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Dr. Larry Arnn on the British Supply and Confidence Government in Great Britain, and Obamacare Repeal Prospects

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HH: I am joined by Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, to resume our Hillsdale Dialogues. Each and every week on this, the last radio hour of the week, I am joined by Dr. Arnn to talk about something lasting and significant, occasionally politics that are passing and precarious, but nevertheless, most of the time, lasting and significant. All things Hillsdale are collected at, including their brand new course on the Constitution. All the free courses, a free subscription to Imprimis, if you just go and sign up for that speech digest, all of our conversations are collected at, dating back now five years. Dr. Arnn, good morning to you.

LA: How are you doing? Welcome back.

HH: It is good to be back. I wish I’d had a Batphone to call you when I was on Omaha Beach…

LA: Yeah.

HH: Because it’s a remarkable place. I had never been to Normandy before. And I had done my reading again, but I am amazed that they chose that route to those beaches as opposed to Cherbourg or across from Dover. What was Churchill’s thinking in coming up and concurring with the Allies’ war plan?

LA: Well, it was, you know, there was, of course, a lot of people thinking about it. There were more British soldiers on D-Day than there were American, but that changed pretty quick. So the obvious thing to do, and the important thing to do, was to go through the ports, the ones you named. And they, because modern war is a big logistical thing, what it is, is two millions of groups of men throwing steel and flesh at each other. And so you’ve got to move that stuff. But of course, the ports are easy to defend. They were very heavily defended. So they had to go somewhere where they thought the Germans wouldn’t think they were coming. And the beaches, there are three beaches there that are chiefly used, and they’re flat. The worst of them is Omaha Beach, and that’s where the worst trouble was. Utah and Sword Beach, they got off the beach pretty fast. But at Omaha Beach, they got stuck, because there were cliffs, and it turned out to be better defended. So that’s what happened there.

HH: What was amazing…

LA: And almost all of the casualties on D-Day were at Omaha Beach.

HH: Omaha Beach, a thousand young men died on that beach. Teddy Roosevelt went ashore there, and received a medal of honor for his gallantry under fire. But the gun emplacements, our guide drew them. 33,000 men went ashore, a thousand died, 4,000 wounded. I don’t know how anyone got, I don’t know how anyone got off that beach given the amount of firepower. And it was, it’s truly extraordinary. I don’t know when Churchill went to France, by the way. How quickly thereafter did he go?

LA: Well, the King wouldn’t let him go. And Roosevelt didn’t want him to go. And so he didn’t go until, let me get it, it’s in early July is when he went, so about a month. Yeah, and it was dangerous, right? And nobody wanted him to go, except he wanted to go. And there were two reasons not to want him to go. One was cluck, cluck, cluck, you know, prime minister, what if he gets killed, he’s very important. And you know, by then, he was extremely important. But the second reason was people knew him. And you know, on a battlefield, he was really something. And so he, they just knew what he would do, and he did a couple times in the war, he wanted to see people actually fighting. And if you think about, you know, modern war happens over long distances. So if you get to a place where you can see fighting, it means that you’re two miles inside the realm where they could shoot you. So that’s…

HH: Yes. And I must say among the many places that inspire, there’s a place now called the Pegasus Bridge. It was not known that until the night of June 6 when the Glider Infantry of the 2nd Battalion, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire light infantry of the British 6 Airborne Division commanded by Major John Howard, landed about 100 feet from this bridge. Incredible, those gliders were not that good…

LA: Yeah.

HH: And got it and held it against overwhelming odds, and it changed, and one position changed hands eight times in the next two weeks as the Germans knew they had to get there to push the, to split the Allies and push them back into the sea. And so it’s really quite an extraordinary story that I don’t think we’re very, we know Saving Private Ryan, and we know Omaha Beach. But throughout the peninsula there, there are these epic battles that are so impressive.

LA: Yeah, and the touching ones, like you know, in 1940 up at Calais, not far from where you’re talking about, there was one with Major Nicholson and the soldiers of Calais that Churchill ordered to fight to their deaths, and almost all of them did. And that saved the troops at Dunkirk. And so that, that’s like Pegasus Bridge. What if you’re off by yourself, and there aren’t many of you, and you’re facing overwhelming odds? How do you perform? And those guys performed simply magnificently.

