What is wrong with America today? What can we do to fix it and get our country back? And can we do it? We answer these questions and more as Barry Shore gets into an insightful conversation with political commentator, film critic and author Michael Medved on the state of the country. Michael shares his views on America, what went wrong, and what we can do to reclaim our pride in our country. Listen in and be inspired by Barry and Michael.
Listen to the podcast here:
Michael Medved on America
Remember, you are good-looking because you’re always looking for and finding the good. That’s the definition of a good-looking person. It’s looking for and finding the good. That’s why you consciously and conscientiously read the show because you want to find the good in the world and you can. You know that this show is all about you. That’s the only reason you read. It’s a great reason because you care the most in the entire world about yourself. That’s great because when you become the best you possible, you make the world a better place. You build bridges of harmony and create more joy, happiness, peace and love in the world. That’s why you’re here.
In this show, we discuss the three fundamentals of life. These three fundamentals are going to enable you to be healthier, happier and wealthier. Who doesn’t want that? You should know that you are being joined by 351,727 people around the world. All those are tuned in because they care the most in the entire world about themselves. Together, with one hand reaching out to another and sharing the joy of living, we make a difference in the world. We can turn a joy deficit into a joy surplus and inundate the world with the joy of living.
The three fundamentals of life are number one, life. Your life has a purpose. When you lead a purpose-driven life, you can go mad. That’s number two. In this case, MAD is a wonderful acronym that stands for Make A Difference. If you lead a purpose-driven life, you make a difference. Number three is the ability to uncover the power and the secrets of everyday words and terms.
Here’s a simple example. You’re reading this show over the internet, the magical, mystical and mythical platform that touches people all over the world. If you ask anybody, “What does WWW stand for?” Invariably, they will tell you, “It’s the internet.” Factually speaking, they’re correct. In the world of the positive, purposeful, powerful and pleasant, WWW stands for Whata Wonderful World. A big tip of the hat and a thank you to Louis Armstrong or Satchmo for enabling that song to go viral and not just touch tens of millions or hundreds of millions, but billions of people around the planet.
Whenever you hear the opening bars of Whata Wonderful World, what do you do? You can’t help but right away, you smile. Smile is one of the most important words you could ever internalize, utilize and leverage in your life. SMILE stands for Seeing Miracles In Life Everyday. God willing, we’re going to be through this pandemic. The masquerade is going to be over. It will be a memory and we will come back again.
Before COVID, I was speaking to a group of 5,200 people in the audience. I’m telling the story about Barry Shore and talking about seeing miracles in life every day. People are raising their hands and saying, “Barry Shore, I have been up for hours. Am I seeing miracles?” I asked, “Are you here? Can you hear? Can you see? Can you stand?” “I can’t do that.” “Can you walk?” “I can barely do that.” If you have water to drink, food to eat, places to sleep, family and friends, every single one of those is a miracle. Here’s a simple proof. A million people didn’t get out of bed this morning. They died. If you’re reading this then by definition, you didn’t. If you didn’t, you have an obligation to live life exuberantly.
The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic
Imagine the following. You’re standing up in the morning, hale and hearty, able to leap a tall building in a single bound and that evening being in the hospital completely paralyzed. That’s me. It was not for an automobile accident or a spinal injury. It was a rare disease I had never heard of that took hold of my body and rendered me a quadriplegic. Nothing on my body moved. I’m 144 days in the hospital.
I was in a hospital bed in my old home for two years. I couldn’t turn over by myself. I was in a wheelchair for four years. I had braces on both of my legs for years and that was progress. Now, I’m able to be vertical ambulatory with the help of a 7-foot walking wand. I’m a triped, not a biped. I still can’t walk up the stairs or up a curb by myself. I have help 12 hours a day, 7 days a week but hear my voice. It’s positive, purposeful, powerful and pleasant. All because of one word and that word is SMILE. It’s seeing miracles in life every day.
I got to tell you a quick story. My niece comes over to me and says, “Uncle Barry, can we spell smiel?” It sounds the same. I said, “Why not? How come?” She says, “It’s because I know it stands for Seeing Miracles In Everyday Life.” Out of the mouth of babes. She was creating the world she wanted to live in. CREATE is a wonderful acronym that stands for Causing, Rethinking, Enabling All To Excel.
Rethinking. We have a brain. Your brain has 100 billion brain cells and 120 trillion synapses connecting all those brain cells. They’re there for more than deciding what kind of latte you want this morning. It’s the ability to do your own neuro-linguistic programming and to live in joy daily no matter the circumstances. It’s dependent on these six words that will elevate your life. These six words are choice, not chance. It determines your destiny.
Before we bring on our amazing guest who’s going to give you information that will be transformative for your thinking and acting in the world, it’s so wonderful what you’re going to know. Before we bring on wonderful Michael, I do want to warn you in advance that your humble host does use a lot of four-letter words. In our world, the positive, purposeful, powerful and pleasant, our four-letter words are hope, love, grow free, life, live, gift, pray, play and swim.
