1. You were born and raised in Toronto to liberal parents. What was the impact of your upbringing on your current, neoconservative ideology?
I think there is a lot to be said for growing up outside the United States as it helps to understand the United States. I think Americans have a bias to see the United States as if it were the whole world and never think about the US in comparison to other countries. So, one of the things that I have brought from my Canadian background is I always remember that there are other countries and there are other ways of doing things. For example, an American politician will say “My parents were poor, and I have risen to great success. In no other country on Earth is this possible.” You want to check, is that true? And, it's helpful to know, no- it's not true and can happen in other developed countries. Once you know that, you ask how does it compare to other countries? How good a job do we do in making it possible for people to rise in life? And you can then think comparatively, which Americans tend not to do.
2. Once you were in America and had a career as a journalist, you then started working for President Bush as a speechwriter. What was the transition from journalism to life in a presidential administration like?
I got that job very much by accident and in a way because of the Florida recount. The election between Bush and Gore was very close; it went through the courts and although the election was at the beginning of November in 2000, it was not until the second week of December that President Bush knew that he would be the next president. That meant they cut five weeks out of the transition period, meaning that when they were hiring people, it was important that the person live in Washington already. So, I had some friends who worked in the Bush White House and they needed people and I was nearby. It happened very fast; I got the request and, at first, my instinct was negative because journalism to politics is a strange transition, but I wanted the adventure. From there, it happened very suddenly because of that recount process.
3. You have always identified as a neo-conservative, and there is now a generation of teenagers and young adults who are still deciding what ideology they want to pursue. To this next generation of voters, what advice would you give about pursuing a certain ideology?
You mentioned the word neoconservative, and one of the problems with that as a description is it has meant different things at different periods: some of those things I agree with and some of those things I don't. But the main thing I'd say is don't focus so much on the label on the bottle - focus on what's inside the bottle. Think about questions and issues in an independent way. One of the ways that this generation is going to be different from mine is I grew up at a time when the United States was effortlessly the strongest country on Earth. The only 'number two' back then was the Soviet Union which was so much poorer and weaker than the United States it didn't deserve to be a 'number two'. You’re growing up at a time when there are two equal economic powers in the world and that hasn't been true for a long time. So, it's going to be a very different world in which there's two superpowers- China and the US, different from the world in which there is the United States in first place and the Soviet Union in far 2nd. Also, this generation is growing up at a time in which environmental issues are going to be at the forefront of our thoughts. As a young adult, environmental issues were less of priority for me but the challenge to deal with the climate today is huge. We have seen what a Covid shock has done to the world- imagine what a climate shock will do. We are going to need a new kind of politics in which the issues of climate play a much larger part. We are becoming truly one planet; blocking a country off from the others is becoming less effective . We have seen this in Covid- in the 1970s you might have said well if we do well, that is enough- we will build a wall, who cares how the others are doing. But, with an infectious disease, it does not do you any good. The United States can do a good job, but if Mexico does a bad job it’s irrelevant because the disease can travel. So, adjusting to that 'united planet' is going to be a challenge for this generation. I would say one should study history to understand where the problems of today came from, but don't study history in hope that some set of answers from long ago can be your answers because the answers have to come from now.