Perhaps the finest interviewer alive today, Bill Moyers has developed a powerful three-part formula. First, he selects some of the world's greatest thinkers as interview subjects. Second, he asks brilliantly open-ended questions that display intense curiosity and intellectual engagement. Finally, he humbly allows interviewees free rein to share their wisdom. The results are jaw-dropping.
Readers of his new book, "Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues," will feast on four dozen wide-ranging conversations -- with journalist William Greider, anthropologist Jane Goodall, novelist Louise Erdrich, economist Simon Johnson, and many more -- which brim with big ideas and deep insights.
Texas populist Jim Hightower's interview blends laugh-out-loud humor with dead-on political analysis. Hightower is nauseated that Tea Party types have sought to assume the mantle of populism. "An incoherent outburst of anger" isn't populism, Hightower says. Instead, populism is "helping people be able to get out of the iron grip of the corporate power that is overwhelming" our economy and politics.
One of the main concerns of Moyers and these interviewees is the growing gap between rich and poor. As policy analyst and author Holly Sklar tells Moyers, "It's not that the [economic] pie has expanded ... the rich are just taking more." David Simon, creator of HBO's "The Wire," discusses how economically blighted inner cities such as Baltimore have been purposely neglected. "The drug war is war on the underclass now," says Simon. Comedian Jon Stewart speaks brilliantly about the role of political humor, describing it as "a way of not being helpless and not being hopeless." This book -- provocative, absorbing and necessary -- is equally bracing.