My Interview With Joel Pollak

At the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Joel Pollak.

Several months ago, Joel Pollak was a law student at Harvard trying to ask a simple question of the guest speaker, Congressman Barney Frank. Barney Frank, as he often does, got enraged and began trying to bully a conservative. Joel Pollak politely but firmly refused to back down, and their exchange became a You-Tube sensation.

In a testament to his fortitude, Joel spoke to us the night before he was going to take the California Bar Exam. Even though he does not live in California, he wanted to take the California Bar “because it is the hardest.”

He is the author of the book, “Don’t tell me words don’t matter.” It is a brilliantly written analysis of the 2008 election from a rhetorical standpoint.

He just recently announced on Fox News that he is running for Congress in Illinois.

Like many young people, Joel actually began his political life as a liberal. In fact, he was a leftist. He learned from professors like Cornell West, and had a “Jew-fro.” Yet like many people, his views evolved over time.

With that, I present some words of wisdom in the form of my interview with Joel Pollak.

1) What is the Joel Pollak story? What made you decide to enter the political arena?

I have always taken an interest in politics. The very first political thing I ever did was write a letter to President Bill Clinton urging him to intervene in the Balkans to save the lives of Bosnian Muslims. I got a nice little form letter in response, but it meant something to me. Throughout college I was very left-wing. I wanted to “change the world.” When I graduated and went to South Africa to study, I slowly began to realize that many of the policies I believed in–and the notion of greater state power necessary to execute them–could be profoundly destructive and hurt the very people they intended to help. My work in poor communities there, as well as in political speechwriting, taught me about the dangers of government by the far left. My time at Harvard Law taught me that much of the American establishment has not learned that lesson, or has forgotten it. I still want to “change the world,” but I want to do it by expanding freedom–in other words, by creating the space for others to pursue their own dreams and values.

2) What political issues are most important to you?

On an emotional level, I am very concerned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To me, peace means a reconciliation of far more than two states; it represents a reconciliation of tradition and modernity, as well as a guarantee of security for the long-suffering Jewish people. I am also concerned about American security, not just for America’s own sake but because the United States is the only nation willing and able to act as a force for freedom around the world. There are many people struggling for their rights who need our example and our help.

Health care is also an issue of pressing importance. I know many people who are struggling to pay for health insurance, and aren’t quite poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. They live in fear of the next injury or financial mishap. We need to find a way of addressing the high cost and inflexibility of health care in this country, while improving the quality of that care and expanding access to coverage. The problem with the current approach of Obama and the Democrats is that it will increase costs and decrease quality. The single-payer system favored by many of those currently in power will also fundamentally transform the relationship between the individual and the state in a way that will have severe consequences for freedom on many fronts. We can see this already in the way that free speech is being repressed and dissent is being demonized around this issue. Our government should listen to us first before trying to impose a plan on us.

I am also very concerned about the state of our economy, especially the dramatic expansion in the role and power of the government. Our government has an important role to play, but not a commanding one. It cannot manage even the simplest economic transactions, and its bloated size breeds corruption and cronyism. I am optimistic that our economy will begin to recover soon, because you can’t keep Americans down. We innovate and take risks–it’s in our national character, so to speak. However, I fear that government will stand in the way of our recovery. We may see economic entrepreneurship replaced by political entrepreneurship, with slow growth and high unemployment becoming a permanent feature of our economic landscape. In my own community, a prosperous commercial district has become a virtual ghost town, and foreclosures are happening everywhere. People with money to invest are waiting to see what the government does, because they are afraid that government decisions may hurt them. We need to restore confidence in our economy, and the only way to do so is to restore faith in freedom.

3) What is the main story line regarding the 2008 election?

