Bill Steigerwald Bill Steigerwald, 2/17/2006 [Archive]

Catching up with Sean Hannity

Catching up with Sean Hannity

Fox News superstar and radio talk-show host Sean Hannity is a Reagan conservative and G.W. Bush supporter who ardently supports the war in Iraq and the war on terror. He is a co-host with Alan Colmes of Fox's successful "Hannity and Colmes" and his syndicated 3-6 p.m. (EST) talk show is heard on about 500 radio stations across the land. Fresh from his trip to San Francisco and the U.S.-Mexican border near San Diego, he called me Thursday night from New York City.

Q: Have we seen the end of the Dick Cheney shooting-spree story?

A: No. I don't think so, only because it's got to make it through the Sunday news cycle. I think after that it'll probably go away. From all that we've seen, it just seems like a terrible accident.... I thought he came across as very sincere in Brit Hume's interview.

Q: What else do we need to know?

A: Yeah. This is now day five of the conspiracy. Now it's like, "Did he consume alcohol?" I think it's really representative of the divide that's really going on now in Washington. I think there is a lot of Bush-Cheney hatred out there. A lot of it is rooted in the disagreements over the war. From my standpoint, I don't think there is any more important issue. We're in the middle of World War III. We have an enemy that wants to destroy New York, Pittsburgh, Philly, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas and everything in between. And yet we have a country that's divided over the fundamental issue in fighting and winning that war. It's somewhat frightening at times for me.

Q: President Bush has a lot of criticism on immigration from the right side of the Republican Party -- he's too easy on immigrants, people don't like his amnesty plan....

A: I don't like it. I've been very outspoken about it. Look, when it comes to the war on terror, this is the right president in the right place at the right time with a backbone of steel. And I say that all the time. That doesn't mean that we agree on everything. I think we have expanded government too much, but my biggest criticism is on the issue of the border. The No. 1 area of vulnerability and susceptibility we have to terror, and terrorists getting into this country, is at our nation's own borders.

Q: You'll be making a live appearance here on Feb. 25. What does it mean when you say you're coming to "Hannitize" Pittsburgh?

A: I'm coming to persuade those who perhaps are on the wrong side of the issues to come over to the right side. Honestly, it's just a show we've done in many, many cities around the country. It's a lot of fun. People are going to laugh. We're going to make fun of our favorite liberals, from Ted Kennedy to Bill Clinton to Al Gore. We'll talk about serous substantive issues and just have a good time.

Q: How do you define your politics?

A: I consider myself a Reagan conservative: Less government interference in our lives, lower taxes to stimulate economic growth and prosperity, a strong stand against evil in our time -- you know, "The Evil Empire," "Tear down this wall," Trust but verify" -- and building up the toughest military on the face of this earth. That's it: That's a very simple, basic, conservative, limited-growth government philosophy.

Q: Talk radio has been a powerful weapon for conservatives and an important antidote to the liberal mainstream media for 20 years. Do you think it has peaked or become stale in any way?

A: I think it's only just begun. I think we're seeing it in cities like Pittsburgh. I think you're going to see more and more talk radio on the FM band -- personality-driven, issue-oriented radio for a baby boom generation that is coming of age and cares more about its world and the politics. I think 9/11 has reconfigured all political discussion in this country... . What you see is that more and more people have sought out alternative sources of information. I think that really defines why Fox is so successful and why talk radio is so successful.

Q: You've been accused of being too supportive and too uncritical of the Bush administration and the Republican Party. How do you defend yourself -- not necessarily from liberals but ...

A: Accused by who?

Q: Libertarians, hard-core conservatives ...

A: My libertarian friends? I've debated them at length too. You know what? I have more opposition on my program -- radio and TV -- than any other conservative I know. Charlie Rangel is on on a regular basis, Paul Begala, Alan (Colmes), James Carville -- whatever liberal you want to name, they've probably been on my program. They have access to me regularly and we have more debate both on radio and TV than anybody else I know. I proudly defend a president who took the toughest stand against evil in our time. On the issues that I disagree with him, I've been as outspoken as if Bill Clinton was president. It's funny. There are those who want to minimize the impact or the effectiveness of people who do support the president and more specifically the war. I'm proud of supporting him on the war ... .

Q: Ed Feulner, president of The Heritage Foundation, was in town this week and he's arguing that too many conservatives and Republicans have fallen in love with big government, big spending and government power.

A: It's funny. I just spoke before The Heritage Foundation maybe about two months ago, and I made that very point during that speech. I do have honest disagreements. What I think our audience wants on Fox and on talk radio is honest analysis. They don't want a bunch of Kool-Aid drinkers regurgitating back whatever the party line is. I give them that honesty every day.... Ed is right. The growth of government has gotten out of control. I blame the Congress more than I blame even the administration. In that case they've become too entrenched in their own power. They've become Democratic light. I think they need to go back to the principles that got them into those positions of power in the first place.

Q: What's the main message that you'll be bringing to the Pittsburgh audience next Saturday?

A: Hope. Hope that Reagan conservatism is on the rise and that we're going to win the war on terror and that Hillary will never be elected president of this country.

Bill Steigerwald is a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. E-mail Bill at © Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, All Rights Reserved.

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