Twitter Personality of the Week #25: 10 Questions for Matt Cover (@MattCover)

                It is a relative rarity when I get to actually meet with and talk face to face to the recipient of a “Twitter Personality” profile whilst they are in the process of answering the 10 Questions. That did, however, occur this week. I was in DC for CPAC 2011 and was able to see Matt Cover several times, which constituted an ongoing welcome development. Matt is perennially in high spirits, armed with either a ready quip or a nugget of wisdom and sometimes both, simultaneously. This continually enhances his dinner guest prospects…as it should!

                Everyone who has met Matt knows he’s the life of a party. The element that repeatedly and happily surprises me is the significant accumulation of insight that he brings to issues and current events, even when I don’t agree with his ultimate conclusion. This knowledge base is amply illustrated in Matt’s answers below.

                I have to admit I was blindsided by the story of how Matt has reached the point where he is in life. I thought I knew him, but I would not have suspected that he was born into grinding poverty and has nonetheless achieved, at a young age, a respectable status with a renowned conservative organization. Matt is living the quintessential American dream and I find that profoundly inspiring.

                If you aren’t following @MattCover on Twitter, you’re long overdue adding him to your list. Expect a wide variety of sentiments, from ridiculous to reverent, from pungently outrageous to poignantly superb…but never a trace of insipidity or dullness!

               10 Questions for Matt Cover

1. I’m relatively sure that your parents live in the South, but I don’t know anything at all about where or how you grew up. Feel free to enlighten me and all the readers!

I was born and raised in Virginia. My mother’s family is from western North Carolina and my father is from northern California. I have two younger brothers and a younger sister. I grew up in Stafford, Virginia which is about an hour south of D.C. After graduating from high school, I went to the local community because I needed to save money and because I had found grade school entirely uninteresting, which caused my grades to be less than stellar. 

My early childhood was largely framed by my mother’s multiple bouts of breast cancer. She went through several cycles of treatment and remission from about the time I was seven until I was 13. Being a single-income household grappling with the massive burden of nearly continuous cancer treatments, we were forced to rely on the charity of the members of our church and community, even for basic things like food.

I will never forget the days of hearing the doorbell ring and opening the door to see some stranger walking back down our driveway, having left a home-cooked meal on our doorstep. My mother still has some of the dishes those people never came back for.

So, needless to say there was no college savings fund in my family. I didn’t help myself by taking an apathetic attitude toward school. While I was always placed in the advanced programs, I found public school rigid, bureaucratic, and frankly, boring. Thus, I ended up attending community college and working two jobs before eventually moving on to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. 

2. You’re employed with CNS News. What does “CNS” stand for, what is the mission of the organization and how did you obtain your position there?

CNS stands for Cybercast News Service and our mission is to focus on stories that the larger, and largely liberal, media outlets either miss or ignore. I came to work there through the Leadership Institute’s conservativejobs.com site, where I applied for an internship at CNS. After working as an intern from October 2008 until May of 2009, I was hired on full time. 

3. You are one of the less predictable DC friends I’ve made in the last year! How do you define conservatism and when did you realize that you belonged in the conservative movement?

I would define conservatism with three fundamental premises from which I think all conservative policy positions must ultimately begin. First is the moral and rational fallibility of humanity. No person is either perfectly moral or perfectly rational, a key insight of western philosophy that conservatism has adopted since Burke. Second is the belief in objective, natural rights inherent in all persons. Regardless of whether one believes that these rights are divine grants or are merely characteristics of humanity, a belief in natural rights is essential in order to call oneself a conservative.                                               

Astute readers should be able to deduce the third premise, since it is necessary to support conservative positions on moral or so-called “social” issues (the term “social issues” is really a misnomer, since the issues involved are all moral questions). That premise is of course a belief in a natural order of things. Again, I don’t think it matters whether one believes this order is divine in nature or not, so long as they accept that it exists. It will be contentious to some, but without accepting the existence of a natural order, conservatives would have great difficulty arguing for many positions.

I realized I was a conservative around my junior year of college. Until then, I had smugly referred to myself as a political agnostic – an attempt to poke fun at those with deeply-held political convictions. However, the more I studied politics (I was a political science major) the more I realized that ultimately, each side’s positions had to follow from some set of fundamental premises. The more I read the works of Aristotle, Mill, Locke, etc. the more I realized that the three premises outlined above were true, and that they formed the bedrock of modern conservatism. 

4. Many may not realize that you were the reporter in an Eyeblast TV clip that got lots of play: When you asked Nancy Pelosi how the Obamacare bill could be constitutionally defended. How did this opportunity come about?

Yes, that was me. Well, I asked then-Speaker Pelosi where in the Constitution the government is granted the power for an individual mandate. The genesis of the question actually came from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) who first raised it in a Senate Finance Committee hearing when the Democrats were first drafting Obamacare. Hatch originally wanted to hold hearings in the Finance Committee over the mandate’s constitutionality, but Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) refused. 

Hatch then raised the issue in an interview with CNS News Editor-in-Chief Terry Jeffrey. After Hatch brought up the point that the government wasn’t technically regulating economic activity but rather inactivity, we began asking members of Congress – particularly the mandate’s proponents – where Congress was granted such authority. 

