in down here, got a place of my own and now I blog and consult, including working with Andrew Breitbart. If nothing else, surely you can hate me for THAT???
J.P.: One of the biggest problems I have with modern conservatives is the jarring lack of empathy. Everything is about tax cuts, tax cuts, spending cuts, spending cuts. As the husband and son of social workers, I’ve seen the genuine value of government fiscal involvement. For example, my wife worked at a youth homeless shelter that educated and housed thousands of young New Yorkers who would have been on the street. The agency depends on federal funds. There are, literally, thousands of similar places that need federal or state funding to survive. And yet, you guys only seem to bemoan any spending. You’d rather have that money stay in the pockets of the wealthy. Why the selfishness? And is there a way to accomplish both minimal taxes/government involvement AND keep public-good institutions going?
D.R.: Please get over this wealthy nonsense. Do your homework. The wealth of America is in the broad middle class. And that is precisely where the bulk of government money comes from. It always has and always will. Do you ever read below the headlines,or do research on your own? You are mouthing platitudes that don’t add up. To the extent the wealthy are involved, that money is not sitting in anyone’s pocket. It flows through the economy as investment. It is the same money that helps a young guy or gal start a new business, or buy a home. It is not sitting stagnant, off in some fiscal eddy somewhere. The more money that flows through the private sector, the more that is accessible to anyone who wants to earn it, or take risks by borrowing it.
No serious conservative I know advocates simply doing away with everything. But along with waste, fraud and abuse, look at the vast sums we have pumped into our inner cities, while they only continue to get worse. There is nothing wrong with helping out those in need. The difference is, what are you helping them to do? To the extent we develop a class of people, and we have in America, that falls into the trap of believing the government can and will do for you, as opposed to having to do for yourself, we damage those people, we don’t help them. The problem is, too many programs become entrenched, filled with bureaucrats, whose primary concern is keeping their own job. To the extent they are invested in that, there is no incentive to truly help anyone by empowering them to take care of themselves.
That is not to say many of the people in those fields are not fine people who genuinely wish to do good. The problem is more institutional and political than it is personal. Nevertheless, without writing an entire paper on it here, I’ll just say, it is the inefficiency, corruption and, in too many cases, self interest that perverts and twists the best objectives. The simple truth of it is, give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish, etc. And the sad reality of it is, when it comes to government institutions, too many bureaucrats become focused on keeping the pond stacked, as opposed to preparing people for a productive fishing trip.
J.P.: Clearly, Barack Obama is a loathed man among Republicans. What I don’t understand is, where was this anger when George W. Bush was president? I know he disappointed many of you in different ways, but even as he spent, spent spent; even as he cooked intelligence on Iraq and watched from an elementary school as 9/11 happened, y’all supported him. Barack Obama caves to Republicans on every friggin’ thing and he was in office when we nabbed Osama. Fuck, you should love this guy.
D.R.: My son, there is no hope for you if you believe any of that. Was it a fall as a child, or some sort of chemically induced brain damage? Surely somewhere in the world there is a government program for you!
J.P.: Do you think race has anything to play in conservative anger toward the president? Or are we liberals just looking for an excuse?
D.R.: There are racists aligned with every political ideology, unfortunately. That’s a fact. The same conservatives who might loath Barack Obama absolutely love Rep. Alan West of Florida. I rest my case. Get over it.
J.P.: Where do you stand on gay marriage and gay adoption? Do you really think the institution of marriage will decline because gay couples can also marry?
D.R.: Marriage is sacred and between a man and a woman—that’s my view. But that’s embraced primarily through any exposure I’ve had to religion, not government. I also believe it is unique because of the biological notion of conception. As I hope the species will keep going for a while, I have no problem providing some sort of special consideration for committed couples capable of it. I’ve yet to meet the homosexual couple who has pulled it off—LOL. That said, I have no issue with same sex couples who wish to make a long-term commitment to one another. Ideally, government would get out of the marriage business and leave it to the church. One could marry in a church and also seek a license through the state. Who the state provides said licenses to is an issue for democracy. I could live with whatever the population determined at the ballot box and would vastly prefer that to Washington, or some small panel of judges making the determination.
As for gay adoption, my concerns there go to the well-being of the child. Has our society shifted enough so that it would not represent a social problem for a child thus adopted? I don’t know. It seems to be moving that way. The gay lobby often strikes me as too impatient for its own good. A little more maturity and a few less raging drag queens, or bitchy bull dykes would be a nice thing to see.
J.P.: What’s your take on the state of American journalism in 2011? How do you think the conservative viewpoint is being conveyed?
D.R.: The explosion in new media is opening the way for a more partisan media, each respective side representing its own view. I think that’s a good thing and people should get over the idea that it’s new. Several newspapers are named the Democrat this, or that, because it was common for cities to have two newspapers with competing points of view. One tended to serve Republicans, one Democrats. As long as we’re all engaged in the same larger debate that takes place around our electoral politics, I see nothing wrong with it. I’m very pro-choice in that regard!
