Balint Vazsonyi
Balint Vazsonyi
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America’s 30 Years War: Who Is Winning
ISBN: 0895263548
America’s 30 Years War: Who Is Winning
Is America on a slow-motion trip toward socialism even as much of the rest of the world moves away from it? Hungarian-born historian and world-renowned concert pianist Balint Vazsonyi knows first-hand what it means to live under an authoritarian regime and makes a powerful case that America is going down the same road.

Drawing on his personal experiences living under different versions of socialism, Vazsonyi describes how our hard-won freedoms are being gradually eroded.

Vazsonyi traces the essence of what makes America unique back to the founders and exposes the dangerous trends that are undermining the founder's original intent.

Vazsonyi documents how America's founding principles—rule of law, individual rights, the guarantee of property, and a common American identity—are being gradually replaced by government-mandated group rights, redistribution, and multiculturalism.

The thirty years war is being fought between promoters of liberty, individual rights, moral guidance on one side; and believers in human reason as the supreme power, with government as its central authority, on the other. While the picture is not rosy, America has every chance of winning, if the intentions of the two sides are exposed, and the consequences weighted. This witty, simple-to-follow, and engagingly personal book will aid in the process.

With unmistakable clarity, Vazsonyi shows how every time America moves away from its founding principles it moves in the direction of a system in which "social justice" is pursued through ever-greater government control. America's 30 Years War is inspiration to those who have lost touch with our founding principles and ammunition for those who believe that our freedoms must be defended every day.
—from the publisher's website

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TRANSCRIPT
America’s 30 Years War: Who Is Winning
Program Air Date: September 27, 1998

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Balint Vazsonyi, author of "America's 30 Years War," what's your book about?
Mr. BALINT VAZSONYI, AUTHOR, "AMERICA'S 30 YEARS WAR: WHO IS WINNING?": It is about America's 30-years war, which began roughly 30 years ago and produced what I perhaps should call a national divide underneath a thin layer of countless issues--a national divide over dimension, over magnitude that this country perhaps has not experienced since the time of the Civil War.
LAMB: Why do you think this is so?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Because when I first arrived here about 40 years ago, it seemed to me that most Americans agreed on most basic things--I would almost go as far as to say on all basic things. There were all sorts of differences, healthy differences, about the ways America's principles should be applied to the issues of the day, but there was no question about America's basic principles.

And roughly 30 years ago I began to notice a split and a growing number of Americans who no longer believed in those principles. And today we have arrived at a time when I think it's fair to say that certain of our fellow Americans think of this country, this society, as the most successful in the history of mankind and believe that the reason for that success is to be found in America's founding principles. Others believe that it's really the shortcomings of America that make up our relevant history, and therefore those principles need to be replaced. And what the book explains in a much broader and deeper context is how the second group looks to the only known alternative, which is the European Socialist model.
LAMB: What's your favorite thing about the United States that you've found?
Mr. VAZSONYI: The people, I think without any question. I don't know what magic and what incredible inspiration led the founders to the point where they laid the foundations of this society the way they did. But the result is that people have come here from all over the world, from countries where, as we know, people are not particularly nice to one another and pretty bad things happen.

Now those biologically same people, identical people, come here, sign on to these, well, if I may say, articles of incorporation, if I may so refer to the Constitution and the Declaration. And somehow they become different people, people who know how to live and work with one another. And that really was what hit me when I first arrived. Also, of course--and this is an important part of it--the relationship between government and the governed, which is something that, of course, many people have written about and is basic. But, you see, growing up in Europe, you get used to government as--acting as the possessor of power. And here, I found out what it is when the government is public servant, but that's a matter of the past.
LAMB: Where have you lived in the United States?
Mr. VAZSONYI: I first arrived in Tallahassee, Florida, because I'm--I'm a pianist by profession, and I had already embarked on a--kind of an international career by that time. And there was a very great Hungarian musician, perhaps the greatest Hungarian musician of this century, who spent his last 10 years teaching at Florida State University. And, actually, it was he who invited me and arranged for a little scholarship and found someone to sign my papers. And so Tallahassee, Florida, was my...
LAMB: What was his name?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Erno Dohnanyi. And his name is known today through his grandson, who is the conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra. But, of course, I mean, he--Dohnanyi was probably, in many ways, the greatest, or among the greatest, pianists of the century and a very distinguished composer and conductor. Very few people remember now that the New York Philharmonic, when it was the New York State Symphony, invited him in the 1920s to conduct them for whole season, even though he's least known as a conductor. But to answer your question, I started off in Tallahassee, Florida. Then...
LAMB: What year?
Mr. VAZSONYI: This is 1959 and '60. Then I was the first artist in residence at the Interlaken Arts Academy, which was the a--the yearlong extension of the national music camp of great fame and home to many music-loving young people--I think they started in 1929 or something like this--and it is just next to Traverse City, Michigan. So my wife and I have lived there. Then I was professor of music at Indiana University in Bloomington, spent a couple of years in Miami as dean of music at the New World School of the Arts, and now we live in Washington. In between, there was a year in New York--I'm in a traveling profession and I've had a traveling life.
LAMB: Why did you--at what age were you when you came to Tallahassee?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Twenty-two.
LAMB: And what was it besides the invitation and someone re--w--willing to sign the papers wanted--made you want to leave Hungary to come to the United States?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, I left Hungary, in fact, in December 1956 when it became obvious that the uprising against the Soviet Union failed and after the Soviets reinvaded Hungary. For a few weeks there was some degree of hope that the world would not let this pass. And I remember looking at the calendar every day and hearing over the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe how thousands were crossing the border at night. And I kept asking myself, `How long--how much longer do I want to hope?'