The American electorate trusted a man of little experience and extreme views, largely on the power of his words. It is a mistake that other societies have made before us, and we ought to have studied their examples as well as our own history and values before making the choice we did. The positive aspect of the election result is it proves, in a sense, America’s exceptionalism: how many other diverse societies have elected a member of a minority group as their leader? However, this particular leader has an intense dislike for American exceptionalism and seems to see his success more as a kind of personal exceptionalism. It is a mindset that is corrosive of our democratic institutions and values and I am encouraged by the growing opposition to it.

4) What should Republicans and Democrats keep in mind regarding the 2012 election and beyond? What lessons should be learned and what warnings should be heeded?

I think we need to think about 2010 first. I believe Obama will be a better president if he is forced by the voters to work with his opposition, as Clinton was. We need a return to parity, and soon. I think we are learning that lesson every day. I am optimistic that we will find the leaders to take us there.

5) With regards to foreign and/or domestic policy, what have we done right, and what have we gotten wrong, in the last 8 years, and what steps need to be taken to improve the situations that require improvement?

I’m focused on what we’re getting wrong right now, which is much more urgent–and, more importantly, is something we can do something about.

6) If you had 5 minutes to talk with President Bush and Vice President Cheney, what would you say to them or ask them?

I would say “Hello, and thank you for your service to our country.” I think we need to focus on the government in power at the moment, and leave to history the one that has left office.

7) Who are your three political heroes, American or worldwide?

George Orwell, who is also my favorite writer and a fellow lefty-turned-sober by experience; Nelson Mandela, for his perseverance and humility; and John McCain, for never giving up on our troops during an unpopular war. There are others I could name, both American and foreign, but those are the three that have had the most immediate influence on my own political life and commitments. I recognize their flaws, but their accomplishments and commitments are what stand out for me and what I focus on.

8.) Without delving too deeply into your personal life, what would you want Americans to know about Joel Pollak the person? 100 years from now, what would you want people to remember about you, and what would you hope the history books say about you?

I would like to be remembered as a man who gave to his country and his community in deeds what he had been given in opportunity and inspiration. I hope I can leave behind a few books worth reading. And I would also like people to know what is already obvious–that I am extremely fortunate to be marrying the woman I love, who is the most remarkable person I have ever met. Hopefully the people who remember me best will be many great-grandchildren!

9) Do you have any plans to share a beer with Barney Frank at the White House?

Only if we are drinking to his happy retirement! And I will insist on a good American beer.

While I appreciated Mr. Pollak standing up, not everybody has his courage, knowledge, and debating abilities. After all, he is a future lawyer. I wanted to know what ordinary citizens could do to fight back against liberal bullies like Barney Frank the next time we are in that inevitable situation. Mr. Pollak’s reply was concise and useful.

“Know the facts. Present facts. Nobody can stand up to that. Also, get facts from left-wing sources for extra effect. That way they can’t make a bias charge. Use their own words and facts against them.”

It was an absolute pleasure to meet and listen to Joel Pollak. His being an attorney very soon is vital. Democrats are currently the party of lawyers, some of them very talented. David Boies almost allowed the Democrats to steal the 2000 election. If Republicans are going to have any chance at governing, we need talented and powerful advocates like Joel Pollak.

I wish him well always.


9 Responses to “My Interview With Joel Pollak”

  1. Dav Lev says:

    A relative of mine lives in New York City. He is a lapsed Jew. He knows
    Judaism but doesn’t practice it. He says evolution in essence made Judaism (and thus Christianity) moot. He does like to visit Holocaust museums ( to see dead bodies and piles of hair I suppose). Yet he believes Israel is occpying Arab land and is at fault in that cnflict.

    He is typical of “Westside Manhattan Jews”.

    He also believes California offers far more services than New York State.

    Apparently he hasn’t noticed the 20b dollar budget deficit..or increase
    in our DMV fees, sales taxes and state income taxes lately.

    He thinks prop 13 should be rescinded..and people’s property taxed
    on the assessed value of their property, changed every 5 years to reflect current appraisals.