I even use the four-letter FU word because of the shock value and it’s fun. The four-letter FU word we use is FUNN. Some people are raising hands right away and saying, “Fun is only spelled with three letters.” I say, “Not in our world. In the world of positive, purposeful, powerful and pleasant, fun is spelled FUNN.”
After the show, when you have a twinkle in the eye and a smile on your face, remember what that stands for, point your finger at your family and friends and say, “FU, everybody.” Remember to add right away the NN. “What are you talking about? Where did you get that?” You say, “I read the JOY of LIVING with Barry Shore. He wants to teach the world to FUNN.”
Right before we bring on Michael, who is going to explain to us about the state of America and what’s happening with the country and the world, I’m going to urge everybody to use the two most powerful words in the English language, three times a day, consciously and conscientiously from now forward. It will help transform your life, the life of your family, your friends and all living beings. These two words are thank you.
THANK stands for To Harmonize And Network Kindness. The Dalai Lama has been quoted saying, I read he wrote, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Imagine going back into the coffee shop with no COVID, no masks and masks are over. You order your fancy latte, sit down and somebody brings it to you. You say, “Thank you.”
You walk to the coffee shop order your fancy latte and sit down. A few minutes go by and nobody brings it to you. You go to the counter and they say, “I’m sorry, we forgot. We’re so busy. We’ll bring it to you.” You sit down and a couple more minutes go by. Somebody brings it to you and you say, “Thank you.” You’re walking out of the coffee shop and it’s raining out, especially in Seattle. You’re walking out the door and somebody opens and holds the door for you. You say, “Thank you.”
Imagine walking out of the coffee shop. It’s raining out and somebody slams the door on you. You say, “Thank you.” Imagine you’re stuck in traffic. You’re late for an appointment and somebody cuts you off. You say, “Thank you.” Imagine you get up in the middle of the night. You stub your toe and it hurts. You say, “Thank you.” It’s to harmonize and network kindness. KIND stands for Keep Inspiring Noble Deeds. I am so honored and humbled to be able to introduce you to a man who, in my opinion, inspires noble deeds and allows you to see the greatness of life. It’s no one other than the wonderful Michael Medved. Michael, please say hello to 358,700 people around the world.
It’s amazing to say hello to everybody. I can smile because it’s great to see you. You certainly seem to be energized.
Here’s full disclosure on two things. Number one, I am a Michael Medved raving fan. Number two, not only am I a fan, but I have known this being for many years. I’m going to do something uncharacteristic. Most of the time, when I have a guest on, I will ad-lib and bring into Reader’s Digest format somebody’s bio. I’m not going to do that. Michael, I’m sorry to embarrass you but it’s necessary.
I want people to understand that when I ask you questions about America, what’s happening and where we’re going, it’s not from the point of view of, “He’s an interesting guy, a talk show host and an author.” I’m going to delineate specifically a number of items about you because they go towards credibility and set the stage for what we’re going to discuss, which are very important life-impinging issues. Let me start with the following.
God’s Hand on America: Divine Providence in the Modern Era
Michael Medved hosts a daily talk radio show. He has a podcast where he wonderfully combines politics and pop culture. That’s quite an amazing feat, along with history and values. That’s another reason why I want him to speak with us. He’s also a New York Times Bestselling author of not 5, not 10, not 12 but 14 nonfiction books.
His great book, The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic and its follow-up, God’s Hand on America: Divine Providence in the Modern Era, are must-reads for people who want to have a semblance of understanding of why the United States is not a geographic entity. In this series, he describes the astonishing incidents of which something other people call luck, nature or certainly a higher power intervenes on behalf of the United States.
He went undergraduate at Yale. People may have heard of it as an Ivy League school on the East Coast of the United States. I say it tongue-in-cheek because most of our reading audience, 80%-plus is under the age of 38 and a large percentage of people live outside the United States. It’s worth it to look up Yale and something about Yale. He also attended Yale Law School. He has worked as a political speechwriter, which needs a deft hand, heart and mind to be able to put words on paper that a politician will approve of and take credit for himself.
He’s also a Hollywood screenwriter. They go hand in hand, political speech writing and Hollywood. You did that purposely. He is a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors. There aren’t thousands of those. There are just a few of those. His pieces appear frequently in The Wall Street Journal and Commentary Magazine. He has lectured on religious, political and academic subjects to audiences in all 50 states in the United States of America, not 52, not 48, but all 50 and in 6 Canadian provinces.
I don’t know how many provinces are there in Canada. I’m assuming there’s somewhere between 8 and 9, but we’ll talk about them. He has thankfully been married to a remarkable woman, Dr. Diane Medved, a clinical psychologist and bestselling author for many years. I’m happy and honored to say I attended their wedding. I’m still friends with them. They’re the parents of three grown children and grandparents of four of some of the most remarkable grandchildren on God’s green Earth because I have grandchildren too. That is the short bio of Michael.