But eventually, in the middle of December, I thought it made no sense anymore to wait. And I walked across in the dead of night, like 200,000 others. And for a couple of years I was in Vienna because, even though I had planned to come to America very early 1957, some of your older viewers may remember that President Eisenhower took it upon himself to let in, I think, 40,000 Hungarians above the official quota, which at that time was taken very seriously by Congress. And Congress didn't like that at all, and they shut down Hungarian immigration for two full years. And so it was when they lifted that ban that I was able to come.
LAMB: Were you a pianist when you left?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Oh, yes. I s--started playing the piano when I was five, and within a few weeks of--of studying piano, I knew that that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And I was 12 when I gave my first public concert.
LAMB: What did your parents do?
Mr. VAZSONYI: My father was the export director of a textile company and my mother was simply a homemaker. They both played an instrument, but I never heard them play. And, in fact, America has a lot to do with my becoming a pianist because, when I was five years old, I was taken to the cinema to see a film--again, some viewers might recall that Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland used to make two or three films a year in the late '30s, early '40s. This one was called "Babes in Arms." And there was a beautiful tune in there, a very haunting tune--now I know--I didn't know the title then--it's called "Where or When." And apparently, the next day I walked to our piano, which I'd never touched before, and played the whole thing complete with harmonies. I was told later that my mother was sitting in the bathtub and assumed that I had turned on the radio, which I was forbidden to do, and came out to admonish me and found me next to the piano, and the rest was a kind of foregone conclusion.
LAMB: At some point in your book, you suggest that even if you could, you wouldn't move back to Hungary or choose that again as your country. Did I interpret that right?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Yes. And this is notwithstanding the fact that I'm as at home in the language as I've ever been, and when I go back for visits, nobody suspects that I don't live there, in fact. It's a particular source of pleasure when people ask me for directions, people who are--who reside in Budapest ask me for directions there. And, you know, I've published in Hungarian recently and my friends are there. But once you have tasted America and once you realize what it is to live freely, you don't want to do anything else.
LAMB: You also saw another movie that you cite--and a couple of them you cite in the book. One of them is "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Why? What was that--why did you mention that?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, there was a fairly narrow window between Nazi occupation and Soviet occupation at the end of World War II, a couple of years during which Western movies could come into Hungary. So I was about 10 or 11 when I saw that film. And it was the first time that I saw a visual representation of Washington and how Congress worked and the type of people that were American, and--and that I was at an age that I could actually understand some of what was going on. And it made a deep impression on me because--I mean, I couldn't articulate it then, but if I may put it like that now, the--the evil person, the evil senator in that film was someone who, in fact, didn't come up to standard in terms of America's ideals. And America was--America came across as a country where the right thing carries the day, it wins. And I had just experienced World War II and the Soviet armies were all around us, and it didn't look to me like a world where the right things win. So it was interesting to see that on the screen.

And, again, chance would have it that because we--we began to hear so much about Communists and communism, that very soon after that I decided to read "The Communist Manifesto" by Marx and Engels, thinking that I might as well try to get firsthand what everybody's talking about. And I think the two, in plose--in close proximity, have played a decisive role in my--in my youth, because it was not a very difficult decision to make.
LAMB: When you mentioned it so often in the--in the book, I got my copy out of "The Communist Manifesto." I--it's a little, tiny book.
Mr. VAZSONYI: Yes.
LAMB: Did--did--when most people see it, are they surprised at how small it is?
Mr. VAZSONYI: I don't know. I--I can't remember that far back what my reaction would have been to the size. I was--I--I remember more what my reaction was to the content.
LAMB: Here it--it's--what I did--I've got it open to a page that I wanna ask you about. It's "The Communist Manifesto," and there are--there are 10--you talk about the 10th item--Mr. Marx and Mr. Engels listed 10 things in here. They said, `Nevertheless, in the most advanced countries, the following will pretty generally be applicable,' and the 10th one on this list is, `Free education for all children and public schools, abolition of children's factory labor in its present form, combination of education with industrial production,' etc. First of all, when was "The Communist Manifesto" written?
Mr. VAZSONYI: 1848.
LAMB: And who was Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, Marx was a student of philosophy and someone who began to write about philosophy. What we know about his life shows a person who didn't find it very easy to get along with or get on in the world. And I think reading what he writes shows a person who had serious difficulties relating to humanity as, for instance, did Russo before him. These are people who seem to care a great deal about humanity as a whole but not about individual people, and they don't have much relationship to them.

