National Review

NRPLUS Conference Call with Rich Lowry and Ben Shapiro

(NRO Illustration: Elijah Smith)

Yesterday morning, NR editor in chief Rich Lowry spoke with conservative commentator Ben Shapiro to members of the NRPLUS group on a private conference call. The pair discussed the Mueller report, the media, and the 2020 Democratic primary.

Rich and Ben started the call by discussing the biggest story of the week: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusion that President Donald Trump did not collude with Russia. Ben said that the Left has been just waiting for this report, which they believed would explain away the truth that their presidential candidate was the worst in American history and lost fair and square to the second-worst candidate in American history. They couldn’t ask the reasonable questions, but had to jump to the extreme that Trump was a foreign agent. Now, Ben explained, the left-wing media are covering themselves and the obvious narrative they’ve been pushing by saying that they’re just “publishing the news.”

Rich moved from this into the wider theme of the media’s latest failures — Smollett, Kavanaugh, Covington, and the collusion — and asked what unites them all. Ben suggested that it demonstrates that narrative outpaces evidence; when evidence arises, it is reshaped to fit an already existing narrative. Why not just wait until all the evidence comes out first, then make a statement? “If we can’t do that,” Ben said, “there’s no way to have a civil conversation anymore.”

Next, the hosts discussed the latest news about Empire actor Jussie Smollett. Last month, Smollett claimed he was attacked by two white men supportive of President Trump and angry at Smollett’s criticisms of the president. He called it a hate crime, but after an investigation, the Chicago police charged him with 16 felonies. Hours before the call, he was mysteriously cleared of all charges. Ben’s response? “What a crazy absurdity.” Ben suggested that the Cook County prosecutors, in their decision to drop charges, instead of calling Smollett a liar called the Chicago police liars. Not only is that wrong on its face, but wouldn’t the Cook prosecutors want to prevent fake hate crimes from happening?

Ben and Rich then turned to Ben’s new book, The Right Side of History, which came out a few days ago. Ben explained that his book asks two questions: 1. Why do we live in such a great world? and 2. Why are we attempting to tear apart that world? His argument, in sum, is that we have forgotten the roots of western civilization, which includes the enlightenment but also goes far beyond it. As Ben sees it, we have completely discarded Judeo-Christian values and reason. How are we to build an ethics, science, or even a reasonable conversation on the absence of either of these? Instead of continuing to advance, we are reverting to the pagan world, where people aimlessly bob like corks and group in tribes to survive.

After a few more minutes of conversation about Ben’s book, the hosts turned to questions from NRPLUS users, who were participating via the Facebook page and the plus@nationalreview.com email. One user asked who Ben predicts will be the Democratic nominee for president. While Ben admitted it wasn’t early enough to make a solid prediction, he suggested Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris were the likely choices. He isn’t confident in Joe Biden’s chances, however, given that Biden is an old-school Democrat and a twice-failed presidential nominee. As for vice presidents, Ben guessed that Stacy Abrams or a Beto O’Rourke-type candidate would be useful (though he doesn’t believe the VP pick matters in the long run).

A recording of the call is above. Thank you to those who joined us, and we look forward to seeing you all for the next one.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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