Bill Bennett Interview

GLENN BECK PROGRAM

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GLENN: Now, Bill Bennett is on the phone with me and, Bill, I just wanted to tell you something I don’t think I’ve ever told you. You changed my life and I don’t – I am not exaggerating by that. You actually changed my life.

BENNETT: Really?

GLENN: I read the Book of Virtues when my kids were little and I was so taken by it, I read it myself without the kids. And in there is a letter from Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr. You know that one?

BENNETT: Yeah, sure.

  America: The Last Best Hope

by William J. Bennett

GLENN: And I am a recovering alcoholic and I had just sobered up and I had just decided that I was – I didn’t really believe in anything that I hadn’t been told. I didn’t discover anything. Here I am 30 something years old. I didn’t know any – I didn’t know what truth was because I had never really searched for it. And I’m reading this in your book, "Book of Virtues" and the line is one of the only things that I had ever tried to memorize, it just made such an impact on me is above all things, when it comes to religion, fix reason firmly in her seat for if there be a God he must surely rather honest questions over blindfolded fear.

BENNETT: Yeah.

GLENN: And that changed the course of my life.

BENNETT: Wow.

GLENN: I want to thank you, sir.

BENNETT: Well, I’m on talk radio now. I’m not supposed to be speechless, but I am. Thank you, Glenn. Did you get my note?

GLENN: I didn’t get your note.

BENNETT: Well, you get so much mail, gosh knows. I used a regular, you know, handwritten note, not an iPod, not an email. Someone told me, and, you know, may not be true but someone told me that you said on the radio that on very special occasions in people’s lives, you send them the "Book of Virtues."

GLENN: I do. Whenever there’s a birth of a friend or anybody, that is a guaranteed gift that they get.

BENNETT: All right, somebody needs a lift and a laugh, I’m going to send them "An Inconvenient Book."

GLENN: Hey, suicidal, have you read this?

BENNETT: No, but the thing about it, though, I am interested in the paragraph by paragraph business with Al Gore.

GLENN: Oh, it’s – you know, it only took about 19 pages to take him apart and he’s been eviscerated. It’s not a tough job but I was glad to do it.

BENNETT: Maybe you should send it to the White House since Mr. Gore’s going.

GLENN: Yes, right. I want to talk to you about an idea that I had, and I know you have a book out called America, The Last Best Hope and it is Volume 2. It’s the history of the 20th century.

BENNETT: What it is, Glenn, let me explain it. It’s volumes 1 and 2. They are out in a box set with a CD that we did called Remembering Ronald Reagan. I put the books out separately first but Volume 2 came out the day of the Blacksburg shooting and so it was, you know, it was another casualty of that day, a surely less important casualty than the others. So we’re trying to make a push on the two volumes now because we got no attention then for understandable reasons. It is a two volume – it’s a history of the United States, it’s to correct, you know, what our kids don’t know and it’s to make it readable and interesting. I can’t say it’s funny but I do think it’s a good – it’s well told.

GLENN: I have to tell you I can’t wait to read it. I haven’t read it yet but I can’t wait to read it for a couple of reasons. Have you seen The History of the English Speaking Peoples 1900 to 2000?

BENNETT: Yes, I have.

GLENN: That is the most shocking, politically incorrect book I have – 

BENNETT: Yeah.

GLENN: It is worth the price of the book for the last paragraph alone that says if – and I’m paraphrasing. I’m butchering it horribly, but someday when the power of these people is gone, the world will weep when they realized what they have lost.

BENNETT: Yeah.

GLENN: And I just can’t believe it and I would assume that you have written our history in the same way, that it is pro us.

BENNETT: It’s definitely pro us in this way. I quote Moynihan in the beginning. I quote a Democrat, Pat Moynihan saying, you know, am I embarrassed to speak for a less and perfect democracy; I am not; find me a better one. Have we done terrible things? Yes, we have. How did our people find out about them? They found out about them by reading the newspaper and listening. But we have done so immeasurably many more good things that we are still indeed the last best hope of Earth. I say it’s the second greatest story ever told, the best political story ever told.

GLENN: Bill, I am – are you familiar with Skousen?

BENNETT: Skousen, yeah, sure. Not for a while but yes. Cleon Skousen.

GLENN: Yeah, Cleon Skousen, he’s been dead for a while but just fantastic. There’s a book out, I know it was – I think it was popular with Reagan, the 5,000 Year Leap, at least there’s a quote on the back of the book.

BENNETT: Yes.

GLENN: But he’s fantastic. I read, I went back because I’m so concerned about how our country has just gone out of the tracks. We’re not even – we don’t even recognize what we are anymore. And I went back and I read "The Naked Communist" and at the end of that, Skousen – that was a book that was written in 1956. They end of that Skousen says everybody, if you really want to combat this, every person must have a freedom library. And what it is is a collection of books that tells the truth of who we really are.

BENNETT: Yeah.

GLENN: Because he predicted in the Fifties, someday soon you won’t be able to find the truth in schools or in libraries or anywhere else because it won’t be print and more. So you must collect those books. Can you hold on for a second?

BENNETT: Of course.

