The David Mamet Interview
June 10, 2011
RUSH: Hey, folks, I want you to meet somebody. I spoke to David Mamet yesterday for the next issue of the Limbaugh Letter and I asked him if he could give me five or ten minutes today to come on the program, and I'm happy to welcome him to the program. David, welcome to the EIB Network.
MAMET: Thanks for having me, Rush.
RUSH: David has a book. Folks, I don't want to overdo this, but his new book is "The Secret Knowledge: On the dismantling of American Culture." David Mamet, for the economy of time here, is a traditional Hollywood liberal who is no longer and has written a book about his conversion and transformation -- and it is fascinating. I spent close to 45 minutes with him yesterday afternoon after the program discussing this conversion and how it happened, what inspired it and who the people were. It is a wonderful book for those of us who are conservative, because we look at liberals and have a question: "How can they, A, think the way they do? How can they, B, think the way of us that they do?" This is just a wonderful work in the conversion process. Mr. Mamet did it on his own. I mean, he was influenced by people but he did the work. Who were the people? What were the catalysts that made you even question your liberalism?
MAMET: Well, I think the first one was around the 2004 election, and I went to synagogue, as I do regularly. The rabbi was talking about political civility, and he said it's in the Judeo-Christian tradition that before you criticize someone you have to sit down with them and restate their position to them such that they'll say, "Yes, that's what I mean," and then they have to state your position to you so that you say, "Yes," so you both agree that you understand what the positions are, then you each introduce your facts. So I wanted to... I took the advice to heart. I said: "Well, as a good liberal I better be able to state the conservative position." (chuckles) So I started researching and I started reading, and it dawned on me that I was not a liberal, that although I could state the position of who I thought were my enemies, the conservatives, I could not rationally state the position of the liberals.
RUSH: Okay. (pause) I'll have to tell you my cochlear implant battery just died and I'm totally deaf, but it will not affect this. It might be helpful to you. (laughs)
RUSH: I have a transcriber. I'm able to see what you're saying because I've got a court reporter here transcribing.
RUSH: I wanted to make sure people understood who you are and who we're talking to. Mr. Mamet is a playwright, screenwriter. Glengarry Glen Ross is among his works. Wag the Dog. Oscar nominated for The Verdict. Speed the Plow. The Postman Always Rings Twice. I wanted to point this out at the beginning, and I failed to do so. So you've undergone the process, you've written the book, again, "The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture," and, by the way, the title's kind of clever. There's no "secret knowledge," correct?
MAMET: Yeah, the secret knowledge is there's nobody home but us chickens. The Constitution was written by a bunch of regular guys who tried to get together and thrash out a contract under which they could get together that would keep people together as it has for 230 years. And that when the experts come in claiming to be Messiahs or saviors -- or indeed experts in politician -- what they are, they're either deluded for the most part or they're duplicitous, because they should be there serving our interests; and there is no knowledge greater than that of the citizen.
RUSH: What was it like? Was there a moment when the light went off and you said to yourself, "Everything I've believed for so much of my life I've been wrong about"?
MAMET: Yes, I think so. I'd just started reading Milton Friedman. And I felt, as the phrase has it, "The scales fell from my eyes," because he took what I thought was an impenetrable subject, economics, which was susceptable only to intellectuals and people that understood it.
RUSH: What did you think was impenetrable about economics?
MAMET: I don't know, because I never looked at it. I knew that it was called "the dismal science" and I knew there were books full of graphs.
RUSH: But you've earned your living in capitalism and science and economics and so forth. It's made you who financially you are.
MAMET: Exactly so! But the realization that I came to is that each citizen for himself or herself understands the economics, which is, "I better make more than I spend and I better put something aside for a rainy day, and I want to get a good idea about what to do with the surplus so that perhaps it can grow while I'm sleeping." Period. And that that's capitalism. Everybody practices it, but half of the country -- those on the left -- deny that it's true.
RUSH: Right, and that's a fascinating thing. People live their lives that way. Most people do, but when it comes time to vote, they'll vote the exact opposite of their interests in that regard. In other words, people are charitable and they'll donate to causes but they will not walk down the street and give money from their pockets to everybody that lives on the street. But they'll vote for people who will do it for them.
MAMET: Exactly so. And the question that they won't ask is: Where does all that money end up? Where does the aid to Africa end up? Most of it ends up diverted into the pockets either of the politicians or crooks. Some of it may get where it's going but just a little bit of it -- and I'll tell you a story. An old friend of mine, who's now in her 90s -- she's a German immigrant -- she and her husband came here after the War without absolutely nothing; not a penny, not a word of the language; and their patron, their sponsor deserted them. So they arrived in this little town and they spent 40 years there and became fixtures in the town; and after September 11th she was knitting sweaters to send to the rescue workers and the relief workers; and I said, "That's such a great charitable act, but don't you...?" These sweaters are magnificent. They're handmade woolen sweaters, great works of arts. I said: "Most of them aren't going to get to the people they're intended to. They're going to disappear along the way."
