Scott W. Johnson was born in Fargo, North Dakota. A graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Minnesota Law School, he is an attorney and adjunct professor of law in Minneapolis. He is married to Sally Zusman, originally of Lima, Peru, and is the proud father of three daughters, ranging in age between 11 and 20 – Alexandra, Deborah and Eliana. For the past fifteen years Scott has written columns and essays on politics and public policy with his former law partner John Hinderaker. In 2002, together with Washington attorney Paul Mirengoff, they founded the group blog Power Line.
Why do you blog? > Blogging has been a natural extension of the writing on law and politics that I had done with John before we started Power Line. I have come to appreciate the freedom and immediacy that blogging provides as an outlet for my interest in public affairs.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Our contribution to the exposure of the forged CBS/60 Minutes documents defaming President Bush was a peak experience.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > The profound students of history and politics who created the American Constitution, Abraham Lincoln, who perfected it, and Winston Churchill.
What are you reading at the moment? > The autobiography of Lewis Puller, Jr., Fortunate Son.
Who are your cultural heroes? > William Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Charles Dickens's Bleak House.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking' by Walt Whitman.
What is your favourite movie? > Cool Hand Luke.
What is your favourite song? > 'The Weight' by The Band.
Who is your favourite composer? > Lennon/McCartney.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > The Vietnam War: I opposed it as a college student for all the wrong reasons; now I thank the Americans who fought, for their devotion to country and duty. I should have joined them instead of taking advantage of a college deferment from the draft.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > '... that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...'
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That human nature supplies no standard of right and that moral judgment is therefore arbitrary.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > I have been reading and re-reading the speeches of Abraham Lincoln for the past 30 years; they have had a major impact on my way of thinking about language, prudence and politics. Around the same time I started reading Lincoln, I was bowled over by Leo Strauss's short book On Tyranny. The book includes Strauss's interpretation of Xenophon's dialogue of the same name, and the response of the Hegelian Marxist Alexander Kojève to Strauss, as well as Strauss's rejoinder to Kojève. The exchange allows the interested reader to come to his own judgment about some of the important questions underlying the ends of political life.
Who are your political heroes? > Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Hmmm, I think I'm repeating myself.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > Lincoln: 'It is an old and a true maxim, that a "drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall." So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great high road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause really be a just one.'
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Repeal of the progressive income tax.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > I would choose my Power Line colleague John Hinderaker to be president. He'd earn himself a place on Mount Rushmore!
What would you do with the UN? > I think the UN should be dealt with in the spirit immortalized in the words of former UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick's deputy Charles Lichenstein. Shortly after the Soviets shot down KAL 007, murdering all those people, legislatures in New York and New Jersey denied Soviet aircraft landing rights. Some at the UN raised the question of whether that body should remove from the United States. And Lichenstein, fed up and in no mood for 'diplomacy', said, 'We will put no impediment in your way. The members of the US mission to the United Nations will be down at the dockside waving you a fond farewell as you sail off into the sunset.'
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The combination of militant Islam and weapons of mass destruction.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > I think Aristotle places magnanimity at the summit of the human virtues, and who can reasonably disagree?
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Taking advantage of the weaknesses of others.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Courtesy is cheap and pays big dividends.'
What, if anything, do you worry about? > As the father of three daughters, I worry about the decline of the code of the gentleman in the name of a spurious equality of the sexes.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I would do more to express my gratitude to my parents and teachers.
What is your most treasured possession? > A letter of thanks from President Bush (41) for an article published in National Review that John and I wrote in his defence.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to sing harmony like Emmylou Harris.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > May I name one of each? As soon as I hear the voice of the comedian Robert Klein, I start smiling. He always makes me laugh. And Mark Twain is America's (and my) supreme humorist.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Jackie Robinson, a man of incomparable dignity, self-discipline and athletic ability.
Which English Premiership football team do you support, and which baseball team? > Through my Power Line colleague Paul Mirengoff, I have come to lend my heart to Everton; and in baseball I live and die with the fortunes of the Minnesota Twins.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > I would like my daughters to be happily married with children of their own.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > That's easy - I would devote myself full time to Power Line!
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Shakespeare, Lincoln and Churchill.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of the first 52 profiles, and the links to them, can be found here. More recent profiles: Mick Hartley; Joanne Jacobs; Richard Schwartz; Cathy Seipp.]
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