I’m giving you the grounds for the discussions that we’re going to have on burning subjects for me and I dare say for many people that I have asked. Michael, you should know I had over 827 responses to an email that I sent out in texts in WhatsApp regarding America and the questions that I wanted to pose to you as a historian, father, grandfather, uncle and concerned citizen about our great country, where it’s going, what’s happening and what possibly could we do about it.
I want to label this particular episode the state of the union because it’s not only in the eyes or hands of an elected president. You are capable of talking about the state of the union. I want to do one other thing, which is very inside baseball but I’m going to do it anyway. I want to dedicate this episode to the honor and the memory of our mutual friend, Judd Magilnick, alav ha-shalom, one of the great people of the world. We both enjoyed his wit and his wisdom. With that, I want to say the state of the union is now in the hands of Michael Medved, who is going to discuss with us the first question, which I’m posing, which is the following. Is America at an inflection point?
It’s very tough to say you’re at an inflection point when it’s happening. It is happening now. You can identify an inflection point after the fact. It’s like that famous passage in the Torah, which guided my whole view of history, where Moses worked pretty closely with the Almighty wants to see his face. However, as the Torah says, you can’t see God’s face and live. The Almighty takes Moses, puts him in the cleft of a rock, passes by and allows him to see his back.
There are all kinds of mystical understandings of what it means to see his back. What I’ve always understood that to me is that when you are looking at things happening in this world, their purpose is sometimes mystifying. Purposeful is very important. It’s one of those P words or four letters of P put together as alluded to. That’s great.
For instance, people talk about the long buildup to the 1967 War where everyone was expecting Israel to be totally wiped out and decimated. It ended up being a miracle. Jerusalem, for the first time in 2,000 years, was in Jewish hands and all kinds of amazing things have happened since then. You could say it’s a miracle on the backend when you’re looking from behind when God passes in front of you and you can see God passing. I’m very eccentric.
We won’t go into the eccentricities, but I could mention walking along and picking up litter as he goes. One of the reasons I mentioned it now is because my sainted father also did that and taught me. I do it regularly as well. I admire that in you.
What are my eccentricities? I have great admiration for Otto von Bismarck, who was pretty positive toward the Jewish people. The great Iron Chancellor of Germany, if he had continued in power and wasn’t dumped by the second Kaiser, there wouldn’t have been World War I, but that’s another story. Bismarck once said, “It is the job of the statesman to listen for God’s footsteps in history and grab his coattails and hang on.”
I wish we had more of that from our leaders who understand that everything that we’re going through, all of this pain and inflection points, what it means whether it reflects the right, left, center, up, down, this or that, we will know when we look back on it. Isn’t that a long-winded way of dodging your question?
Yes and no. I want to mention a couple of things I want to unpack. Michael mentioned the Torah. He’s talking about the Bible and the first five books of Moses. When he’s talking about God, he’s talking about the creator of the universe. Whether you believe it or not is beside the point. I want to go a little bit deeper into this inflection point issue because there are a number of times in American history from 1968 forward, which is composing 50-plus years.
In my humble opinion, 1968, looking back, was a watershed time and inflection point, which even at the time was seen by a lot of people as something unique was happening. There’s a famous song from Buffalo Springfield, “There’s something happening here. What it is, we don’t know. There’s a man with a gun over there saying you’ve got to beware.”
America Politics: It’s not just America as in 1968. It’s around the world. It’s very tough every day. The levels of cruelty and despair that you read about are at variance with all of the joy that we can see around us.
There was an entire process happening vis-a-vis street attacks against the police. There was the Democratic Convention. There were assassinations that had happened and will happen. There was a war that America was involved with that strategically may have been warranted and yet now was being promoted as incorrect. The entire process of America was being, if not torn apart, certainly torn asunder in the fabric of what we call American society.
Without making an analogy to 1968, in this environment, at least the way I hear it, I may have a tin ear, the caustic rhetoric, accusations and vitriol that seems to be coming from “leaders” on either side, any side, up, down and around seem to be heightened more so than in the past. Therefore, that’s why I’m asking, are we at an inflection point because when people start using such vitriol and looking to cancel others, are we not putting ourselves into a cauldron, which can only brew a witch’s brew?
That’s not a yes or no question. The analogy of 1968 was very important. 1968 was a nightmarish year. You simply cannot fairly compare it to what we have now. What we have now has nightmares elements. Certainly, to me, one of the most depressing things about the moment in which we live is something we didn’t have in 1968. You didn’t have at 1968 people arguing about something as basic as public health issues. There weren’t a great number of people who believed that a lot of doctors and nurses give their lives to keep us alive.
As someone who has serious medical challenges, you know that as well as anybody, I had stage three throat cancer in 2015. For the rest of the years God gives me, I will be grateful for those physicians who got me through that. The idea is that there are attacks and there have been physical attacks at people who are trying to provide vaccines. To me, this is very upsetting. I lose sleep over it.
What’s fascinating about ‘68 is that it was more extreme. Thank God we have not had the high level of vaccines of two of the most influential leaders in the country shot dead within a few weeks of each other. On April 4th, Dr. King and on June 5th, Robert Kennedy. With all of that, we also had serious people who were predicting that there would be fighting in the streets.
