Michael Medved: Once a Left-Wing Agitator, He Took a Right Turn toward Reality, Reason, and Religion. Now He's One of the Leading Analysts of Politics and Popular Culture in America

The American Enterprise, January-February 2005 | Go to article overview

Michael Medved: Once a Left-Wing Agitator, He Took a Right Turn toward Reality, Reason, and Religion. Now He's One of the Leading Analysts of Politics and Popular Culture in America


Michael Medved was voted "most radical" in his Los Angeles high school class, then graduated from Yale and attended Yale Law School, where he knew Bill and Hillary Clinton. He was an antiwar protester and backer of Eugene McCarthy, after which he worked for Robert Kennedy's Presidential campaign. He was at the Ambassador Hotel when Kennedy was shot.

Medved also took part in George McGovern's 1972 Presidential run, and while living in Berkeley, California worked briefly for the re-election of Congressman Ron Dellums, described as the "angriest black radical in Congress."

Medved eventually became a film critic, and for 12 years co-hosted the popular PBS movie review show "Sneak Previews."

Along the line, Medved's politics--and life--began to change in dramatic ways. His latest book, Right Turns: Unconventional Lessons from a Controversial Life, just published, chronicles the events that transformed his worldview.

By the 1990s, Medved was a prominent conservative thinker and polemicist. Since 1996, he has hosted one of the nation's most influential radio programs: "The Michael Medved Show," nationally syndicated out of Seattle to a daily audience of more than 1.8 million people.

Michael Medved was interviewed for TAE by contributing writer David Isaac.

TAE: What made you write this very personal account of your political and spiritual odyssey?

MEDVED: One reason is because there's been this huge focus recently on so-called neocons. For a lot of people, "neocons" is basically a putdown way of saying Jewish conservatives. I myself am a Jewish conservative, but I don't consider myself a neocon. So I thought it was worth writing something for those of us, both Jewish and Christian, who might more accurately be described as theocons.

TAE: How do you define theocon?

MEDVED: As a conservative whose outlook has largely been shaped by religious commitment. One of the things that most irreligious or nonreligious Americans don't recognize sufficiently is that a huge theme of American religiosity, both Christian and Jewish, is that the individual goes through a rebirth, a recommitment, a return. That kind of transforming religious experience is usually associated with a more conservative political outlook.

The President of the United States would be a prominent example of what we're talking about. I think that the clear basis for President Bush being more conservative than his father, and vastly more conservative than his grandfather Prescott Bush, is his extremely vital personal religious faith, which he says had a transforming impact on his life.

This is one of many things that the secularists don't get--the President's "I once was lost, but now I'm found. I once was blind, but now I see." This is the core story of American Christianity, the story of being born again, of having a new life, of coming home, of the prodigal son.

In other words, one of the things they'd throw at President Bush is that he was a frat boy, he drank too much, he was a playboy. Well, yes--he says so. And he went through a change. And part of what I'm hoping to do in my book is to talk about the fact that we have a parallel tradition on the Jewish side of things. Resh Lakish was a former thief and a lowlife who became one of the great rabbis of the Talmud. An amazing number of scholars and figures in the Torah are people who are converts to Judaism, who had no religious commitment at all, who turned their lives around.

TAE: Why is there a more open acknowledgment of religion in America today compared to when you were growing up?

MEDVED: The media are learning to their surprise today that this is a religious country. But I write in my book about discovering back in the 1980s--discovering with great joy and enormous encouragement and happiness--the thriving Christian counterculture. I've written about it a great deal. This counterculture is not a handful of people living very different lives. …

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