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SS 53 – Michael Novak Talks Ronald Reagan The Democratic Party & Abortion

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Episode: 53

Guest: Michael Novak

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Michael Novak is a journalist, novelist, diplomat, and an American Catholic philosopher. He has written and edited more than 45 books since 1961. Novak has touched on issues as vast as human rights and welfare reform to sports and television. Pope John Paul II called Novak his friend and Margaret Thatcher has praised him dearly for his work. He appears on the Solomon Success show to talk a little bit about his time with President Ronald Reagan, his opinions on abortion, the democratic party, and more.

Key Takeaways:

3:55 – China and Indian alone have raised half a billion people out of poverty. A good 70% of the world is no longer poor.

9:15 – Michael talks a little bit about how he started and his work with Ronald Reagan.

14:15 – Michael breaks down what a good speech should consist of. It should open with some humor, talk about the current pains of the people, share facts not many people might know about, and what action you’re going to take to fix this.

18:45 – Michael makes a comparison between political parties back in his time and now. He believes in today’s current time politics has become much more bitter.

23:00 – Michael used to associate himself as a democrat, but that changed when the democratic party started to supported abortion.

 

Tweetables

 

“I don’t belong to any organized political party, I’m a democrat.”  Tweet this!

“There’s too many purists on each political side and politics has become much more bitter.” Tweet this!

“We were arguing for greater philosophical cohesion in each party. Well, that’s exactly the way it went and the results are terrifying.” Tweet this!

 

Mentioned In This Episode

http://solomonsuccess.com/

http://michaelnovak.net

 

Transcript

 

Jason Hartman:

Welcome to the Solomon Success show. This is your host Jason Hartman where we talk about biblical principles applied to business and investing, learning from King Solomon, of course. We will be back with a fantastic guest for you in just a moment here, but be sure to visit or our website at SolomonSuccess.org or SolomonSuccess.com. Take advantage of our extensive blog library and our free content. I think you’ll find some fantastic things there, so be sure to visit us on the web at SolomonSuccess.com

 

It’s my pleasure to welcome Michael Novak to the show. Scholar and religion, philosophy and public policy. He worked for the American Enterprise Institute for the last 30 years. He’s a former United States Ambassador. United Nations Commission on human rights and author of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Business as a Calling, and the new Writing from Left to Right. Michael, welcome, how are you?

 

Michael Novak:

Oh good thanks. Thanks for having me on.

 

Jason:

Good, good. It’s a tremendous pleasure to have you on. You’ve worked with so many presidents from Ronald Reagan and outside of the united states, Pope John Paul, Margaret Thatcher. I think you’re going to have a lot of good stories for us, right?

 

Michael:

I do have a lot. I do wanna center things about what I think is the great issue of our time. If you’re Jewish or Christian or Humanist, one of the other way by the biblical ethic is,as I think even our Humanist are, we recognize our responsibility to care for the poor. So, it’s very important to think carefully about wealth and poverty. The issue is not what are the causes of poverty, it’s the way we’re born. Suppose you could figure out the answer, what is the cause of poverty. Heck, now, you’ll be able to make more poverty. I mean, what’s the point?

 

Jason:

Yeah, well is this really the topic area of enlighten capitalism, would that be correct?

 

Michael:

Yes, but I think the very invention of capitalism in the last two centuries have itself, how can I say, it has been an enlightening for the human race. The notion that A) we can create wealth. There’s no need for poverty and there’s a system for doing that and is that system worth owning by certain virtues and if you don’t have those, it falls apart. I think that’s capitalism. I’d hate to call it enlightenment capitalism. That’s capitalism.

 

There are deviations from it for sure and there are poor understandings of it for sure, but the reality, I think.. about 2 centuries ago, I think the families of almost all of us were very, very poor. There were only a small percentage of human beings on the planet who were not poor and just 2 centuries after the invention or discovery of how to create wealth, you know, something like 70-80% of us are no longer poor and we have to help bring up the other 30% and we can do it!

 

China and Indian alone over the last 25 years have raised up 500,000 million people. Half a billion people out of poverty. Turning communist and maybe other methods in Indian to inventing a discovery to the use of the human head and organizing things and then the biblical standbys of private property and markets and keeping the bread you earned profit if you wish, but added on to those the new thing that’s called capitalism, which is like the patent and copyright act. The first time in history turned the world upside down, before it, wealth was usually land. The great wealthy people were great owners. Some of this land they produce wine and apple and all the other things.

 

To get straight to the point, ideas. Patents and inventions were the main cause of wealth and transformed the world from an agrarian society to a modern society, not only industrial, but intellectually, electronics and etc. So, that’s a great transformation in history and I think it all flows..it happened in a civilization inspired by Judaism and Christianity.