I can remember sitting in the common room in Branford College, my college at Yale and the University Chaplain, William Sloane Coffin, was giving a speech, and he was saying, “Everyone here has to get ready to choose because there will be fighting in the streets. You’re going to have to be on one side of the barricade or the other. You have to choose.” I said, “What fighting in the streets?” He said, “Fighting in the streets where people lose and give their lives.” Thank God that didn’t happen.
What was interesting about ‘68 and different from now is every issue and direction are so totally fragmented. That’s partially because the internet allows these different centers of ideas and energy that can be completely at odds. In ‘68, there was generally the sense that once the war was over and Americans came home from Vietnam, things would at least begin to calm down and they did.
Think of ‘68 to ‘76. ‘76 was the bicentennial and America wasn’t healed. I’m not sure it has healed since. Serious people believed that there would be fighting in the streets. Remember, it wasn’t just a few riots and demonstrations. When Dr. King was shot, I wrote about Dr. King in The American Miracle. There were 168 different riots in the next three weeks in virtually every major city. Some of them were devastating, with hundreds of dead people.
2021 in America is not at a time of economic hardship either because the ‘60s were booming economically. What I remember very much is what people on the Left and on the Right were saying in common, “We have a sick society. We have a sick country.” What I do here are echoes of that. What I don’t hear is the simple solution. It will be when the pandemic is behind us, which God willing soon. That will help but won’t put an end to the anguish.
It’s not just America as in 1968. It’s around the world. It’s very tough every day. The levels of cruelty and despair that you read about are at variance with all of the joy that we can see around us. My wife is a little bit under the weather. We spent some time listening to music together. I was thinking about listening to your introduction because the most famous piece of music in all of human history is An die Freude, which is Ode to Joy, which has a nice symphony. Joy is referred to in the lyrics by Schiller as Tochter aus Elysium or the daughter of Elysium or heaven. We need more of that.
You used the word sick. I heard Dennis Prager, who is also a friend of yours. He’s an interesting man with a little bit different perspective on things than you on certain issues. I don’t want to wait until those waters get murky but he had on an author. The author has great credentials in the green environmental movement when he has moved from the Left, for want of a better term, to the Right.
He has authored a book called San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities. It’s because of the politics that have enabled a great American city to go into a dystopia. It may be that San Francisco or San Fransicko as he says is easy to point to, but there’s an underlying current that is touching a lot of American cities in a very dystopian way like Chicago, Minneapolis and Portland. I’m not sure about Seattle anymore but maybe Seattle itself and not the environs.
We did see in the streets to the run-up to the 2020 Election that there were people fighting in the streets and barricades. We can say thank God that Mr. Trump didn’t win, not because he wasn’t qualified, but because the country would have fallen into the situation that the chaplain talked about.
I want to applaud you on something, Michael. You wrote at the time something that struck me so wonderfully as if the Liberty Bell was ringing again and not cracked. It was that even if Mr. Trump lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote, this is what you wrote, it would not have been good for the country. Do you remember writing that?
America Politics: The one great thing about betting against the end of the world is that if you win, you’ll be around to enjoy it. If you lose on that one, you don’t have to worry because the world has gone and ended.
That was prescient because the country is on, if not an inflection point, a tipping point. I’m not sure if we can tip without falling over. I want to talk about some of the things that are happening that are reminiscent of the ‘70s. These are the economic situations, which are devastating to any country but especially to ours.
I was looking for and finding the good. We have found good and abundance when the being called Michael Medved, a historian, author, podcaster and commentator, who gives from his heart and his mind to enable us to see what’s going on in America and therefore the world and the bigger picture so that we don’t despair and live in a joy deficit. We live in a joy surplus.
We were talking about 1968 forward. I want to mention something that’s happening. Michael, let’s talk about the 1970s. You may recall that in the 1970s, let’s say when Jimmy Carter took office in 1976, inflation had a particular number. It happened to be that it was 4.8%. I bring that up because something has happened in the United States of America that is not beneficial to our economy and therefore, our society. It inversely impacts poor people, sick people and elderly people who live on fixed incomes. That is inflation. The inflation rate is pegged at 5.4%. That is higher than when Jimmy Carter took office in 1976.
I mention that because the following year, from Jimmy Carter’s office, inflation went from 4.8% to 6.2%, the following year to 9.7% and then the following year to 11%. When he left, it was over 12%. Even worse was that he made a miscalculation. His entire administration did something against the bond market because they encouraged banks to raise interest rates.
When he left office in 1980, thankfully, Ronald Reagan won by a landslide, interest rates were 20%. If you wanted to borrow money to buy a home and start a business, it was 20%, double digits. That’s hard to fathom. Over the ensuing decades, all of that was brought under control mostly through Ronald Reagan. Even Bill Clinton was able to keep the economy going and such.
