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Renting space in Cathy's world: An interview with Catherine Seipp
By Bernard Chapin
Catherine Seipp is a writer hailing from California who many conservatives have just recently discovered via her columns for National Review Online. She also runs her own blog called "Cathy's World." Along with her print career, Ms. Seipp has made several telegenic appearances as a guest on Dennis Miller's new CNBC talk show.
In both this interview and through her writing, Ms. Seipp gives the impression of being a vivacious and free-spirited individual, and such a makeup is most welcome in our ranks as the media never tires of presenting conservatives as dour automatons wearing last century's fashions.
Her recent identification with the Republican Party is perhaps more typical than it would seem as the left's political correctness and ideology has driven countless liberty loving voters into the arms of the GOP (as it did with this interviewer).
BC: First off, Ms. Seipp, the way in which I am familiar with your work is through your "From the Left Coast" columns on nationalreview.com. I'm sure they are read by many conservatives as California remains an area of fascination and bewilderment for us. Before you became identified with National Review, did you face unique challenges in becoming a successful journalist in a region dominated by liberals? Did you suffer from any kind of journalistic discrimination due to your refusal to embrace their leftist world-view? Anything like that which occurred to your friend, Sandra Tsing Loh?
CS: Actually, Sandra has a fairly leftist world-view (to the extent that she's political, which she basically isn't), so please don't make the mistake of lumping her in with the right-wing just because we're friends! A lot of people here in L.A. did that, sputtering that the protests against KCRW were a right-wing conspiracy, when the only right-winger involved was me. Which goes to show, I suppose, how provincial and easily shocked people can be.
I've actually only been writing for NRO since January, so I haven't been linked with such a right-wing publication for very long. And I've only been a registered Republican, as a matter of fact, since the 2000 election. I think people always considered me more of a contrarian than a traditional values conservative. The problem with the L.A. media isn't that it's dominated by liberals but that it's dominated by idiots. Occasionally someone comes along -- like Allan Mayer, founding editor of the now-defunct Buzz magazine (and a liberal) -- who's smart enough to hire people with different points of view.
BC: Do you have any long-term projects planned at the moment? If you don't allow me to suggest one. You'd be an excellent person to expand and improve upon last year's Tales from the Left Coast. There would certainly be interest in the subject; particularly if new information was included.
CS: Thanks. Well, I should do a book, and other people have suggested that to me. But I do like writing about things as they happen, and so have gotten perhaps too used to short-term projects.
BC: What's your take on your new governor? Do you regard him as simply being an opportunist or as someone who possesses, and will act upon, solid conservative convictions? I think there's little doubt that he'll be making appearances at Republican Conventions for many years to come, so I am hopeful that he will "evolve" in the right direction.
CS: Oh, I like Arnold well-enough -- except for his hideous misstep last month when he wanted to shorten the time animals in the L.A. city shelters had before they were put to death -- but I voted for Tom McClintock, so obviously would have preferred him. I think Arnold has solid convictions but I don't know how conservative all of them are. He's a Hollywood conservative remember, which means he's socially liberal.
BC: I've seen you on "Dennis Miller" a couple of times. Personally, I regard his conversion to conservatism, or at least his defection from liberalism, as being one of the great showbiz stories of this new millennium. Perhaps more than any other person, Dennis has proved that one can be hip and conservative at the same time. Do you think his vocal stance defending the president has opened the doors for future conservatives to come out of the Hollywood progressive closet? It's encouraging that there is now a website called Hollywoodrepublicans.com.
CS: I guess Dennis Miller is the most visible, mass market example of being hip and conservative, but it's a phenomenon I've noticed for a while...or maybe it's just that so many liberals seem so square, at least here in L.A., that is, where being conservative is going against the grain and being liberal is being part of the establishment. I'm sure it's different in, say, Nebraska. In L.A., most people -- that is, most liberals -- generally assume that I'm also liberal (or as they sometimes put it, "radical") because of the way I look. I don't know exactly what they're seeing...well, maybe it's that I don't go for that dumpy Birkenstock-wearing style.
BC: Speaking of television appearances, do you have a story you could share about something that may have happened to you in the green room or offstage? Also, being a Californian, have you been the recipient of any spontaneous public reactions in response to what you've said on the air?
