By Mike Celizic
updated 11:41 a.m. ET March 18, 2009
The freshest new voice of the Republican Party comes at you with the fervor of an evangelical preacher and the fast delivery of a tobacco auctioneer. His message is clear, his convictions rock-solid, his self-assurance in Rush Limbaugh territory.
But what has made Jonathan Krohn a sensation among conservatives is more than the message that he first delivered on a national stage at the recent CPC convention of the national conservative movement. It’s his age: 14.
At a stage in life when most boys are playing Little League baseball, sniggering over naughty jokes and wanting little to do with dressing up in suits and discussing politics with adults, Jonathan is at home on center stage. On Wednesday, he sat down in the TODAY studio with David Gregory, Al Roker, Natalie Morales and Amy Robach and took over the show, exuding confidence, charm and a born politician’s ability to schmooze and press the flesh.
Wonk at an early age
If that seems precocious to adults, to Jonathan, it’s just a natural outgrowth of interests he’s had for years.
“I really got involved in politics when I was 9 years old because of the Democrat filibuster in the United States Senate of judicial nominees,” he told Gregory, the host of “Meet the Press.” “I’ve always been interested in history and always said history was my favorite subject. I just loved it and I ate it up. I started loving learning about the history and the Senate rules, not as much the issue they were filibustering, but more how the filibuster works.”
To further his knowledge, Jonathan started listening to talk radio and trying to decide where he stood in the political spectrum. “I began to understand gradually what it means to be a conservative and what it means to be a liberal, and understanding that my views are more in line with the conservative movement,” he explained.
Jonathan is from Atlanta and has been home-schooled by his mother, who has told reporters that she has learned more about politics from her son than he ever learned from her. He’s active in his church and has been performing on stage since he was 8.
Three years ago, Deborah Norville on “Inside Edition” called Jonathan “the most talented kid in Atlanta.” He’s acted in “Peter Pan,” “The Secret Garden,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Tom Sawyer,” “The Jungle Book” and “Alice in Wonderland.” And he’s been playing the cello since he was 4.
But politics is his passion. Last year, at the age of 13, he wrote and self-published a book, “Define Conservatism: For Past, Present and Future Generations.”
Back to basics
In his book, Jonathan goes back to the Founding Fathers and follows conservatism through the generations to the present. Liberals, he writes, are driven by a lust for power and for bigger government. Conservatives, he says, want smaller government and personal responsibility.
He told the TODAY crew that it’s not true, as one publication wrote, that he’s redefined conservatism: “I define conservatism based on what it is, based on what it has always been since the founding of the United States,” he said. “It’s based on four principles: Respect for the Constitution, respect for life, less government and personal responsibility.”
He also refuses to accept the assignment some have tried to give him as the new face of the Republican Party.
“I think that there’s a difference between the face of the Republican Party and the leader of the Republican Party,” he said. “The face of the Republican Party is the person who is out there and who speaks for them, almost like a press secretary, but he’s got to be able to be a leader as well.”
To Jonathan, that face belongs not to Rush Limbaugh, but to the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele. But unlike Steele, who got in trouble for seeming to criticize Limbaugh, Jonathan said the party needs the radio host along with all the others prominent in the conservative movement. “It needs everybody that is in there promoting conservative values, taking the Republican Party back to its roots.”
One of the TODAY hosts suggested that Jonathan would make an impressive politician himself, but he said he has no interest in that line of work.
“I prefer to laugh at the politicians than be the laughingstock,” he quipped.
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