GLENN: I need to take a break and then I’d like to pick your brain of what you think those books should be, where do you even start.

BENNETT: Sure, I will.

GLENN: We’ll do that here in just a second.

William Bennett, the name of his book is America, The Last Best Hope, Volume 1 and 2. Back with him in just a second.

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GLENN: Came out today. I’m talking to William Bennett about a freedom library. It’s an idea of read from Cleon Skousen from his book in the 1950s, "The Naked Communist" and where he talked about someday the history of this country’s going to be lost because it’s going to be hijacked by intellectuals and communists and everything else and I think we’re there. A friend of mine told me that they had a test come back, I believe for their second grader, and, Bill, it said how many Thanksgivings are there in America. Do you know what the answer is?

BENNETT: No.

GLENN: Two. There was one with the pilgrims and then there was another one, and I’ve got to book this one up. There’s another one where Mexico won a big battle and they give thanks like the 1st of April or, you know, the first couple of weeks of April.

BENNETT: Missed it. I’ll check.

GLENN: I didn’t hear that.

BENNETT: Well, it’s our worst subject. American history is our worst subject and I used to report on these numbers when I was secretary of Ed, history and math. But we’re worst in American history and that’s a shame.

GLENN: Where would you start on a freedom library to be able to make sure – that’s why I love the "Book of Virtues" so much. You have the, you know, "I cannot tell a lie, I did chop down the cherry tree" and I don’t even know where I learned that, but I know I learned it as a kid and I wonder what kids are learning that now. I bet they’re not.

BENNETT: No, they’re not. They’re learning other stuff but, you know, I’m in favor of knowledge. I don’t care. You know, it’s fine to learn about this Mexican day but let’s get the other stuff in there, too, and let’s get the ones that are so formative. I’ll give you the simple freedom library. You know, you look at the great figures. Often there’s just one or two books. They said Lincoln. You know this, Glenn, Lincoln, it was Shakespeare and the Bible. That’s all he needed. My American reader, if you only had two, say you restricted me to two books, the Federalist Papers and Huckleberry Finn.

GLENN: You know, it’s so funny that you said that because I’ve been thinking Mark Twain and I couldn’t think of anything other than Huck Finn because it shows a slice of who we really are.

BENNETT: Yeah, it is. And it’s not – you know, it’s not just back to the raft, phone, and the race issue. This idea, and you know, you and I grew up differently, different backgrounds but it is the quintessential American idea. Every boy thinks at some point about getting on that raft, you know, and going down the Mississippi, you know, finding your way, you know. And so it is the quintessential American story.

When I had my first job in government, Glenn, I asked 100 famous Americans, 50 liberal, 50 conservative, what are the five books everybody should read by the time they finish high school, and that was one of them. Believe it or not, that was one of the top five and there’s a reason, you know, that book is there.

GLENN: You know, in your history Books of America, Volume 1, Volume 2, "America, the Last Best Hope," you said that America has – this is just in the introduction, America has a knack for choosing the right leaders when the nation most needs them.

BENNETT: Yeah.

GLENN: I have to tell you, I don’t think we’ve needed a leader this badly in quite some time and I have yet – everybody claims they’re Ronald Reagan. I have yet to see a Ronald Reagan or a Winston Churchill anywhere on the planet today.

BENNETT: Right. But remember, Ronald Reagan was not Ronald Reagan before he took office. Remember the worries about him? Go back and read what some of our dearest conservative friends were writing about Reagan, things he had done, the taxes in California, signing the abortion bill, all sorts of things. You know, Shakespeare says some are born great, some achieve greatness and have greatness thrust upon them and I think with Reagan it was a combination. The times partly made him.

GLENN: Do you believe that – do you still believe America will choose the right leader for our times?

BENNETT: It will when it has to. My guess is with you, Glenn. I think this is the time for, if for nothing else more than what you’re talking about on your show. I don’t get to hear the radio show so often, but I see the TV show. The moral clarity, which I think is what you’re after, and that is really what we’re after. I just saw your show yesterday, you know, talking about the immigration issues, talking about the other issues. Just to see the world the way it is.

GLENN: Yeah. Just tell the truth.

BENNETT: Yeah.

GLENN: That’s it.

BENNETT: Tell the truth.

GLENN: Yeah. Do you have a candidate? Do you have somebody that you think, this probably is my guy?

BENNETT: Nope, not yet. I probably wouldn’t say so if I do. I like the Republicans. I think there’s something to be said and something to be said against each of the frontrunners.

GLENN: Yeah, I agree. I don’t know of a time when we’ve had this depth of choice.

BENNETT: It’s great, yeah. I could see each of these guys, the top four or five, you know, emerging as a great leader, too.

GLENN: Bill Bennett, thank you so much, man. I appreciate it and really, I mean it sincerely. You did change my life just because you had the courage to tell the history of America accurately and I appreciate it.

BENNETT: Well, thank you. You almost changed mine when I started in radio. You said, do you think you’re going to be able to do this? I said I don’t know. So I almost changed my mind.

GLENN: Well, there you go.

BENNETT: Thanks, Glenn.

GLENN: You bet. Thanks. Bill Bennett.

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