CS: You mean, do people recognize me on the street because of Miller? No... On the other hand, I did get an email from the girl who lived across the street from me when I was a child (in conservative Orange County, by the way, where we were one of the few liberal families) because she saw me on the show, so that was fun. The power of TV. She could have Googled me any time over the years and found me, but I guess didn't think to do it till she saw me onscreen.
Stories about the green room, hmm. My daughter, who I brought along a couple of times, was once indiscreet to the booker about someone I was "dating," which was inappropriate and sort of embarrassing. She was also quite thrilled to see Alfred Molina there -- and probably the only 15-year-old on the planet who was thrilled to see him not because of "Spiderman" but because of "Frida." I snapped at Peter S. Greenberg, the NBC travel correspondent, in the greenroom once when he announced "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." The producers said, "save it for the panel, guys."
BC: In an article you wrote in June about a group of stay-at-home yuppie fathers in the area around where you live, whom you dub "Silver Lake Dads," you make an interesting statement about men and parenting. You wrote: "By now it's something of a cliché that men often feel they deserve a medal for what women do as a matter of course." Yet, could we not make a similar statement about women and the workplace? Men have accepted their role as bread winners for thousands of years yet now the politics surrounding the modern work environment is dominated by concerns about sexual harassment, paid maternity leave, and arguments over whether birth control should be covered by insurance companies. What happened to the old notion that when one goes to work one simply works?
CS: Excellent observation, because it's one I thought of after I wrote the article, as a matter of fact, and plan to bring it up Sunday when I'm on this KMPC radio show called "His Side with Glenn Sacks" talking about that piece. I have nothing against involved dads; it's the earnest, self-congratulation that gets to me. And yes, women who make a big "I Am Woman" fuss about being a WORKING woman, in the WORKPLACE, with its glass ceilings, etc., are equally obnoxious.
I was brought up not to make a big fuss about these sorts of rules but just go ahead and break them. My mother, for instance, told me when I was young that when she was looking for an entry level job after graduating college, she noticed the most interesting, better paying jobs were always under "Men Wanted" instead of "Women Wanted," which is how jobs used to be advertised. So she just went ahead and applied for the "Men Wanted" jobs and usually got them. And most of the time the men who interviewed her were not outraged that she'd applied but quite nice; they just said it hadn't occurred to them that a woman might want the job. Which is how it is with most situations, I think; people aren't usually out to oppress you, they're just unimaginative.
BC: There was another intriguing matter you brought up in that same article which concerned the beards ("what is it with these guys and facial hair?") which are so much a part of the SNAG–sensitive, New Age, guy– costume. I laughed out loud after reading it because I agree with you. The beard used to be a symbol of rustic masculinity as was the case with brave men like Ulysses S. Grant or Stonewall Jackson. Could a case be made that these SNAG fellows ritually grow beards as a way to compensate for their lack of masculinity? Perhaps they fear that if they did not possess beards people would be unsure of how to address them.
CS: I don't mind closely trimmed short beards. But those long, scraggly beards on men are like underarm hair on women. In both cases the tacit message is: "In case you were wondering what my pubic hair looks like, wonder no longer, because now you know."
BC: When thinking about the topic of stay-at-home dads, a bigger question must be asked and it is reflective of the black underbelly found in most radical social engineering projects. Is it possible for a woman to respect, and find attractive, a man who does not work or contribute materially to their family's well-being?
BC: Lastly, you know Norman Podhoretz had a book in the sixties called Making It. As a journalist, you definitely appear to embody the title's message. What advice do you have for fledging writers, or those who have toiled in anonymity for years, who wish to advance their own careers?
CS: Well, I'm flattered by your idea that I've actually made it, because the truth is I'm pretty much scraping by these days, although with NRO I'm happy to have that kind of venue and be surrounded by such fine writers. I suppose I do have more visibility than I used to. One piece of advice Ben Stein gives to freelancers, which made an impression on me when I interviewed him, is you should always try to get monopoly rent instead of market rent -- that is, don't go after assignments that lots of other writers could do just as well; find your niche and concentrate on that. Which I suppose I have with the opinionated media stuff.
I'm not really much good at giving advice to writers in general, because there are so many different situations. In my case, I try to remember, when I feel like I'm walking a tightrope (and being a freelance writer, I often do), that I've been at this for almost 20 years. So it must be OK for me to be on a tightrope, because I'm a tightrope walker.
BC: Cathy, thank you so much for your honesty and candor.
Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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