The host of “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on Fox Business Network—and part-time West Palm Beach resident—shoots straight with Boca Raton magazine.
You started out as a police and fire reporter for a radio station in Yuma, Ariz.? What was the Lou Dobbs of 1970 hoping to accomplish as a journalist?
I was remarkably goal free in those days. I was having a great time breaking news on radio. The thrill of reporting captivated me entirely. I wasn’t future-oriented; I was living in the moment—and it was a $75-a-week moment.
You’ve never been afraid to stir the pot, for lack of a better term. Who or what influenced you in that sense?
I was taught to look at advocate journalism based on understanding the issue and then developing a view where it would be helpful to the audience. The great thing about a community like Yuma is that when you go down to the Safeway to buy your groceries you’re getting instant feedback about whatever you’ve reported.
It was the best imaginable experience for a young reporter.
You’ve been an instrumental figure in the evolution of more buttoned-down delivery of news to presentation of news with an edge. Why did journalism move in this direction, and do you think it’s a healthy evolution for the industry?
I believe the audience has moved in that direction. From day one, I’ve always believed that the audience was a hell of a lot more knowledgeable about many of the subjects compared to me. So I had to know what I was talking about.
I’ve never believed it was appropriate to talk down to an audience.
I’ve never believed that it’s honest to air a view or opinion that is insinuated into a report that many traditional, so-called objective journalists have done for decades in this country. I love direct. I love straightforward. I love knowledge about issues.
The audience not only gives me permission to express my opinion, they demand it of me. But they always expect that I know exactly what I’m talking about, so when I do offer a view that it’s soundly researched and solidly based in fact.
I make absolutely no bones about it—my first interest is a national interest and the interests of the American people.
There is no such thing as true objectivity and neutrality on an issue. I’m in no way neutral about anything when it comes to this country and the American people.
Your Fox show aims to discuss news and the way it impacts American wallets.
I’m trying to bring the political economy into the homes of our viewers each night at 7. Politics, business, economics, government are interconnected. What I’m trying to do is bring the audience’s attention to those issues in the political economy most likely to impact their standard of living, quality of life and the national interest. If I can do that each night, I’ll be very happy.
What is the one thing most hurting American wallets right now?
Obviously, joblessness in this country. There is a large number of Americans with no jobs or a job that doesn’t pay them enough. This the result of policy over the past two administrations and even back to the final years of the Clinton administration—a series of horrible economic and foreign policy decisions. It’s been a miserable period of government in this country.
You wrote about the war on the middle class in 2006. Six years later, do you see the middle class having any hope of winning a battle let alone the war?
The middle has to win the war, and it has to join a number of battles. If the middle class continues to rely on elite to represent them—and by elite, I mean senators, congressmen or the president—then it has to go to the polls to make certain that their interests are being represented.
We have to have men and women with the opportunity to go to work each day and make enough money to support themselves and their families.
There is no way in the world that the middle class can stand the continuation of the policies of the past two presidents.
The American Dream resides in the middle class. It’s the foundation of our country. We need a middle class that is prosperous, that is carrying traditional American values. Neither of the past two presidents have talked with any specificity or clarity about their view of the next decade. As a result, our leadership has been thoughtless, clueless and careless.
You’ve always expressed a palette of views that cut across all political lines. Are we nearing a point when the traditional party systems need to better reflect the fact that most people can’t be so easily categorized as one thing or the other?
I like to believe that most Americans can’t be so easily categorized.
But remember that only 60 percent of us go to the polls for presidential elections, and far fewer go for local elections. If we’re going to change the direction of this country, we need to behave responsibly ourselves. That means voting. You can’t walk around questioning our representatives otherwise. There is a direct causal relationship that we need to be honest about.
We need policy in place to ensure that this free enterprise, capitalist system that we’ve so mutated becomes once again fully energized. Those discussions are being avoided in too many instances. There is a role for regulation. Republicans need to acknowledge that. Democrats need to acknowledge that this is a free-enterprise, capitalist economy, and we do need innovation and great energy in our labor and capital markets. And business needs to acknowledge that it is a very important part of America. We can’t afford it to be neutral about the country that makes that business possible.
I don’t lament the party political system. I lament our failure on occasion to energize it and give it greater direction.
Are you going to run for office at some point?
Put me down under the heading of never. Yes, I was considering the idea of running for office, and I’ve been asked before. Frighteningly, I actually listened and considered. But as always, my wife brought me back to reality and reminded me what I love most. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m having the time of my life working with great people at a wonderful, wonderful organization.
What do you make of the fact that some Americans turn to a Jon Stewart as a place for their news?
I said Americans are smart. I didn’t say that all Americans are smart. [Dobbs laughs] ... Honestly, I find Stewart and Colbert so entertaining. I’m truly a fan of both.