Skip to comments.Kathleen Parker: When Bill Bennett listens, people talk [morning radio talkshow]
Posted on 04/06/2005 5:58:30 AM PDT by Tolik
Revolutions are not always noisy events. Sometimes they are quiet affairs - the product of long, thoughtful conversations between two people over coffee.
Or among millions listening, nodding their heads, building a contract through mutual need and mute assent. The success of Bill Bennett's morning talk radio show, which celebrated its first year Tuesday, suggests the latter kind.
In just one year, Bennett - variously known as America's "drug czar" or, if you're The New York Times, the nation's "leading spokesman" of traditional values - has managed to land 116 markets, including 18 of the top 20.
By comparison, Al Franken's "Air America," conceived as the antidote to conservative talk radio and launched a week before Bennett's show, airs in just over 50 markets.
Media analysts can parse the meaning of all this, but the secret to Bennett's success seems clear. He's a grown-up voice at a time when people are weary of childish tantrums in the public square. Just as spring comes when no one can bear another second of winter, Bennett found his radio venue when Americans couldn't stand another minute of broadcast hysterics.
His show, "Bill Bennett's Morning in America," is unique on several levels, not least of which is the host's gilded resume. He has served as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1981-1985), Secretary of Education (1985-1988), and is the author and/or editor of 16 books, including the best-selling "Book of Virtues." He also holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, a law degree from Harvard, and currently is Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute.
Thus, stumbling across Bill Bennett on the radio is like bumping into Socrates at Starbucks. In a nation accustomed to screeching screeds and foaming food fights posing as debate, hearing Bennett's soft-gravelly voice is like dipping into a warm bath. As you listen, you think maybe civilization isn't lost after all.
Not only is he coherent at 6 a.m. (ET) when his three-hour show begins, he's the anti-media man: no yelling, no dumbing down, no condescending. His approach, in fact, is based on the Socratic method, the three conditions of which he describes as: intelligence, candor and goodwill.
"We'll muster as much (intelligence) as we can at 6 a.m.; we'll be honest; and together, we'll try to get to an answer," says Bennett in a telephone interview.
Bennett invites guests to his show, from politicians to pundits, but the critical component is dialogue between host and callers, whom he treats as equals. "We talk about things that matter in a way that's looking for consensus," without advancing any particular ideology. Yes, Bennett identifies himself as a "conservative," but in truth, he is a classic liberal.
Consistent with the definition of a classic liberal (as opposed to the distorted version of today), Bennett has a healthy distrust of government. He's been plenty critical of President George W. Bush, such that Bush greeted him at a Christmas party, "Hello, Ornery."
He is also classically non-elitist and tries to make callers comfortable. As an occasional guest, I can attest to the success of his approach, which he describes by quoting the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832):
"The way to be comfortable is to make others comfortable, the way to make others comfortable is to appear to love them, the way to appear to love them, is to love them in reality."
Mostly, Bennett says he respects Americans' intelligence, which may be what distinguishes him from programs such as "Air America."
"Liberals (the modern kind) really think they're smarter than everyone else, therefore they don't listen."
Bennett graciously agrees with my proposition that his show marks a turning point in the American dialogue, conceding that we may be entering a "post-yelling" period. "People are tired of it."
People also are tired of the viciousness that feeds the food-fight culture, something that is familiar to Bennett and any who risk debate in the public arena. I asked him specifically about the charges of hypocrisy he doubtless enjoys, owing to his high profile as the traditional-values, book-of-virtues guru.
"If you've got to be perfect to talk about right and wrong, nobody gets to talk," he says. "Unless you did everything right, you can't raise children, you can't tell them things are wrong. How would you have a jury? You can't make judgments. . To have a hypocrisy-free zone is to have no judgment at all."
Even Pope John Paul II didn't do everything right, Bennett noted in his Monday show. "But you take a man's measure by the totality of his actions."
That noise you don't hear is the sound of a million heads nodding.
(For program times, transcripts and other information, go to www.bennettmornings.com.)
It's recomended listening, togehter with Laura, Sean, and Rush for any FReeper.
Americans will always prefer a pro-American show like Bennets as opposed to the anti-American bile that is spewed by A.A. and their ilk.
My favorite talk radio show: "Bill Bennett's Morning in America" celebrated 1 year anniversary yesterday.
Driving to work every morning with Dr. Bennett is some much better!
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I can't believe I let a whole year go by without listening in to his show.
I listen to Bennett almost every morning on 1280 The Patriot in the Twin Cities.
If you want political red meat in the morning, he's not the guy for you.
His show is much more serious and deliberative and yet never bogs down in wonkish minutiae.
I love Dr Bennett's show. It's so refreshing to hear a calm, reasoned discussion of pertinent issues.
Here in Toledo, the other talk station has a local morning guy who yells a lot, Glenn Beck, (a national guy who yells a lot) Rushbo, a local guy who yells a lot and then Hannity (a national guy who yells a lot about his book) on tape delay and Michael Savage ( a nationally syndicated nutcase)
Dr Bennett followed by Laura Ingraham is a great change of pace from the sound and fury of the other guys.
God, I LOVE Kathleen Parker. She is brilliant and fun at the same time.
5AM CST is a bit early but I'll give it a shot. Nearest station to Austin is 930 out of San Antonio, I think I can pick that up here on the south side.
Hope he's got his gampling addiction under control.
Bill, has his gampling addiction under comtrol!
Although Bennett's wife is from Charlotte, NC, there are no NC radio stations carrying his show.
Does he address gambling/addiction issues on the show? He should. I think his show would be an excellent, and appropriate, forum for this topic. He could really offer hope to others who suffer.
Otherwise, it's become very difficult to take him seriously on moral issues.
His show is much more serious and deliberative and yet never bogs down in wonkish minutiae."
Aren't these the same things? ISn't "political red meat" "serious and deliberative"?
Hmmm, I guess I always thought of "political red meat" as MIchael Savage-style political discourse.
Although I repect Dr. Bennett as a passionate spokesman for what's good in America, I find it very hard to believe that anyone could possibly describe him as a "classic liberal". Anyone whose credentials include leading the Insane War on (some) Drugs is most certainly a champion of big, intrusive nanny government.
< Dr Bennett followed by Laura Ingraham is a great change of pace from the sound and fury of the other guys. >
I arrive at my desk at 6 am eastern and plug into Morning in America over KSKY out of Dallas via the net. Then Laura Ingraham til 12 eastern and finish my day out with Rush.
Bump for new tagline.
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