Hugh Hewitt preaches conservative politics best

The conservative firebrand is the smartest man on radio Photo: Terri Lynn Jones/

SALT LAKE, May 31, 2012 — Morning glory and evening grace.

Anyone with only a passing familiarity of American conservatism will immediately recognize the name Hugh Hewitt and, more than likely, his signature phrase.

Familiarity is a must for anyone who wants to know politics, for Hugh is the smartest man on radio.

He is in the pantheon of influential talking heads on the Right, along with Rush, Hannity, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, and Dennis Prager. Among that elite, he most deftly of all combines wit, insight, humility, and a strategic optimism for his brand of politics.

Listeners to his three-hour daily, syndicated talk show will know what the most important political topics of the day are. Usually, they revolve around how bad President Obama is for the country. “Epic,” “massive,” and “utter” are just a few of the adjectives Hugh regularly employs to describe Barack Obama’s failure as chief executive.

He is also unimpressed with the president’s supposed intellect and cool demeanor: “The president is petulant, arrogant, dismissive of his critics, needlessly combative and usually and almost casually condescending,” Hugh wrote a few months ago. A common critique is that Obama has little idea what he is talking about when it comes to foreign affairs and the economy, a belief that Hugh reiterates when commenting on the president’s interminable answers to reporters’ questions.

The frequent criticisms of the current administration are far from right-wing rants. To his infinite credit, Hugh often gives air time to the opposition, not least of whom is the president himself, via taped press conferences and speeches. Influential liberal opinion drivers, such as Jonathan Alter and Ryan Lizza, are regular guests on the program, as are mainstream news people like Candy Crowley, John King, and Dan Balz.

All this is to increase understanding of the important issues among his listening audience. Whether it is exposition, debate (the Smart Guys are fan favorites) or caller interaction, Hugh chooses the delivery mechanism to fit the topic. He might be the smartest man on radio, but he still defers to the experts.

Though politics is at the center of the Hughniverse—both a brand name for his premium subscription site and a generic term for all things Hugh—it is not the most important.

Religious, cultural, and legal issues play prominently on the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show. A practicing lawyer and constitutional law professor (a real one!) himself, Hugh knows of what he speaks when he brings up matters of religious liberty on campus or property rights for homebuilders.

A religious man, he welcomes all good-faith inquiries into matters of the church, synagogue, and mosque, but has little patience for anyone who would disqualify an office seeker on religious grounds.

On the culture front, conversation inevitably drifts towards sports, when his Ohio homerism is on full display (Hugh is an Ohio native, though he lives in and broadcasts from Orange County, Calif.) His blatant and often tortured defenses of Ohio State and the Cleveland Indians only endears himself to the listener who knows that perfection in this world is only slightly more possible than a Browns playoff berth.

If he is not the smartest, then he is most certainly the best read. Scarcely a week goes by without an extensive review of a book about which he is raving. Many roads to hell are paved with the volumes that Hugh has recommended to his audience. How he crams in those books, the hundreds of columns and essays he reads weekly, and college papers to boot, is difficult to conceive.

They are not always political, but they are usually thoroughly American. From Arthur Brooks’s The Road to Freedom to C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett series, shelves in the Hughniverse are filled with enriching and entertaining tomes.

Recently, for example, he hosted Jonah Goldberg for two hours to discuss The Tyranny of Cliches. In the past year he has done the same for Jay Nordlinger and Peace, They Say; Joby Warrick and The Triple Agent; Daniel Silva and Portrait of a Spy; and Dennis Prager and Still the Best Hope, to name a few.

I met Hugh in Kosovo, where the Army had sent me and where he wanted to visit to meet with soldiers. He was genial and curious, and taught me a lot about politics in the short time I spent with him. Recently, I took my family to southern California and we met once again. My two sons (the oldest of whom was a newborn back in those Kosovo days) got to spend time in his studio. They had no respect for the man or his property, but Hugh was gracious, and fun.

Which says more about him than anything he has done publicly. If he is not the smartest or best read, he is the warmest and most humble.

The long-time national radio show host, author of nearly a dozen books, an accomplished attorney and legal scholar, Emmy-winning television broadcaster, presidential ghostwriter and Reagan administration official, and friend of some of the most powerful people in the country, took time out of his busy schedule to meet a couple of little boys and catch up with me. On air, Hugh referred to the toddlers as his “pals.”

It may have been wiser to dismiss the boys from his studio a little sooner, but Hugh Hewitt is still the smartest man on radio.

Learn more about the author at 

Rich is a teacher and a soldier. In addition to writing the “Rich Like Me” political column at the Washington Times Communities, he is the author of Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic TrainingTunnel Club; and Not Another Boring Textbook: A High School Students’ Guide to their Inner Conservative, which you can follow on Facebook.


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Rich Stowell

Rich Stowell has written about politics and travel for the Washington Times Communities since 2011. He is a soldier in the Utah National Guard and a fellow at the Center for Communication and Community at the University of Utah. Rich is the author of "Nine Weeks: A Teacher's Education in Army Basic Training"and continues to blog about military issues at “My Public Affairs.”

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