In any event, there was a--a French philosopher by the name of Proudhon who wrote something called the--"The Philosophy of"--oh, gosh, I--I--now it comes to my mind in every language except in English. Marx turned it around and--I don't know why I can't think of the title right now in German and in French, but not in English. "The Misery"--"The Misery"--"The"--"The Philosophy of Misery" was the Proudhon book, and Marx responded by writing "The Misery of Philosophy," and that kind of put him on the map.

And, obviously, he became interested in socialism, which had been all around. And, interestingly, in this book that you are holding in your hands, he already differentiates among seven different kinds of socialisms, all of which he rejects in favor of the one and only, his and Engels' version, which they call communism. And that is a very interesting pointer for people who really lose their way in trying to understand what socialism is, because socialism has this incredible ability to appear in different guises. At the drop of a hat, it can always dress itself up in local colors. That's why in Germany, under Hitler, it was very different from Lenin than in Socialism in the Soviet Union or Mao's in China or the British labour parties or the American liberals. And it always avails itself of things that are of particular interest to the people who happen to be there. This becomes a lot easier to understand if we realize that, already, Marx lists seven of them, which he all rejects, and all those people call themselves socialists.

So socialism really is a particular agenda rather than a true philosophy or a set of principles. For instance, in the way America's founders had given us a set of principles, socialism is an agenda of a certain kind, and anything in the service of that agenda is acceptable.
LAMB: Well, on this list of 10 things that apply--and I--I just wanted to read a couple of 'em and see how many of 'em you think apply to this country. This comes out of his "Communist Manifesto." Number one is abolition of property and land and application of all rents of land to public purposes. Number two is a heavy progressive or graduated income tax. Three, abolition of all right of inheritance. Four, confiscation of the property of all immigrants and rebels. Five, centralization of credit in the hands of the state. Six, centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state. Any of these apply now to this country?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Oh, many of them to--to varying degrees, of course, property being the--one of the most important dividers between what I call in my book the Anglo-American side and the Franco-German side of--of philosophy and looking at society. On our side, p--the guarantee of property, ever since the writing of the Magna Carta, has been considered to be joined at the hip with freedom. There was--the guarantee of property guarantees freedom because the first aspect of freedom is that you can freely dispose over the fruits of your labor, and nobody can take it away from you, except in the form of some kind of due compensation in return...
LAMB: Let me--let me stop you in the middle of that. Property in France or in Germany--you said the Franco-German philosophy. What--what's property mean in those two countries compared to what it means here in the United States?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, property rights in the United States were, of course, inherited from England, and I think those who read the Magna Carta will find that most of the provisions apply to the protection of property because, really, the loss of freedom always began with the strong taking the property of the weak. And the Magna Carta sought to remedy that and, of course, America's founders produced the best possible set of documents to do that.

Now, unfortunately--and I say this in inverted commas--the guarantee of property is not a relative concept. Property--and by this I mean the money you earn, the shoes you wear, the land you own, anything that is yours, it is either yours absolutely or it is not. There's really nothing in between. Now the American form of government really doesn't work unless property's guaranteed, and socialism doesn't work if property is guaranteed. And beginning with the French Revolution and its philosophical preparation and then continued by German philosophers--and that's why I call it the Franco-Germanic side--that is really at the core, at the heart of the de--debate.

And if you look at any kind of welfare state, if you look at the redistribution and entitlements in our time, you realize that property is no longer guaranteed. If you look at the power of the Environmental Protection Agency and its ability to declare something a wetland and bar the owner of that property from using the property as he wishes to use it, that is no longer the guarantee of property. So we are obviously not at the state now, yet, where the state simply comes into your home and takes your piano or my piano. But once property's not guaranteed, who tells us where it ends?
LAMB: An--another couple of these items that, aga--would you call these the principles of communism?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, no, I don't think communism has principles. It has an agenda. I think these are items that they thought were of particular urgency.
LAMB: Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state, the bringing into cultural--cultivation of wastelands and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan. Eight, equal liability of all to labor; establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture. Nine, combination of agriculture and manufacturing industries. Ten, free education--and we get--you mention this in your book--free education for all children in public schools. Again, wh--what's--where's that stand in the United States?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, what I've mentioned, I think, in particular detail is the school-to-work program of the current administration, which is straight out of point 10. The free public education is something that I think a lot of people have come to agree with that it should be available. And some of those items that you read really don't apply to life today in particular, but there are enough of them which do.

