How did a nice, liberal Jewish boy from the Bronx come to be called a conservative?Ben J. Wattenberg has been at the center of American ideas and events since 1966, when he became a speechwriter for and aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Recruited out of the blue, Wattenberg worked closely with press secretary Bill Moyers and immersed himself in the world of high-powered Democratic strategy making. Eventually he served as an adviser to two Democratic presidential candidates and in the 1970s helped write the Democratic National Platform. But something funny happened on the way to the Great Society: Key players in the Democratic Party moved to the far left. Wattenberg was not happy with this situation, so he helped establish the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM) and became one of the most outspoken voices in the so-called neo-con movement.Neo-conservatism, with its signature cause of promoting liberty around the world, is a philosophy often misunderstood, and the phrase neo-con is used frequently as an insult by those who fail to understand the concept. Wattenberg traces the emergence of the movement from its earliest roots among Cold War thinkers such as Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz and from among the ashes of pre-radical liberalism of the early 1960s, to ideological giants Scoop Jackson and Pat Moynihan, to Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Ronald Reagan. The author also discusses the proliferation of neo-con “think tanks,” such as the American Enterprise Institute, as well as the surprising appearance of a neo-conservative platform in George W. Bush’s administration, in which a number of Wattenberg’s protégés have played key roles. With his characteristic wit and on-target observations, the author recounts personal anecdotes featuring a rich cast of characters from Johnson to Reverend Jesse Jackson to Rudolph Giulani, as well as many others. Never lacking for opinions---he calls himself the “immoderator” of PBS’s Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg---the author is here to set the record straight, and as the New York Times has said, “Wattenberg has the annoying habit of being right.” Replete with stories never told before, Fighting Words is Wattenberg’s firsthand account of the remarkable transformation of American politics over the last four decades.
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Advance Praise for Fighting Words“Ben Wattenberg has always fought the good fight with purpose and eloquence. This is the fascinating story of Ben’s life in politics and the important work to defend the vital center in American politics.” ---Senator Joe Lieberman
Author, columnist, and pundit Ben J. Wattenberg is the moderator of Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg, an award-winning, nationally broadcast weekly program on PBS since 1994. He is also a senior fellow at both the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. Born and raised in the Bronx, Wattenberg was an aide to and speechwriter for President Lyndon B. Johnson, served as an adviser to Senator Hubert Humphrey, and worked on Democratic senator Henry Jackson’s two presidential campaigns, during which time he also helped write the Democratic National Platform. He has also been appointed to various boards under Carter, Reagan, and Bush Sr. Wattenberg is the author of several books on public policy and demographics, including Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future, The Birth Dearth, Values Matter Most, and (with Richard Scammon) the now-classic The Real Majority.
Ben J. Wattenberg