As someone who doesn’t find it difficult to get along with those who don’t see eye to eye with me, I have to trust my credibility isn’t diminished when I compliment Dan, since we tend to process issues through a similar prism! We’re both married, Republican evangelicals. We enjoy a hearty meal of PF Chang’s gourmet Chinese, Texas barbecue or virtually any other tasty cuisine. And we both live for the thrust and parry of American politics.
With that, permit a personal aside: I’ve had occasion to observe firsthand that Dan is an incredibly gracious man. I was sojourning in our nation’s capital a few weeks ago and dropped by the Media Research Center offices for a tour. From there, I was headed to Capitol Hill, so Dan offered a ride to the closest Metro stop. Fifteen minutes later, I disembarked…right in front of the Capitol complex. Friendly service with a smile…not to mention getting to see the Monuments along the mall on the drive in, which I hadn’t yet been able to do on that particular visit.
Life is too short not to live it to the fullest, which is why I tend to seek out friends who intuitively grasp that. I admire the enthusiasm and Texas-sized gusto that my friend, Dan Isett, brings to all his endeavors. I aspire to the same!
10 Questions for Dan Isett1. What is the Parents’ Television Council and why does it make some people froth at the mouth?
The PTC is a non-partisan, non-religious organization of better than 1.3 million members around the country, and our mission is pretty simple: to protect children from sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. It was founded in 1995 by well-known conservative activist L. Brent Bozell III and was originally a division of the Media Research Center. Over time, the organization grew and became self-sustaining. The PTC is now headquartered in Los Angeles, and my colleague Melissa Henson and I make up the East Coast end of the organization.
Your second question is much more difficult to answer. In recent weeks, I’ve dealt with a number of death threats and all manner of profane name calling over Twitter and on my Facebook page. What provoked that response was a statement we issued which criticized BET for airing a Rihanna video that featured a graphic depiction of a man shot dead in the middle of a street in violation of the network’s own standards. Ironically, my message of nonviolence was met with enormous hostility and threats of violence.
Frankly, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about who we are and what our goals are. We are often accused of being “censors” and “church ladies,” when in fact our mission is about as innocuous and noncontroversial as can be. After six years working for the PTC, I’ve found that there are very few who don’t support our work after I’ve had a chance to lay out for them what we support – common sense broadcast decency rules, reform of the various media ratings systems to be more transparent and effective, and consumer choice in cable programming.
2. Here I am profiling yet another Texan! I have yet to meet anyone from the Lone Star State who answers negatively when I ask if growing up there impacted their lives and perspective. I’m guessing you would answer similarly?
As any Texan will tell you, Texas is the Center of the Universe – and I’m only joking a little bit about that. Unlike some of the other Texans you’ve featured, I’m originally from West Texas, the wide-open, less populated and ruggedly beautiful end of the state.
There are so many things that are wonderful and special about Texas, I find it difficult to express. Her people are friendly, her spaces are big, her vision is bold, her spirit is fierce and independent and her history is rich and compelling. As George W. Bush said on election night 2004, “On the open plains of Texas, I first learned the character of our country — sturdy and honest, and as hopeful as the break of day.” I could not agree more.
As for me, I grew up in Canyon and Lubbock, Texas. My dad taught journalism at West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M) and in many ways I had a typical small town childhood. I was a good athlete and played a lot of basketball and soccer and ran a lot of track as a younger man. My family moved to the Oklahoma City area before my senior year of high school, and I graduated from Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School there.
After being in what I considered a foreign land, I was ready to come back to familiar territory, so I went to college at Texas Tech in Lubbock – the biggest city in West Texas. A lot of people go straight through college in four years, but that wasn’t in the cards for me. I enlisted in the Navy and spent eight years as a drilling reservist, and I took time off to work on a number of different political campaigns. When I went back to Tech, I was highly motivated and worked my way through at the Lubbock Avalance-Journal (the local newspaper) and graduated with a degree in history and mass communications.I stayed in Texas for a while after finishing my degree and worked as Executive Director of the Texas Home School Coalition. Homeschoolers are still near and dear to my heart. In 2002, I was elected Chairman of the Lubbock County Republican Party and was the youngest county chairman in the state at the time. In fact, I was initially denied entrance to the county chair association meeting at the GOP state convention because I was so much younger than the other county chairs and they weren’t sure what to make of me. Eventually, they figured it out though!
