“My brother is a lot better than I am at this.”
When those are the first words you hear uttered in reference to someone AND you esteem the sibling in question, you freeze frame the moment and begin to formulate a fledgling impression, sight unseen. I certainly did, in this instance. The scene was an 8th floor suite in the opulent Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. Right Online had just concluded and several dozen bloggers were mingling and socializing. I had just complimented Caleb Howe on his “Needle” podcast (co-hosted with Lori Ziganto)…and Caleb’s automatic rejoinder was to deflect the spotlight from himself to his brother, Ben.
I met Ben Howe about seven weeks later at BlogCon in Washington, D.C. The veracity of Caleb’s description was strikingly obvious. Ben’s clarion baritone is made for radio and dominates a room with minimal effort. Every word is enunciated for pungent effect and reflects a hearty combination of lively frivolity and enervating ideology. Never one to shy away from bold ideological strokes, Ben takes on all comers with gusto. (One is tempted to surmise aloud whether he’d be worthy of the Howe surname if he didn’t?)
I admire Ben because of his outspoken commitment to free-market ideals and limited-government principles. I find it laudable that he not only pays lip service to these values, but fleshes them out through both his vocational pursuits and recreational preferences. But I appreciate Ben most because, although blunt and direct, he is also transparent and guileless, which equates to loyalty, a trait I prize.
You will learn more from Ben himself about the varied fronts on which he operates to advance the conservative cause (podcasting, blogging, tweeting, conducting workshops for FreedomWorks and especially the video clips…the essence of multi-media!). Regardless of the nature of the task at hand, Ben gives it 100%. I took note of this characteristic at CPAC this year as I observed him crisscrossing the Marriott complex, notepad and camera in hand, taking the measure of the entire conference. That is dedication of the sort that pays off. But that’s what we’ve come to expect from Ben Howe.
10 Questions for Ben Howe
1. This is bound to come up eventually, so what was it like growing up with Caleb Howe and how are the two of you both similar to and distinct from one another? (We profiled Caleb Howe in this series several months ago, as you know… )
Caleb and I were just as you’d expect if you know us: We spent most of our time traveling the world solving crimes along with our talking dog, Max. Aside from occasional fights to the death with one another, we were as typical as any other brothers (and a sister) growing up in America, although probably a fair bit more political than most of his or my friends wanted. Of course, we always dealt with the “you guys look so much alike” thing, which frankly I don’t see, but generally speaking, we had a lot of shared interests. I’d say we differ the most in our patience levels. Caleb has the ability to meticulously and painstakingly do things that require great attention to detail while I often start yelling at the computer if a program takes longer than 1.5 seconds to open. Caleb has also always been the one to lead the way into new things and I often eventually follow him into those worlds, usually with great results. He convinced me to seek self-employment, he introduced me to everyone I know in the political realm, etc. So I pay close attention whenever he begins to chart a course.
2. You’re a man of stolid opinions and unambiguous iterations! How did your conservative worldview form and what leads you to recognize a kindred conservative spirit when you discover one?
My dad is a major influence on my conservative nature. I’ll never forget when I attended a mandatory assembly in 3rd grade that was teaching us about self-esteem. I went home afterwards and told my dad all about it. After I was done, he said “Son…that’s a bunch of crap.” I was never the same after that. I think that skepticism is a big part of conservatism and critical thinking and that it’s that skepticism that has helped me form my idea of how government should interact with our lives. I don’t let this skepticism take me all the way into the world of libertarianism, but I certainly apply the “trust, but verify” method to all my thoughts on politics. It’s something I get from my father and it’s why I reply to most statistics that people quote to me by saying, “Bull$%@#.” So far, it’s served me well. That type of skeptical nature is easy to spot in others. When I’m listening to someone speak and I see the guy next to me roll his eyes when they mention global warming, I’m like, “Yeah…we’re the same.”
