Conor Friedersdorf brings an independent-minded perspective to dialogues on politics and culture.
On a special crossover edition of Friedersdorf and The Posner Show, Conor and Sarah review the political conventions. Conor was disturbed by Joe Biden’s bloodlust, but was impressed by Bill Clinton’s speech. Turning a skeptical eye to the speeches by Michelle Obama and Ann Romney, Sarah and Conor discuss the folly of understanding a politician “as a person.” They then talk about how the tension between neoconservatives and budget hawks at the Republican National Convention went unacknowledged. Conor explores the problems in Romney’s plan for Medicare. Finally, Conor and Sarah lament that Democrats have abandoned the civil liberties positions they held in 2008.
Conor and Molly kick things off by discussing the lack of faith conservatives have in Mitt Romney. Conor says that Tea Partiers have to stop allying themselves with social conservatives in blue states. Molly argues that just because Barack Obama is ahead in the polls doesn’t mean that he’s winning, and Conor posits that there’s a relatively small difference between Romney’s vision for America and Obama’s. And speaking prior to the Paul Ryan VP announcement, they discuss the impact his budget would have. They close by looking forward to the Republican National Convention, and wondering if libertarians will feel out of place.
Conor talks to John Tabin about the 2012 presidential race. Was it fair that the British press tore into Romney? Conor wants to know how Romney’s foreign policy would differ from Obama’s. John explains what he didn’t like about the intervention in Libya. Why do so many strict constructionists support unconstitutional wars? Shifting to domestic issues, Conor and John applaud liberal journalists for their principled stance on Chick-fil-A. They close by discussing the prospects of third parties.
On Friedersdorf, the conversation kicks off with Mark discussing his column on purity balls, where fathers pledge to protect the chastity of their daughters. They next talk about Mark’s profile of David Frum—are Frum’s politics a psychological reaction to his famous mother? Conor disagrees with Frum’s dismissal of libertarianism, but thinks he deserves credit for publicly changing his mind at some cost to his financial well-being. The two go on to consider what the goal of parenting is, and the thing that parents in Mark’s neighborhood fear most. They discuss the good and the bad (but mainly the good) of the sexual revolution, and Conor argues that society should stigmatize absent fathers.
Conor, freshly back from the Aspen Ideas Festival, talks to Phoebe about the best way to attend a huge conference. They discuss whether high school students would benefit from publishing their papers online rather than just handing them in to a teacher. They next discuss what the goal of parenting is, referring to both Anne-Marie Slaughter and The Cosby Show, and Conor imagines an alternate life as an Ivy League preppy. Phoebe remembers Andy Griffith by talking about the town of Mayberry and the way race relations weren’t portrayed there. Conor theorizes that as online education becomes more popular some providers will start competing with one another by offering offline amenities. And Phoebe praises an author whose novel was panned in the New York Times by a critic who didn’t understand it.
On Friedersdorf, Noah begins by accusing libertarians of turning a blind eye to the Bush-Obama national security state. Conor argues that supporting the Libertarian Party in a two-party system is not quixotic, even though libertarianism has an image problem. Moving to the debate over higher education, Noah suggests that a college degree doesn’t just signal intelligence, but that education actually transforms students. Conor, on the other hand, worries that college might cost society more than it’s worth.
Conor asks whether Bob might abandon the Democratic Party over national security issues. Bob posits that humans aren’t evolutionarily equipped to evaluate the possibility of blowback in foreign affairs. Conor wonders why Americans aren’t more willing to impose checks on the executive branch—what won’t the public will accept in the name of “security”? They next discuss whether Obama’s mild manner causes people to accept policies that they would object to under a more cowboyish president. Bob presses Conor about what he hopes to gain by voting for Libertarian Party candidates. They conclude with Bob making the case that network effects all but guarantee Facebook’s long-term success—an argument Conor isn’t buying.
Conor interviews Phil about his new e-book, Conservative Survival in the Romney Era, which argues that the right must give Mitt Romney the close scrutiny it failed to give George W. Bush. Phil believes Romney only won the GOP primary because of the failure of the conservative base to settle on a credible alternative. Conor wonders why Republican primary voters refused to even consider Jon Huntsman as a candidate, despite his conservative record. The two disagree about whether Tea Partiers confuse being principled with being combative. Phil argues that when it comes to the deficit we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Conor insists that a commitment to limited government ought to include restraining the national security state, and criticizes the GOP for being unconcerned with civil liberties.
Conor interviews Jim Manzi, author of the new book Uncontrolled. Jim explains how his background in business consulting shaped his view of what’s wrong with government. The two debate whether localities should be permitted to experiment with policies that reduce the freedom of their residents. Conor cites professional licensing as an area where localities experimenting with different approaches don’t seem to learn anything useful. Jim considers whether value-added teacher evaluation is worthwhile. Finally, Jim explains why he thinks there are no silver bullets for complex policy problems.
Conor and James kick things off by musing on what the most radical social experiment in American history might be (hint: it’s not same-sex marriage). James argues that Europe is suffering from a crisis of political leadership and legitimacy, and that countries like Greece have been subsidizing their nationalism. Are idiosyncratic customs like the Spanish siesta doomed? James explains that being a parent is very different than he expected. Will we ever arrive at a science of raising children? Conor argues, contra Tom Friedman, that advertising makes America a more egalitarian country than it would otherwise be. And James explains how to go about being a rock star.
Conor and Phoebe talk about photos of cute animals and the copyright implications of republishing them. Conor demands that pundits stop using the phrase “the most important election since…” Phoebe explains why she likes the sitcom New Girl—does it capture something important about how twentysomethings live today? They next discuss Hulu, its business model, and the best way to watch television. Conor shares his experience watching Glenn Beck’s new subscription-based online TV network. They conclude by discussing the departure of Newt Gingrich from the presidential race and the fascinating figure of Callista Gingrich.
Peter and Conor kick things off by discussing President Obama’s management skills—they agree that Mitt Romney will make them an issue, but disagree about whether Romney’s experience as a management consultant has prepared him for the White House. Conor says it’s impossible to tell what President Romney’s foreign policy would be, whereas Peter argues that he’s always been “cautiously hawkish.” Peter makes the case against the Buffett Rule. And Conor explains how his “best of journalism” awards differ from the National Magazine Awards.