2010 William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence Given to M. Stanton Evans

October 29, 2010 - 2:34 PM
Interview with CNSNews.com

M. Stanton Evans

M. Stanton Evans, recipient of the 2010 William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence. (Photo: CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Longtime journalist, author, teacher, and conservative movement leader M. Stanton Evans was awarded the 2010 William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence by the Media Research Center (MRC). Evans spoke with CNSNews.com about the award, the conservative movement, liberal media bias, the Tea Party, and one of his ongoing concerns: the dangers of federal intervention in health care by both Democrats and Republicans.  

Stan Evans was presented with the award at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., by MRC President Brent Bozell. “Stan Evans’ list of contributions to the conservative movement is nearly impossible to measure,” said Bozell. "It is champions like him that keep the conservative movement going. His unwavering dedication to simple, common sense principles and truths have led him to found some of our movement’s leading organizations.  His writing and wit capture an audience that benefits from his no-nonsense approach to politics."

“This is our fourth William F. Buckley Jr. Award, and I am so pleased to award it to Stan Evans, one of our nation’s true heroes,” said Bozell, whose MRC is the parent organization of CNSNews.com.

In an interview with CNSNews.com, Evans said he felt “very honored” to receive the award because it came from the Media Research Center, which does “tremendously important” work, and because it is the William F. Buckley Jr. award. Buckley (1925-2008) was the founder of the National Review magazine in 1955 and is considered by many historians as the most influential conservative intellectual of the 20th century.

“Bill Buckley is someone I had known for over 50 years, since I was in college,” said Evans.  “He was, arguably, one of the most influential of all people – and it’s a very short list of people – in creating the entire conservative movement of the 20th century.”

Buckley “made conservatism intellectually respected because he was so sharp, so eloquent, so gifted in repartee on television in debating these various liberals he debated over the years,” Evans said.  “The people became aware that conservatism was, in fact, a coherent and persuasive body of thought that they needed to pay attention to, and before Bill Buckley that was not the perception. He did that.”

William F. Buckley Jr.

William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008)

Buckley was the intellectual spokesman for the conservative movement, said Evans, while Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) was its political leader as the movement started to grow in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

M. Stanton Evans graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Yale University in 1955. He went on to become the editorial page editor of the Indianapolis News at age 26, then the youngest such editor of a metropolitan daily newspaper in the country. He also served as an associate editor to National Review for many years, while William F. Buckley Jr. was editor, and still is a contributing editor to the conservative weekly Human Events.

Evans is the author of nine books, his most recent from 2007, Blacklisted by History: the Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies. He currently is completing a new book, FDR Betrayed: Stalin’s Subversion of America’s World War II Government, to be published in 2011.

In addition to writing a nationally syndicated column that started in the 1970s, Evans was a commentator for the CBS Television and Radio Networks, as well as National Public Radio, the Voice of America and Radio America. Evans also holds the Buchanan Chair of Journalism at Troy University in Alabama, where he teaches editorial writing every spring term.

In 1977, Evans founded the National Journalism Center (NJC) in Washington, D.C., where he and his staff over the years trained hundreds of young aspiring journalists the basics of news reporting.  At the NJC, Evans’ mantra was like “Joe Friday” on Dragnet: “Just the facts.” Evans emphasized researching the primary documents and government reports, talking directly with lawmakers, and reporting the news factually, accurately and lucidly.  (Disclosure: This writer is a 1991 graduate of the NJC.)

Barry Goldwater

Senator Barry Goldwater (1909-1998)

More than 1,700 students have passed through the NJC. (Evans turned the internship operation over to the Young America’s Foundation in 2001.) Some of the program’s alumni include author and columnist Ann Coulter, Wall Street Journal writer John Fund, reporter Tim Carney, editor William McGurn, and author/reporter Malcolm Gladwell.

NJC graduates work in numerous media outlets nationwide, including Bloomberg News, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the New Yorker, The Washington Examiner, Investor’s Business Daily, Reader’s Digest, ABC, CNN, C-SPAN, and the Fox News Channel.

Evans said he considers the NJC graduates now working in the media as one of his most important achievements. “The young people who’ve come up through the National Journalism Center and who are now mature practitioners of the writing trade, or in  broadcasting, or producing -- there are quite a few out there and that’s a source of great satisfaction to me,” said Evans.

He added that he considers the books he’s written his second most important achievement.