3. You’re married to a lovely woman, @BreeanneHowe, with whom many of us are acquainted because the two of you are something of a rarity: A married couple (with kids), both of whom participate in political activism, tweet, blog, etc. Tell us about Breeanne and the family and the role they play in your life.
Breeanne is the strength and anchor of my family. She has to deal every day with screaming tempter tantrums, whiny back-talking, messy rooms & dirty diapers. Not to mention our kids. I honestly don’t know how she does it. Believe it or not, she’s a recovering liberal. I’m proud to say that she voted for Al Gore in 2000 because she thought Bush was the antichrist, and over the next four years, she met me, got converted and voted for Bush in the very next election! In reality, she was always a conservative, but like so many, had been misled as to what conservatism actually was. She actually lost some friends and family over her conversion (you know, liberals are real understanding about people disagreeing) but is so convicted that half the time, I think she’d make Rush Limbaugh blush. The truth is, she and our kids are why I get up every day and try to do better than I did the day before. I want to build a better life for our kids and I couldn’t do it without Breeanne as my partner.
4. Many of us in conservative activism actually don’t make enough money (if any at all) to earn a living at it! For you and your family, what pursuits keep the food on the table while you fight for the cause of liberty?
I’ve actually been self employed for about 10 years now doing intellectual property research for public companies. It’s been a tough recession for my company but I’m blessed to be doing well enough to keep the lights on comfortably still to this day. Additionally, I own a production company that creates visual media for campaigns, interest groups and consumer product companies called Mister Smith Media Group. I’ve been very fortunate financially for a number of years now and it has made activism & blogging much easier than it is for a lot of the other folks I know. I honestly don’t know how a lot of the people do it. I have the greatest admiration for so many bloggers I know that aren’t doing that well financially but still find a way to stay active and make a difference.
5. Why are you a Christian and should that fact impact your participation in the arena of ideas?
Well, as I may mention about hundred times if you know me, my dad was a pastor and is currently a professor of theology at a seminary near where I live. Growing up in that home was paramount to my finding Jesus. My dad being a natural skeptic as I mentioned earlier, helped develop my perspectives on God & Jesus and it was wonderful being able to come up with and ask extremely difficult questions and have such thorough answers coming from a theologian right there in my living room. My opinions on policy and government are absolutely tied to my following of Christ. Christ called for us to be charitable, sharing and forgiving and also seemed to hold a healthy mistrust of the establishments of man (i.e. government), which sounds about right to me. I don’t at all believe that I can or should try to force my religious beliefs on others through government; quite the opposite, really. But I also think that my Christianity demands that I have my voice in the public as much as possible to defend the rights of the unborn and prevent our government from engaging in or supporting immorality.
6. I’ve listened to your podcast, “Renewing America with Ben Howe” on a number of occasions. Tell us about how that all comes together each week and where you hope to go in the broadcasting trade.
Generally speaking, I like to have someone to interview for a portion of the show. I think that one person delivering a monologue for an hour works great on the radio, but not as well in the podcast format. As such, if I don’t have an interview for my (normally) one-hour show, I will only go for about a half hour by myself. I also like to have sound bytes to bounce off of throughout the show. This creates a ton of prep work for each episode, as I have to go find all the clips and cut all the audio as well as make sure that I have enough stories to cover and try to land an interview. It’s actually pretty exhausting. I love doing the actual show, but I dream of the day that I have research assistants to help me get things done. Honestly, radio is one of my passions. I’ve wanted to be on the radio since I was about 14 years old and recently interviewed with my local AM radio station and they graciously agreed to make me one of their sub-hosts for when the regular hosts need time off. Of course, the goal is to someday have a regular show that airs 5 days a week. I feel like I’m on a good path right now for that to happen, so we’ll see where it leads.
7. The favorites question has become a must: Books, Music Artists, Movies, TV Shows, Foods…add a couple more that suit your fancy.