And, of course, the heavy graduated income tax, which was the second point, is something that socialists would never give up and, of course, that's one of the most hotly debated issues and has been for a long time. As you know, of course, income tax was not part of America's founding and was really quite a late arrival and was introduced by stealth, as all these things, promising the country that it will always be just 1 percent or something like that and, `Let's not even bother. It's too much discussion.' And, of course, we know where we are today.

But school-to-work is really such a verbatim adoption of that part of the 10th point that I think it is--it was worth mentioning in the book. And generally speaking, the--the means of production is something that perhaps we should comment on because a lot of people think that socialism really is when all the means of production are taken into public ownership. I believe, after long thought given to the matter, that the public ownership of the means of production as well as the killing off of millions of people and the establishment of a monolithic--monolithic party organization, where all the excesses of adolescence, they are not germane to the final agenda of building socialism or communism.

Incidentally, communism is the end station. There's nothing--no stop before everything is a transition, before--and any socialist who tells you differently is trying to hide the fact which was just recently confirmed again by China's visiting president last year who, once again, wanted to make sure that nobody makes any mistake about the fact that all socialists work toward the establishment of communism as the end state.

Anyway, coming back to these excesses of adolescence, I think over the years communism and socialism, whatever we call it, has come of age and people have come to realize that, first of all, why kill off all sorts of people who will be very happy to produce for the common good if they are just permitted to live? Why take away the means of production when, in fact, taking off the cream is much easier, a kind of protection racket? Let people do--let people plant the seed and harvest the p--the produce and let's just, you know, let them know how much they have to give to the socialist cause.

And a monolithic party, which embarrassed itself so many times over the de--pa--past decades, again was replaced in the case of America with myriads of single-issue organizations because they realize that getting people interested in something that they naturally like and prefer is a very American thing, and people get passionate about the one thing that really interests them and don't much care and don't much realize that all these single-issue organizations are--really, together, ad--advocate and--and promote the socialist cause.
LAMB: You jump in your book from "The Communist Manifesto" to things like the Discovery Channel, which you say has a political influence.
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, I--I don't--I don't have any way of measuring how much it has. I know how much it tries because those extremely appealing pictures--and it's--it's really amazing how far we have come in showing what happens at the depth of the ocean or in the depth of the jungle or within a bird's nest. There is this pious, monotone voice invariably pointing out in--both in very overt and in subliminal ways what a rotten creation man is and how all these animals would be just lovely and peaceful creatures, just having the time of their lives, occasionally killing each other for food--that's unavoidable--but that, really, man is the enemy and everything that's bad on Earth comes from man. And, you know, it's one of the fashionable things.
LAMB: Do you think it's done on purpose?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, why would anyone write a narrative w--using words that the person doesn't mean? Let me give you another example. NBC had a doc--it wasn't a documentary. It--it was one of these two-night dramas with the title "Virus," and it--it was the usual alarmist entertainment. And it ended with a narration underneath the credits, and the narrator said, `Somewhere in the depth of the rain forest, this terrible virus is hiding. It is ready to unleash its terrifying power on this unfortunate planet when we least expect it. But this virus is not the greatest enemy of this planet. Man is,' fade. Now you might suggest that this was done accidentally, but I don't know if I could agree.
LAMB: You talk about television news and the makeup of the anchors. What's the point?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, it's a--it's a s--a subject that is debated quite frequently, that the media is biased on the socialist side. And please forgive me that I don't use the euphemism of left and liberal and progressive because, as I try to explain in the book, we might as well return to plain English and call socialists socialists. In fact, I think socialists owe it to this nation to tell us what they are. And before answering your question, which I'm not trying to evade, I think it would be a wonderful idea if the country would be given an opportunity to vote on whether it wants to go socialist. Perhaps it does. Then let's not hide it. Let's put it to the vote, but in open terms.

To come back to your question, something that just happened to me--so I'll speak with some authority--there is some interest in a political proposition called the `third way,' because both President Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain have expressed an interest in finding what they call a third way. And one of the very distinguished columnists wrote a--a sizable article just a little while ago suggesting that it would really be worthwhile to look at this possibility, and perhaps it is an answer.

And one of the NPR morning shows invited this columnist to talk about the `third way,' and I received a telephone call asking if I would also come and represent whatever I happen to believe in. And I said, `I would love to come,' but in the end, the host decided that he only wanted socialists of various--various hues to be present and not someone who represented the American principles, and the invitation was withdrawn. And this is just a tiny thing. I could--there are daily occurrences. I mean, David Broder, for instance, who is a highly distinguished and highly respected figure, reported recently on--on an executive order that the president tried to slip by the country. It has a number, Executive Order 13083, which--because some people realized the danger in it, was actually brought to the point that the president had to suspend it.