We’re at an inflection point because people are saying, “Those in the know, this time is different.” We have heard that before and most other things. How do you see this attack upon our economic system with the printing of trillions of dollars? The public debt vis-a-vis GDP in 1977 was somewhere around 34%. The percentage of public debt versus GDP now is 125%. In other words, it’s in excess of what we take in. How is that infecting and causing potentially a devastating inflection point in our country?
It’s dangerous, it’s not healthy and it’s not positive but I am not one of those people who see a complete end of the world or collapse in the financial system. The one great thing about betting against the end of the world is that if you win, you’ll be around to enjoy it. If you lose on that one, you don’t have to worry because the world has gone and ended.
Generally, most people who have bet against the United States and this is part of the theme of my book, God’s Hand on America, have lost a bit because America comes out. I believe that because this country has been designated not for all sorts of goodies showering down on you like gifts on the eighth night of Hanukkah but for special responsibilities. Lincoln has spoken to the New Jersey State Legislature in 1860 on his way to Washington to take over the presidency. He called Americans these almost chosen people.
There is that but it’s not being chosen for rewards, goodies, honor or privilege. It’s being chosen for responsibility. Part of America’s responsibility is to prevent the entire world’s economy from collapsing and exploding. That requires a more responsible approach to our spending and borrowing, which are out of control. Part of this is one of those things that, “Who would have thought?”
There’s a Senator from West Virginia who is a pretty good guy. He is the one thing standing between the United States and a truly horrifying and unsustainable level of debt. He’s not the one thing because there might be others that took part in that role. That’s the role that Joe Manchin is playing. He should live and be well. How does this end up?
One of the things we haven’t talked about at all is I have spent too much of my life in the dark watching movies, writing about them and reviewing them. People who are civilians and aren’t involved directly in that industry always want to know, “How is it going to end up?” You’re not supposed to give spoilers. There’s no spoiler here. I don’t know how it’s going to end up.
One of the things that I find poisonous in America and it goes together with what we were talking about before, which is the questioning of doctors, nurses, research, sciences, public health officials and various people who devoted their whole lives to making people better, to our health and survival. By the same token, they’re not all fools, idiots, charlatans and rascals who are running this country.
If you look at what happened between the time that Ronald Reagan took the Oath of Office on January 20th of 1981 and the time that he left office in January 20th of 1989. There was such a transformation of the economy. It was because there were certain ground rules that were laid down. The problem with this administration to me is there’s no sense of where they’re going. There’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We’re going to have a wealth tax or we won’t. We’re going to go after the filibuster or we won’t. There’s talk of great change but no plan, no blueprint and no path.
That’s what America needs. What it needs to do in terms of making that path is not use everything as a partisan cudgel. The people that are on the other side are not necessarily evildoers. They aren’t malevolent. Most Americans on all sides have some of the same dreams for themselves and for their country. If we could acknowledge that and not treat this as that series of movies and novels based on The Hunger Games. The idea here isn’t to kill the other guy. The idea is, as the Psalm says, “Come, let us reason together.” I think we can.
America Politics: The idea here isn’t to kill the other guy. The idea is as the Psalm says, “Come, let us reason together.”
I am not going to use the word optimist. I’m going to use the word realist because you are a student of history, a lover of America and a believer in administrations, not necessarily the one at the helm unless the one at the helm has a plan. It’s this dipping the toe in various waters that are somewhat unsettling at the moment as opposed to rolling out a plan. If you remember, 80% of our audience is under the age of 35.
They may have heard of the book that I’m about to say but I urge everybody to do a search, find it and read some of it. It’s called Profiles in Courage. It was ghostwritten by many people but the author supposedly was John F. Kennedy. The purpose that he wrote it, in addition to helping him get elected the authority idea, was that there are and were profiles in courage. One of the things that you’re pointing at is what we’ll call Joe Manchin and Senator Sinema from Arizona, Profile in Courage. I’m not sure yet. We don’t know.
I don’t understand her entirely but she’s doing the right thing.
We’re saying she’s doing the right thing because of our political persuasion but others are slinging arrows against outrageous fortune upon these people. What they’re doing is standing in the breach against the potential downfall or at least a large hit to our economic system, which no longer just affects the United States. We are the bastion for the world. As we go so goes the world. We do not want the world to be in any worse shape than it is already.
You have China that is looming larger vis-a-vis the province off its coast, taking over the former colony called Hong Kong and flexing its muscles in the China Sea or the Yellow Sea, where 50% of the world’s shipping goes through. There are a lot of malign influences in the world but I want to focus again back in our own country. I want to ask what is potentially a provocative question and you may be able to dismiss it out of hand or not.
Since you mentioned wonderful President Abraham Lincoln as a small historical side. I have done some research on this. In the 19th century, certainly around the time that Abraham Lincoln was born, the name Abraham was a very uncommon name, specifically given his father and birth mother. It didn’t enter their world at all. It’s quite remarkable that Abraham should be attached to the Lincoln family name, whatever that was.
Do you know what his sister’s name was?
I hope it was Sarah.
