Neal Boortz, the politically incorrect, truth-talking talk-show host out of Atlanta, is carried in nearly 200 radio markets from liberal coast to liberal coast. A libertarian who believes drugs and prostitution should be legal, he also says things like government schools are “the most rampant form of child abuse in this country” and “religion is all-too-often a refuge for scoundrels.” Boortz, who co-wrote the 2005 New York Times best-seller “The FairTax Book,” has just come out with a new book, “Somebody’s Gotta Say It.” I caught up with “The High Priest of the Church of the Painful Truth” in Atlanta on March 22, as was driving to the airport to pilot his private plane to Florida.
Q: Why should anyone who owns a radio buy your new book?
A: On a radio show you cannot go into the depth that you do in a book -- the citations and what-have-you in the discovery and discussing of certain things. That’s one of the things I do in the book. Also there are some tall tales about my old days in radio and how I got into it. I don’t really cover those on the air. So it’s really an expansion of what I do on the air so that people can get to know me better and know how I feel about some issues better.
Q: One of the things you said on the air was that “teacher unions are more dangerous than al-Qaida.”
A: Now what I say -- and there is a difference here – is I say in the long term teachers unions present a greater threat to this country than do Islamic terrorists. Now in the short term, of course, you could have terrorists use a weapon of mass destruction and kill a lot of people in this country, but we would recover from that. The terrorists can’t take out a generation of young Americans; the teachers unions can -- and they’re doing a fairly good job of it.
Q: If you met someone on a plane and they asked you what your politics are, what do you tell them?
A: I just say “I’m a libertarian.” I’m not conservative. I’m not liberal. I’m a libertarian. I default to freedom. When an issue comes up -- What do you think about this? Should the government do that? Should these people do this? To me, the default position is always freedom. People should do anything in the world they want to do as long as it doesn’t violate somebody else’s rights to their life, their liberty, their property through force or fraud.
Q: What separates you from the conservative-slash-libertarian talk show field -- the Limbaughs, the Hannitys, the Glenn Becks?
A: I don’t hear a lot of libertarianism out of those people. I don’t listen to Glenn Beck’s show much at all. But I don’t hear much libertarianism out of them. They seem to be rather obsessed with the idea that the government ought to be powerful enough to put a gun to a woman’s head and force her to have a baby she doesn’t want to have. I don’t go along with that. Listen, I’m so libertarian, so far over the wall, so to speak, that I don’t even think the government should license lawyers or doctors. I think that should be entirely up to the consumer. If the consumer wants to make an informed choice, then they can look to private accreditation agencies to find out who is good, who can do the work and who cannot.
Q: That’s the old Milton Friedman point of view, from all the way back to the 1960s and his book “Capitalism and Freedom.”
A: It may well be, but the role of the government is to protect property and life. It is not to plan for my retirement. It is not to provide for my health care. It is not to educate my children. It is not to tell me whether or not I can be an interior decorator. It’s to protect my life and to protect my property – and that’s it.
Q: How can you as a libertarian support the war in Iraq?
A: Because the war in Iraq is part of the collective right of self-defense. We, as the American people, all have the right of self-defense. Therefore we can grant that right to government to accomplish that goal for us. I believe it was essential to get Saddam Hussein out of power and to carry on an aggressive stance in the Middle East against Islamic terrorism.
Q: Are you still a supporter of the war?
A: Yeah, I don’t like the way it’s been handled. But the consequences of not having done that could have been a lot worse than the consequences of having done that.
Q: What about the consequences of the war, in the sense that a lot of people believe Bush’s intervention in Iraq has cost the Republicans control of Congress and basically will put the Democrats in power in Congress and the White House for the next decade or so?
A: It may well. But it does not in my mind mean the war was the wrong thing to do. What it does mean is that the Democrat and leftist media machine in this country has done a superb job of demonizing George Bush and everything that he does and stands for. It also points out to me, something I’ve mentioned in the book, that there are a lot of people out there casting votes in this country that do not need to be casting votes.
Q: You’re a big proponent of the Fair Tax. Is it losing or gaining steam as a solution to our tax system?
A: I think it’s gaining. It’s a slow, slow process. It is a radical change. It would be the biggest shift in power from the political class to the people in the history of the nation. Something like that doesn’t happen over night. It is the most thoroughly, completely researched piece of legislation that has been presented to the Congress of the United States in 50 years, if not more. But it is definitely not an instantaneous process. It’s going to take a while to get that done.
Q: Has the decline of the Republican Party and the Bush administration’s straying from the conservative reservation in terms of excessive spending, etc., hurt the chances of the Fair Tax?
A: It may have. But more so than the Bush administration, is that the Republicans have absolutely no imagination whatsoever. They have nothing – nothing – out there that in my mind makes the voters want to put them back in power.
Q: So you don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the Republican decline of late?
A: No, I don’t. I think it’s been richly earned…. Now I have to say this. I am now sitting at my hangar in the airport. I’ve got a book signing in Tampa and I’m going to have to pull that plane out of the hangar and get on the road here.
Q: OK … . Is there anything you’ve said that you regret saying, for instance, the Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney statement that “she looks like ghetto slut”?
A: I didn’t say “she looks like a ghetto slut.” I said “her hair looked like that.” It’s a misquote. It’s common. You know, the detractors out there, they create this, “Well, this is what Neal Boortz said ….” Just like I didn’t say the teachers unions “were more dangerous than terrorists.” That was qualified by saying “in the long run.”
Look, I’m not an editorial writer. I don’t write columns. I talk on the radio. You cannot talk on the radio for 36 years and not say something during that period of time that you say, “Gee, I wish I really hadn’t said that.” Of course that happens. But that’s the nature of radio, because I don’t get to edit. I don’t get to go back and edit it and read and clarify my remarks and then put them out for publication. You think it, you say it.
Q: Are you too entertaining to be taken seriously?
A: You have to ask the listeners that. You have to ask them. Of course, I don’t think so and I haven’t ever had anybody say that.
Q: It’s not a criticism. But you can almost be too entertaining for your own good.
A: I’ve never had anyone suggest that to me. That is an interesting question.
Q: You don’t seem to be too optimistic about the future. Why?
A: I’m not. I don’t see anything to be optimistic about. I mean, look at the voters in this country. Do you think they’re interested in freedom? They’re not interested in freedom. They’re interested in what the government can do to make their lives easier for them. They don’t want to take care of their own medical care. They don’t want to plan for their own retirement. They don’t want to have to fight for their own jobs. They don’t want to educate their own children. It’s all government, government, government. I’m sorry. I’d love to be optimistic. But watching the American people right now, it is very hard to do.