And the report in The Washington Post, wr--written by a highly distinguished journalist, didn't say anything about what that executive order, had it stood, would have done to the country and the Constitution. It kind of reported in lukewarm terms that--that there was resistance, and the White House will have to rethink it. But I was just asking myself, if a Republican president had tried to basically undo the Constitution with an executive order, what the reaction would have been.
LAMB: B--back to the anchor thing--and the reason I brought it up is 'cause I remember you referring to the fact that there are usually four anchors on a television news show on a local basis, and--two of 'em news, t--one of 'em weather, one of 'em sports, and that there is always a racial mix: Hispanic, a black, a woman and all that. Have you noticed this as you've traveled around in all the cities that you go to?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Mostly. Mostly.
LAMB: And what does that mean, if that's the case?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, what it means is that we live in a world of quotas, which I consider as much running counter to American principles as anything possibly could and that, as part of the 30-years war, forces have surfaced in this country which have somehow brought about a con--the condition in which radio stations and television sta--television is special, of course, because it's visual--feel that they need to show this kind of a mix or they will be in trouble, and--and people do get in trouble. I mean, there is--there is no question that there's a quota system in the universities, at the workplace, with federal contracts. I mean, it's--it's a hotly debated topic.

What is not perhaps stated as clearly as I would like to see it stated is what the basic American principles have to say about this and that opposite views are views opposite to the basic American principles. Let me--let me not speak in riddles. When I arrived in Tallahassee in 1959 and I found that there was, in fact, segregation, I was extremely upset because I was deeply disappointed to find that what I had taken for Communist propaganda about America was, in fact, true, at least in certain states. And as soon as I could speak English--it took a little while; I didn't speak any when I arrived--I certainly became very vocal about it, to my detriment, which I didn't mind. I--I took on more formidable foes in Hungary.

And I was delighted--really delighted in the early '60s, when I saw that a growing majority in America really wanted to do something about this and settle the score, so to speak, and--and even the playing field at last.
LAMB: Integrate.
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, I--let me put it in a different way and say make absolutely certain that opportunity is available to all equally and that everybody gets equal treatment by the law, because I think these are the two things that we can provide through the legal system. Other--other aspects of this depend very much on human behavior and the flexibility of certain people and a lot of other things. What the law can do and must do is to provide equal treatment to all and make absolutely certain of equal opportunity for all.

I also thought that this development would finally enable all of us to treat one another as individuals and that all remnants of group treatment would disappear. And, therefore, I have to confess to my unending disappointment that the last 30 years have seen a greater fragmentation into groups than I ever thought possible in America, and that's what we see on the television stations, among other things.
LAMB: In the back, in your book--by the way, before I forget it, you ran for mayor of Bloomington, Indiana.
Mr. VAZSONYI: Yes, in 1991. I was drafted, because the official candidate had to drop off for personal reasons, and with 90 days in the campaign, there had to be someone.
LAMB: Did you win?
Mr. VAZSONYI: No. I didn't win, and there was very little chance that I would win against a three-time incumbent with 90 days and very little name recognition. I may have noticed that my name provides a little bit of a stumbling block, but having run was an experience I wouldn't trade for anything, with my wife going door to door every night. I really felt that, at the end of it, I came of age as an American, even though I had already been a citizen for--I don't know--27 years by that time. I--I came of age as an American, and I don't think that I would dare to raise my voice in these matters that are raised in the book had I not had that experience, as a participant.
LAMB: Where do you live now?
Mr. VAZSONYI: In Washington, DC.
LAMB: And what do you do full-time?
Mr. VAZSONYI: I am a senior fellow of the Potomac Foundation, and I am the director of the Center for the American Founding, which I started about two and a half years ago. I haven't given up giving concerts altogether, but I have to say that I put in--put piano playing, to some extent, to a back burn--on a back burner.
LAMB: I--if we saw one of your concerts, who would you more than likely be playing?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, I tried to play all great music, but the bulk of my repertoire is between Mozart and Brahms, I would say, which is not to say that I don't play any Bach, which is before Mozart, or 20th century music, which is after Brahms. But the bulk of it would be Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt.
LAMB: Any reason for those? Any political reason for those?
Mr. VAZSONYI: No, there's no political reason, but I've developed a very early, I might say, special relationship with Beethoven because the one and only classical recording we had at home was of his 7th Symphony. And I found myself playing that just by hearing, you know, through--through the ear.
LAMB: You could sit down to the piano and just repeat what you heard?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Mm-hmm. Well, that's how I started, and that stayed with me. And, in fact, there were times in my teens when I could play whole operas that way that I didn't have the music to. I just went to the opera house. But, in any event, the Beethoven 7th Symphony became a big thing, and I didn't realize how far it would take me. Probably the most unusual thing I've ever done as a pianist was to perform the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in the order of composition over two days in New York, Boston and London during the last official Beethoven year.

