RUSH: John in Fort Wayne, Indiana. John, great to have you. Thank you so much for holding on.
CALLER: Well, thank you so much. This is an important question for me. I think it would be interesting for your listeners. A great mind like yours or a great athlete, when they’re gifted and they train, as you know better than I do, they become the best. They’re in the Hall of Fame. And so I was wondering, in your case, you must have been gifted, but how did you begin? Did you spend all-nighters? Did you memorize certain books? Did you drink eight cups of coffee a day and sleep four hours? And did you finally find a groove of how to study?
In other words, a particular portion of politics helps you get the overall scheme, and then when you studied or you memorized — I guess you get my gist of it. I don’t want to take 20 minutes just going over this question because you have other callers. But I would, and I’m sure other people would like to know, how you began, what was your sojourn, as far as your study and your accumulation of all these facts and knowledge and writing ability?
RUSH: Wow. I don’t know how to — I mean, I know you’re asking this question seriously.
CALLER: Oh, it’s a serious question, and there’s no double entendre, like I’m trying to figure out why are you so this and that.
RUSH: No, no, I know it’s serious, and I don’t want to be flippant with you. I mean, I don’t want to appear to not take your question seriously. But I don’t see myself that way, number one. But let me tell you a little story.
I had the occasion one evening to have dinner with Henry Kissinger. I decided that I was just gonna throw everything to the wind and just ask him. I didn’t care if the question seemed stupid. There were things I’d been wanting to ask him ever since I’d first heard of him. And one of the questions I asked him, we’re at William Buckley’s house and it was in the drawing room after dinner. Buckley and I were smoking cigars, and the room is just thick with smoke. Kissinger didn’t smoke, but he didn’t care. He was a trooper sitting in there and his wife, Nancy, was there.
I said, “Dr. Kissinger, could I ask you a personal question?”
And he sat there, as the brilliant, superior person that he is. “Yes, of course, you may. What is the question?”
I said, “I am dying to know how in the world you decided to deal with the North Vietnamese when it was time for that peace process in Paris. You are undoubtedly the most brilliant man in any government in the world. How did you deal with the North Vietnamese? Was there anybody that you were dealing with that was on your level? Did you have to make a concerted effort to get down to their level, or was there somebody that was nearly your intellectual equal?”
He sat there and nodded his head and he was seriously considering the question. He did not refute my premise. He accepted the premise that he was by far the intellectual giant of all of the people there, and not in an offensive way. It wasn’t offensive at all.
I’ve got a break I have to take here, but, John, don’t hang up, ’cause I will complete this story when we get back.
RUSH: And we’re back with John in Fort Wayne, Indiana. So, John, I’m asking Dr. Kissinger, in this smoke-filled room — and anybody else would have reacted to the smoke. I mean, it was that much. The room didn’t have any ventilation, but he didn’t say a word. It was what it was.
His presence was overwhelming, and I’m asking him how in the world he managed to deal, to relate with the North Vietnamese negotiators. It’s a small country, not a lot of people there, communists, brutal people, in our way of thinking, uncivilized compared to us. How in the world did you form a bond with them? Were they able to get up to your level? Did you have to get down to their level?
I don’t remember exactly what he said, but he did not refute my premise, John. He did not disagree that he was the smartest guy in the world. He did not disagree he was the smartest guy in the room. He accepted my premise and answered it as such. He said (imitating Kissinger), “Well, you must remember that Ho Chi Minh was educated in America. So on many levels I was dealing with people who already knew the way that things are done in this country. And I had to realize this going in, that I did not have a cultural advantage at all whatsoever. They were brutal, you are exactly right. That’s what separated the two. They were just brutal. That’s how they got things done.”
He ended up explaining what it was like. The first three weeks of the peace talks were an argument over the layout of the table, for crying out loud. But the only reason I tell you this story is because you’re asking me, you know, how I train my — I don’t know. I don’t think of myself the way you do, but I appreciate that you do, don’t misunderstand me. Here’s what I do. Let me just tell you what I do. I have been really lucky in my life. I have been able to do, I have been able to focus on my passions. I have been able to focus on the things that I love. And so none of it has appeared, none of it seemed like work to me.
Now, there were problematic days when I was a deejay and it took me awhile to get to this point where I had time to do what I wanted to do and devote to the way I wanted to do it. But I would say the specific answer to your question is — let me answer it this way. I can’t tell you the number of media people who have said, “You know what, we would love to follow you around for a day to see how you prepare. We would love to show our viewers what it’s like to get ready for the program.”
I said, “No, you don’t want to do that.”
I said, “Because you better be prepared to see me sitting for hours and reading. That’s all I do. I don’t collaborate with anybody. I don’t call anybody. I don’t send anybody notes. I don’t ask people what they think about this. I just absorb. That is all I do. I have years and years of accumulated knowledge and accumulated opinion, and it all gets added to the base, and I either confirm what I believe or change my mind about things here or there. But there’s nothing to see. You’re gonna see me sitting somewhere. You’re gonna see me sitting on a couch. You’re gonna see me sitting at a desk, sitting in a chair and smoking cigars, that’s what you’re gonna see. There’s nothing to see because it all takes place where nobody can see what’s going on, and that’s in my brain. I mean, I don’t know how exciting that would be, but that’s what I do.”
CALLER: When you’re reading your books, do you write in the margins? Do you color-code? Do you have a certain schemata that you go with that you can see at a glance after you’re done with your reading work?
RUSH: No. If there’s something that I want to remember, I reread it 10 times.
