In our Thursday feature, we ask prominent conservatives a nonpolitical question. Last week we asked what their worst job was.
This week we ask: Who most affected your career?
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R): “My father.”
Arthur Brooks (head of the American Enterprise Institute): “AEI scholar Charles Murray — but many years before I came to AEI. I read his research when I was still a musician, and its sheer ingenuity captured my imagination. It helped me understand that the artistic muse exists outside the world of the arts, which had been my whole life up to that point. Later, I found the same thing in lyrical social scientists like James Q. Wilson, Irving Kristol, and Milton Friedman. I never met Charles Murray until I came to AEI. I asked him to lunch and told him how I changed careers after reading his work. He looked honestly stricken, like he had corrupted a minor or something.”
Grover Norquist (head of Americans for Tax Reform): “My father. He always shared with me what was happening in his work life, and I was able to learn a great deal about work before going to college.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio): “Probably George H.W. Bush — one of my first bosses and the most decent guy in politics.”
Dana Perino (former White House press secretary, now a Republican consultant): “President George W. Bush (and not just for appointing me as press secretary), for inspiring me back in 1999 when I very much wanted him to run for president.”
Peter Robinson (former Reagan speechwriter, Hoover Institute fellow, founder of Ricochet.com.): “William F. Buckley Jr.”
Stephen Hayes (senior writer for the Weekly Standard): “A three-way tie: Chuck Todd, Bill Kristol and Bret Baier. Chuck was my first boss after journalism school, despite the fact that he’s younger than I am. He was the editor of National Journal’s Hotline and I was a writer there. (I secured the job in the interview by correctly answering a question about a 1980s-era Green Bay Packer quarterback. True story.) Working from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. gave me time to freelance in the afternoons/evenings, with lots of input on story ideas from Chuck, who knows American politics as well as anyone alive today. That led directly to my job at the Weekly Standard. Bill is a classic ‘take-off’ editor — helping conceive and shape stories before they’re written. And in contrast to the horror stories I hear from many of my colleagues elsewhere, he treats his writers like adults. We don’t have story ‘assignments’ so much as we have discussions with Bill and other editors about the things that interest us. So long as we produce for TWS, he gives us tremendous freedom to do other things, too — write books, contribute to other print outlets, do TV and radio. And Bret, who I had lived with in college at DePauw University, brought me to Fox from CNN. I loved being at CNN, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work on ‘Special Report,’ which had been my favorite news show for a decade, especially to work with a good friend from college. He constantly does his own reporting — something that not only helps him anchor the show but allows him to lead the panel by introducing new, challenging information. I’m blown away by the size and dedication of the audience for ‘SR’ — definitely a profound influence on my career.”