And I started a little television production company in the '80s in order to produce television documentaries o--and films about composers. There, again, the first one was Beethoven. And before I realized why I constructed this--this program in my mind, which had as its musical frame the 7th Symphony--and it was only after I had committed the whole thing to paper that I realized that I was really chasing my childhood there. But--so Beethoven has always been very special. I think Mozart is special for anybody who's ever heard a note. And with the others, it was just affinity that developed at various times. With the very first Schumann piece I played and the very first Brahms piece I played, there was just an affinity.
LAMB: You haven't mentioned a famous Hungarian pianist.
Mr. VAZSONYI: Liszt.
LAMB: Yes.
Mr. VAZSONYI: My very first gramophone record--the offer came when I was about 26--was for eight Liszt rhapsodies. I'd never played a Liszt Hungarian rhapsody before in my life, hard that this may be to believe. I was given six weeks to learn those eight pieces. And the funny thing about that recording is that it has remained in the catalog until about last year, which would make it 35 years. And High Fidelity, when they had an issue of the complete Liszt discography, somehow picked my recording as the best representation of the rhapsodies, which I really found funny because, you know, I would give half my arm to play one of them like Horowitz. I don't think I ever did. But since one gets a lot of bad reviews, which are not always deserved, I was happy to have a good one that perhaps I hadn't deserved.
LAMB: Now can people go to the music store and find Balint Vazsonyi and the recordings of yours?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Yes, I think they can, some CDs that they can go to the Kennedy Center and--and find the vi--videocassettes of these composer films that we have made. They are--or they can log on to some Internet merchant and find the same thing.
LAMB: Have you recorded a lot in your life?
Mr. VAZSONYI: I've made about 13 or 14, but they were called--what were called LPs. Now they are called CDs.
LAMB: Back to the book.
Mr. VAZSONYI: OK.
LAMB: In the back, you have a glossary of terms frequently used and sometimes misunderstood. First, why did you need the glossary, do you think?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Because so many words have come into use, and people don't know anymore why they use them. And more disturbing, people don't really know what they mean. And I just thought that a book that uses so many words and takes issue in the body of the book with so many words might benefit from--or, the reader might benefit from--from looking at some of these. Simply, the whole purpose of the book is to ask readers to think again. And perhaps this would be a good time for me to say that every day I ask myself the question, `How audacious is it to be an immigrant, who didn't grow up here, to be someone who spent his life playing music and not studying politics,' although I do have a PhD in history--`how audaci--how audacious is it to step before the American people and say, "I have some important issues to raise. Will you give me your time and read it?"'

And I--whenever I speak in public, I try to include some kind of an apology or at least a message that I'm aware of the unusual scenario here. So having said that, let me add that the whole point of the book is not to twist people's arms, not to turn their heads or--or ask them to--to believe what I believe. What the book intends to accomplish is, first of all, to show in a very realistic way where I believe America really is today, how we got here, give a--a fairly extensive road map of how the two branches of--of political philosophy g--thought have evolved, where they have been, in what they have resulted and, therefore, where they might take us.

And simply ask people to, please, look at these things in the harsh light of day, and I honestly believe--because, first of all, I believe in the wisdom of the American people and in their goodness, and I also believe in the rule of the majority--if people look at these things in the crude light of day and decide that the founding principles had served their time and they need to be replaced by the socialist ones, so be it. And let's try it, but let's do it not by default, but thinking openly.
LAMB: By the way, where'd you get your PhD in history?
Mr. VAZSONYI: I got it from the University of Budapest. Somewhat unusual story--I mentioned Dohnanyi, the great musician, who brought me here. At one point, I was asked to write his biography; nobody had ever written about him. And when that book was published in Hungary, the Hungarian National Academy offered me an honorary PhD because it was such original research and I, so to speak, resurrected a national treasure. And I said that I was greatly honored, but I really don't want an honorary degree. I would be extremely happy to have a real one, to which they said, `All right. If you are prepared to defend it as a dissertation and go through the entire process, be our guest,' which is what happened. And so I got a--a real PhD.
LAMB: But before I forget it, I grew up in a town that had a Kossuth Street, and I'm not even sure that's the way you pronounce it, but it--I didn't find out who Kossuth was until we did our Tocqueville series here because Kossuth did some of the same things that Tocqueville did--came to this country. Who was he?
Mr. VAZSONYI: He was...
LAMB: And how do you really pronounce it?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Kossuth (pronounced KOR-shoot). He was really the architect of Hungary's war of liberation against Austria, the Habsburg empire, which broke out in 1848, a year we had already mentioned earlier today because it's the same year "The Communist Manifesto" was published. And that was--that was a struggle that seemed to be successful for more than a year, and Kossuth was the leading figure. And he delivered a speech which was the--really, the equivalent of the Declaration of Independence because he dethroned the emperor of France, Joseph. And when the Austrians were not able to persevere militarily, interestingly enough, they called in the Russians. That's well before the Soviet Union, but I think it would help viewers to have some idea of how Hungarians feel toward Russia, because it was the troops of the czar that finally beat down the Hungarian war of independence.

