16 April 2009
Editor's Note: Progressive Theology is proud to have been granted this interview with America's leading conservative columnist, Mr. George Will. Our interviewer is Jon Swift, a roving reporter and occasional columnist with this exclusive publication. This interview comes at a time of unease and despair among Americans, many of whom have seen their retirement savings go up in smoke, or have lost their jobs, or are worried about the economy, now in its second year of deep recession with no end in sight.
Progressive Theology: Thank you for agreeing to talk with us, Mr. Will. As America's leading conservative voice--or perhaps I should say--its leading rational conservative voice, our readers have great respect for your opinions.
George Will: It's a pleasure to talk with you, Jon.
PT: For more than a generation you have been the voice of the rational right, an advocate of intelligent discourse on important issues of the day. In the era of blow-hard bloviators like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and now Glenn Beck, you've managed to maintain the high standards of considerate conversation, and you focus consistently on the most important issues of the day.
GW: Thank you, Jon, I like to think that I do.
PT: So what issue is occupying your thoughts most recently?
GW: Well, Jon, I'm glad you asked that question. In my most recent syndicated column, I've turned my sights on a scourge that threatens the American people, a danger so insidious, indeed, so invidious, that, if not checked, it may undermine the moral fabric of this great nation of ours.
PT: (Astonished) What is it? Terrorism? The bird flu pandemic? Excessive CEO salaries?
GW: No, Jon, the maleficent danger of which I speak, the one tearing at the soul of the American people, is denim.
PT: (Confused) Denim? As in blue jeans?
GW: Exactly as in blue jeans!
PT: (Dumbfounded, with a stupid expression on his face) Uhhh...
GW: Allow me to elucidate.
PT: Please do.
GW: Blue jeans were invented by Levi Strauss for gold miners in California, the forty-niners.
GW: They were rugged clothes and they didn't wear out easily--perfect for someone working outside among rocks and boulders all day long.
GW: How many gold miners do we have today? None, that's how many! So people shouldn't wear blue jeans.
PT: But people like blue jeans. They're comfortable, they tend to last longer than a lot of other pants, and besides, they're fashionable.
GW: (Dismissively) Harumph! Fred Astaire never wore blue jeans! Grace Kelly never wore blue jeans! Neither should anyone else!
PT: That doesn't sound like a very good argument. Both Fred Astaire and Grace Kelly were stylish for their day, but that day was over fifty years ago. Men don't wear ties around the house any more. They don't wear hats to work. And women don't wear dresses all the time.
GW: (With a superior tone) Well they should.
PT: So you're saying that clothing styles from the 1950s or 60s should dictate what people wear today?
GW: No, the 1940s or 50s.
GW: In the 40s and 50s men dressed like men and women dressed like women.
PT: And everyone knew his place.
PT: By that logic, shouldn't we go back to using manual typewriters instead of computers, driving Edsels instead of Toyotas, and listening to big bands instead of rock bands?
GW: I don't see a problem with that.
PT: Well, a lot of people do. To quote from a women's cigarette ad of the 1960s, "You've come a long way, baby." It sounds like you're advocating a return to a kind of world that Archie Bunker would have idealized, where girls were girls and men were men, and we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.
GW: Actually, we had a man like Herbert Hoover in office recently, who unfortunately didn't live up to Hoover's fine standards.
PT: As a matter of fact, I've noticed that you share initials with him.
GW: (Angrily) Don't remind me!
PT: Sorry. I can imagine that's a touchy subject. Well, let's move on to something else. How do you evaluate the conservative movement today? With the passing of your friend William F. Buckley, you're the undisputed champion of traditional conservatism today.
GW: Unfortunately, that's true. What passes for conservatism today is often little more than the rantings of the apparently insane.
PT: You're talking about Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Beck, and their ilk?
GW: Yes, but the problem is not these men themselves. It is the fact that so many of their followers are, how shall I put it ...?
GW: No, that's not the word.
GW: No, I have it: libertarians!
PT: Oh, I see. The problem with the conservative movement, as you see it...
GW: As it IS...
PT: ... as you see it, is that it is being co-opted by a kind of Ron Paul-like libertarianism?
PT: Ron Paul has quite a following, among Democrats as well as Republicans, on some issues.
GW: That's true, and it proves my point.
PT: Which is?
GW: Any movement that attracts the adulation of both Republicans and Democrats can only be the result of muddled thinking.
PT: What, as you see it, is the problem with libertarianism?
GW: The problems are many, but the most basic problem is that libertarians want to abandon those principles that made the conservative movement great in America.
PT: Such as?
GW: Such as implicit trust in the banking industry, big oil, and General Motors.
PT: I see.
GW: When Americans start putting more trust in government, even a government run by such a well-spoken man as Barack Obama, than in the corporate elite, the conservative movement is doomed.
PT: In the few moments we have remaining, I want to switch gears entirely. Several years ago you wrote a wonderful book called Men at Work, in which you described the inner workings of baseball, from the perspective of a great coach. Since the baseball season has just started again, I'd like to get your predictions. What kind of a season will it be, and which teams will make it to the World Series?
GW: (Obviously pleased) I'm glad you asked me that question, Jon. Baseball has been through a rough few years recently. The steroid controversy has tarnished the achievements of people like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez. When Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's home run record, everyone knew it was illegitimate.
PT: Will we have to start putting an asterisk after steroid-aided records, the way people put an asterisk after Roger Maris's single-season home run record for all those years?
GW: I think we'll have to, if we don't throw the records out entirely. I think we should just revert to the records as they stood prior to the 1998 season, when McGwire and Sosa both passed Maris. Just three seasons later, Bonds passed both of them. By that time, though, everyone knew about the steroids, and the moment passed almost as unnoticed as his 756th home run.
PT: Will anyone from the steroid era, whose performance was enhanced by steroids, HGH, or other drugs, ever make it to the Hall of Fame?
GW: I think some of them will, particularly those who came clean about their steroid use and whose numbers prior to or after the steroid era warrant it. But I think they'll have a harder time making it to Cooperstown than players from any other era. Pete Rose should make it before any of those players.
PT: I couldn't agree more.
GW: And have you ever noticed that ball-players never wear blue jeans when they play?
PT: Yeah, but did you ever see the Astros' jerseys from the 1970s?
GW: Don't get me started!
PT: One last question: which teams will make it to the 2009 World Series? And who will win?
GW: The Chicago Cubs and the Texas Rangers. It will be the Cubs in 6.
PT: You heard it here first, folks! Thank you, Mr. Will, for this informative interview.
As a courtesy to our readers, here is a link to Mr. Will's column on the dangers of denim.
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