 

It could have only been from that source, because Judaism and Christianity say that human beings are made in the image of God and that means to be creatives, and that means to be creatives also in the economic sphere and that’s where we come to the idea of creation solid theology of increasing wealth. Growing the abundance of society from the bottom up, that should hold to the top down, but going up from the bottom up. Small businesses upwards. These are all inspirations of the bible.

 

Jason:

Sure they are. Tell us a little bit about your experiences in..I wanna hear about writing speeches and working with Reagan, especially, one of my all time favorites and working with some of the very famous people that you have helped and written speeches for them and campaigned and so forth.

 

Michael:

Well, I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which was the steal, the iron and steal center of the United States until Pittsburgh took over. This is about the time of the civil war, so Pittsburgh took over later in the century, 19th century, I mean. My grandparents were immigrants to this country from the middle of Europe, from Slovakia, and they were mill workers, steal mill workers or miners, so we can out from a blue collar background and my older uncle refused to let my father, the youngest boy, go into that work. He pushed him towards white collar work. Anyway, my father biggest boast was he got all 5 of his kids through university by tough savings.

 

Anyway, that would lend me to be what I consider kind of typical traditional modern democrat. It is in those days that Jack Kennedy expressed it better than Adlai Stevenson. Adlai Stevenson, I admired him, I loved his wit, but I figured…and this is I’m just becoming of age to vote and to act and Adlai Stevenson seemed to me a little bit more of the elite type, the talker type, and Jack Kennedy seemed to be more down to earth, tougher. Then, he was killed and Bobby Kennedy called me when he got into the race in 1968, wanted to see me. I was then teaching at Stanford. I was the first person he wanted to see, he said, on his campaign.

 

So when I met him, he said that’s because he read an article of mine that lead him to declare his candidacy. It was an article called the Secular Saint. It appeared in the Methodist church magazine, the Motive magazine. It was about (#8:14-8:15) and others in Europe after World War II, some not believers at all. Nonetheless, they were willing to lay down their lives in cut-loose novel and in the play, laid down their lives and doctors administering to these poor sick people endangered into becoming..catching the diseases themselves. The doctors did it. It took courage and honesty and spirit, so I was kind of admiring that and that somehow affect Bobby Kennedy drew cautions of wins and entered the race.

 

So, I call it campaign form in California and he invited me to come down with him on the plane in San Francisco, so he could call in a vote that night in Las Angeles and I declined to fly down with him because we had two little babies at home and I had been away from my wife for almost 3 weeks. I said, I just had to stay at home and that was from there that we saw the final shooting of Bobby that night. I was always wondered whether I’d be with him or not. I took part in every campaign there after, sometimes just as a reporter. Usually invited to have criticize or advise or help the candidate and increasingly help to write part of the speech.

 

You’d like to have a writer beside you in a campaign. New things come up and you need an opening here and a closing there, you need some fresh statistics, whatever. That’s the rule I played on many campaigns, but sarg rivalry 1970, we went around tried to elect democratic congressmen that had some 39 states, every kind of neighborhood. I really learned more than anywhere what America looked like on the ground and the various places the Americans lived.

 

I guess to skip ahead, Ronald Reagan’s team asked me the day after the inauguration, they needed somebody to go to Geneva and the Human Rights Commission and he had to be ready to go in 9 days. I said, “Wow, can I have a day to check with my wife, that’s all.” So I did and I went and I was the first voice for democracy and human rights in the Reagan administration and helped set the policy there. I said, “I don’t know the law. I don’t have any history with the United Nations. I won’t be able to keep up with the lawyers.” He said, “Don’t worry about that. We have people who can do that. What we want is a philosophy of thinking.” So, I did two more ambassadorial assignments for Reagan and that was a great, great..I loved the guy.

 

One time when I was away in Geneva after the Polish government had militarized Poland. Marshall law was declared so lots of people in prison for solidarity of the union and so forth. Reagan at Christmas called for all Americans to put a candle in the window out of solidarity for Poland and there was a movie made about this and it was called Let Poland Be Poland. I couldn’t be there, so they invited my wife to take my place and there were maybe 30 men for the premier of the movie, invited first to dinner. They were all gathering around my wife, who was the only woman and talking with her and then Reagan they all turned their back on him. He came through the doors and they turned their back on my wife and turned to the President. He saw instantly, cocked through the crowd, took her by the arm and brought her over to the table to see them beside her.

 

Jason:

Wow.

 

Michael:

Such gallantry.

 

Jason:

Yeah, what a gentleman.