HH: Now all that is a backdrop as well to what was going on in real time in the United Kingdom. Now there aren’t many shows in the United States that will do this, but I wanted to talk to you about that, because we have a hung Parliament and a minority government operating on what is expected to be a supply and confidence arrangement about which I learned more than I ever knew until these past two weeks. Before we go to break, what was your reaction to the vote by the Brits? We knew she was going to win. We thought she would win more handily when last we spoke.

LA: Well, she, you know, so first of all, it’s disastrous. She called this election, because she was 20 points up in the polls. And you know, she didn’t get a majority in the Parliament, and she has to, she has to survive on Northern Irish votes. And it makes for a very awkward situation. And it won’t last very long. It’s not going to last five years, which is the maximum a Parliament can last. So something’s got to be done. And of course, there’s very great criticism of her. And some of it is harsh, and the worst of it is harsh and witty. And so…

HH: Yeah, oh, and they’re very good at that.

LA: Oh, yeah. Theodore Dalrymple, Anthony Daniels, who’s a very good writer, we have him at college events sometimes, he’s really awesome, and he wrote this thing about her, and it’s one of the funniest, most hurtful things you’ll ever read about a politician. And I, you know, so she’s lost a lot of moxie here, had to fight, she did some foolish things, too, but you know, she started. So we’ve got Brexit going on, and they announced an adjustment to the entitlement programs that was very ill-received. And then, you know, in a second, in the middle of an election campaign, by the way, and in Britain, they’re not very long. So if you wanted to do that, you could wait two months, or you could have done it two months earlier, and you wouldn’t have been in the middle of an election campaign, but then they compounded the injury by backing off from that stuff. And so running a campaign, resolute and decided, they looked vacillating and weak.

HH: When we come back from break, we’re going to talk about that specifically and how it follows how British cabinet government is different than ours. I like the line, Larry Arnn, that the British government is an absolute monarchy tempered by regicide. And so…

LA: (laughing)

HH: (laughing) One of the things that I read this week, and so the question is are they going to take the Prime Minister out at any given time in the weeks or months ahead? And I don’t know that Churchill ever operated in other than a formal coalition setting, or as the head of an absolute majority in Parliament. Am I correct about that?

LA: He operated in both cases. The whole war, he was in a coalition government where the Conservatives had an overwhelming majority, but they were in a coalition government because of the war. And then in 1951, when he won again, then he had a small majority. And so he never operated without a majority, but he did operate mostly in his life in a coalition.

HH: And when he was in the Liberal Party, was that an absolute majority? Or was it a minority government, because minority governments are interesting. Derby and Disraeli held one together, the first time they got to power after a long time. Then I believe Disraeli was prime minister originally as a minority government.

LA: No, the answer is the Liberal Governments, of which Churchill was a part in the first decade of the 20th Century, had a big majority at first, and then in an election in 1911, that majority was whittled down a lot, but they still had a majority.

HH: And when we come back, we’re going to explain what it means to have a confidence and supply arrangement with the Ulster party, the Democratic-Union Party of Ulster. It’s so incredible that the unionists of Ulster have this power, because Larry, I don’t think they have been relevant in British politics for 30 years, have they?

LA: Well, since the Irish troubles receded. They were very important during that time, because Britain, you know, during the, so do you want to have a break? Or you want, I’ll explain that to you if you want.

HH: I’ve got one minute. Hold onto it.

LA: Okay.

HH: When we come back, Dr. Larry Arnn and I will go through what it is to have a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Union Party of Ulster, because Theresa May and the Conservatives, the Tories, need that to maintain their majority on the question of the Queen speech, on the budget, and on all issues where a majority is required. Absent it, a government will fall, and we’d have yet another election. And I know that they didn’t want it. I don’t want it. Stay tuned, America.

