Benjamin Joseph Wattenberg (born Joseph Ben Zion Wattenberg; August 26, 1933 – June 28, 2015) was an American author, commentator and demographer. Associated with leading Democratic politicians in the 1960s and 1970s, he leaned increasingly conservative in his latter years.
Wattenberg was born to a Jewish family in The Bronx and went on to graduate from Hobart College in 1955, majoring in English. From 1955 to 1957, he was in the US Air Force, based in San Antonio. He was an aide and speechwriter to President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1966 to 1968, and served as an adviser to Hubert Humphrey's 1970 Senate race and Senator Henry M. Jackson's contest for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination, and Democratic Party presidential primaries of 1976, and served on the 1972 and 1976 Democratic National Convention platform committees.
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Wattenberg came to national attention as co-author with Richard M. Scammon of The Real Majority, the 1970 analysis believed to have provided the basis for the campaign strategies of the Richard Nixon administration in the 1970 congressional elections and 1972 presidential election.
He was the host of a number of PBS television specials, including Values Matter Most, The Grandchild Gap, America's Number One, What Next?, The Stockholder Society, A Third Choice (about the role of third parties in American politics), Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism, The Democrats, and The First Measured Century. He hosted the weekly PBS television program, Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg, from 1994 to 2010, and previously hosted PBS series In Search of the Real America and Ben Wattenberg At Large. In a New Yorker article from 1996, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., refers to Wattenberg's book "Values Matter Most" as "the book that prompted Bill Clinton’s infamous midnight-of-the-soul telephone call to the author".
Wattenberg was a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. He was appointed to various committees and commissions by Presidents Carter, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, as well as by then-Speaker Tom Foley.
Wattenberg was the son of real-estate attorney Judah Wattenberg and Rachel Gutman Wattenberg, and he was the younger brother of actress Rebecca Schull. He had four children, Ruth, Daniel and Sarah with his first wife, the former Marna Hade who died in 1997, and Rachel with his second wife, Diane Abelman. Wattenberg died on June 28, 2015 from complications following surgery.
- This U.S.A., 1965
- The Real Majority: An Extraordinary Examination of the American Electorate, 1970
- The Real America, 1974
- Against All Enemies: A Novel, co-authored with Ervin S. Duggan 1977
- The Good News is, the Bad News is Wrong, 1984
- The Birth Dearth, 1987
- The First Universal Nation, 1991
- Values Matter Most, 1995
- The First Measured Century: An Illustrated Guide to Trends in America 1900–2000, co-authored with Theodore Caplow and Louis Hicks, 2000
- Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future, 2004
- Fighting Words: A Tale of How Liberals Created Neo-Conservatism, 2008
- Roberts, Sam, "Ben Wattenberg, Author and Commentator, Dies at 81", New York Times, June 29, 2015. Retrieved 2015-06-29.
- new York Times: "Ben Wattenberg, Neoconservative Author and PBS Host, Is Dead at 81" by Sam Roberts June 29, 2015
- "Think Tank With Ben Wattenberg to End Production". Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
- "Judah Wattenberg, Technion Executive, 96". The New York Times. May 24, 1996. Retrieved July 30, 2008.
- Langer, Emily, "Ben J. Wattenberg, writer and television commentator, dies at 81", washingtonpost.com, June 29, 2015. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
- Ben Wattenberg on IMDb
- Official PBS Think Tank Page
- Ben Wattenberg Archive of columns published on Jewish World Review.
- American Enterprise Institute Bio Page
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Open to Greatness: We need immigrants
- Memo to Ben Wattenberg: The Good News Is The Bad News Is Wrong Critique of Wattenberg's fertility analysis.
- John Kerry Is Wrong: Vietnam vs. Iraq
- Booknotes interview with Wattenberg on The First Universal Nation, January 6, 1991.