- Books – Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg, The Case for the Creator by Lee Strobel, What’s So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D’Souza
- Music – Led Zeppelin, Beastie Boys, Stevie Ray Vaughan
- TV Shows – Chuck, True Blood, House, Entourage, 30 Rock, The Office
- Movies – The original Star Wars Trilogy, Star Trek (the new one too), the Dark Knight
- Foods – Think of a five-year-old’s favorite foods. Those are my favorites too.
- Video Games – Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, Metal Gear, Mario (any)
8. What a couple of weeks it has been in Presidential politics! Anyone on the horizon for 2012 who can give Barack Obama a panic attack next year?
I’m with Ann Coulter on this one: this is the year that Chris Christie should be running. He’s clearly a coalition builder and a man of his word who isn’t afraid to stand up to the press and knows how to handle any fire anyone wants to throw at him. He’s exactly what we need and he would make mincemeat out of Barack Obama in any debate. I know he’s not running, however, so I’m reserving my opinion until after a few more debates. However, there is one guy that I think could never win and should drop out immediately. In the interests of party unity, I won’t name names, but I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with Don Faul.
9. Your videos have really garnered some currency in the last year! Tell us about a couple of them and how the concepts come together for you.
I appreciate that! Yes, my videos have been a huge part of my life this year and were the basis for how I met my partners in Mister Smith Media. I think my favorite one so far is “The Socialist” with “The Last Best Hope” as a close runner up. For me the process always starts with music. I’ve always dreamed of and aspired to be a film director (I know, my aspirations are radio talk show host, film maker & entrepreneur…I dream small) so I have for a long time pictured things in my mind when I hear music. I think music is so important to bringing people into the emotion of whatever message or feeling you are trying to relay. After that, I sort of feel my way through the process, adding things and taking them out, in order to (hopefully) create a story through images, words & music. So far I’ve been happy with how it’s come together and I hope I will get to keep doing it.
10. Who are three people, other than your parents, whether personal acquaintances or simply subjects of your admiration, who have positively impacted your life?
First let me say that I gave this a lot of thought, and still I landed on possibly the 3 most clichéd answers there are: Jesus Christ, Rush Limbaugh, & Ronald Reagan.
i. Jesus Christ: How do I not put this Man on my list? He’s without a doubt the single most important person in the history of the world and is the model and guide for everything that I should aspire to be. He’s done more for me than anyone else could ever hope to and saved all of humanity from themselves. To not include Him would be an insult to the question.
ii. Rush Limbaugh: I am an enormous admirer of Rush. In fact, I get disappointed at times when I realize that people just a little younger than I am have no idea just how important he is and was to the movement. Without Limbaugh, there is no new media. There may not be a Fox News. There’s certainly no Mark Levin or Sean Hannity. This man and his opinions paved the way for the entire conservative tidal wave that has been smothering the traditional media for 15 years now. I’ve heard Rush a few times, on his show, recount how much of an admirer of William Buckley he was. He tells a story about when he was invited to meet with Buckley and that it was the most nervous he’d ever been as Buckley was nothing less than a hero and the father and voice of the entire movement. There’s no doubt in my mind that Buckley met with Limbaugh for one reason above all others: Rush was his successor. And he is absolutely essential to conservatism.
iii. Ronald Reagan: Cliché? Yes. But this man was MY president. He’s the first president that I remember and every time I read something about him, hear a quote I hadn’t heard before or watch a speech by him, I gain more and more respect for him. Sure, he had his faults (ahem..Sandra Day O’Connor) but there’s one thing about him that causes him to be the gold standard of conservative politicians even to this day: He wasn’t afraid to speak truth and let the public decide for themselves what they thought of it. He was unafraid, smart, and handled the press like a master. He was brave, he was clever, and he projected the type of America that we all know in our hearts we want, have had, and can have again. It’s rare to find all of these qualities in a man that also happens to be extremely electable. And whenever a man such as this appears, even though he may yet have faults, it is our job as conservatives to lift him up, and elevate him to the presidency to lead. I hope and pray that such a man will appear again. Incidentally, if one were to appear again…I think there is a good chance he could hail from a state that rhymes with Gew Fersey.