RUSH: And if there’s something I really, really want to never forget, I write it down myself verbatim, what I’ve just read. When I did apply myself in college, which was like one or two courses or when I went to the radio school, the way I would study, I would take as detailed notes as I could and then the first thing I did when I got home is start rewriting them as verbatim as I could remember. No shortcuts, no shorthand, no leaving out adjectives. I rewrote everything by hand at the time. I didn’t have a typewriter. I found by doing that I never forget it.
CALLER: I love that. I love that, Rush. I love it.
RUSH: But rereading it — sometimes now, you know, on an iPad, you can make a note. You can highlight a passage and make a note and always have it as a reference point. The problem I have with that is remembering what I’ve made notes about, in order to find the notes. So I’ve developed a system for that. But I don’t do that very much. I’m not a speed reader. I take my time. I verbalize what I read. The biggest obstacle to speed reading is silently speaking what you read. And every speed read teacher tries to get the student to stop pronouncing the word verbally. Don’t pronounce the punctuation, just absorb the words, don’t read it to you. Well, I don’t do that. I make sure that, as I’m reading, I actually can hear myself saying it.
RUSH: So I read kind of slow compared to — I mean, I don’t scan. If I’m really interested in it, I absorb it. Another thing, though. I have also learned that you don’t have to read everything to get the gist. I know, for example, in a news story where the news is and where it isn’t. So in a 750-word column, I’ll probably read 300 to 400 words.
CALLER: When you’re reading these books, Rush, and you’re using your capacity, do you take anything for energy? I mean, do you eat — I know this sounds stupid, but do you eat something, a specific thing while you’re reading? Do you drink a cup of coffee or something to keep your synapses moving?
RUSH: Folks, you’re gonna think this is crazy. I can relate to this guy’s question because, you know, when I watch a football game, I wonder what the players had for pregame, especially guys having a great day, okay, what was the pregame meal?
RUSH: I do not eat while I’m — if I’m reading a novel, I may munch on something. If I’m reading for work, I don’t eat. I have a cigar, maybe a Diet Coke. But I don’t have any noise. The TV’s off, literally no noise in the room.
CALLER: How about coffee?
RUSH: Only in the morning.
RUSH: But the coffee’s unrelated to the study.
RUSH: Coffee is just what I need to get going in the morning. Probably hot water would suffice. It’s just something hot. But there’s no nutritional component, if you’re asking me that.
CALLER: Well, I just meant for energy, not nutritional in the, you know, nutritional sense.
CALLER: Just something to get those synapses going, like you’re reading 700 things, you’re not reading out loud, you’re absorbing —
RUSH: Oh. Well, now there are days that I’m unable to focus like I’d like to. There are days I just don’t want to do it, moments in a day where I don’t want to do it. If that happens, I just stop, I don’t fight it. I put it down and, you know, pick up a novel, watch a television show, or do something and then come back to it later. But there’s no external stimuli that I use to get going if I’m flat. I just wait ’til it happens.
CALLER: That’s good.
RUSH: I’m flattered that you’re asking me all this. I don’t even think about this until you’re asking me about it. I just do it.
CALLER: That’s the amazing thing. That’s the amazing thing because I know — well, I don’t know a lot of scholars, but I know a few —
RUSH: See, I’m not a scholar. I’m rejected by scholars. I’m considered unserious by people with formal education.
CALLER: Well, that’s ridiculous.
RUSH: Well, no, it’s class oriented. It’s the way it is. Plus, to be on the radio, to a lot of people, is the lowest rung of the show biz ladder. TV’s where it’s at. I hate television. The older I get the more I hate it ’cause it’s collaborative and it’s phony and you gotta do all this stuff before you even get to the — by the time you’re ready to do the TV show, I’ve forgotten half of what I wanted to say, ’cause I’ve gotta talk to the makeup artist and I’ve got a producer, collaborate here and there. It’s just a giant distraction.
RUSH: I mean, two and a half hours of meetings to do a 20-minute TV show, and I haven’t done one meeting ever for this radio show. So, anyway, I appreciate the question, but I’ve always just chalked all this up to being blessed with a half decent memory. I’m fortunate I’m able to combine the things I really am interested in and fascinated by with my job. In fact, that is my job. So that’s what I care about.
I think anybody doing what you really care about, you’re gonna know more of it, remember more of it. You’re going to be able to keep track of it and have immediate recall on things that you need if you’re devoted to it, if you’ve adapted to the circumstances necessary to learn, so forth.
I just view myself, actually, as having been — in fact, I got into an argument — this may help you. When I was refusing to go to college and my dad was just beside himself, considering himself a failure as a parent ’cause he couldn’t convince me to go to college — if I didn’t go to college, in his world I was never gonna amount to anything ’cause he came out of Great Depression where if you didn’t have a degree, you weren’t gonna get a job. And I told him that I wanted to be like William F. Buckley one day.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I want to be able to sit around and just learn. I want to be able to sit here and read. I want to be able to sit here and write. I don’t want to have to go to class.”
He gave me the biggest lecture, “Well, how do you think Buckley got to where he is? Do you think he’s just been sitting around his whole life and so forth?”
We had a big knock-down, drag-out about it. He said, “You can’t look at people who are” — at the time I’m 19 years old, now — “You can’t look at people are 45 and 50 and think they started there. You’re looking at where they are. You think you want to be there tomorrow, but that’s not how they got there.” He was constantly trying to pummel common sense into me. And he did, more often than he knew. But, John, I gotta go. I appreciate the question very much, and I hope the answer’s satisfactory.