    Two things come to mine. First, over 600,000 people relocate to California each year. There are also over 3m illegals in this state by some estimates. Our emergency rooms are filled with people who have no insurance, some of whom came across the border w/o going through immigration. (That
    is just plain unfair to those that are waiting on line legally to come here).

    Oh, an article in the LA Times reveals that some pro-illegal groups
    are highly critical of our President for excluding illegals from the uninsured catagory. They claim these people just don’t get sick as often or as serious as legals. Oh well!

    Mr. Obama is moving towards the middle, and I applaud him for that.
    The blue dog democrats, moderates and conservatives..have finally
    come out of the closed, and none too soon.

    Perhaps with people like Joel running for office, in Nov 2010, we can
    get this country back to being the greatest on the face of the planet.,
    Wall Street maneuvering notwithstanding.

    Thank the Lord for people like Joel..we need more like them.
    We need less liberal people of the book and more people like
    David and Solomon.

  2. I remember that Barney Frank encounter. I don’t know why Mr. Pollak would be proud of that. Frank made him look rather uninformed at best. People who blame Frank for the subprime mess are pretty ignorant of modern American political history.

    I can’t for the life of me imagine how Mr. Pollak came to change his views regarding American politics through the lens of South Africa, of all places. Does he not know that history of that place either?

    I also can’t imagine how Mr. Pollak’s approach to Israel/healthcare/economy – all appraoches already tred and failed – would solve those problems. Who was it that said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? I assume he never heard of that little pearl of wisdom.

    What exactly are Obama’s “extreme” views? And when he refers to “American exceptionalism” (re: jingoism), doesn’t Mr. Pollak remember when Germany suffered that horrific form of right-wing nasty nationalism?

    “I’m focused on what we’re getting wrong right now…”

    Ah, the philosphy of the political minority when it’s more important to them to hurt their opponents than help their country. An oldy but goody!

    “Hello, and thank you for your service to our country.”

    Yes, that’s what Mr. Pollak would say to Bush and Cheney. Amazing. How probing.

    And Barney frank is a “liberal bully” because he puts people in their place when they lie or misrepresent him? I’d hate to see how you guys would react to a real bully!


  3. Micky 2 says:

    “People who blame Frank for the subprime mess are pretty ignorant of modern American political history.”

    And its the epitome of ignorance to think he had nothing to do with it,
    I’ve educated you on this matter before showing you transcripts from the floor where hes questioned on the matter only to be dumb founded for an answer.
    Same in the video, he never really answered the question just reverted to blaming the right and going on about how labels matter and bla bla bla.

    Hes an obnoxious fat grandmother/scarface

  4. Micky 2 says:

    It wasnt that long ago and you had nothing to say.
    Even further back I showed you the transcriptsa to where McCain got into it with him and Dodd only to be told to screw off.

    Remember this ? Yiu had nothing to say after that yet today you keep calling well educated informed people ignorant just because they see things you choose to ignore.


    ” Micky 2 Says:

    August 23rd, 2009 at 4:47 pm
    So what if he was in the minority ?
    He was still responsible, essentially, for recreating and redesigning our financial system, and he’s not taking any responsibility for what happened at all.
    The guy is scum. He reminds me of things I cant say here out of respect.
    You think these guys had no hand in supporting Clintons CRA and bolstering its efforts during their time whether they were in the minority or not ? Funny how you like to have it both ways. Everything right now is Bushs fault and the majority today doesnt have to take any of the rap ?
    Please, I’ve been thru this with you before where McCain and Bush begged Frank and Dodd to help curb the impending pop, showed you the transcripts and exact quotes.
    Its over.
    Go ahead, enjoy your mental masturbation and keep telling yourself whatever gets you off. And go ahead and repeat the ever so common ” cognitive dissonance” and “ignorance of history” lines you always run off when you’ve been shut down. Its really super old and thin already bro. The programs and policies that caused this were instituted and supported by the left going as far back as Carter.

