What is your current position?
I am the opinion editor of Newsweek, where I also host “The Josh Hammer Show,” my new podcast. I am also a syndicated columnist and a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation (EBF).
What inspired you to choose this career path?
I suppose this would be an easier question to answer if I knew exactly what my present “career path” entails. I suppose “conservative commentator” works fine enough. I’ve always been interested in the media—my grandfather was the publisher of a chain of regional newspapers when I grew up, and I was editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper. My professional background in the law, which continues to imbue much of what I do, was perhaps thus something of a temporary detour, in retrospect. In a sense, I’ve come full-circle. Another way of answering this question, though, is that I believe the media is a more straightforward avenue than is the law to attempt to meaningfully bolster and advance American conservatism and, by extension, salvage the American republic, which in Claremonster phraseology is what I’d like to think of as my professional “telos.”
What are you currently working on?
I run the Newsweek op-ed section every day, and every week I write my syndicated column, host my own Newsweek podcast, and co-host EBF’s “NatCon Squad” podcast. I also work on longer-form research essays with EBF, including my Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy essay last summer on my jurisprudential proposal for “common good originalism.” Very soon, I also hope to finally get started on my first book.
How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?
I had heard of Claremont and the Claremont Review of Books going back at least as far back as college, but I first started hearing of friends applying to the John Marshall Fellowship when I was in law school at the University of Chicago. Given (University of Chicago Law alum) John Eastman’s long-standing leadership of the John Marshall program, the ties between that particular fellowship and Chicago are of course quite deep.
What is your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?
The academic sessions were generally excellent, but my very fondest memories are definitely those less academic ones from the “hospitality suite” after hours. We had an awesome crew that year, including many dear friends of mine. And the opportunity to shoot the breeze with folks like John Yoo and the late, great Michael Uhlmann—a few years later, these are still such great memories. I loved every day of my Claremont fellowship.
There are all sorts of educational programs out there for current and rising conservative professionals. What do you think makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique?
Four things come immediately to mind. First, Claremont has for decades stood out as an intellectual anchor of the American Right, willing and eager to grapple with the American Founding at a different level than most other right-of-center organizations in the conservative firmament. Second, as someone born on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and who has always looked up to Lincoln as the greatest statesman in American history, I find Claremont’s emphasis on Lincoln deeply inspiring—and, similarly, fairly unique within the conservative firmament. Third, Claremont stands out among prominent conservative think tanks for “knowing what time it is” and acting accordingly. Fourth, Claremont’s alumni network is extraordinarily strong, and the Institute does a great job of keeping in touch with its alumni and encouraging them to remain involved.
Who would it be, why, and what would you discuss, if you could have a conversation with an American Founder, or any great thinker?
There are so many good answers here, of course. One rough dividing line that seems to have run quite deep among the Founding generation was the divide between the more Anglophilic, pro-common law “conservative” bloc and the more Francophilic, common law-skeptical “liberal bloc.” The line is certainly blurry, as Claremont’s own president, Ryan P. Williams, argued in his speech at the last National Conservatism Conference in Orlando (I was sitting there in attendance). I’d love the opportunity to sit down with George Washington to gauge how he, who had just personally led the war effort against the British Crown, understood these dynamics. How much did he admire the English constitution and the common law? Did he understand the American Revolution to be more of a “conservative” restoration (like Edmund Burke) or a “liberal” revolution (like Thomas Paine)? And so forth.
Looking back on history, in which one of the original 13 colonies would you have wanted to live and why?
I suppose Virginia and Massachusetts are the “obvious” answers here, but I’ll go ahead and say my own native state of New York for the very simple reason that Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, two of the three authors of The Federalist and two of my very favorite Founding Fathers, rose to prominence there. It would have been very cool to be around and witness their rises to prominence.
What qualities do you believe will make outstanding statesmen/women in this century?
The number one trait that comes to mind is prudence and a commitment to empiricism, especially at the expense of zealous dogma. The world now shifts at such an incredibly quick rate that willingness to adapt to ever-changing circumstances in real-time has never been more indispensable.
What do you believe is one of the greatest challenges facing the United States?
In his Lyceum Address of 1838, Lincoln famously said: “At what point…is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.” There are now so many aspiring or would-be fifth column “author[s] and finisher[s]” who hate this country and want to see it eradicated. Our greatest threat, as always, is still predominantly one of internal decay.
What book, speech, or movie has left a lasting impression with you and why?
The peroration of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural—“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right…”—is rightfully remembered as the stuff of rhetorical legend. To have such firmness, resolve, and presence of mind to issue those welcoming words in that dark hour—well, the mind reels. What a remarkable inspiration.
What books are you currently reading?
As I write this, I am anticipating hopefully soon my review copy of Adrian Vermeule’s Common Good Constitutionalism in the mail. My own jurisprudential proposal of “common good originalism” is distinct, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what Adrian’s argument looks like when fleshed out in book-length form. Whatever our differences in our approaches to constitutional interpretation may be, I am deeply grateful to him for pushing the Overton window as he has done.
Do you have a favorite quote? Why does it resonate with you?
I’m not sure if this is truly my favorite quote of all-time or anything, but my great-grandfather (who passed away before I was born), who lived a quintessential “American Dream” sort of life as a Jewish immigrant, lived according to the following motto: “If you can conceive it, and you can believe it, then you will achieve it.” I definitely try to live my life according to that motto, as well.
What is your favorite cultural/recreational pastime (or hobby) and why?
I’ve been a big sports fan my whole life, but Duke Blue Devils basketball is my absolute pride and joy. I have been a fan since I was in fourth grade, am a Duke alum, and have now seen our men’s basketball team win two national championships in-person: in 2010 (over Butler) and in 2015 (over Wisconsin), both times at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Honestly, I really have no idea. Maybe as a full-time podcaster/radio host? Maybe helping launch a new think tank of sorts? Maybe working on authoring more books (national/common good conservatism, common good originalism, and so forth)? All I know is that I will be focused on utilizing my skillset—in some capacity—to help save America to the very best of my abilities.