Paul Har­vey . . . good day!

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

There’s no ques­tion that I owe a debt to Paul Har­vey. In fact, I think all Amer­i­cans are be­holden to the man, whether they know it or not.

On a per­sonal level, I had the priv­i­lege of guest-host­ing for him on oc­ca­sion. That op­por­tu­nity to con­verse with Amer­ica twice a day, con­nect­ing with more than 20 mil­lion loyal Paul Har­vey lis­ten­ers, led some folks to give me my own shot in talk ra­dio to­day.

Not that Paul took too many days off. When he wasn’t on the air, he missed talk­ing to his lis­ten­ers just as they missed him. I have of­ten said that fill­ing in for Paul Har­vey was like pinch-hit­ting for Babe Ruth. No one will ever du­pli­cate his dis­tinc­tive voice and style. Nor will any­one ever sur­pass his pro­fes­sional ac­com­plish­ments or his com­mit­ment to ex­cel­lence in ra­dio.

I’ll also ad­mit that my ap­pre­ci­a­tion went be­yond the pro­fes­sional. Like a lot of peo­ple, I grew up looking for­ward to that turn­ing to “Page Two,” that O. Henry twist, that dra­matic pause, and the rest of the story. This is the first time in my life that his voice isn’t cheer­ing me up and re­mind­ing me what a great place Amer­ica is, even dur­ing the hard times.

I read re­cently that he got his first job in ra­dio clean­ing up at KVOO in Tulsa, Okla., when he was only 14 years old. I don’t even know if that’s le­gal to­day, but it means his ca­reer and per­sonal ded­i­ca­tion to ra­dio spanned 76 years. That’s the won­der of ra­dio, and the re­mark­able gift Paul Har­vey shared with Amer­ica: a voice that was like a fine in­stru­ment that never re­ally aged to the lis­tener’s ear. His tal­ent was time­less.

Then there’s that other debt that I owe him — as an Amer­i­can and a con­ser­va­tive. A lot of the ar­ti­cles writ­ten about him in the last few days quote some­thing he said to the Amer­i­can Jour­nal­ism Re­view in 1998. “I have never pre­tended to ob­jec­tiv­ity,” he said. “I have a strong point of view, and I share it with my lis­ten­ers.”

I get the feel­ing, read­ing some of those ar­ti­cles, that the writ­ers were us­ing that quote against Mr. Har­vey, try­ing to play one fi­nal game of “gotcha” with him. But, as usual, they missed his point. Un­like most jour­nal­ists who “pre­tend” not to have a point of view, Mr. Har­vey had enough re­spect for his lis­ten­ers — and his pro­fes­sion — to play it straight. You took him at his word, or not. His 20 mil­lion reg­u­lar lis­ten­ers — and those sink­ing cir­cu­la­tions num­bers at pa­pers like the New York Times, Los An­ge­les Time and The Wash­ing­ton Post — pretty much con­firm who got it right.

Yet some­how, over the past decades, the pre­tenders have man­aged to dom­i­nate the Amer­i­can me­dia. Broad­cast tele­vi­sion and news­pa­pers, other than this one and a few oth­ers, be­came hos­tile ter­ri­tory for those of us who share Paul Har­vey’s love of coun­try and his re­spect for the tra­di­tional Amer­i­can val­ues of fam­ily and faith, per­se­ver­ance and en­trepreneur­ship. AM ra­dio, though, was dif­fer­ent.

Most ra­dio lis­ten­ers knew that the most suc­cess­ful ra­dio pro­gram in his­tory was com­ing up at noon. Paul Har­vey would make us feel at home. He made it clear that he un­der­stood who we were, where we came from, and he didn’t think we were hicks or rubes for be­liev­ing in Amer­ica.

Paul Har­vey made the ra­dio waves a comfortable place for peo­ple made to feel un­wel­come just about ev­ery­where else. He cre­ated a sense of com­mu­nity that helped oth­ers, like Rush Lim­baugh, come into their own.

At this point in his­tory, lib­er­als dom­i­nate nearly ev­ery ma­jor cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion, from Hol­ly­wood to the pres­i­dency to our bank­ing and fi­nan­cial sys­tem. Paul Har­vey helped carve out a gath­er­ing place for a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans to talk and rally.

It’s true that the In­ter­net is an im­por­tant vir­tual town square, too, but not ev­ery­body works at a desk with a com­puter. On their and my be­half, I’d like to say one last thanks to the mas­ter, Paul Har­vey.

Fred Thomp­son, for­mer U.S. se­na­tor from Ten­nessee, is the host of ra­dio’s “The Fred Thomp­son Show,” which is na­tion­ally syndicated on Westwood One Ra­dio.

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