    Heres a different perspective and it has nothing do with whos in the minority.

    That’s Barney Frank’s story, and he’s sticking to it. As the Massachusetts Democrat has explained it in recent days, the current financial crisis is the spawn of the free market run amok, with the political class guilty only of failing to rein the capitalists in. The Wall Street meltdown was caused by “bad decisions that were made by people in the private sector,” Frank said; the country is in dire straits today “thanks to a conservative philosophy that says the market knows best.” And that philosophy goes “back to Ronald Reagan, when at his inauguration he said, ‘Government is not the answer to our problems; government is the problem.’ ”

    In fact, that isn’t what Reagan said. His actual words were: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Were he president today, he would be saying much the same thing.

    Because while the mortgage crisis convulsing Wall Street has its share of private-sector culprits — many of whom have been learning lately just how pitiless the private sector’s discipline can be — they weren’t the ones who “got us into this mess.” Barney Frank’s talking points notwithstanding, mortgage lenders didn’t wake up one fine day deciding to junk long-held standards of creditworthiness in order to make ill-advised loans to unqualified borrowers. It would be closer to the truth to say they woke up to find the government twisting their arms and demanding that they do so – or else.

    The roots of this crisis go back to the Carter administration. That was when government officials, egged on by left-wing activists, began accusing mortgage lenders of racism and “redlining” because urban blacks were being denied mortgages at a higher rate than suburban whites.

    The pressure to make more loans to minorities (read: to borrowers with weak credit histories) became relentless. Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act, empowering regulators to punish banks that failed to “meet the credit needs” of “low-income, minority, and distressed neighborhoods.” Lenders responded by loosening their underwriting standards and making increasingly shoddy loans. The two government-chartered mortgage finance firms, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, encouraged this “subprime” lending by authorizing ever more “flexible” criteria by which high-risk borrowers could be qualified for home loans, and then buying up the questionable mortgages that ensued.

    All this was justified as a means of increasing homeownership among minorities and the poor. Affirmative-action policies trumped sound business practices. A manual issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston advised mortgage lenders to disregard financial common sense. “Lack of credit history should not be seen as a negative factor,” the Fed’s guidelines instructed. Lenders were directed to accept welfare payments and unemployment benefits as “valid income sources” to qualify for a mortgage. Failure to comply could mean a lawsuit.

    As long as housing prices kept rising, the illusion that all this was good public policy could be sustained. But it didn’t take a financial whiz to recognize that a day of reckoning would come. “What does it mean when Boston banks start making many more loans to minorities?” I asked in this space in 1995. “Most likely, that they are knowingly approving risky loans in order to get the feds and the activists off their backs . . . When the coming wave of foreclosures rolls through the inner city, which of today’s self-congratulating bankers, politicians, and regulators plans to take the credit?”

    Frank doesn’t. But his fingerprints are all over this fiasco. Time and time again, Frank insisted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in good shape. Five years ago, for example, when the Bush administration proposed much tighter regulation of the two companies, Frank was adamant that “these two entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are not facing any kind of financial crisis.” When the White House warned of “systemic risk for our financial system” unless the mortgage giants were curbed, Frank complained that the administration was more concerned about financial safety than about housing.

    Now that the bubble has burst and the “systemic risk” is apparent to all, Frank blithely declares: “The private sector got us into this mess.” Well, give the congressman points for gall. Wall Street and private lenders have plenty to answer for, but it was Washington and the political class that derailed this train. If Frank is looking for a culprit to blame, he can find one suspect in the nearest mirror.”

  5. Micky 2 says:

    Keep telling yourselves all the convenient truths Jersey/liberals.
    Yoe’re going to regret it

  6. Dav Lev says:

    Barney Frank, like Henry Waxman (boy) are powerhouses in the Congress. There is no chance they will be defeated by those being supported by this blogsite.

    Let’s face it, some people (Kennedy) go back each term caus they have
    the votes. Their constituents adore them. They represent (in their minds) their interests.