 

Michael:

So when I reported to the President, in my overall report to the White House I said, “By the way Mr. President. My wife was so impressed with your gallantry. She thought you were so gallant to cut through the crowd, remember this, and you took her over to the table and sat her beside you for dinner. She thinks you were so gallant, but I think you just have an eye for the prettiest woman in the room.”

 

Jason:

*Laughter*.

 

Michael:

He broke into a smile and smacked me on the arm the way men do and he said, “You got it buddy.”

 

Jason:

That’s great. So, share with us some of the tricks of the trade of being a good speech writer. I’ve always wondered what the inner workings of political speeches are.

 

Michael:

I’m not a pro at this, but I did it a lot. I did it with some success. I know that Kennedy, he had a stable of really great writers and I was an amateur compared to them. I worked for Sarge Shriver and teased me a bit, but my idea was for a policies on a stump, he’s giving 8-10 speeches a day to different audiences. You need to vary it a little bit, so I would divide a speech into 8 segments or 9 segments and at a given talk he’ll give 4 or 5 or 3, the candidate chooses.

 

You need to get in some humor. You need to start with some humor. You need to get in the suffering of the people. You need to run your audience through a gamut of emotions and you need some clear facts, resting ones, things people are not likely to know, and then you have to end up with something particular to do. For American, an argument isn’t complete unless you form a committee or something to do something or else the audience will feel cheated.

 

Any segment was designed to produce that flow and then while there was a variety of segments, the candidate keep refreshing himself everyday. You can put in new facts when things happen, new anecdotes, new jokes as you got them, and keep it going fresh. I just found it great fun and just a great challenge especially when we found out somebody else was in the audience we didn’t expect. Put something in there for him or here or whatever. We’d be writing that while maybe the candidate was speaking and sort of sneak up and push the card in front of him to take a look at it and rejected it or not.

 

Jason:

These candidates they weren’t using teleprompters too much in those days.

 

Michael:

No, not at the beginning. Not at all. I remember writing Sarge Shriver’s acceptance address when George McGovern had to drop senator (#15:27-15:28) from the ticket. I knew, reading through I knew it had to end up with Shriver. He was 5 or 6 on the list, but I knew it would end up wit him. So, I started writing his acceptance address and you know, I knew Mr. Shriver by this time.

 

I worked with him in 1970 everyday for 3 months and I knew you don’t wait for him to ask you, you just showed up and I showed up in his estate in Maryland, “Oh Michael, what are you doing here?” he said, “Oh, you came down to help with the speech.” He said, “We’ll make tomorrow morning. We have a bunch of people here who liked to see the drafts we all write.”

 

The next morning we met and some of Kennedy’s speech writers were there. He wanted to see drafts each of us purposed and he read through them and mine was on the bottom, he came to it and he said, “This is what I wanted to get.” And, the names were on them. He said two days later, “Did you write that?” It’s the one I gave and that’s the first time I think I’m almost sure he used a teleprompter then. I may be wrong, but the text was there so he could..in an occasion like that it requires dignity of a formal statement. You don’t just wing it. I think that’s the first time I saw it, but maybe it was later. Most of the time on the campaign trail you can’t do that, it’s just not there.

 

Jason:

Very interesting. How do you think… I mean it’s such a big broad question and of course we all know it’s changed so much, but what do you think of the political environment today back say, in the 80s? Is it a lot more dirty, a lot more mud slinging in your eyes, you know, what’s happening to the country? *Laughter*.

 

Michael:

Listen, one of the worst mud slinging in American history when Jefferson was campaigning against John Adams. Jefferson threw such mud, it was awful. Okay, some might say that Abigail wouldn’t speak to Jefferson for years. She had such contempt for what he said about her husband. John Adams made up pretty quick, but anyway. I remember in the late 60’s, 70’s, some of us were arguing that the two parties were just conglomerations of people. They didn’t have a separate ideology very much. We were arguing that each party should get a little bit more pure.

 

Will Rogers said, “I don’t belong to any organized political party, I’m a democrat.” And I laughed, but it was true. The democratic party was made out of biblical, Evangelicals in the south and largely Catholic and Jewish working men in cities like New York and came out to the Midwest more. Farmer labor groups and other democratic groups among farms and small business men and drugists and things like that, like Hubert Humphrey, and so was the republican party.

 

So, some of us were arguing for greater philosophical cohesion in each party. Well, that’s exactly the way it decided to go and I must say the results are terrifying. Most parties are so committed to an abstract ideology that they find it harder to compromise. In the old days, you had to compromise within themselves to get a majority. Now, there’s too many purists on each side and it makes it very difficult and politics has become much more bitter and much more mud slinging.

