- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

He became famous to a generation of young Americans as the hapless teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and upped his hip-to-be-square factor as host of the eponymous quiz show “Win Ben Stein’s Money” on cable television.

The former Nixon speechwriter, California hippie turned economics professor, has become the Hollywood icon of conservative cool. In his new book, “Can America Survive? The Rage of the Left, the Truth and What to Do About It,” Mr. Stein and co-author Phil DeMuth examine the internal attack liberalism is waging on America.

The following are excerpts from a telephone interview with Mr. Stein, who lives in Los Angeles.

Question: Is it hard being a conservative in Hollywood?

Answer: It’s not hard at all, really. It means that I don’t get as much work as I otherwise would, but people don’t stop me on the street because of it. And actually I got my start here [in Hollywood] by being a conservative. Norman Lear hired me to tell him what conservatives think. The fact that I’m a conservative has made me more distinct here.

Q: When you stand back and look at your career, are you astounded by the level of success a speechwriter for the Nixon White House and conservative economics professor can achieve in such a liberal place as Los Angeles?

A: In a way, my success has been just a result of plugging away and plugging away over a long period of time. Hollywood is a one-party town, there is no doubt about that, but it is more tolerant than you might think. People are friendly to me by and large.

What I am overwhelmed at is that I’m 60 years old, and to look back on all the things I’ve done in my life, that is what really amazes me.

Q: What kind of ironies do you see played out in entertainment industry liberals?

A: I’ll give you the best irony that I’ve seen in a long time. I live in Malibu part of the week and we get a newspaper there called the Malibu Times. It had a story a couple of weeks ago about a luncheon raising money for an environmental charity. There were four speakers and they were all talking about how Americans are addicted to fossil fuel and how we need to break America of those addictions. Well, I know all those people and every one of them has a private jet. … How much fossil fuel do you think a private jet burns? I was just amazingly amused by that.

Q: The subtitle of your book, “Can America Survive,” speaks of “the rage of the left.” What does that mean?

A: It means that [liberals] are so angry at America; they shouldn’t be. America’s been the greatest gift for the whole world that man has ever known of. I’m just amazed that people would be angry at a country that has been such a glorious gift. We’ve uplifted the spirits of the whole human race, provided a haven and for this we get called … an exploiting power. It’s an absolutely overwhelming betrayal of the people to call it something different [than great].

We have a whole intellectual class that is working against the survival of the country by constantly filling [its people] with self-doubt and anxiety and fear about the country and making it feel as if the country is not worth saving. … I wonder how long America can survive.

Q: Do you think the average American is oblivious to this constant stream of liberal propaganda?

A: No, not at all. I think the average American is infuriated by this stream of liberal propaganda. This has a lot to do with why [President] Bush won the election. The Republican Party have aligned themselves with the views of the ordinary American. We go back to Richard Nixon and what he said about the great silent majority and that is that the great silent majority does not want to be sneered at. There is a huge majority of people in this country that don’t want America to be sneered at. … They feel they are being sneered at [by the left].

Q: How does the liberal media play into this?

A: I think the liberal media actually reinforces the strength of the conservatives. But I think the liberal media very much attracts certain liberal decision-making sectors. The normal truck driver in Flint [Mich.] is not affected by it, but I think his grandson teaching at the University of Michigan is affected by it. They can have an overall effect by having effects on the elite. … They don’t have to have effects on normal citizens.

Q:: How should normal Americans stem the tide of the internal hatred you speak of?

A: I don’t know how you stem the tide of it; maybe just by continuing to believe in America. I think the value of America is so self-evident to any clear-eyed person, so the more people who actually go out and see America, the better the views will be. America is so incredibly great that maybe eventually the haters won’t continue to hate us if they are convinced that there is something great going on here.

Q: What do you mean by “America’s greatness”?

A: America’s greatness as inspiration for the whole rest of the world and in terms of what it’s done for it’s own people. Let’s remember America is the beacon that has shown the light of democracy to the rest of the world and America, by itself, takes in more refugees than the whole rest of the world put together. Those [refugees] know something about America — something that Dan Rather and Peter Jennings will never know.

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