Friday, January 25, 2008

Blast from the Past

While going through some old VHS videotapes in my collection -- many of them with no identifying marks -- I came across this promotional video made for the Ethics and Public Policy Center in 1985, shortly after the Center published my first book.

This is a fascinating look back at the political climate of the mid-1980s. While many of the domestic issues discussed in the video are still current (especially with regard to education policy), images of the menacing Soviet threat seem like a relic from another century -- which, of course, they are -- but no less frightening for that.

Besides myself, this video includes cameo appearances by Ronald Reagan, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Bill Bennett, Casper Weinberger, Chester Finn, Linda Chavez, Orrin Hatch, Yonas Deressa, Ethiopian bishop Abba Mathias, and others. EPPC staff members who appear and in the video include founding president Ernest W. Lefever and Robert Royal, now with the Faith and Reason Institute. Alert viewers might catch a passing glance of other staffers, such as Raymond English, Carol Griffith, and Margaret Webb. Really alert viewers will see the faces of Elaine Rendler, David Rothbard, John Chettle, John Montgomery, and various journalists, think-tank scholars, and academics in the scenes of seminars and conferences.

What is refreshing about this video, which was, as I said, made for promotional purposes, is that there is no direct appeal for financial contributions to the Center. This was no doubt what the Center's directors had in mind when they authorized the video's production, but their reticence to ask for money in so many words is admirable.

What is striking, too, about the video is that it is more than just a brochure-made-for-television. It has a narrative arc, as a good documentary film should have, and it ties together its disparate elements in a thematic fashion. It does so effectively. I don't know -- or, rather, don't remember -- who wrote the script, but whoever it was should be proud of the accomplishment. It wouldn't win an Oscar for Best Documentary-Short Subject, but it is well-crafted and much better than similar videos of this genre from that era.

A small portion of this video could be used as a commercial for my book, The Politics of Sentiment. It also includes a snippet of my first appearance on CNN, in an early incarnation of Crossfire with Pat Buchanan and Tom Braden (the inspiration for the character played by Dick Van Patten on Eight Is Enough). My opponent in the crossfire that evening was Dr. Helen Caldicott of Physicians for Social Responsibility and we were discussing civil defense policy. Somewhere I have a Betamax recording of that entire program, and I am flummoxed as far as figuring out how to convert it to DVD and then to AVI or Windows Media.

(At nearly 13 minutes, this clip is too long to post on YouTube in one piece, but fortunately Blogger now includes video upload capability. This is my first attempt to post a video directly through Blogger, rather than posting it on YouTube first and then embedding the code in my blogpost. You bloggers will understand the difference.)

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