It was. He also had another unusual name. His uncle, his father’s brother, was Mordecai.
The reason I mentioned it is because fast forward to now, what looms large and potentially is a glowing sun in our world is the Abraham Accords. The whole point of Abraham is to be a blessing to the world not necessarily to be blessed but to be a blessing. That’s the calling of the United States. I want to bring up Abraham Lincoln and ask you a very pointed question. You’re free to dismiss it or to speak about it. Have we been this divided? You said yes because of what people call social media. It may be exacerbated to the extent that never existed in the history of the world. Are we divided more so than at any time since the Civil War?
No. The divisions were more dire in ‘68 and ‘69. There were Americans dying every day. In Vietnam, the height of the casualties in the war was 400 dead Americans per week. That is extraordinary when you compare it to even the horrible casualties that we withstood. There was also an explosion of crime. We may be having that same thing now.
Crime has gone down steadily since the late ‘70s and very dramatically. Nationwide, you’re talking about less than half the murder rate that we had many years ago but now we’re losing that and that’s a terrible sign. In terms of the division in the ‘60s, there were a number of people and it wasn’t a small number and it wasn’t the majority who wanted us to lose the war.
I don’t think that ever happened with the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War. The way we ended up getting out of Afghanistan, we don’t know. You’re old enough to remember that they used to spell America with a K as in the Nazi way. It was supposed to refer to the Ku Klux Klan. People forget and it bothers me because it’s historical amnesia.
They planted a bomb in the Capitol Building. I know what happened on January 6th, 2021 was horrible, unforgivable and terrible. However, when planting bombs in the Capitol building, there was this poor guy, a Mathematics graduate student, who was up late in Wisconsin when Left-wing crazies planted a bomb, blew up the Math building and killed him. He had four kids.
The level of danger and negativity was worse. It seems worse now because we hear about it every day. It’s hard for Americans to remember. We didn’t use to have the 24-hour news cycle. You didn’t have, “Let’s turn on the news.” You can turn it on anytime you want. TV news began in the early ‘60s. It was fifteen minutes of national news. If you’re in a big city, it was fifteen minutes of local news. Now, it’s constant and they have to make some dramatic.
If the plane lands on time, it’s never news, “Here we are at LAX. We can tell you the plane arrived from Paris and it was on time. Breaking News.” The breaking news is if something goes wrong. Part of the problem with our culture is that this news addiction is an addiction to bad news. We don’t have a news business. We have a bad news business. That’s a true problem that exacerbates and exaggerates the level of our stress.
When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan
The direct answer is that no. This is not the most divisive time in American history since the Civil War. It may have been at the ‘60s, ‘68 specifically, was more so. Technological advances have given weight to the negative side. In terms of reaching out and the miracle on the hands of God, it’s a little tongue-in-cheek but it’s fun to know that the Atlanta Braves will be playing the Houston Astros in Georgia and Texas. It was a pointed activity against these oppressive voting laws and abortion laws. The World Series is going to be played there because whatever circumstance comes about is just desserts for the moment. It’s for the fun of it. We don’t know what it is but I hope it attracts an audience.
After the way the Astro’s behaved in cheating in baseball, I’m not sure I would view it.
That’s another thing. You’re talking about a culture that does condone and maybe even elevates cheating and lying. It is an endemic problem. Also, maybe it’s exacerbated and exaggerated because of technology.
This is something I was writing about to back up a moment. I do columns for Newsweek every other week. This is the one I’m doing for Newsweek, which is about the passing of Colin Powell, who was an exceptional man. One of the things about him was that the Republican Party used to have a slogan that was intermittently deployed that said, “Character counts.”
When Peggy Noonan wrote her great book about President Reagan, she called it When Character Was King. We seem to have in our politics on both sides, on all sides, all around us where a character is irrelevant. People are so polarized that the whole idea is not winning. It’s destroying the other side, lying, prevaricating, dodging and playing all kinds of games. Basic truthfulness and not bearing false witness to our world have been dispensed with.
It’s one of those things when you talk about character counts. The Republican Party, in particular, has been a party that has stressed heroic characters. The first person nominated by the Republicans was John C. Fremont in 1856. He was the great Pathfinder, a military officer, a great and intrepid mountain explorer and a national hero before he ran for president.
These are the four most popular Republican Presidents in history. They were Ulysses Grant, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, who we forget about. If you look at the people who have been nominated for president, they have generally been pretty honorable and decent people. That shifted very dramatically with the whole scandals and the repeated scandals right before the Clinton administration.
The whole idea is about trying to view a president as a role model. I have been involved in very angry interchanges with some of my conservative friends and colleagues because I do believe it is important for a president to be someone who is not just head of government like a prime minister. He’s the head of state like a queen or a king. He’s both in our system. That is a real problem. It was the idea of character as it’s normally defined. Honor, virtue, reliability, gravity and trustworthiness. Those things are not never irrelevant.
Let’s address the final question. What remedies, if there are any, do you see as possible? It’s not just, “It would be nice if they happened.” What do you see as remedies, 1, 2 or 3, that are possible within the next decade? The next decade will be very telling for our country.