J.P.: There’s been a lot of talk about Michelle Bachman’s husband, and his alleged past work helping gays “switch” to straight. Do you think a presidential candidate’s spouse should be an issue in an election? And, if the Bachman information is correct, does it matter? Does it say anything about her that impacts the presidency?
D.R.: I don’t know that it says anything about her, I don’t know the details of their relationship. I did see a video of him and remember thinking, there’s no way the country elects him to be the first man. But then, in 2008, I thought, no way America elects a guy named Barack Hussein Obama as president, so what the hell do I know?
J.P.: I’m an agnostic/atheist. Were any presidential candidate to admit this, he/she would no longer be a presidential candidate. Why do you think a belief in God is an American requirement to the presidency? And are you cool with it?
D.R.: I value religion. That said, I also believe in separation of church and state. One’s religion, or lack thereof, should have no bearing on one’s suitability to be president. But, I also believe in liberty, so I don’t get to make up everyone’s mind for them. People should be free to believe, or not believe, what they want. If it ain’t in the Constitution, it shouldn’t apply. And there is no religious requirement for the job, as far as I know.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH DAN RIEHL
• Would you rather take a two week vacation with Jimmy Carter, Al Gore or Walter Mondale?: It would depend on which one has the hottest daughters.
• Does Vince Young have a future as a starting QB?: Vince who?
• Have you ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, details …: No.
• Your favorite Democrat (for real—not sarcastically): The hottest looking serving female. I’d have to research that.
• Invent a Celine Dion joke on the spot: I don’t use mustard.
• You cried during the recent Sarah Palin film. Explain why. And does this make you a wuss?: While I don’t perceive Palin as weak or in need of defending, a portion of her image as the GOP VP nominee was innocent, or pure, if you will. Here was this female governor no one basically knew thrust onto the national stage over night. It was the ugly, vile and even vulgar, relentless attacks spat her way that made me cry. It was the broader concept, or image that got to me. It could have just as easily been a child, or even a small animal cast in the role of the innocent. When I see innocence attacked so viciously I become very angry. My tears flowed from that, not so much from sympathy for her as an individual. She remained strong through the whole thing.
• Worst date story: Hmm—better not use her real name – call her Gina. I had known her in high school but never dated her. We hooked up at a college pub one night – yes, it was that long ago. The long and short of it – some guy was up from south Jersey for driver education classes after a DUI. LOL. Fancy him being in a bar, huh? He needed a ride to South Jersey (30 miles) and said he had some really good hash he’d share, even give us a bowl or two after we dropped him off. So, we did. Driving back North, we decided to stop and find a place to get high under the stars. Nudge, nudge. Anyway, we were already pretty blasted from the pub and it was about 3 AM.
I pulled off somewhere, we parked, walked into the trees and came upon this really terrific field of grass. I put a blanket down—had it in my trunk—got high and one thing led to another. Evidently, it was very good hash. The next memory I have is about two hours later and there was this low, un-Godly, absolutely earsplitting sound echoing around in my head as I came to my senses. I first realized I was standing in a field and, eventually, looking down, realized Gina wasn’t standing at that particular time. Which was rather okay with me, frankly, when I reflect on it now. ; ) We were, apparently, doing whatever it was we went there to do in one form, or another. Then that damned sound started again. Turns out, off to the left about 50 yards was Route 295 and the sound was the air horn on another 18 wheeler, evidently just like the one that went by a few seconds before. And so I stood there, dazed … but pleased, if still confused, as about five or six 18 wheelers drove by at dawn saluting Gina’s fine work by laying on their air horns as they passed by. Needless to say, she panicked at some point.
Anyway, we grabbed the blanket and articles of clothing here and there as we ran back down a path through the trees toward the car. Evidently I had parked behind an apartment complex. Looking at wall of apartment windows facing us, we thought taking time to dress might be imprudent and I ended up driving back North about 20 miles naked from the waste down. Of course by the time we got there, it was that I’m not drunk but not straight and have dirt in my mouth sick sort of Saturday morning feeling and as I pull up to Gina’s. You know, kind of like, good God what have I done? Well, it turns out Gina’s mother was an early riser. So, there I was about 6:30 on Saturday morning, sitting in Gina’s driveway looking over at her mom standing in the doorway glaring at me as lovely young Gina finished dressing next to me and I was naked from the waste down, in my car. Thank heavens, dear girl that she was, the last words Gina ever spoke to me were, “You don’t have to walk me up.” And to this day, I’ve never seen Gina, again. Damn!
• Is there an afterlife? If so, what do you envision?: Well, after that last story—and several I won’t tell … oh yeah, I’m definitely going to hell.
• Fill in the sentence: Thanks to Jon Stewart …: for being on a network where and at a time when I’ve never had to watch you.