War Talk Radio - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
War Talk Radio

Every weekday since Oliver North left for Kuwait on 24 February, I’ve sat in his chair hosting the Common Sense Radio show. Ollie’s show is part of an ever-growing force in American politics: conservative talk radio. We reach 120 cities every day and give people a chance not only to hear, but also to be involved in, the news. Broadcasting is about the most fun you can have. It’s a twofer: you get to talk with interesting people about whatever is in the news that day and drive Tom Daschle crazy at the same time.

Talk radio’s success is founded on only a few key points: high energy and the host’s ability to analyze politics and other events, flexibility in dealing with the news of the day, and the ability to get on-air interviews with newsmakers and experts. But the one thing that makes it or breaks it is the callers. Without them, talk radio cannot exist.

And the callers are almost always terrific. We were talking about the inadequacy of military pay the other day. The young folks in the military don’t make as much as a beat cop or a big-city school teacher, and for that wage we expect them to lay down their lives. One gal called in — a military wife, her husband in Iraq — to tell the nation how families at their base get together regularly to help each other make ends meet. That they shouldn’t have to do that was too obvious to say by the time she finished.

When the callers aren’t giving us facts we need, they’re giving analysis of the news as good as you can get anywhere. Last Friday, we talked about guns in the cockpit. A pilot called in to take issue with one guest — a former head of security for an airline, who said the pilots shouldn’t be armed — to state what should have been clear, that the pilot may be the last line of defense for hundreds of passengers. This same caller told us that the new armored cockpit doors are a joke on commercial airliners. The doors are strong, to be sure. But the bulkheads they’re bolted to are still the same fiberboard/plastic junk they always were. Ram a beverage cart into it, and the fancy bolted door holds together. But it comes off the hinges of the flimsy bulkhead.

These are things you won’t learn on TV, or in the newspapers. Being entrusted with Ollie’s show with a war about to begin was, for me, a special responsibility. By the first of March, everyone but Jacques Chirac, Hans Blix and Kofi Annan knew the campaign in Iraq would start any day. Many of the experts you see on Fox drop in to the radio studio before or after their TV hits. It would be easy to get some of them the first day of the war, but that wasn’t enough. We had to have something appropriate to the solemnity of the hour, something that would pay tribute to the troops going in harm’s way.

Recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor aren’t a dime a dozen. In fact, there are fewer than 140 alive today. Helping raise money for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society (www.cmohs.org), I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few of these amazing guys. As war approached, I thought of one: Herschel Woodrow Williams. On 23 February 1945, on a small island named Iwo Jima, Woody Williams went alone into the kill zone and fought for four hours to wipe out one Japanese concrete pillbox after another, crawling back and forth through intense machine-gun fire to prepare explosive charges and get refueled flame-throwers. For that action, he received the CMOH. Woody is now the chaplain of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

I asked Woody to write and record a prayer for the troops that we would broadcast on the first day of the shooting war. He agreed immediately. When the campaign began on 18 March, the contrast between our show and others was pretty stark. Even Rush was raving about how the sound of bombs on Baghdad was music to his ears. To me, that was completely inappropriate. It seemed too unserious when our men were risking their lives. We began Ollie’s show with Woody’s prayer. We’ve played it on several days after that, and each time it drew appreciation from the listeners.

During the campaign, we’ve had most of the Fox News military analysts on. I was thinking of them last Saturday while reading a Washington Post diatribe by columnist Colman McCarthy. McCarthy — formerly a Post columnist, and now director of the “Center for Teaching Peace” (whatever that is), railed against retired generals and other military experts being on television. McCarthy’s line is, “I’m wondering why these spokesmen for militarism are on TV in the first place…The tube turned into a parade ground for military men — all well-groomed white males — saluting the ethic that war is rational, that bombing and shooting are the way to win peace, and that their uniformed pals were there to free people, not to slaughter them…Why were pacifists from such groups as Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi USA, Peace Action or American Friends Service Committee not given airtime to counter the generals?”

It’s like this, Colman, baby. Journalism — especially wartime journalism — has several jobs. One is to make the news understandable. I’ll pass by your racist dicta to get to one principal fact: the generals have the ability to make war news understandable because war is their business. Who is going to be able to translate the events of the air war for you better: my pal (and certified RSG) Lt. Gen. Tom McInerny or some putz who can’t tell a B-52 from canned soup, and only wants to rant about why the war shouldn’t be happening? The reason that the peaceniks aren’t there is that they are ignorant of the subject. Aside from being a bunch of pedantic bores.

Ollie is still in Iraq, transitioning this weekend from the First Marines to the Fourth Infantry Division. I’m still broadcasting, and dealing with everything from Colman McCarthy to PETA to Syria. It’s unlike anything I’ve done before, and I love it. Call it an addiction, call it radio love. Whatever it is, I’m in it up to my ears.

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