by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
Over the weekend I sat down with a book I pick up occasionally and read a few pages chosen at random. I was too young to fully appreciate Johnny Carson’s humor and interviewing skills during his prime. It’s only through watching “The Tonight Show” on You Tube that I’ve become an admirer. He made people laugh without being vulgar, and he made it all look effortless. It’s not.
Even better, it was hard to discern Johnny Carson’s politics. He simply wanted to entertain, not preach or convert. How delightfully refreshing, considering it’s the opposite of many of today’s entertainers. It was by chance that I learned of Johnny’s politics when I opened up the Carson biography written by his former attorney and friend, Henry Bushkin. On page 154, Bushkin writes about Johnny and Ronald Reagan:
Johnny like Reagan personally, and while he was scrupulous to never share a political view with his viewers — “Why lose fifty percent of my audience?” — he was by instinct and upbringing definitely Republican, but of an Eisenhower sort that we don’t see much anymore: strong on integration and civil rights, skeptical of the military and war, big on personal responsibility. Overall, you’d have to say he was anti-big: anti-big government, anti-big money, anti-big bullies, anti-big blowhards.
When I read that Johnny liked Ronald Reagan, I went hunting on You Tube. Sure enough, there is a quite interesting 1975 interview with the two men talking about what ails our country and how we should chart a path forward. The themes and problems of 1975 are shockingly familiar. It’s as if four decades haven’t passed.
Watch Carson and Reagan talk about the country. Ronald Reagan is so grounded and plain-spoken.
And what about 1976? An election is around the corner. Carson asks Reagan if he’ll run.
In 1975, runaway government spending was a problem, just as it is today. Watch how Reagan explains the problem that occurs when you start new programs but fail to pay for them. As he puts it, “a dollar down and we’ll catch you later” approach to expanding government.
Who are today’s Ronald Reagan and Johnny Carson? We desperately need them.