— – – —

HH: The British Parliament requires 324 votes for a majority. She only has 318, and so the 9 members of the DUP put her over the top. Dr. Arnn, you are an expert in Churchill, so you know the DUP. You know the long and difficult history of England and Ireland. What is their role in it?

LA: Well, you know, from even before Cromwell, but especially under Cromwell, Britain took control of Ireland, and they’ve been mean to it at various times. And they’ve been trying to disengage with it forever. And that means especially back to the Irish home rule bill of 1886, if I remember the date right, by Gladstone. And so they want to get out, right, because things in the world have changed. Ireland was, they thought at the time, not so important as it had been to British security. But then, of course, in the Second World War, Eamon de Valera in the new free state of Ireland let German submarines refuel in Irish ports. So come to find out, they rethought that a little bit. Anyway, after the Second World War, they continue, and Churchill had a lot to do with Britain getting out of Ireland, but there was a sticking point, and that is Northern Ireland is Protestant, and wants to stay. And so you could up and go just because you’re tired of being there, but what if there’s some local people who fear for their safety and who demand that you remain? They’ve been loyal to you, you have to be loyal to them. And so during the Irish troubles, Northern Ireland was very important. Those religious wars have settled down a lot, and the troubles are not underway, and so they haven’t been important until lately. And they are important now, because there’s 650 members of the house of Commons, and the, because of a long, very complicated, not simple, actually, historical accident, the House of Commons picks the executive government of Great Britain. It used to be selected by the king, but then the Parliament became stronger and stronger, and it became necessary first for him to pick his ministers with their approval. Now, they pick them, and he gives formal approval. So if you don’t have a majority, you can’t pick a government. So there’s 650 of them, and they’re human, and so that means they die or retire or quit. And in Britain, when they do that, then there has to be a bi-election. And so a vote, and there’s two kinds of votes that can destroy a government. And one is any budget vote, that’s what supply means, right? If the government can’t pass a budget, it can’t govern. They haven’t yet adopted the devices we have in America where we just carry on spending money anyway.

HH: (laughing)

LA: And in that case, the government falls. But a second kind of thing is a vote of no confidence, and the opposition can demand that. Sometimes, even governments ask for them as a way to whip their members and get them to vote with the government. It’s rare for a vote of no confidence to succeed. The last time was in 1979. I happened to be living in England at the time when Margaret Thatcher defeated James Callahan and became the first woman prime minister with great historical consequences. So the eight members of the Northern Ireland party have agreed that they will vote with the Tories on anything concerning supply, on budget votes, and on any vote of no confidence. And that means the Tories cannot be defeated. But it also means that since they don’t have an agreement to vote with the Tories on anything else, they have to go court them to do anything. And so, and now, you know, there’s 650 people, right, so they will, you know, they will do what they do, which is retire and die and stuff, and then there’ll be elections. And when a Tory seat comes open, it’ll be like that seat in America in Georgia where the Democrats just spent $23 million dollars trying to win a Congressional seat and didn’t. They’ll, that’ll be closely watched, and the government could fall anytime.

HH: Anytime, and we will talk about what happens if that happens with Dr. Larry Arnn when we return. The Hillsdale Dialogue focused on the obscurity of a major ally’s internal politics that impact ours every single day. Stay tuned, America.

— – – —

HH: I wonder if you think, Dr. Arnn, if we’re going to have another vacancy to fill this summer. What might you hear on that?

LA: You know, I was just hearing rumors about all that. I’ve got all these lawyers that I’ve had to class now, so they left our seat of learning and went on to their ignorance. And some of them are, you know, important lawyers. Three of them have clerked on the Supreme Court. So I get all the scuttlebutt from them. And the scuttlebutt is that there might well be a retirement this summer. And you know, that would be right away then, and it would need to be, because summer’s half over, nearly. But I also hear, so one of my students is, he’s in town, in Hillsdale right now, but he’s an associate deputy solicitor general of Wisconsin, and they’ve got that big voting rights case going up there. And he’s going to sit at the table. The solicitor general is going to plead it. And he thinks that Kennedy will like this, you know, is going to decide this, as he seems to decide everything in America these days, and will like the case. And so he might stay on for that. It is a great case, apparently. It’s about whether a state can gerrymander or not, or whether it has discretion, to put it more positively, over how its districts are drawn. And so maybe he’d stay for that. But he reports that the rumors are still that Kennedy’s thinking about going, so…

