Exclusive Interview: Ed Asner on the Bush Administration’s “Misuse of Power”

A Democratic Daily exclusive:

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview actor, activist Ed Asner. Ed Asner is a longtime activist for many causes dear to liberals. He’s a brilliant, sensitive man with a profound understanding of the current pulse of politics in our nation.

My thanks to Ed Asner, for taking the time to speak in depth with me on wealth of subjects including his longtime involvement as an activist, Cindy Sheehan, the new book about the Bush administration that he co-authored with Burt Hall: Misuse of Power, what he loves most about America .

Pamela: At a time when we could certainly use more outspoken activists, the question for any great activist is what inspired you to get involved?

Ed Asner: I’ve always considered myself a liberal. Coming up in the blacklist era, the question was always do I shut up and go along, or be in the same boat with those blacklisted.

When El Salvador happened, I asked myself, if not now, when? In what was a humanistic statement, I became the spokesman for medical aid to El Salvador. When attacks were launched against me verbally for my participation, I responded in kind. I was somewhat blacklisted. My acts forestalled my going gently into that good night. I learned a savage lesson.

Pamela: What advice would you give to young activists today?

Ed Asner: Stay the course — do not just persist — do not become an expert on everything – speak what you know. Do not let the spur of fame, make you speak what you do not know. Speak out loudly, not dumbly.

Pamela: Like Cindy Sheehan, making a stance on what she knows (Iraq war)?

Ed Asner: It’s a blessing. So many who are called, are not fit for it.

Pamela: What outrages you most about the state of our nation today?

Ed Asner: The Bush administration’s hand on the pulse of American apathy. Their ability to control the media and the media’s total prostration to the Bush administration.

From the moment he was “selected”, he hit the ground running with an agenda the right wing conservatives have been cooking up since Goldwater. What a program! The Democrats were caught fat, floored and flabbergasted. Al Gore was discounted and dismounted. And even stumbling Republicans accepted and approved. It felt like Alice in Wonderland.

Slowly, people have begun to react and pull together. Cindy Sheehan is the epitome of this.

Pamela: Yes, she has become the much-needed icon to the anti-war movement.

Pamela: I noticed that “Misuse of Power” advocates “a strong moderate leadership.” I was perplexed when I read that statement, because you are such a strong, outspoken liberal. What do you mean by that?

Ed Asner: A strong moderate leader… Someone who can start out as moderate and turn the heat up to a more liberal agenda… A leader who will do the cooking, the frog and the water. A leader who knows that you put the frog in the water and slowly turn the heat up – moderate – and then bring the frog to a boil with out the frog realizing it – radical. Did you understand that metaphor?

Pamela: Yes, French Cooking 101. Who do we look to for that leadership?

Ed Asner: Right now, we need to go beyond Bill Clinton, beyond Hillary Clinton. Hillary is stepping backwards on abortion; Joe Biden is the great equivocator (more so than Clinton was). We need a leader who is looking at America 2050, not America 2008. We need a leader who will find the will and power to point us in the direction of the long-term future.

Foreclosure is Coming Any Day:
— The Housing Bubble
— The Chinese are Cashing In

And we (the Bush administration) can only destroy the world with bombs and bullets. Unless something takes them down, we will constantly erode our sitting on the hill of power image, that is the worldview of America.

Pamela: Given the current state of our country today, we need to all remember what we love most about America. What do you love most about America, Ed?

Ed Asner: We have a wonderful people here who for the most part have not become jaded. People who have not taken no for an answer.

The reason is we have been unbelievably blessed, by creating documents that protect us, while also we are in effect an island—insulated by two oceans. If we are to thrive in the world, our acceptance and tolerance must be geared higher.

Still, I think we are a good people; but we’ve been duped into thinking we are a master race. We must be made to realize we are a lot more like other people than we thought. We must go beyond that and live up to the ideal of our nation’s creation and those documents we hold dearly.

Bush is a puppet. He has a strong “sheriff” mentality – threatening — not asking, “How do you feel about this.”

Pamela: Bush recently made a rather strong threat to Iran. What did you think about that?

Ed Asner: Cute, wasn’t it. (laughter) If he wants to ensure that we will stand-alone forever, that will do it.

Pamela: Ed, thank you so much for your time… Is there anything else you would like to add?

Ed Asner: The idea of this country is what I love most. What it has instilled in every other country in this world, up until “W”.

Despite our own genocides and slavery, those two documents I spoke of, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights have inspired others and been used as models for every country in the world.

Can we create a true democracy and true heaven on earth?

Right now, American’s are being fed Four Poison Pills:
— The Fundamentalists
— The Industrial Military Complex
— Corporatism
— The Corporate Media Machine

We are being crippled by them. It is this team, which will prevent the full flowering of democracy.

NOTE: I spoke with Ed Asner for over 45 minutes on a myriad of subjects that did not fall into place with this interview, including my experiences as a writer for the Kerry blog during the campaign. When asked who I now wrote for, I explained to Ed Asner that The Democratic Daily was a new liberal blog, to which he exclaimed “Oh, God Bless You!”

