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De Pasquale’s Dozen with Political Commentator Reihan Salam

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Reihan Salam seems to be everywhere. He’s the lead contributor of the “The Agenda” blog on National Review and policy advisor at e21, a think tank that promotes economic policies for the 21st century. He’s a frequent contributor to CNN and a columnist for Reuters. I think he may have more jobs than I do.


Salam is a frequent speaker and moderator for political discussions in New York and D.C. Just a few weeks ago he confessed there are few things he loves doing more than moderating panels. Seriously. Thankfully, he’s pretty good at it and unlike many others who take the podium, he is genuinely interested in what other participants have to say.

In 2009, Salam co-authored the book, Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream. Since the “working” class has shrunk in the last four years there’s an even greater need for Republicans who can speak to this group and, more importantly, get elected. With any luck, they’ll come across Salam’s ideas in one of his many mediums.

Each week the De Pasquale's Dozen asks political figures and free market-minded writers and entertainers to take a break from politics and talk about their pop culture obsessions.

1. What's one thing would you do as President "just because you could"?

I would launch a pro-salt, pro-fat, anti-sugar crusade.

2. Tell me about your favorite teacher and how he or she influenced your life.

My 5th grade teacher -- Mrs. Fella -- was immensely intelligent and funny. She asked us to create our own illustrated children's books, and mine was a retro thriller involving a mutant bat. The action took place in New York city the late 1970s, shortly before I was born, and one of the main characters was Hugh Carey, who had served as governorof New York state from 1975 to 1982. I wrote my own blurbs on the back in the guise of various media personalities, and she and her husband added more. I felt very honored and flattered. And I could tell that she was very invested in the character of the students in her class. Among many other things, she encouraged us to be imaginative, ambitious, and generous of spirit.


3. If you could be paid to do anything besides your current job, what would it be?

I think I'd enjoy being a high school guidance counselor. I like helping people work through their dilemmas, and encouraging them to think outside of what appear to be binding constraints.

4. What hidden talent would be your best way into getting into the Guinness Book of World Records?

I'm very good at sleeping on planes, but I doubt that this is a Guinness-worthy talent.

5. What's your current “guilty pleasure” non-news television show?

"Workaholics" on Comedy Central looks like a conventional gross-out comedy aimed at immature stoners, but it's actually a beautiful testament to the power of friendship and mutual aid. "The League" on FX is a close second. Or Yahoo's "Burning Love," which is unbelievably good.

6. What’s the best present you ever received as a child?

When I was very small, I was briefly hospitalized. Selfishly, I told my parents that because I was convinced I was going to die, I'd very much like a G.I. Joe attack helicopter. My father purchased the toy helicopter and assembled it on the floor of my hospital room through the night. I learned many years later that because my father had shown up late to work the next day, he was let go from his job. At the time, both of my parents worked two and sometimes three jobs, so this must have been very difficult. But I literally didn't hear about any of the fallout until I was well into my 30s. Years later, when I was a middle schooler, I recall visiting family friends in Pittsburgh. The adult sons of my parents' friends gave me a ton of Bloom County compilations, which had a very big effect on me. So one of those two things, definitely.


7. What’s the best present you ever gave?

This is a much tougher question to answer. I'm good at throwing parties for my friends, so that could be it.

8. What advice do you remember your mother or father giving you? Did you take it?

My parents have given me a lot of advice over the last 33 years. It usually involves eating more vegetables, and I should probably take it more often than I do.

9. Who would be on the perfect "Red Eye" panel?

Katie Aselton, Jennifer Lawrence, and Lake Bell.

10. What books are on your reading list?

My friend Ben Lytal has written an excellent new novel called "A Map of Tulsa." It's kind of like the gentile "Goodbye, Columbus." I recommend it enthusiastically. I mainly read non-fiction, and my favorite recent book is probably Michael Pettis's "The Great Rebalancing."

11. What would you like tomorrow's headline to say?

"Low-Cost Cold Fusion Reactors Set to Revolutionize the Energy Sector."

12. Tell me about the moment you decided to enter the political arena.

When I was a kid, I would visit Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, with my mother once every couple of years for at least a month, and it occurs to me that the contrast between Brooklyn, where I lived, and Dhaka, where my parents lived for a time, led me to have an interest in institutions: why do things work this way here and that way there, etc.


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