HH: It is a unique opportunity to, since the President is committed to keeping his options to the list of now 20, to realize that the same sex marriage jurisprudence is not going to be reversed. I made this argument in my book, The Fourth Way. It’s not going to be reversed. However, the federalism jurisprudence and 1st Amendment jurisprudence, of which he is proud, Citizens United and a series of cases limiting the Commerce Clause reach, Anthony Kennedy has authored these, and can, you know, supported them, deeply originalist propositions. They will be wiped away in a moment if he, if the Court moves one justice to the left, which is why the Gorsuch nomination was so crucial to the future of the United States and to our Constitutional liberties. I don’t think he is unaware of that, Larry Arnn.

LA: I hope so, and you know, he’s, you know, whatever else he is, he’s a brilliant guy. And he’s had a very distinguished career, and there are many things about that career that I personally admire greatly, and a few that I don’t. But yeah, he, that’s a shrewd argument by you. And see, you know, what, how does a guy think about a thing like that? You know, I happen to know one of them pretty well, and there was a rumor that he was going to retire. And I don’t think so, and the reason I don’t think so is because he’s a human being just like the rest of us. And he likes being a judge.

HH: Yeah.

LA: And he loves working with his clerks. He likes legal reasoning, and he’s really good at it. He is living, you know, no life is perfect, but that’s a good one if you like being a judge. So why give it up, you know, if you’re appointed for life, and you know, if you can do it, and you think you can do it. So I think you know, Kennedy is older than the one I know the best, and it might be time for him to go. And you know, I hope that when he does, it’ll be a situation like the one right now where you could get somebody good appointed, because that’ll change things.

HH: I, and we’ll continue what you are proud of, confident that that what you are most proud of, and he is, of his same sex jurisprudence, will not be disturbed, because it isn’t simply, it’s not actually possible to go back and undo the consequences of that, in my view. Let me turn now to President Trump, who is, in my absence, has been busy trying to establish in the public’s mind that there was no collusion, and there is no obstruction. He did it this morning on Fox and Friends again, thinking out loud about firing Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who has been appointed special counsel at the Department of Justice. Here is what President Trump said on Fox and Friends this morning.

F&F: Should he recuse himself?

DT: Well, he’s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome, but he’s also, I mean, we’re going to have to see. I mean, we’re going to have to see in terms, look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey. But there’s been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that. So we’ll have to see. I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters.

HH: Dr. Arnn, your response to that comment and the suggestion that perhaps he will remove Mueller, which I think is a political disaster that will extend rather than curtail this non-story story?

LA: Well, first of all, he didn’t say that, in the quote that you played, he didn’t say he was going to fire him, or that he was thinking of it. But every word that he spoke in that quote seems to me the truth as we know it. And that, you know, and I don’t like this thing, I don’t like, see, step back for a minute. This is not as bad as the rankly unconstitutional special counsel law that prevailed in America for a long time and disrupted our government. That was when a bunch of judges appointed a lawyer with broad investigatory powers of the executive branch. But investigations are executive branch functions. We’re going to read Article II of the Constitution, and you will see that Madison won an argument, and we have a unitary executive, and that’s crucial for a lot of reasons. So if you mix them up like that, then you get people who are accountable to nobody, these special prosecutors, appointed by judges that go run rampant over the government of the United States. And of course, there are huge, partisan implications for that. So first of all, now this is not as bad as that, because this is a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department. And that does mean that he is dismissible by the President. And it does seem to be true that Mueller, that Mueller is a close friend of James Comey. I mean, goodness sakes, did not the FBI this week, while you were gone, say that they’re not, that they don’t think that the fellow who shot Steve Scalise had partisan purposes?

HH: Oh, I missed that. You’re kidding me.

