The Exciting Journey of Juan Williams

"If you're not a liberal at twenty, you have no heart; if you're not a conservative at forty, you have no brain."
  - Winston Churchill
Unlike my esteemed colleague C. Edmund Wright, I commend Roger Ailes for his decision to immediately offer a three-year, two-million-dollar contract to Juan Williams in the wake of NPR's indefensible firing of the veteran journalist.

As a regular FNC viewer, I have always enjoyed  Juan's appearances. He has the rare ability to project his personality straight to viewers. One can sense his basic humanity, intelligence, and heartfulness. I have no doubt that if I sat next to him on an airplane, we could have a pleasant and enlightening conversation. In a business where people must invite strangers into their homes, Williams passes the most important test. Roger Ailes didn't build the most successful broadcast news operation in America without understanding the fundamentals in a deep way.

There is no question in my mind that Juan's ideological differences with me have been based on his immersion in the liberal political culture of Washington, D.C., with its baseline assumptions that government largesse equals compassion for the poor, that government bureaucrats are motivated by concern for the powerless, and that the private sector is based on greed. I perfectly well understand how a good man could believe these things, because I once believed them, too, when I lived within the bubble of self-satisfied, arrogant liberalism on America's elite university campuses.

It takes a questioning attitude and an open mind (and sometimes a shock) to break out of these assumptions, because they can be very comforting. Believing oneself to be a good person because of one's liberal politics smooths out a lot of the edges in life. When most people in your social and work circles are also liberals who agree that liberals are better people, it is almost impossible to break out. Who would willingly give up the admiration of people around them?

Juan has been open and honest enough to subject his views to the questioning of other FNC personalities, including the formidable mind and towering experience of Brit Hume, not to mention other high-voltage intellects such as Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer. He is quite clearly a seeker of the truth, but one who operated with his heart in the lead. That heart, as attested by his books and articles, has been devoted to the cause of the downtrodden, particularly but not exclusively the cause of the victorious civil rights struggle in America over the last half-century.

But now, rather well beyond Churchill's prediction of age forty, Juan Williams has been delivered the sort of shock which can cause him to reevaluate the lifelong assumptions of a comfortable liberal. Last night, guest-hosting "The O'Reilly Factor," he admitted that his assumption that the left was the home of open-mindedness had been wrong.

Having made the journey from liberalism to full-throated conservatism myself, I recognize the importance of this particular revelation. It is the key to opening a mind to rethinking other assumptions about politics. It breaks the trance, so to speak, which keeps many otherwise thoughtful, intelligent, caring people enmeshed in the delusions of modern American liberalism. To these liberals, membership in the cadre of caring, enlightened, public-spirited Americans defines what it means to be a good and responsible member of the civic community.

The overwhelming focus on caricaturing and demonizing conservatives as racist ignoramuses is based on a pragmatic understanding of the importance of maintaining this trance. Because liberal ideas manifestly fail when implemented, the liberal trance is the only way to maintain the allegiance of intelligent liberals to the cause. This is why academia, media, and other liberal hotbeds are so intolerant of conservatives. They fear that real and prolonged exposure to the vibrancy and humanity of modern American conservatism will bleed away the most thoughtful liberals from the cause.

And in fact, this has been happening for decades, and those who have left have been anathematized by those they left behind. Witness the vitriol directed at "neoconservatives" -- liberals who have been mugged by reality, in Irving Kristol's immortal phrase.

Juan Williams has begun a journey. Now that his illusions about liberals as tolerant people have been shattered, other illusions will start crumbling as well. This will stand as a model for other liberals, themselves enmeshed in the chains of liberal assumptions and social environments intolerant of conservatives.

The nation is fascinated by this case, and I expect that Fox News's ratings will continue the climb, spurred on by the curiosity of liberals about Juan's journey. As he thoughtfully, honestly, and sincerely explores his new look at politics, he will bring along others who may have also noticed the failure of liberal ideas in the real world.

And he will have the full support of the entire FNC crew of personalities, who have made it abundantly clear that they respect and like Juan, even when he was a liberal.

I say, welcome to the bracing and exciting world of questioning liberal assumptions, Juan. I found that once I realized that the left were not what they pretended to be, new vistas opened. It was an exciting time, one which changed me forever. Your journey is going to be fun for you, and a real treat for me to watch.

Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker. Once upon a time, he taught at Harvard and Columbia Universities.
"If you're not a liberal at twenty, you have no heart; if you're not a conservative at forty, you have no brain."
  - Winston Churchill
Unlike my esteemed colleague C. Edmund Wright, I commend Roger Ailes for his decision to immediately offer a three-year, two-million-dollar contract to Juan Williams in the wake of NPR's indefensible firing of the veteran journalist.

As a regular FNC viewer, I have always enjoyed  Juan's appearances. He has the rare ability to project his personality straight to viewers. One can sense his basic humanity, intelligence, and heartfulness. I have no doubt that if I sat next to him on an airplane, we could have a pleasant and enlightening conversation. In a business where people must invite strangers into their homes, Williams passes the most important test. Roger Ailes didn't build the most successful broadcast news operation in America without understanding the fundamentals in a deep way.

There is no question in my mind that Juan's ideological differences with me have been based on his immersion in the liberal political culture of Washington, D.C., with its baseline assumptions that government largesse equals compassion for the poor, that government bureaucrats are motivated by concern for the powerless, and that the private sector is based on greed. I perfectly well understand how a good man could believe these things, because I once believed them, too, when I lived within the bubble of self-satisfied, arrogant liberalism on America's elite university campuses.

It takes a questioning attitude and an open mind (and sometimes a shock) to break out of these assumptions, because they can be very comforting. Believing oneself to be a good person because of one's liberal politics smooths out a lot of the edges in life. When most people in your social and work circles are also liberals who agree that liberals are better people, it is almost impossible to break out. Who would willingly give up the admiration of people around them?

Juan has been open and honest enough to subject his views to the questioning of other FNC personalities, including the formidable mind and towering experience of Brit Hume, not to mention other high-voltage intellects such as Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer. He is quite clearly a seeker of the truth, but one who operated with his heart in the lead. That heart, as attested by his books and articles, has been devoted to the cause of the downtrodden, particularly but not exclusively the cause of the victorious civil rights struggle in America over the last half-century.

But now, rather well beyond Churchill's prediction of age forty, Juan Williams has been delivered the sort of shock which can cause him to reevaluate the lifelong assumptions of a comfortable liberal. Last night, guest-hosting "The O'Reilly Factor," he admitted that his assumption that the left was the home of open-mindedness had been wrong.

Having made the journey from liberalism to full-throated conservatism myself, I recognize the importance of this particular revelation. It is the key to opening a mind to rethinking other assumptions about politics. It breaks the trance, so to speak, which keeps many otherwise thoughtful, intelligent, caring people enmeshed in the delusions of modern American liberalism. To these liberals, membership in the cadre of caring, enlightened, public-spirited Americans defines what it means to be a good and responsible member of the civic community.

The overwhelming focus on caricaturing and demonizing conservatives as racist ignoramuses is based on a pragmatic understanding of the importance of maintaining this trance. Because liberal ideas manifestly fail when implemented, the liberal trance is the only way to maintain the allegiance of intelligent liberals to the cause. This is why academia, media, and other liberal hotbeds are so intolerant of conservatives. They fear that real and prolonged exposure to the vibrancy and humanity of modern American conservatism will bleed away the most thoughtful liberals from the cause.

And in fact, this has been happening for decades, and those who have left have been anathematized by those they left behind. Witness the vitriol directed at "neoconservatives" -- liberals who have been mugged by reality, in Irving Kristol's immortal phrase.

Juan Williams has begun a journey. Now that his illusions about liberals as tolerant people have been shattered, other illusions will start crumbling as well. This will stand as a model for other liberals, themselves enmeshed in the chains of liberal assumptions and social environments intolerant of conservatives.

The nation is fascinated by this case, and I expect that Fox News's ratings will continue the climb, spurred on by the curiosity of liberals about Juan's journey. As he thoughtfully, honestly, and sincerely explores his new look at politics, he will bring along others who may have also noticed the failure of liberal ideas in the real world.

And he will have the full support of the entire FNC crew of personalities, who have made it abundantly clear that they respect and like Juan, even when he was a liberal.

I say, welcome to the bracing and exciting world of questioning liberal assumptions, Juan. I found that once I realized that the left were not what they pretended to be, new vistas opened. It was an exciting time, one which changed me forever. Your journey is going to be fun for you, and a real treat for me to watch.

Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker. Once upon a time, he taught at Harvard and Columbia Universities.