Features

Young and restless

"Young and restless" Continued...

Issue: "Profiles in effective compassion," April 24, 2010

Q: So you're in the door at National Review. What was your first job there like? Research mainly, proofreading. . . . I was a little underemployed and was desperate to make myself useful. In the front of National Review we have this section called "The Week," with small items about the news events over the last fortnight. I went out of my way to make college campus and PC [politically correct] issues my beat for the week, so I'd have at least one of those paragraphs in every issue. Our Washington office was a one-man office at the time and that man left, so I began to report about Washington from New York, because there was no one else to do it and it had a market niche.

Q: Getting your writing regularly in the magazine and seizing opportunities . . . when did you go to Washington? Because I was doing those pieces, when they decided they wanted to open a Washington office again, they sent me down there in the summer of '94. This was right before the Republican Revolution, to write about Congress. I covered Washington for National Review from 1994 to 1997.

Q: Probably the most dramatic period in Washington in recent decades until the current one. What went wrong with the "Republican Revolution"? It's always a mistake to think there's a revolution, and it's always a mistake to talk about the revolution in revolutionary terms. It's exactly the same as what we're seeing now: There was a reaction against a Democratic president who governed in a way that was much more left than how he had campaigned.

Q: Radicalism doesn't sell well to the American populace? Correct. It's human nature-hubris is human nature, overreach is human nature. Whenever one side has power they want to believe, they have a will to believe, that the public has validated every jot and tittle of their program, whether it's true or not. This will very likely be Obama's undoing this fall.

Q: Back to the Lowry story. After three years in Washington, how did you become National Review's editor? For unaccountable reasons that he never entirely explained to me, Bill Buckley chose me. I think he appreciated my passion for the magazine and wanted the magazine to have a breath of fresh air; at the same time he didn't want to bring in a total outsider. Picking someone so young was a way to go with a known commodity who could still bring fresh eyes to the situation.

Q: I suspect there were certain jealousies. How did you deal with that? I had only run a publication in college, and I had never really run an enterprise or edited anything. It was a terrifying time. The first six months were probably the worst six months of my life. I was totally stressed out, I had no idea whether I could do this and didn't know necessarily how to do it. But, like most things in life, you learn by doing. So I slowly got my sea legs and became comfortable with it, and it actually became enjoyable. But it wasn't a pleasant process.

Q: Now you've been doing it for 13 years. If you could pick out one lesson you've learned, what comes to mind? Never trust writers. They'll always be late, they'll always write too long, and they'll always come up with the tawdriest, most implausible excuses for why their piece is late and too long. But I write a syndicated column twice a week: That increases my tolerance for the dishonesty and irresponsibility of my writers, because I turn around and do the same thing to my editors.
To hear Marvin Olasky's complete interview with Rich Lowry, click here.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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