“Books are kind of like students or children,” he said. “Writing a book is the closest a man can come to having a child. Sometimes it takes much longer than 9 months to gestate and it is very painful to have it. But then it goes out and makes its way in the world, and you never know. I’ve had people come up to me with books I wrote 40 years ago, saying, ‘I read this in college, would you sign it?’”

Evans said he is most proud of his book on Sen. Joe McCarthy. But he also said that his 1967 book, The Future of Conservatism, was very important to him because, through solid reporting, it documented and explained how Ronald Reagan would someday become president of the United States.

Ronald Reagan

President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004).

“I was accused of being a shill for Ronald Reagan,” said Evans. “Virtually everything I argued in the book, happened. I don’t claim a lot of credit for seeing it because it was right there in front of me to see. It was very obvious, if you looked at it.”

“But most people in those days were talking about Nelson Rockefeller and John Lindsay and what are now called RINOs [Republican in Name Only],” he said.  “That was the common belief in the media about the future of the Republican Party.   I was writing from Indiana, which was light years away from what was being reported at CBS and NBC about the nature of the Republican Party and our politics.”

“The difference was night and day,” said Evans. “The communications media of that day were totally controlled. There were the three networks. That was it: ABC, CBS, NBC. If they didn’t report it, it didn’t exist. And they certainly never reported anything congenial to conservative interests -- quite the contrary. That meant you had to do other reporting, grass roots reporting, and that’s what I did.”

The Alternative Media

Concerning the media today, Evans said it is “a totally different ball game because of the alternative media.” And as for liberal bias, “the so-called mainstream media are probably worse in some ways than they ever were before because their bias is more flagrant,” said Evans.

“But now we have alternatives,” he said. “We have Fox News. We have talk radio. I think talk radio probably is the reason above all others – Fox is way up there – that we have a Tea Party. If we didn’t have Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, and so on, I don’t think there would be any Tea Party because they give information. They provide information that you can’t get from reading the Washington Post or the New York Times or listening to ABC, NBC or CBS. And that information  is what fuels the Tea Party.”

In addition, “The Media Research Center has been a huge player in this, not only in critiquing what the mainstream media are doing but also in providing information,” said Evans. “The MRC has been a huge player in this transformation. I think that is what is really important: access to information that was suppressed before and would be suppressed now were it not for these alternative outlets.”

The Trouble with Health Care

Given that the federal government is the largest it has ever been in U.S. history, the $13 trillion national debt, and the greater federal intervention in the health care industry, CNSNews.com asked Evans whether the conservative movement had failed.

He said that it had not failed but that “its success is radically incomplete for reasons that are complicated and still are there.”

The conservative movement needs people and leaders who are principled and who have strong convictions, but this is not enough, said Evans. They also need to know what they are up against and what they plan to do to counter liberalism in the political arena. Nowhere is this problem more evident than with the ongoing debate and political battle over health care.

“We have here a system that is so messed up, that it isn’t enough to say I stand on principle with regard to health care -- but what are you going to do?” said Evans.  “And what I fear, and I fear this greatly, is that the Republicans – if they do win the Senate, which is questionable, but certainly the House – what are they gonna’ do?”

health care bill

President Obama signs the Democrats’ health care bill into law in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, March 23, 2010. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Republicans say they will repeal ObamaCare, which they should do, said Evans, but “the part that worries me is when they say they’re going to replace it. Replace it.  With what?  What are they going to do? When I look at a number of proposals from the Republican side, they are not, to put it mildly, good. They scare me because they have so many bad ideas in them.”

“Republicans have been parroting for months, ‘We must cover pre-existing conditions in health insurance,’” said Evans.  “This is bizarrely stupid.  You cannot insure something that has already happened. It makes no sense.”

“Imagine if my house burned down today and I have no insurance,” he said. “And I go tomorrow to Allstate and say, ‘You know, my house burned down yesterday so I’d like to buy some home insurance.’ They’d say, ‘Ha, you’re joking. You can’t insure something that has already happened.’  It makes no sense.”

Evans went on to talk about how he had spoken with many Republicans in Congress over the years about health care but that they never seemed to understand the fundamental issue and apparently did not want to deal with the problem. 

“Have you ever tried to talk to a Republican politician about health care?” said Evans.  “I have. It’s almost hopeless. The eyes glaze over. ‘I don’t do windows. Talk to my legislative assistant about this. Put it on a 3-by-5 card. I don’t have time.’  I’ve talked to many of them, some of them quite prominent, Republican leaders, and I couldn’t get them to focus on this for more than a minute.”