And Kossuth, after that, came to America and was received with tremendous warmth and spoke to Congress and had all sorts of rallies and gave famous speeches and had...
LAMB: And there--and there's a bust of him over in the Capitol.
Mr. VAZSONYI: There is. And--and there's a house named for him in Washington, DC. And he had hoped, I think, to raise enough interest for America to somehow pick up the cause of Hungary. You know, it's very difficult when you are in the middle of an extremely elated and almost victorious effort to believe that it's over--it's just over. So in--after 1849, as after 1956, many people hope and try.
LAMB: Before I forget it, also, your--the--your organization--and is it Potomac Foundation?
Mr. VAZSONYI: The Potomac Foundation is, really, the host institution of the Center for the American Founding.
LAMB: Who--who funds it?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, the Potomac Foundation has its own--very modest, but its own means, and so the center was originally funded by the Potomac Foundation and, to--to a very important extent, still is. But in the last two years, we have also acquired the contributions and sponsorship of simply private citizens who are interested in what we do and some smaller foundations.
LAMB: What do you do?
Mr. VAZSONYI: What we do is, we advocate and practice discussion of all national issues as they relate to America's founding principles. And we believe that for continued success of this society, we need to return to the rule of law, individual rights, the guarantee of property and a common American identity for all our citizens.
LAMB: How many people are involved? How much money's involved?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Oh, our budget is--is very small in terms of think tanks. It hasn't even reached $200,000 a year. We are only two and a half years old. We would like to expand. It started out with a one-page kind of pledge we called "Reaffirmation of the American Founding," where I first tried to articulate founding principles in a kind of manageable form. And some members of Congress signed that and then started recommending it. Actually, it was sent around in the form of a `Dear colleague' letter, and then people around the country s--started signing it. By now, they--they--they can do it on the Internet.

And we go around and hold town meetings where we present the founding principles and invite people from the community, who are on the other side of this debate, to--to argue it. And there is an audience which is then also participated to invite--to--invited to participate. And these are extremely interesting events, because one finds out why people believe that the Constitution should be abandoned and the founders really weren't that good after all. And what I find is that wherever I go and we have these town meetings, the people on the other side have a fairly brief list of items they bring up, and it's always the same items.

So that's how I realized that those on the other side simply look at the few shortcomings of this country's history as the relevant history and judge everything based on that.
LAMB: Book is published by Regnery. It's endorsed by Kate O'Beirne, Morton Blackwell, Dr. Paul Craig Roberts and Edwin Meese III. What does all of that mean?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, it meant that they happen to be the ones, I guess, who were--who were asked when the book was ready to be printed. But I would say that--that Edwin Meese and Paul Craig Roberts are both members of the advisory committee of the center and were from day one. And I found it very interesting, reassuring and--and very moving that someone of my background or, let's say, someone with my absence of background in this realm could go and sit down with Ed Meese, who at that time knew very little about me, just listened to what I had to say for a--about half an hour, and would put his name on there. After all, a former attorney general of the United States, a man of--of--of--who--who stands in--in--in high esteem of many, it--it was quite a big thing to do.

And Paul Craig Roberts, of course, is a--a very well-known syndicated columnist. So--Kate O'Beirne, whom you mentioned, is the im--Washington editor of National Review, to which I've contributed with some frequency. And, actually, we also started some panel discussions on Capitol Hill on these principles for members of Congress and senior staff, and all the aforemention--aforementioned have been on some of our panels for these discussions--Edwin Meese and--and Paul Craig Roberts and Kate O'Beirne. And I guess they were the logical people to ask for opinions because they have watched my comings and goings from the day I came to Washington.
LAMB: Another book that I had to dip into, because you mentioned it so often, was this one, "Mein Kampf" by Adolf Hitler. Why did you write--why did you refer to this so often?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, I don't know. I--I--I'm surprised that it was that often. I think the importance of Hitler, "Mein Kampf" and the Third Reich is in the very strange phenomenon of today, which is that a whole lot of people properly think of Nazi Germany as the ultimate evil but utterly fail to think of the Soviet Union in the same way. And so Hitler is the devil incarnate, but Lenin had some--quote, unquote, some "good things" to recommend him. And his picture is on the walls of many a philosophy teacher in--at our universities today.

And I find it extremely important for our salvation and our continued survival for people to remember, first of all, that the Third Reich was used by the National Socialist German Workers' Party, `socialist' being the operative phrase, and their initial manifesto is no different from "The Communist Manifesto." It's simply another form of socialism.

And I found in analyzing these two regimes--and I've lived under both; I was eight years old when the Nazis occupied Budapest. And my family has distinguished itself, if I may so phrase it, being persecuted equally in both regimes. So I feel that I have something to say about this.