    Henry Waxman and Frank would not have one iota of a chance to
    win, let’s say, in most Texas districts..or in Orange County, Cal.

    It’s about numbers of course, and about advertising and sales.

    At my university, marketing, taxation and finance, were three disciplines taught.

    People vote their pocket books. They vote their bank accounts.

    The minorities believe the Democrats are on their side, and will benefit
    them the most.

    Jews vote for the Democrats caus they believe Jesus is in back of
    the Republican Party (I believe Jesus is behind both parties). They also
    have something about helping the world (before themselves).

    Let’s face it, Jews are a high proportion of the medical establishment..and will be hurt the most under Obama’s socialistic plans. Yet Jews will vote for Waxman (boys) iniative. Jews will be hurt the most if taxes go up..yet are supporting Obama’s more progressive income tax increases.

    The Republicans (See Bush and McCain), understood Islamic extremism, an ideology that wants to rule the world and change the US, as they did
    Russia, Iran, the Gaza Strip. Bin Ladin just the other day equated his
    activities with the US support for the Jews. He in so many words said,
    abandon Israel to the wolves, and I won’t hit your cities (again).

    Folks, if Israel disappeared tomorrow and everyone moved to sparsely populated Canada..there still would be a Bin Ladin, Hamas, Hezbollah
    and Ahmad.

    A review of history tells us that a Jewish body asked Canada to allow Jews to settle there prior to and during WW2. The answer was no. We do not want Jews.

    Had Canada allowed millions of Jews, there today would be no Israel, in my opinion., AND therefore no conflict between Jews and Arabs.

    Palestine would have been divided among the Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians and Saudis.

    Speaking of Saudis, they rebuffed Obama’s approach a few weeks ago to make nice with a goodwill gesture, to reciprocate for Israel’s dismantling of dozens of check points (recent were dozens of dirt barriers). This facilitated movement by Arabs into their larger towns and cities. It also opened up for new roadside attacks and drive-bys.

    Folks, in every aspect of Obama’s foreign policies, he has failed
    miserably. He gets a big F, for failure.

    From No. Korea to Iran..he has let US down.

    Bush understood what Clinton and now Obama can’t get. You don’t fight
    these murderers as if they are bunch of misguided boyscouts. You kill them wherever and whenever you can..using the best strategy.

    You don’t “talk”, “engage” and use “diplomacy”.

    One TV liberal says often times..Rabin advised talking to your enemies.

    Well, Israel wants to talk and engage with the Pales., but they won’t talk until pre-conditions are met, like Israel giving up sovereignty
    over East Jerusalem (stop the building) while they, the Pales continue to build, mainly illegally.

    Our Obama run State Department, says that notwithstanding Iran’s rebuke of US, it’s brutality of it’s own people, it’s refusal to comply with 3 UNSC resolutions, it’s forcing Sharia law and Islamic studies in it’s universities, we will try talking.

    In the meantime, Iran is that close to testing an atomic bomb. which,
    in my opinion, it will use over Tel Aviv ASAP, as well as our forces in
    Afghanistan and Iraq.

    On the health front, the Republicans are not signing on to any of the current health proposals. Do they know something we don’t.

    Jimmy Carter, the guy who lost Iran and places Palestinian terrorism
    above Israeli lives, now accuses the rest of us, who dismiss Obama’s heath plans as socialism, as a bunch of racists dogs.

    I could have told you guys.

  7. Micky 2 says:

    Yeah I guess in Carters world Jews aeeds his head examonedre the exception to his rule of bigotry.
    This seriously needs his head examined, seriously. Either that or hes actually hell bent on doing all he can for the right.
    Hes so tweaked its almost sad

  8. Micky 2 says:

    somethings realy weird with my keyboard, I misthat ridiculousut s spell stuff constantly b
    see, it did it again

  9. Micky 2 says:

    any suggestions, its driving me nuts

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