If you’re a conservative who’s tired of the increasingly cartoonish yawping coming from the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Savages of talk radio, you might want to check out Michael Medved’s nationally syndicated program (heard in the New York area on WNYM 970 from 3-5 p.m. weekdays and 3-6 a.m. Sundays).
Medved, a conservative who refuses to see the world in one-dimensional terms, is the author of several books, notably the mega-sellers What Really Happened to the Class of ’65?, an anecdotal account of suburban Los Angeles baby-boomers coming of age; Hollywood Vs. America, a searing indictment of the entertainment industry, and Right Turns, a political/spiritual autobiography.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in San Diego, Medved currently resides in the Seattle area. In an interview with the Monitor for a profile some years ago, he described his upbringing as having been traditionally Jewish but not Orthodox.
“My family belonged to Conservative synagogues,” he said, “and my mother always felt guilty about not keeping a kosher home, which she had done until I was about six. But I remember feeling when I was a teenager that my parents were old-fashioned and tribal, and way too Jewish.”
Fascinated with politics from a young age, Medved said he was more or less a typical 1960s liberal – active in the antiwar movement, a worker in Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign and a supporter of George McGovern four years later – though never one of the era’s self-styled student revolutionaries preaching the evils of capitalism while living off generous allowances and trust funds.
But a new interest in Judaism – “during a six-month period,” he said, “I went from a position in college where I saw my parents as too Jewish to one where I saw them as not Jewish enough” – coincided with a decidedly rightward drift in Medved’s politics.
In 1973 he became a Sabbath observer and joined an Orthodox congregation, experiences touched on in What Really Happened to the Class of ’65? and explored more substantially in Right Turns. At about the same time he began to seriously question the political wisdom of liberals who were so vociferously condemning U.S. foreign policy, particularly with regard to the Soviet Union.
In addition to being repulsed by the moral equivalency argument advanced by liberal intellectuals inclined to apportion equal blame for the cold war or, worse, paint the U.S. as the prime culprit, Medved was appalled by those whom he saw as hawkish on Israel but dovish on everything else.
“It seemed very hypocritical to me,” he said, “for anyone – especially anyone claiming to be Jewishly committed – to call for more and more military aid to Israel while at the same time being opposed to American defense spending and the U.S. military in general. That kind of hypocrisy, not to mention shortsightedness, really got to me.”
It was only a matter of time before Medved’s evolving political views led to a switch in party allegiance. The last Democrat he supported for president was the late Henry “Scoop” Jackson in the 1976 primaries.
Medved graduated with honors from Yale before going on to Yale Law School and working as a screenwriter in Hollywood and a film critic for CNN and theNew York Post. His greatest visibility before he began his radio career came from his twelve-year stint as co-host of “Sneak Previews,” the movie-review show on PBS.
Medved’s radio program reaches an audience of nearly 5 million. Though the show is primarily about politics and current events, listeners often call or write to tell him how much they’ve learned from the show about Jews and Judaism.
Something else they learn is that not all Jews share the ritualistic liberalism promulgated by the secular Jewish establishment. For many listeners, Medved is one of the few Jews they’ve seen or heard in the media whose views aren’t lifted verbatim from the editorial page of The New York Times or the platform of the Democratic Party.
For conservatives who prefer to think rather than be yelled at, Michael Medved offers a smart alternative on the radio dial.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org