3. You and I have hung out on a number of occasions, yet I know virtually nothing about “Mrs. Dan Isett.” I’m not even sure of her name! Care to share?
“Mrs. Dan” is Christine, and we met during my second stint in college. Perhaps not surprisingly, we actually met at a College Republican meeting. She is a fascinating, beautiful and brilliant woman and we just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. I couldn’t find my socks without her.
4. What brought you to Washington, DC and how long have you been there?
My first DC job was at the Center for Education Reform as Director of External Affairs, and I got to work on charter school and school choice issues in legislatures all over the country. It was a great opportunity, and I’ve been living in the DC area since January, 2004.
5. How are you feeling these days about the 2012 Presidential race?
(I need to make the disclaimer that I am in no way representing my opinion on this as that of the PTC.)
It’s so early in the race, it’s difficult to have anything but a very blurry crystal ball. I don’t mean to give an equivocal answer, but each candidate has characteristics that appeal to me. I have always been a great admirer of Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain. I also believe Newt Gingrich is one of the best thinkers we have on the GOP side. Tim Pawlenty has amassed a solid record in a tough state to be a conservative, and Mitt Romney’s organizational strength is going to be formidable.If Rick Perry gets into the race, he will be a force to be reckoned with. I’ve watched his career for a long time, and every time he is underestimated, he’s able to emerge victorious. That’s valuable in a political candidate.
6. How does the practice of Christianity impact the way you see the world?
Well, I’m a Christian and that colors everything about me. I have tried to live my life in deference to God’s plan for me and in gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice to save me from myself. I often fall short of God’s standard, but His Grace is sufficient for a sinner like me – and everyone else reading this.
7. You know the routine! We ask everyone to share their favorites, so we need to hear yours: Books, Movies, Musical Artists, Foods, and some miscellaneous categories.
I almost exclusively read histories and biographies, but some of my recent favorites have been
“Jefferson Davis: American” by William J Cooper
“Quiet Strength” by Tony Dungy
“How Evil Works” by David Kupelian
“Decision Points” by George W Bush
It’s SO hard to muster up this list, because there are so many that I just love – in no particular order
Braveheart (perhaps the greatest conservative movie of all time)
True Colors (the most underrated political movie ever)
The Right Stuff
The Shawshank Redemption
Steel Magnolias (yeah, I said it)
Lady and the Tramp
(I could go on and on and on)
Dave Matthews Band
Zac Brown Band
Guns N Roses (music of my misspent youth)
Bob Wills (the King of Western Swing)
Toby Keith (I like his snark, even if he’s an Okie)
Italian opera (Verdi, especially)
Depeche Mode (yeah, that’s right)
Texas-style barbecue (“grilling” isn’t barbecue)
I could eat spaghetti every meal and be happy.
8. What brand of conservatism would you espouse as your own: Social conservatism? Neoconservatism? A combination of the two?
Frankly, I’m not convinced it’s possible to have a cohesive political philosophy and only subscribe to certain tenets of conservatism. Lower taxes and less regulation have a symbiotic relationship with stronger and more cohesive families which helps yield a strong national defense. Without any of these pillars, nothing else works either in terms of being philosophically consistent or in terms of building a winning political coalition.9. As someone who has lived in Washington, DC for a number of years, who are a few people in that town whom you feel are providing genuine leadership on the issues that matter in our time?
It’s easy to grow cynical about Washington and the people who live and work here, but there are people who truly are in Washington without being “of” Washington.
Just a very few of the many I’d put on that list:
Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America
Chris Gacek of Family Research Council
Tim Graham of Media Research Center (I work closely with Tim, so this is an easy choice)
Gabe Neville (Rep. Joe Pitts’ Chief of Staff)
Sarah Makin (Coalitions Director for the House Republican Conference)
10. What would you like to be doing in 10 years?
Outside of missing out on living in Texas, I think I’m one of the very blessed people who is getting to do more or less exactly what I wanted with my life. If I could keep at it for another ten years, I’d be more than happy!