LA: Oh, yeah. And he was carrying a diagram of the baseball field, and a list of the names of a bunch of Congressmen in his pocket, right? So he’s buddies with Comey, right? Well, that’s a thing that’s very legitimate for the president of the United States to point out. And a thing about Trump is we would have to judge whether he did a good thing if he dismissed Mueller, if he did it, but saying that he would do it? That’s very like Donald Trump. He turns around and faces him. And goodness, these attacks on the guys? You know, on him, and the idea that you know, it’s been, you know, just at the time you were leaving, Dianne Feinstein and another member of the Intelligence Committee said again that they know of no evidence of collusion between Trump and Putin, or Trump and Russia, to overturn the election or affect the election.

HH: Because as far as any rational person can conclude, it did not happen. And I say that only because if it had, it would have leaked.

LA: Yeah. So I think that Trump should, he, this is a fight. Look, since modern bureaucratic government, the idea of it was born in America after the Civil War, maybe in the 1880s, thereabouts. And it became entrenched in Washington in the 1960s and 70s. It took that long. And you just go look at the architecture of Washington, and you’ll see that all the new, ugly buildings contain things that are unconstitutional.

HH: (laughing)

LA: So, and that’s when they were built, a great majority of them. So now, since that happened, we’ve had Ronald Reagan, who ran a consistent political career to reduce the authority of the administrative state. But he never had both houses of Congress. And so now, in a miracle, Donald Trump gets elected president unprecedented on several levels, and he is a consistent enemy of that, and is trying to get the legislative power restored to the Congress, and talks about it a lot, and does things about it every day. And so of course, a lot of people are fighting back about that, because there are millions of people who work in that state. One of my students works in a very senior position in the Trump administration, he’s a young man, really great guy, and he said, he said I see the problem. And I said what’s the problem, and he said well, when we’re all appointed, there’ll be six or eight thousand of us. And there’s 23 million of them. And I said no, there’s not. I said that’s state, federal and local. That’s how many there are. But at the federal government, aren’t there about 2.4 million or 2.3 million of them?

HH: Yes.

LA: He said right. And I said, but you know, we’ve known this a long time. And he said yeah, he said, but when you come here, you feel the weight of it.

HH: This is, by the way, why the Supreme Court needs to take up the mandatory docking of union members’ pay for bargaining purposes. It will unfund and defund, including the public employee unions, which are a metastasizing burden on the public good.

LA: Yeah, and think, you know, a lot of these left wing groups that go and shut down, they get money, a lot of them are getting money from the government, right? So the point is Trump is in the middle of a great crisis about how the country is going to be governed. And I, you know, if he fires that man, he first of all, he has the Constitutional power to do it.

HH: Yes, he does.

LA: And so then the question will be, and thank God that he does, by the way, and so the question will be was it a prudent act? Well, I can’t judge that until he does it, but I don’t mind him talking about it.

HH: Now I want to turn, if I can, to the manifestation of this big struggle that’s right before us, and it will carry over in the last segment, the Obamacare repeal bill. And there are nine senators who have expressed doubt. Five are moderates, four are conservatives. Of the four conservatives, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Ron Johnson, they’re all your friends. And I imagine some of the moderates are your friends as well. I have great confidence that McConnell is going to pass this. What do you think?

LA: Well, first of all, I have great confidence in his skillfulness. That, I have. And they desperately need to pass something. And my own standard, so if, I don’t know, it’s an interesting question of what would you do if you were one of them. And you know, I am asked that question by some of them from time to time. And I always say I don’t know. But I would think about it this way. First of all, it’s important to pass something that is better than Obamacare.

HH: Okay, hold that thought. We’ve got to go to a break, and I want to get your, we’ll begin again there. Over at the Washington Post, Senate Republicans want to get to yes on health care bill. As a political matter, it is a necessary thing. As a policy matter, it is a very big deal. And I’ll be right back to conclude this Friday edition of the Hugh Hewitt Show with Dr. Larry Arnn. Stay tuned.

