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Steve Hansen: Cal Thomas is the most circulated columnist in the U.S. for a reason

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Posted: Monday, June 2, 2014 11:48 pm

The answer might surprise you. It’s Cal Thomas, who often appears twice weekly in over 540 newspapers.

Thomas and I graduated from the same high school — Walter Johnson in Bethesda, Md. He was in my sister’s class. Lori was three years ahead of me, so she knew him better than I.

We remember his stride on the basketball court as well as his spot on a small radio station reserved for local high school students. He still attends class reunions — including the 50th, which took place back in 2010.

In addition to his columns, Thomas has written 11 books — a number of which have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. The latest is titled “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America.”

After college, Thomas’ media career began in humble settings. He worked in Armed Forces Radio for less than $100 per month. Later, his attempt to become a columnist was rejected by most newspaper syndicators. But a friend at the Los Angeles Times provided an opportunity, and as they say, the rest is history.

A columnist for over three decades, the 6-feet, 7-inch author is hardly without controversy. Yet his goal is to unify all Americans for solutions to common problems, which happens to be the theme of his new book.

Thomas has been labeled as an “evangelical” Christian, which automatically puts him on the hate list for some on the far left. Because of opposition to gay marriage, as well as concerns about Americans losing their traditional values, many consider his writings heresy to the present-day narrative.

Yet Thomas has the mutual respect of a number of close liberal friends — including television pundit Bob Beckel and New York Times columnist Frank Rich. In addition, many of his columns appear in newspapers that are generally friendly to progressive causes.

In his latest book, Thomas points to a number of issues that he believes are hurting the country. Divisions among classes, races and ethnic origins are a concern. The U.S. is losing its unity and becoming a place of hyphenated Americans.

There is also a belief that our country is relinquishing its moral compass. It is replacing “God” and the ethical foundations of our culture with government bureaucracy. The state is becoming the new deity for which many people expect all problems to be solved.

He certainly is not an advocate for theocracy, but does support the Judeo-Christian code of ethics, which have been our country’s guiding light for over 200 years.

Thomas hopes that party bickering in Washington will end and that politicians will put aside their obsessions with self-interest. Washington politics remind him of the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which one wakes up to the same stalemated scene day after day.

Despite attempted political labeling by various partisans, Thomas remains an independent thinker, which may explain his popularity — along with his sense of humor.

For example, he recently criticized conservative neurosurgeon Ben Carson for bringing politics to the politically neutral Washington, D.C. Annual Prayer Breakfast. Many on the right were not happy about his critique of Carson, who pointed out Obamacare’s flaws in the presence of the president.

On the lighter side, Thomas was recently asked what he reads every morning. The response was, “The Bible and the New York Times.”

“I always want to know what both sides are doing,” the 72-year-old author quipped.

He believes that we can learn from those with political perspectives different from our own. The first step, of course, is not to draw battle lines and close minds, but be open to finding common ground.

The Tribune syndicated columnist says most successful solutions for today’s problems are already part of our history. Most situations do not require a “reinvention the wheel” or the use of untried, off-the-cuff ideas. Paradoxically, progress lies in understanding and repeating what has already worked in the past.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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