 

You know, I’ll never forget Obama’s campaign attacking the 1% and picturing Romney in a disgusting way. He did it again and again for no answer for months. The campaign before that democrats had done that to George Bush. Just negative, negative, negative for months. Well, I’m sure democrats, I was gradually was leaving the party, I’m sure democrats feel was true of the radio talk shows and the spokesmen for conservatives, for the republican moderates and more dynamic ideological folk. So, it’s much harder to find common ground.

 

Jason:

True. So, if you described yourself as a modern democrat, was that the description you gave?

 

Michael:

No, no. I found after the abortion thing in ’72 it became harder and harder for me to vote for democrat party. It became more and more..look, the democratic party changed so drastically after 1972 when they refused to seat Mayor Daley, used to democrat the south at the convention in Miami. Mayor Daley was my kind of people. I mean, working people, down to earth. Instead, George McGovern, who was a great guy, love him. Nonetheless, brought in a lot of Hollywood people, Shirley MacLaine and others into his campaign and democrats increasingly became, what I call, the glitterti, the show people. It profess and even today you see in many, many states the democratic vote is concentrated around the university towns and the republicans pick up most of the rest of the states.

 

Okay, I began to look more tentatively. I was interesting this problem of world poverty and I began to study more economics and try to figure out why is that some countries take off and become wealth and others, even more favored by nature, are retarded. Why was Japan, with particularly no resources, become one of the most wealthy countries on earth and Brazil, which is full of resources, was living near the bottom of the barrel.

 

Jason:

Well, the government dependency and corruption, right?

 

Michael:
Well, there’s all these things that also lack of education, not that there was scandal that more than half of the Brazilian people got no higher than 3rd grade. Human capital, what goes in the human head, the capacity for invention and enterprise and discovery, those are what, and close to the ground, those are what produce wealth in countries and if you have a big cop directed system, that can’t happen. You can’t have imagination. Well, it took me awhile to learn about that, Jack Kent helped me out and Irving Kristol. You know, Irving Kristol once said, “A neo-conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.”

 

Jason:

*Laughter*.

 

Michael:

I’d like to put it a little bit differently. A neon-conservative is a progressive who has three teenage daughters.

 

Jason:

*Laughter*. Okay.

 

Michael:

Amazing how that changes your perspective of things. So something like that was happening to me. In my case it was largely economics, but also with abortion. I think abortion is worse than slavery. I know a lot of people would disagree with that. I’ll tell you what I think and let the chips fall where they may. I’d be happy to argue it out with anybody at any time.

 

Jason:

Yeah, you know it’s interesting when you look at the abortion debate. The left views it as a woman’s choice, that’s it, with virtually zero consideration to the other human being that is in the womb and you know, how can it be argued that it’s their body when the DNA is different? I mean it’s a different being.

 

Michael:

That’s right. That’s the sort of thing that convinced me, it’s not just a clump of stuff out of a woman’s body. It’s an independent human being from the time it’s convinced and it’s got its own DNA. It’s not the father, it’s not the mother, it’s a new human being and who has the right to destroy it? It’s not going to be a Cocker Spaniel. It’s only going to be a human being and to abort it is to kill it before it has a chance to become that.

 

Anyway, I didn’t mean to argue that point on the program, but it was something that made me weaken my hold on the democratic party and the economic pinched it and experience was reaganomics really brought it home to me how it works. More jobs created in the Reagan administration. As I remember something like 18 million new jobs. There were small businesses started in the United States every week than ever before in American history.

 

Jason:

See, when you started I thought you said you were a modern democratic. I thought you were coming for the other side of the aisle.

 

Michael:

I was trying to say that I came from sort of a neighboring union, so rightist democrat, you know, kind of people my family were in. The basis of the democrat party in most of it east and mid-western cities and a little different than the evangelicals from the bible belt, you were democrats too, but a different sort. Anyway, that’s where I started, but I was gradually moved both for economic reasons and for cultural reasons like the abortion question and the shifted balance, pivot, from mayor Daley to Shirley MacLaine. Not that.. I like Shirley MacLaine, she’s a great girl.

 

Jason:

But that’s not..

 

Michael:

It’s not my idea of the way the country’s headed.

 

Jason:

Yep, yep. I agree. Well, very interesting. Your website is MichaelNovak.net. That’s a .net, not a .com. MichaelNovak.net and Michael thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Michael:

By the way, if you order the book through my website, you get it right through Amazon with all the discounts. It’s just plugged right into Amazon. And Novak is N-O-V-A-K.

 

Jason:

Good stuff. Michael, thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Michael:

Oh I really enjoyed it. Very good questions I appreciate it.