My interaction with Pelosi came after her regular Thursday press conference. For those that don’t know, the Speaker of the House has administrative offices directly off the House chamber – the site of Pelosi’s weekly talks. The Speaker also has offices in the Rotunda itself. After her press conferences, Pelosi would have to walk from the House chamber, through Statuary Hall, and into her suite of offices in the Rotunda. During this walk, reporters crowd around the speaker and pitch questions to her. That’s what I did. Needless to say, former Speaker Pelosi was none too pleased and literally rotated her head nearly all the way around to avoid facing my follow-up questions. 

5. While we’re on the subject of Matt Cover antics, I have a couple more questions. I’ll never forget the day before Thanksgiving 2010 for one reason! That was the day that you went on a sarcasm-induced tear on Twitter about all of the fallacies of liberalism. What led to that and in general, what are some of the characteristics that make liberalism an untenable political philosophy?

You know, I don’t really know what came over me that day. I guess the muse just struck me. I remember writing the first few tweets while thinking about green energy and how much of a fairly tale it is. That led to the entire riff, as I began applying the same hyper-cynical analysis to other left-wing policies and ideas. 

As to what makes Liberalism or Progressivism an ultimately untenable political philosophy it is simply that it lacks any discernable premises its adherents could use to draft a coherent approach to policy. Anyone familiar with the intellectual history of political and social reform movements, particularly early-20th Century Progressivism, knows that they aren’t based on some fundamental paradigm or set of first principles. Rather, they are entirely reactionary and largely ad hoc. Most conservative critics, in my opinion, give Liberalism far too much credit in calling it totalitarian or controlling; it’s simply neither that coherent nor coordinated. For evidence of this, one need only examine the Left’s own self criticism – which invariably consists of a lot of self-absorbed whining about how their movement can never quite seem to get it together. They can’t get it together because – unlike the Right – there isn’t a single set of principles that binds them together and focuses their movement.

This isn’t to say, obviously, that the Left doesn’t have broadly-shared policy goals or reforms. They certainly do. Rather, I mean that the Left lacks its own version of the three fundamental principles I outlined above that might bring a modicum of coherence to its ideas. 

6. It’s your turn for the question about FAVORITES! So tell us what you enjoy in the worlds of: Books, Movies, Foods, Musical Artists, Sparetime Activities and a couple of extra options of your choice. 

Favorite Books: the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I read for the first time in 8th grade (long before the movies were made). Also, I really enjoy C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. It’s a pretty brilliant insight into the weaknesses of the human mind.                               

Favorite Movies: Comedy. Dark or quirky please. Anything Monty Python (The Life of Brian, preferably). Also, The Big Lebowski is my go-to funny flick.

Favorite Foods: Glad this one is plural, otherwise there’d be no answer. I absolutely love southern cooking. I also love German food. My grandmother makes a mean jaeger schnitzel. Also, watermelon.

Favorite Musical Artist: Guns N’ Roses. Hands down. Amazing band, full of amazing players.

Favorite Spare Time Activity: Playing any of my three guitars. They’re like children, only better because I can make them be quiet whenever I want (although I rarely do) and I only had to pay for them once.

7. Who are 3 people in the public eye, political or otherwise, whom you admire…that are doing life the right way, from your perspective?

Hmm, now this one requires some real thought. Well, I’ve got a pretty strong libertarian streak when it comes to living my life, so that will probably influence who I think is living life right. The first person who comes to mind is former President George W. Bush. Jimmy Carter is often called the Greatest Ex-President, but I would disagree. Bush, like Carter, left office deeply unpopular. However, unlike Carter, Bush had the humility and good grace to retire quietly and avoid taking shots at his critics and successor. 

The second person is Newt Gingrich. Now, I don’t admire Newt for his commitment to marital fidelity or his humility but for his tireless quest for conservative policy ides. I think that conservatives too often want to argue about principles rather than policy. Newt is a much-needed idea mill for the conservative movement.

 The third person is a personal favorite of mine: Henry Kissinger. I’ve always admired Kissinger not only for his personal story but for the decades of brilliant service he has provided his adopted country. Kissinger is one of the primary reasons that the United States is the global power it is today.

8. Do you want to get married and have a family someday?

Honestly, I don’t really know. I’ve often said on Twitter that I have no desire to have children, and it’s true. I don’t. I’ve also never really pictured myself as being married. I joke that I keep a running list of reasons not get married. In reality, there’s no list but I don’t ever picture myself in the place. Of course, I don’t own a crystal ball and so can’t say either will never happen. 

9. Do you plan to remain in the field of journalism for the foreseeable future?

Another tough question. The answer is a tentative yes. I enjoy being a reporter, but as I noted above, it’s not my chosen field. My first love is politics, hands down. So, while I really enjoy my job right now, I’d be lying if I said I knew for sure I’d still be a reporter in 20 years. 

10.  What are life aspirations/dreams that remain unaccomplished at this point that you could imagine being realized over the course of your lifetime?

Life accomplishments?  Hmm, well the first thing that comes to mind is buying a motorcycle. I rode a friend’s dirt bike as a kid and fell in love with it and have wanted a street bike ever since. I’m a big fan of big, loud Harley-style bikes and can definitely see myself getting one before it’s too late. Also, I’ve always wanted to write a book. As a writer, I’ve got countless ideas bouncing around in my head that could someday be put to paper.

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