Phil Valentine, talk radio host and author of the newly released book, “A Conservative’s Handbook,” recently agreed to a brief interview with me about his new book, his thoughts on McCain and Palin and his efforts to create his own personal biofuel.
Favazza: What are the demographics of your radio audience? How does that differ from your print audience, if at all?
Valentine: Naturally, our show, like most talk shows tends to trend more male. However, our show has a lot more female listeners than your normal, issue-oriented show. I think that’s because we let people talk and voice their opinions on this show. I don’t yell and scream at people and I rarely hang up on someone unless they’re either yelling and screaming at me or they’re nuts. We do get those from time to time.
As far as how my radio audience differs from my print audience, if the book signings are any indication, we have slightly more women showing up than men. Not by much but I’d say the audiences are 55 percent women.
Favazza: Your book was born from a series of facts you ran on your website. Similarly, I know Michael Medved’s upcoming book release was born from columns he wrote for Townhall.com. How has the Internet changed the way you do business?
Valentine: Oh, gosh, the Internet has revolutionized my industry. I can remember coming in and copying off articles from the newspaper. That and pieces from the magazines I read were all we had. Now 100 percent of my show prep is done on the Internet. It’s scary to think how dependent I am on it.
Favazza: Do you attempt to reach out to liberals? If so, how–and how have you been received? Are you flooded with hate mail?
Valentine: I can’t say that I actually reach out to liberals but I do have a lot of liberals who listen. I think most liberals disagree with me, of course, but they like to listen because they know I’m fair. I’m fair with them when they call and I’m fair about the issues. Sure, I look at things from a conservative perspective but I’m not blinded by politics. If a Republican is wrong, I’ll tell you. I took on the Republican governor of Tennessee a few years back and helped beat back a state income tax.
I get a few pieces of hate mail but most of the time it’s unsigned and I can tell it’s the same person or same couple of people doing it. If they do sign their name to an e-mail I’ll usually write them back and have a cool-headed dialogue with them. I don’t usually win them over but it’s a fun back-and-forth.
Favazza: How would you describe the ways in which your book differs from other popular conservative books?
Valentine: I don’t mean this in a cocky way but there’s really nothing else out there like it. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great conservative books out there from some great conservatives. There’s just not anything out there this comprehensive as far as laying out conservative principles on a whole host of issues. Readers tell me they use it as a desktop reference book to refute liberal arguments. That’s exactly why I wrote it.
Favazza: How was writing this book different than writing, for example, “Tax Revolt?”
Valentine: “Tax Revolt,” which I’m very proud of because it’s a classic American David vs. Goliath story, reads more like a novel. It’s centered around the Tennessee tax revolt against the state income tax but it weaves other tax revolts down through history into the story. It was like writing a novel only that I knew the ending and every step of how to get there before I ever started writing. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had as an author.
Favazza: One of the “realities” from your previous book, “Right from the Heart: The ABC’s of Reality in America,” explains that unions have outlived their usefulness. What’s the best way for a conservative to make that argument to an old-fashioned Democrat, one who might not even call himself liberal?
Valentine: Well, I think it’s important to understand that when I say unions have outlived their usefulness I’m not talking about union members. When union guys call the show and argue that they work harder than anyone and are always doing what’s best for the company, they make my argument for me. I tell them if all that’s true, they don’t need a union. A union exists to protect the mediocre. If you make yourself a valuable employee your employer would be a fool to fire you. Now, that’s not to say that some employers aren’t fools. I’ve been fired by a few, but you don’t want to work for someone like that anyway. The main problem I have with unions is collective bargaining. That smacks of communism to me. If I work harder and I’m more valuable to the company then I should be able to negotiate a higher wage. With a union, you can’t.
Favazza: Do you ever regret not going to law school? What advice do you have for those young people considering it themselves today?
Valentine: (He laughs) Not at all. My father was a politician and a lawyer. He’s retired now. I think until recently he looked down his nose at the radio profession. I can’t think of two professions that are more loathed than politicians and lawyers. They rank right below used car salesmen as far as trust. Talk show hosts, on the other hand, tend to rank quite high in the trust department. I’m glad I made the choice I made.
Favazza: How is your biofuel coming along? Can you briefly explain what you’re trying to do for Bennie the BioBenz and your brand of “going green?”
Valentine: Yeah, my going green is all about more green in the pocket. I was just tired of getting jerked around by Big Oil and Big Terrorism. I also wanted to see if your average Joe with no mechanical inclinations could actually do it. It took me over a year to finally stop talking about it and take the plunge but once I did, man, what a liberating feeling that was. I remember the first time I poured biodiesel into Bennie that I had made and started him up and drove around town, I was on Cloud Nine. When Nashville went through the gas shortage in September I saw people lined up for blocks for gas, if they could find it. I drove right on by in Bennie the BioBenz. It was great.
Is it for everyone? Probably not, but I don’t think our solution to foreign oil dependency is going to be one thing. It’ll be a combination of solutions that gradually move us away from foreign oil. Some states penalize people who make their own fuel. Fortunately, Tennessee does not and it’s encouraging all sorts of people to delve into different kinds of alternative fuel.
Favazza: What are the three best ways for McCain and Palin to achieve victory? What are their greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Valentine: McCain would be 10 points up in the polls had he voted against the boondoggle of a bailout. His only chance of winning now is to call Obama out on his association with a terrorist like Bill Ayers, to hammer home Obama’s association with ACORN and, this is the biggie, to explain to the voters that people like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd are at the epicenter of the mess on Wall Street. They and Bill Clinton pushed for giving mortgages to people with bad credit. They pushed for loosening the standards for qualifying for a mortgage and they foisted that upon the banks through Fannie and Freddie. Meanwhile, Barney Frank was sleeping with one of the executives of Fannie Mae. If he had an (R) after his name there would be congressional investigations forever. If he can’t saddle the Democrats with this mess he has no chance of winning.
I believe [Palin] has more strengths than he does. She connects with the American people. She’s Ronald Reagan in a skirt. A populist who is a great communicator and who understands conservatism. John McCain’s biggest strength is his expertise on foreign affairs and his time as a POW. Beyond that he’s seen as a panderer and someone who caves in to the left. I don’t think he has a basic understanding of how our economy works. He wants to buy up all the bad mortgages which is exactly how we got in the mess to begin with. I’m not sure what’s going to happen on election day but I keep telling myself it took Jimmy Carter to give us Ronald Reagan. I keep saying that over and over and clicking my heels. Maybe I’ll wake up from this nightmare.
This has been cross-posted at KatieFavazza.com.