It is no secret that Hugh Hewitt is 1) our personal friend, 2) the guy who more than anyone else helped this web site get off the ground back in 2002, and 3) in our view, one of the most perceptive pundits on the contemporary scene. It is nice to see that the rest of the world is catching up. The National Journal headlines: “IT HAD TO BE HUGH: Why Hugh Hewitt is suddenly the Republican establishment’s go-to pundit.” The Huffington Post writes: “Hugh Hewitt Wants A ‘Serious’ GOP Primary And Will Be Assigning Homework.”
The immediate cause of the attention being focused on Hugh is the role he will play as moderator of at least one of the 2016 Republican presidential debates. But there is much more to it than that. Hugh is generally regarded as the best interviewer in the business. There are two factors at work: his skill as an interviewer, of course, but also his ability to book top-notch guests, who are willing to come on to his show because they know they can expect an intelligent conversation. Driving home from work this evening, I listened to Hugh interviewing Senator John Thune. The discussion was superb on both ends–really, what democracy was meant to be. And, because Thune respects Hewitt, he gave candid answers that led to a headline or two.
Politicians, of course, are only the beginning. Hugh’s hour-long interviews with authors are legendary. I learned about C.J. Box (now also a friend) and Daniel Silva, whose books I enjoy immensely, through their multiple, in-depth interviews on the Hugh Hewitt show. Hugh hosts conversations with intellectuals like David Allen White; it was during one of those that I heard about Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, for which she won the Nobel prize. How in the world do I not know about these books? I asked myself. I read them, and now consider Kristin Lavransdatter one of the world’s ten or fifteen greatest works of literature.
Is Hugh the kingmaker of the Republican Party? We should be so lucky! I think, actually, that he aspires to something different. Hugh tries to elevate our discourse about politics and public life. He seeks to shed light and inform his listeners. He has faith in the principles that animated the American founding. He believes that, day by day, intelligent conversation with important, knowledgeable people on both sides of the political aisle can bring us closer to realizing the democratic ideal. If we had more people like Hugh Hewitt engaged in public discourse, we would be a great deal better off.
UPDATE: A high government official who unfortunately must remain anonymous adds:
You missed one reason for Hugh’s success. He does his homework, without fail. He doesn’t interview authors without reading the book the author wrote, and on more than one occasion, authors have expressed surprise at the depth of his analysis. I don’t want to minimize Hugh’s analytical skills, but much of that comes from simply reading the book. (It’s astonishing how many interviews you hear/read where the host has no idea what the book is about, other than the one line on the schedule for the day that describes the guest).
And it doesn’t matter if it’s an author his audience would expect Hugh to praise, or one for whom the praise is likely to give some in his audience pause. (Recent examples, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Nicholas Kristof).
Very true. I am sure Hugh would say the same: it is amazing how far you can go when you are well-prepared.