Next February will mark the centennial birthday of President Ronald Reagan. There will be celebrations of Reagan’s life and presidency at CPAC, the Reagan Ranch, and Reagan Presidential Foundation, among others sites. Additionally, the entertainment industry is abuzz about a new movie on Reagan’s life. Filmmakers say that Reagan will be based on New York Times bestselling author Paul Kengor’s books God and Ronald Reagan and The Crusader. Kengor is a well-respected author and professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
I asked Reagan producer Mark Joseph why he chose Kengor’s books as inspiration. “After I read [it] I called Paul and thanked him because it meant that I had one less thing I had to do in life because that was the book I’d have written. Reagan has often been called ‘inscrutable,’ and one of the reasons for this is because few people understood his faith. As a result he was [seen as] either the guy who skipped church or a crazed fundamentalist who sat around debating when to start Armageddon.”
Joseph continued, “Thanks to Paul Kengor, we know that he was neither, and if he hadn’t gone to the church that Reagan grew up in and asked to see the sermons that [had] shaped him at a young age, our understanding of Reagan would be severely limited. God and Ronald Reagan helped us understand Reagan the man, while The Crusader helped us understand the nuts and bolts of the plan he developed to end the Soviet Union. Together they gave me the balance I was looking for.”
Kengor is executive director of Grove City College’s Center for Vision and Values, a frequent guest on TV and radio, and a speaker on college campuses. In addition to the Reagan books, Kengor is the author of God and George W. Bush and of Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century, which is his newest book. The book details how progressive leaders like Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Frank Marshall Davis (Obama’s mentor), and others approached foreign leaders or were duped into furthering the objectives of communism.
As a college professor, Kengor plays an important role in delivering the truth to young minds. Thankfully, his research and message are available to all of us.
1. If there were a television channel that only showed one movie over and over, what movie should it be?
KENGOR: I’d turn it off. I can’t watch movies over and over, even my favorites. What’s my favorite? I don’t really have one, but I like old movies. I always check Turner Classic Movies. Knowing which actors and actresses were anti-communist, pro-communist, or just plain dupes, adds to the intrigue.
Just about anything with John Wayne is good with me. Big Jake is one I can watch again.
Here’s another you won’t hear cited often: Sullivan’s Travels, with Joel McCrea.
2. What’s one of your favorite movie quotes?
KENGOR: Rhett Butler asking Scarlett O’Hara, “Has the war started already?”
Also, I get choked up every time I watch Jimmy Stewart, holding his cute little daughter and Donna Reed in front of the Christmas tree, with everyone singing “Auld Lang Syne,” and reading the note from Clarence the guardian angel saying “no man is a failure who has friends.” Call me a sap; I don’t care.
3. In A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell is strapped in with his eyes propped open and forced to watch images until he was “cured.” If you could give President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Leader Harry Reid the “Clockwork Orange treatment,” what movie would you make them watch?
KENGOR: Well, that’s a pretty sick movie. I could get arrested for that—and rightly so.
Here again, John Wayne is badly needed—specifically, the ultimate politically incorrect, anti-communist flick: Big Jim McLain. That would be a shock to Obama-Pelosi-Reid.
In fact, now that I really think about it, that movie is remarkably relevant. McLain would have been investigating precisely the likes of Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, who was there in Hawaii at that exact time doing propaganda for the communists. I just made that connection right now. Interesting.
4. What pop culture souvenir do you own that people would be surprised to learn that you cherish?
KENGOR: I’m not a pop-culture guy. Here’s something, though, that I cherish, which probably only readers from the Pittsburgh area will understand: I have an original Myron Cope “Terrible Towel” that I drape over a collection of a half-dozen “Iron City” Steelers Super Bowl beer cans from the 1970s, slightly rusted. When the Steelers are in a major game, I carefully arrange all of this in front of the TV; it produces a supernatural effect not of this world.
Is it a coincidence no other team has won as many Super Bowls? I think not.
5. What’s your current “guilty pleasure” non-news television show?
KENGOR: “EWTN Live” with Father Mitch Pacwa, or just about anything on EWTN. The only reason I have cable television is because of EWTN, Turner Classic Movies, Steelers’ football games, and Major League Baseball. Otherwise, I’d roll the TV down the hill behind my house.
6. What do you remember most about going to the movies as a kid? How has that experience changed for the better or worse for your kids?
KENGOR: I remember watching Planet of the Apes with my brother and Aunt Marlene in the 1970s. It taught me to not take seriously nuclear-freezers and evolutionists. A valuable life lesson for the kids, too.
7. What was the first concert you ever attended and where did you sit and who went with you?
KENGOR: It was either “The Who” or “38 Special.” Please, that’s a period I’d like to forget.
8. What books were on your summer reading list?
KENGOR: I was so busy finishing my own book that I didn’t read much this summer, other than daily dips into Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle and Thomas Merton’s Life and Holiness, both of which can be digested only a page or two per day. Right now, I’m enjoying George Weigel’s The End and the Beginning, his sequel to his John Paul II biography, and I just finished Lee Edwards’s nice biography of William F. Buckley, Jr.
9. If Republicans and Democrats had theme songs for 2010 what would they be?
KENGOR: Not sure for Republicans, but for Democrats, probably “Eve of Destruction.”
10. What’s the coolest thing you’ve been able to do because of your role in the political arena?
KENGOR: I would need to think about that for a while. As a writer, biographer, historian, especially of the Reagan years, I suppose it has been the opportunity to meet and become friends with people I once knew strictly from newspapers or TV. Among them, my friendship with Bill Clark, Ronald Reagan’s close aide and national security advisor, is special. I also interviewed Edward Teller on his deathbed, which is something I should write about.
In general, the coolest thing has been the ability to study and write and speak about the things that fascinate me, and that I believe are historically neglected but significant.
11. What one thing would you do as President “just because you could”?
KENGOR: Two words: flat tax.
12. Tell me about the moment you decided to enter the political arena.
KENGOR: I was pre-med at the University of Pittsburgh, roughly 1988. I published my first op-ed, for the student newspaper. I was neither Democrat nor Republican. I didn’t know what I was. I was a science major, trying to rationally, objectively determine things. Noticing the current issues the Left was screaming about on campus, I looked into the debate over Nicaragua, where the Contras were opposing the Sandinistas. I wrote a piece arguing that Reagan was right to arm the Contras. For that, I was called a “Nazi” and a “fascist.” It was unbelievable. I’ll never forget telling that to my father. He said, “A what? A Nazi?! A fascist?!” He was mystified. I said, “Yeah, dad. They called me a Nazi and a fascist because I think we should stop the communists in Central America. Can you believe that?”
I quickly learned what the Left is like, and determined to fight back rather than curl up in the fetal position. My response hasn’t been elected office but the pen, the keyboard—books, articles. If the Left doesn’t like it, they have only themselves to blame, as usual.
[NOTE: Conservative blogger and activist Glen Asbury turned the tables on me this week. Click here to read “Twitter Personality of the Week: 10 Questions for Lisa De Pasquale.”]