One of the things that are going to be crucial will be for the next president. I don’t think the next president will be named Biden or Trump. It will be someone else. It’s for the next president to de-emphasize partisanship and stop this thing. This is a gang fight and we want to own the libs and wipe out the fascist conservatives. We’re Americans.
Franklin Roosevelt, who was a very clever guy and a successful president, when America was approaching the entrance to World War II back in the middle of 1941 but before the war in Pearl Harbor took two of the most prominent Republicans and put them in crucial roles in his cabinet. Henry Stimson, who had been Secretary of State under Hoover, was made Secretary of War.
Frank Knox, who had been the vice-presidential candidate with Landon who ran against Roosevelt, was made Secretary of the Navy. It was a signal, “Americans, we have got to get together.” We need that here. Biden had a great opportunity. He blew it completely to send some people from the other side he could work with. His whole sell was, “I’m a man of the center.” That hasn’t been the way he’s governed.
As a matter of fact, on the contrary, not to interrupt but to put into perspective, a number of his nominees in important positions are of Left-wing, especially in banking and regulation. These are people who are avowed. If you’re not going to call the marks, it’s the people who don’t particularly care for the American system of banking and regulations.
One of them who was turned down by the Senate whether it was Neera Tanden, he has found a place for any way that doesn’t require confirmation.
America Politics: If you want to improve the lives of people around you and the life of your country, as the Irving Berlin song says, “When at night you go to sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep.”
That’s the other issue. In other words, the administration is not pursuing a path of inclusion. One of the things that you’re advocating and you think could happen.
It’s bipartisanship and a whole different tone to our politics.
Bipartisanship is potentially a healer. That’s a remedy. What’s another?
Another is emphasizing gratitude over grief and guilt. This is right up your line. It’s one of those things. Remember, back in the ‘80s, there was this whole thing about self-esteem that the way we could help our children, lower the crime rate, make them happy and preserve marriage is to help people with more self-esteem. We need national self-esteem.
In America, all of the 1619 Project, running down America is one of the worst countries that ever existed. We’re so guilty and it’s all stolen wealth and abused human beings, “Look at all the lives America has ruined and saved.” Look at our lives and the way we live compared to where and how our grandparents lived. Myself, my children and my grandchildren live a life that is inconceivable to me who came from Ukraine in 1914.
It’s an unbelievable thing. Americans need that appreciation and gratitude. Feeling guilty and aggrieved subtracts from your happiness and effectiveness. It impacts other people in a negative way. Who likes to be around someone who is constantly claiming victim status? No one is the answer. If you want to improve the lives of people around you and the life of your country, as the Irving Berlin song says, “When at night you go to sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep.”
On that note, Michael Medved’s last name is V as in victor because he is a victor, not a victim. That’s the essence of America embodied by Colin Powell and all of his thoughts, words and deeds and by Condoleezza Rice on whatever shows she has been on and talking about the greatness of our divine country. Without recognizing that there is a divine purpose in the founding and the continuation of the United States of America, we’re just a geographic entity. There are many of those around the world. Nobody needs another one.
What we need is the idea that there is purpose in life. You have given us two that you truly see as possible. To reiterate, it’s bipartisanship on behalf of the next presidential not just candidate but also victor and the return of gratitude or the ability to recognize that the United States is that city on the hill, that shining beacon and that ability to bring forth not to all Americans, no matter where you come from and who you are but to the world. There is something unique about living in freedom, joy, happiness, peace and love.
One last related is optimism. What made Ronald Reagan such a successful president, I believe and one of our most successful presidents was the idea of smiling and enjoying his life and time as president. He even enjoyed while he’s in a hospital after he has been shot.
I remember what he said when he was shot and they brought him in. He said, “The doctors, how many of you are Republicans?”
“Good Republicans,” he said. Two surgeons said, “Today, Mr. President, we’re all Republicans.” Also, when he saw Nancy for the first time after he was shot, he said, “Nancy, I forgot to duck.” That kind of optimism, the best example of that is somebody else who couldn’t walk. Franklin Roosevelt couldn’t walk and stand up. He saved the world. Honestly, it’s a clear element of divine providence. Three weeks before he took the Oath of Office, he had a shot fired at him by an assassin. It killed the Mayor of Chicago who was standing a few feet away from him.
Roosevelt was spared. Fourteen months separated that would-be assassination from within inches fatal accident to Winston Churchill. There’s a famous novel called The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick that became a series on TV, where Germany and Japan have won World War II. What allowed them to do it in this alternate version of reality was that bullet moving about two inches off course and killing FDR in Biscayne Park in Miami in 1933.
In any event, it’s all for a purpose. The optimism that FDR can show in the midst of the depression and war is one of the most successful attributes of all our presidents who have been successful, which are optimism, positivity and being able to rally the country. We don’t have a lot of great politicians who were great complainers. They called Reagan the Great Communicator. Who would they call the Great Complainer? Jimmy Carter maybe.