CALLER: She nodded and she said: "Well, maybe some of them will get through." She had seen much more of life than I had, and she felt it was her duty to do something personal in spite of the fact that it might not work -- and that's kind of how I feel about us citizens. Rather than saying, "Oh, it's not going to work," or, "We can't get together," we have to do what we can in spite of the fact that failure is always possible.
RUSH: Do you have the belief that people on the left are less desirous of getting together? We always hear about "civility" and "we have to get along." People don't like all this "partisanship" and so forth, but the burden always seems to fall on conservatives. We seem to have to be the first ones that are told we must compromise what we believe in order to get this mutual adoration society going. There seems to be an arrogance and a condescension attitudinally among people on the left that seems to prevent them from having any desire to actually commingle.
MAMET: Well, like Lincoln said: "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong," and I feel the same way about the leftist dismantling of the West. If that's not wrong, then nothing is wrong -- and I've got a good model for people saying, "Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between," and that's the state of Israel which has been defending itself daily against constant attack for 60 years from people whose avowed purpose is to kill every Jew in Israel and then to kill the rest of the Jews in the world. People on the left say, "Yes, but obviously if there's two parties to the dispute, the truth must lie somewhere in between," and I don't see where the truth lies in between in Israel and I really don't see where the truth lies in between the liberals and the conservatives. The liberals say, "Are you arguing there must be no government?" Of course not. I'm arguing that the government should be representative of the people's interests.
RUSH: That has to be... For you to say, from where you've come from... You're exactly right. How do you negotiate with evil? How do you compromise with people that want to wipe you out? Where is the middle ground?
RUSH: But at the same token to compare liberals the way they look at things and conservatives, that's what we ask ourselves: How in the world do we compromise on whatever the issue happens to be -- abortion, crime, you name it, where do we compromise? And that's a great point that you're making. But just because somebody has a side makes it legitimate. It could be totally illegitimate.
MAMET: That's right. Dennis Prager says he "prefers 'clarity' to 'agreement.'" I think that's a great phrase to live one's life by. Woodrow Wilson did a lot towards screwing up the world. He said a couple of smart things. One is he said, "You can vote for freedom and you'll probably lose, or you can vote for slavery and you'll absolutely win."
RUSH: What continues to strike me... How long have you known that? Is it something that you've just come across that's part of your conversion or how long have you held the belief that you're sharing with us now that you didn't act on for so many years?
MAMET: I was a liberal, which meant that I voted for the liberal team. It meant that... You know what it meant, Rush? It meant that I was excused from thinking.
RUSH: Were you born liberal and then confirmed --
MAMET: Sure. Yeah.
RUSH: -- or you just didn't question the way you were?
MAMET: Sure. My dad was an immigrant kid and a Democrat and a Jew, and we didn't know any Republicans in our group. So I grew up Democratic. My dad was a labor lawyer -- a very hardworking guy, a one horse labor lawyer -- and then I went to hippie college and lived in the bubble. I didn't knowingly meet a conservative until, to my shame, I was 60 years old and sat down and said, "Wow, I don't understand what this guy's talking about, but he has a great civility about him. Perhaps I better investigate this thing."
RUSH: We're talking with a playwright and screenwriter, David Mamet, author of the new book "The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture." It's about his conversion from Hollywood and theater liberalism to conservatism. Are you able to now, since the book has come out -- and you've been public. You're doing interviews and you've been very clear about this. You've had some very clear writing on this. Are you able to talk to liberal friends now that you've, quote/unquote, "come out"? What's the impact been on your friendships?
MAMET: Well, that's a good question. I have a lot of friends. I don't socialize a lot because I've got a family, so I go home at night and I don't socialize a lot. But I see my friends occasionally. We all work together. My definition of a "friend" is, coming from Chicago, someone who says, "Yeah, sure. You know what? Let's talk about what we can talk about. Let's help each other out. Your politics are none of my business."
CALLER: And that's how we work in the workplace.
RUSH: But you now feel the need to proselytize. You've written a book. You're attempting to convert others, correct?
MAMET: Well, I don't know. That's a very good question. I wrote the book to try to figure out what I thought. I said, "I've got to sit down with pencil and paper." It's like taking the car apart to learn how the internal combustion engine works. It's not enough to just take it to the garage and give the guy a couple bucks. I want to know how the car works. So that's what I was doing with my own thought processes -- attempting to do -- and that's what I was doing was attempting to understand what democracy actually is. So as I said at the end of the book, "I wrote this in sympathy with anyone who has been oppressed by big government."
RUSH: (laughing) That's all of us!
MAMET: Well, yeah.
MAMET: And then the hope of drawing the attention of this terror to the fair minded.
RUSH: Well, look, I appreciate your time, and thank you again. Thank you again for yesterday, for the hit on the newsletter, and best of luck with your book, and we'll chat soon. Testify brother! Testify!
MAMET: (laughing) Okay. You're welcome. Thank you very much, Rush.
RUSH: That's David Mamet, noted screenwriter and playwright -- and there's much more of that, obviously in different directions and even a little bit more depth, in the upcoming issue of The Limbaugh Letter newsletter. It's the most widely read political newsletter in the country.