And my very first essay called "The Battle for America's Soul" was, at least to 50 percent, about the twin phenomenon of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. And it's extremely important to realize that under the thinnest possible veneer, they are absolutely identical in their agenda, in their methods, in their enemies. You see, everything I do has so much to do with recognition--something I suddenly remembered, which was that both the Germans and the Russians, when they occupied Budapest, in the first--we did the same thing as their first act in office, and that was to forbid any contact with the English-speaking world.

In other words, listening to a BBC or Voice of America broadcast was a high crime for which people went to jail instantly. And I said to myself, `If it's true, as Stalin would have us believe, that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were mortal enemies, that Nazis and Communists are mortal enemies, why did the two of them do exactly the same thing? Why did the two of them use exactly the same house of horrors with building, tools and personnel to torture people and kill people?' Because it's the same horrors in Budapest that both of them used. And that started me thinking, really, and here is the result.
LAMB: Another movie you mention in your book is "The Candidate," 1972, I think. Why did that get your attention?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, since you mentioned "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," it--it--it will not come as a surprise that, since the age of 10, I've learned to look upon American movies very much as a mirror of American life. And it seemed to me an interesting comparison--to engage it in the book--to look at a 1972 film where Hollywood wants us to be and where Hollywood wants us to see the hero and the hero's beliefs. So I start with "The Candidate," 1972, go on to "Regarding Henry" and end up with, I believe, "My Fellow Citizens," to show how the "The Candidate," played by Robert Redford, is already very different from the Jimmy Stewart character in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," in his rhetoric and in his disapproval of America. But his disapproval of America in that film is still mixed with some degree of humor, which I try to quote in the book.

By the time we get to "Regarding Henry," there is no humor; there is only disapproval of America and those who have built America. And then by the time we come to "My Fellow Citizens," it's the quota system in an almost ludicrous manner, except that nobody laughs about it, and perhaps it's nothing to laugh about. It's something to take very seriously.

And what I hope very much is that people will look at my actual statements and examples and--and actually pick up this debate, because I would love--love nothing more than to have unlimited opportunity to be challenged on every word I've written in this book. And I would like to say here and now, if you don't mind that I abuse your hospitality, is that if those who are criticized in this book will not challenge it, I will certainly take it as an acknowledgement that everything in the book is as it's written.
LAMB: At the end, in your glossary, you have something called commissars. Who are they? Are there commissars in the American society?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Yes. Commissars--and I use the word because it's the most appropriate word to use. Commissars are a product of the last 30 years, and I explain in some detail--there's also a--a long chapter of commissars in America. But the glossary at the end actually gives four commissar biographies, because it's a totally new type of human being. These are people who have never done a job that other people consider a job. They have worked in the movement--the political movement all their lives, and all they do, really, is they mete out punishment or they administer rewards to those who politically agree with them.

The reason I present four biographies is that I want to show the reader--and I asked the publisher to print them in columns side by side--to see that these biographies read like carbon copies of one another. These are four entirely different people. But, you know, they finished school and they immediately went into these movements where they can, if I may put it this way, settle their score with society.
LAMB: So these are real people.
Mr. VAZSONYI: These are real people. The reason that their names are at the very end of each biography rather than at the beginning and in parenthesis is that I wanted to show that it's the type that is important for us to realize, not the actual people. The--the v--the device of giving their names at the end in parenthesis actually comes from Debussy's preludes written for piano--were to underscore that these were his impressions of the sails of a ship, not the real sails of a ship. He puts the title of each prelude at the end of the piece in parentheses. So that gave the idea.

But I think I set it up with an interesting little story that happened in Hungary, when the new secretary of the local Communist Party went to introduce himself to our great composer, Kodaly. And Kodaly said, `What happened to your predecessor?' And the new secretary says, `He went back to his trade.' Kodaly says, `What was his trade?' `He was a hatmaker.' And Kodaly says, `And what was your trade?' `Well, sir, I've always worked in the movement.' So Kodaly says, `Where will you go back?' And it's not right for America to have a whole class of people who have no place to go back except the movement.
LAMB: Last question to you: This cover--your idea?
Mr. VAZSONYI: Not really. My idea had something to do with the flag, but it was--it was really more something of a shadow and possibly our white, five-pointed stars acquiring other colors. But I think there was a shortage of time, and this was proposed among many others and I accepted.
LAMB: Not really the last question. I have one more for you. The--you have a question on your book, `Who Is Winning?' Can you give it in a--10 seconds who is winning, in your opinion?
Mr. VAZSONYI: At this point, no one is, and I would like to have--as a result of this book, to make sure that America does.
LAMB: Balint Vazsonyi, the author of this book, "America's 30 Years War: Who Is Winning?" Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. VAZSONYI: Thank you so much for having me.


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