Michael does see the possible bipartisanship, gratitude, optimism and potential elements of the unique American experience. We’re built that way. It’s in our DNA whether you came here and became a citizen or you have been born here and you’re here for 6, 7, 8 and 10 generations. It doesn’t matter. Bipartisanship, gratitude and optimism. It’s the way we live in America and we share this with the world. Is that fair to say?
Let me conclude here with a quote from somebody that I think you know as well. He was a very great man who we lost at age 103. It’s Herman Wouk. When the great novelist, Herman, wrote about Germany, he said, “Germany is a great country but it’s a country that’s always complaining.” It’s always convinced it has been gypped and that it deserved more success than it did. The ultimate feeling of being gypped is what Hitler preyed upon. He says, “America is different because it’s the ultimate can-do country.” It looks impossible. We will get it done. We will get it done because there is a sense that there is a higher power looking out for us.
That’s the key, the higher power. When we see the word impossible, as Americans, we read it, “I’m possible.” It was embodied by Colin Powell. When you know his background, you scratch your head. It’s the same with Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas.
It’s the same with Abraham Lincoln.
He could not read and write. His father didn’t want him to read.
There’s so much stuff that is written about Lincoln and this amazing American life and how you go from someone who has a grand total of less than six months of education of any kind. I would say arguably the greatest prose writer in the English language. He says, “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation.” No speechwriter did that.
America Politics: The optimism that FDR can show in the midst of the depression and war is one of the most successful attributes of all our presidents who have been successful, which are optimism, positivity, and being able to rally the country.
Michael Medved, I’m truly humbled and honored that you have made time to join us and people around the world to revel in this. I urge everybody to read this again and share this with at least five people that you like. You don’t do 50 and 100. If you want to, that’s up to you. Five people so we touch 1.5 million lives because what Michael has given us over is truly transformational.
We’re at a point in time and in history that every single one of you can make a difference. I urge you all to go mad. I’m going to do a couple of things. I’m going to ask Michael three quick questions and then we’re going to have to bid him a fond adieu until our next time. This is the first question. Michael, will you come back again?
Number two. Tell me in 80 seconds what is your most fervent desire?
My most fervent immediate desire is for my wife to feel better and to be able to see my grandchildren and children experience all of the joys, opportunities and blessings that are characteristic of the American experience.
I’m going to have to embarrass you in front of hundreds of thousands of people, give you a hug, tell you what hug stands for and then we will leave everybody with a blessing because that’s the essence of America also. HUG stands for Heartfelt Unlimited Giving. That’s also very American.
I’ll be back with heartfelt unlimited gratitude.
I may have to add another line for HUG, Heartfelt Unlimited Gratitude. Thank you for tuning in with our remarkable guest, Michael Medved. Remember, you’re here because you tune in for the best reason. You care the most in the entire world about you. When you’re the best you, you make the world a better place. You build bridges of harmony and create more joy, happiness, peace and love. The three fundamentals of life will make you happier, healthier and wealthier.
The three fundamentals are number one, life. Your life has a purpose. Number two, go mad. Make a difference. Number three, there’s lots of power in the sequence of everyday words and terms such as WWW, What a Wonderful World. SMILE, Seeing Miracles In Life Everyday. What my niece says is Seeing miracles in life every day. Create the world you want to live in. Causing rethinking, as Michael says, enables all to excel and because we live in the world of the positive, purposeful, powerful and pleasant, use four-letter words like love, life, hope, grow, free, play, pray, swim and tell the world to FUNN.
Remember where you got that from. It opens up doors. “What are you talking about?” This is the JOY of LIVING. Use the two most powerful words in the English language three times a day, consciously and conscientiously. You will change your vibration, the world for your family and the world for all living beings throughout the world. These two words are thank you. It’s to harmonize and network kindness. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Therefore, be kind always. Our blessing from Michael and Barry is to go forth, live exuberantly and spread the seeds of joy, happiness, peace and love. Go make a difference. Thank you, Michael.
Thank you, Barry.
About Michael Medved
Michael Medved hosts a daily talk radio show and podcast that combines politics and pop culture, history and values. He is also a New York Times best-selling author of 14 nonfiction books–most recently THE AMERICAN MIRACLE: DIVINE PROVIDENCE IN THE RISE OF THE REPUBLIC, and its follow-up GOD’S HAND ON AMERICA: DIVINE PROVIDENCE IN THE MODERN ERA. In this series, Michael describes astonishing incidents in which luck, nature, or some higher power seems to intervene on behalf of the United States.
An honors graduate of Yale, he also attended Yale Law School and has worked as both a political speechwriter and Hollywood screenwriter. He is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and his pieces appear frequently in the Wall Street Journal and Commentary. Michael has lectured for religious, political, and academic audiences in all 50 states and six Canadian provinces.
He’s been married to Dr. Diane Medved, clinical psychologist and best-selling author, for 34 years; they are the parents of three grown children and grandparents of the four most remarkable grandchildren on God’s Green Earth.