Asner acknowledged that blogs are making a difference in not only getting past the Noise Machine, but also in making certain that our own voices are heard by the elected officials that we support.

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24 Responses to Exclusive Interview: Ed Asner on the Bush Administration’s “Misuse of Power”

  1. cali dem says:

    Ed Asner: Stay the course — do not just persist — do not become an expert on everything – speak what you know. Do not let the spur of fame, make you speak what you do not know. Speak out loudly, not dumbly.
    ********
    Pamela: I noticed that “Misuse of Power” advocates “a strong moderate leadership.” I was perplexed when I read that statement, because you are such a strong, outspoken liberal. What do you mean by that?

    Ed Asner: A strong moderate leader… Someone who can start out as moderate and turn the heat up to a more liberal agenda… A leader who will do the cooking, the frog and the water. A leader who knows that you put the frog in the water and slowly turn the heat up – moderate – and then bring the frog to a boil with out the frog realizing it – radical. Did you understand that metaphor?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Enjoyed this mucho – thanks!

    Asner makes some good points.

  2. Ron Chusid says:

    I have someone in mind to fill that “moderate” position.

  3. Cali Dem

    It was a thrill to interview Ed Asner. I met him in December when my local anti-war group marched in the Studio City Christmas parade. He’s a real sweetheart!

  4. Ron

    Me too… me too. I can just see him turning up the heat!

  5. cali dem says:

    Ron, Who?

    Pamela, I would have been thrilled too. Interviewing Mr. Grant… Gosh! 🙂

    Nice interview.

  6. This got a nice mention on TedKennedy.com! Click here

  7. Cali Dem

    I think Ron is referring to JK…

    Thanks. It was fun.

  8. kj says:

    Top notch interview, Pamela! Wow. Ed Asner is quite articulate… even poetic! Good, sound ideas. Lovely to read. Thank you, Pam!!! (And Ed!)
    🙂

  9. kj says:

    ps. Cali Dem!!! Hello!!!

  10. Teresa says:

    Absolutely wonderful, Pamela! We need more of this… getting people in the spotlight together with us. French Cooking 101. LOL! I’m a vegetarian though.

    I hear you loud and clear, Ron! (comment 12:33 pm)

  11. Teresa

    I hope to have the opportunity to do more of this. I talked to Ed Begley, Jr last week about interviewing him and I have a couple of other possible “subjects” to contact too!

    French Cooking 101, my favorite part of the interview. When he asked me if I understood, I just blurted that out and realized how perfect it was to add after.

  12. What a great journalistic accomplishment! Asner is refreshing.

    And the Democratic Daily is doing a great job already. We need to restore Americans to the leadership of this country who simply believe in those basic things that make America unique. A respect for individual liberty, a respect for the environment, an effort to improve the lives of people here and around the globe, and a sense of idealism and purpose in what we do beyond just finding a way to exploit or profit from events.

    That isn’t too much to ask is it?

    Bob

  13. Teresa says:

    Bob,

    No.

  14. Hi Robert

    No it’s certainly not to much to ask!

    I’m so glad everyone is enjoying this. It was great fun talking with Ed Asner. At one point, in the beginning I felt as though he was interviewing me! he is refreshing and so knowledged and committed.

  15. Teresa says:

    Kerry on, woman! The more the merrier in this reclaiming of our democracy celebration.

    From Camp Casey:

    “I just learned that Joan Baez will be here until at least Friday morning and possibly longer. She has been sleeping in a tent at Camp Casey II. One of the reporters from the local paper offered to let her stay at her home and she refused, wanting to stay at the camp.

    I had a long conversation one of the founders of the Crawford Peace House, Hadi Jawad. He told me that three weeks ago, they had three dollars in their bank account, no phones, and were considering closing the house. In the last 2 weeks they have received over one hundred and twenty five thousand dollars in donations. They are now considering expanding to Killeen, Texas, the closest.”

    This seems to be a trend. People speaking up. Bring us more, Pamela. We are starved!

  16. Teresa

    Wonderful! Oh what fun, camping with Joan Baez (I hate camping – LOL)

    Is there a link for this?

  17. Ooh — we just had a bizzare outage there for a few moments — did anyone else catch that?

  18. cali dem says:

    kj Says:
    August 23rd, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    Hiya, kj! So great to ‘see’ you again.

  19. Indie Liberal says:

    Thanks for posting this Pamela. 🙂

  20. Deborah Serani says:

    Found you via the HuffPo. Great article, great interview. I am sending this link to my blog friends!

  21. Hi Deborah

    Thanks for passing this along. I’m going to be interviewing Asner’s co-author on “Misuse of Power” soon as well. It was a real pleasure to interview Ed Asner. He’s so eloquent.

  22. Elizabeth Metebaghafoh says:

    Pamela,

    Good job on the interview!! I admire you alot for your wonderful interest and courage. Keep it up!!!!

  23. Elizabeth

    Thank you!