— – – — –

HH: And here’s where I draw the first half of the Hillsdale Dialogue together with the last half. In the first half, we talked about Great Britain, and the fact that in a parliamentary system, there are occasions when confidence must be voted in the government, or the government falls, and an election is held. In the United States, we have set terms, and we have a division of powers while the executive is unitary. The Congress is of its own creature, and they can send things to the president. So the government won’t fall if the Obamacare repeal bill doesn’t pass, Larry Arnn. But it will be a profound blow if it doesn’t pass, which is why I think even Rand Paul ought to be working overtime to pass something. So expand on that if you agree with me or not.

LA: Yeah, first of all, before the break, you almost said you were going to give me a chance to give a coherent answer, and I thank you for not completing that thought. Let me try now.

HH: (laughing)

LA: (laughing) So we haven’t, none of us alive today, unless we’re 100 or something, no, we’ve never seen this. The Republicans have a chance to show that they can maneuver us through this administrative state and make it better. And they have not had another chance like this. If you believe that a party government, which is co-evil with the beginning of America, although unplanned, is important, then they have been given a chance to change things. And if they are unable to cooperate to do that, people will rightly draw the conclusion that they’re useless. And so they, and all they have to do, in my opinion, is make it better, right? I don’t, I’ll, and they’re negotiating right now, by the way, so it would be wrong to condemn either side. These nine, five of them want X, and four of them want not X. So it’s not a matter of persuading all nine. It’s, because if you persuade five of them, you lose the other four.

HH: Right.

LA: It’s a matter of finding a middle ground. And the middle ground won’t be pretty, and it won’t be great, by my light, because by my light, I’m more with the four, right, the hard-core guys. But I would encourage them, all of them, to look hard for that middle ground, make it better, and then show that they’ve done that. And then, by the way, bring it up again next year or this year. And keep working at it, right? But that, and see, that’s why I think that the failure in the House to pass a bill is a shame, right, because any bill that’s better than Obamacare will do. And there’s going to have, you know, another thing about Obamacare, Paul Ryan said this to me back when it passed, and the reelection of Obama made this prediction come true. He said a whole bunch of people are going to get a whole bunch of money, and they’re going to depend on it. And it’s going to be hard to get rid of it. Well, it’s going to be expensive to get rid of it. We’re going to have to buy the system out gradually, because you don’t want to cut off all these people who are now depending on this thing. You want to change it gradually so that independence and self-reliance is restored in America.

HH: And I must add they have no choice, because it is a rescue mission in many parts of the country, not 100%, but in places like 20 counties in Ohio, there is no insurer for individuals. In many counties in Iowa, there will be none come a year from now. In large parts of the country, there is only one option for individuals and small businesses. And so it’s a collapsing death spiral system. So in addition to the larger issue of the Constitutional structure, they have an urgent need to get help to those people. And the market can deliver that.

LA: That’s right. And you know, we love to rail against Mitch McConnell. He’s a Congressman. Of course, we do. But Mitch McConnell held all the Republican votes against Obamacare. And so he’s a skillful man.

HH: And to keep the SCOTUS vacancy open.

LA: That was the, you know, awesome. Good for him. And so we hope, and you know, I know him, and I like him, and you know, sometimes I have differences with him, but I know him, and I like him. And I don’t have any doubt about what his intention is here. He is going to try to get the broadest, best repeal of Obamacare through that he can, and that’s his job.

HH: Yeah, and by the way, about that, we could not say that about recent Republican leaders with certainty on all issues.

LA: No, and just think, you know, then, by the way, another thing, another thing, so the very wise friend of mine and yours, Tom McClintock, he’ll point out that you pass, the actual way it’s supposed to work is you pass the best bill you can get in the Senate, and you pass the best bill you can get in the House, and you don’t worry. So the one body doesn’t worry about what the other body is doing. They’re spending too much time in the House worried about the filibuster. Pass the best bill they can, and then the Constitution takes over. And they have a Conference Committee. And there’s a process there. And the process is they take everything that’s common to both bills, and they have to include that, and then they add whatever they have to add to make the bill work. And that’s your bill, and then both houses pass it.

HH: And that is what we will talk hopefully about next Friday with Dr. Larry Arnn. Thank you, Dr. Arnn.

End of interview.


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