They don’t want to talk about it,” he said.  “They don’t think about it. They want somebody else to do it. They’ll take something off the shelf that’s handed to them by a think tank, and go with it. They don’t study it, don’t understand it, and they don’t want to.”

 “I recall, almost 30 years ago, there was a U.S. Senator who was a good, staunch conservative, presenting a health care bill, an alternative bill,” said Evans. “I went to his press conference where he was talking about this, with all these different provisions -- most of them wrong -- and had coverage of pre-existing conditions.”

“I said to him, ‘Senator, if I can buy health insurance when I’m already sick, why would I buy it when I’m well?’” said Evans. “To which his answer was, ‘What?’ He had no idea what he was doing. He just had this bill and didn’t know what was in it. This happens all the time. The answer, of course, is, ‘I wouldn’t’ [buy health insurance]. And everybody knows this, and so nobody pays attention or brings it up.”

“Young people are not going to pay $12-$15,000 a year for health insurance that they may not need if later they get sick and can go get it,” said Evans. “Why do that?  They won’t. Anybody who studies this, knows this will happen.”

“Therefore, you end up with a risk pool of old, sick people, who are going to cost a fortune and no one’s going to pay the premiums for them adequate to cover the cost,” he explained.  “It’s a death spiral – that’s what it’s called. And that’s why the next step will be ‘universal’ [health care], and why you have these mandates [to buy insurance]. That’s why you need to go get these [healthy young] people who are trying to run away and punish them if they don’t have insurance. That’s what that’s about.”

The mandate is there “to make them pay so the system is not totally insolvent,” he said.  “And the Republicans are in favor of this. That must be stopped.”

The Trouble with Republicans and Conservatives

Evans also criticized the idea of taxing people’s health care benefits, an idea that has been endorsed by some leading Republicans.

This “would be a disaster if it does happen,” said Evans. “[Yet] there are conservative Republicans, people who are on the right side and are good people, proposing that we need to tax health care benefits.”

“I try to explain to friends of mine that this ‘is not a good idea,’” said Evans.  “Now the point is, from a policy wonk standpoint – you have $8,000 that your employer pays for your health coverage [and it ] is tax free. Whereas, if they gave you the equivalent income, it would have been taxed. So, to even this out, we tax the health care benefit. Hello?  That’s  a tax increase.”

Sen. John McCain

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) answers questions following the meeting between President Obama and Congressional leaders. (AP Photo)

“And I have a rule on that,” he said, “which is as follows: There is no good reason at any time for any conservative to support a tax increase on anybody for any reason whatsoever, period. It’s real simple.”

Evans also explained that a major problem conservatives need to tackle is the entitlement programs run by the federal government: Social Security and Medicare. On these issues, Republicans in Congress are not doing enough, he said.

“It’s not just health care,” said Evans. “I remember way back to the Reagan days, in 1982, and I was saying to folks that we cannot get this deficit situation under control just by cutting discretionary spending, which by itself is difficult to do. The entitlement programs are running on autopilot, and until you decide about that, you’re never going to get this under control. And the answer was, ‘We’ll do that later. Not now.’ And it never happened.”

“The entitlement programs are driving the whole thing, and the entitlement programs cannot be controlled just by cutting them because they grow back,” he said. “The next change is authorizing legislation as to the way these things work. And that is extremely difficult to do, to put it mildly. It’s almost impossible to do. And that is what drives the process.  Unless people grapple with this, it will never be under control and that’s why it’s not under control.

“Despite all the years the Republicans controlled Congress they never got this under control,” said Evans.

Driving Forward

Given these seemingly insurmountable problems, CNSNews.com asked Evans whether conservatives should be optimistic about the upcoming mid-term elections and the next Congress.

“Well, it’s relative,” he said. “Right now, what we’ve got, is like someone driving a car over a cliff and you’ve got to get to the driver and turn the wheel before the car goes over the cliff. That doesn’t mean you’ve solved every problem you’ve got, but at least you’re not going over the cliff as quickly.”

“What we have now -- I’ve never seen anything like this administration: it’s a mad dash to control everything, just unbelievable, the auto companies, student loans, the health care system, the financial system,” he said. “They’re turning it into a socialist economy in 18 months – an amazing performance. That’s got to be stopped. But that doesn’t mean that once it’s stopped, we’ve corrected all the damage.”

“You talk about a shovel-ready project,” Evans said.  “For this, you need a really big shovel.”