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Dr. Larry Arnn On The Churchill-Woodrow Comparison, And How We’re Seeing It Right Now In The Fight Over Obamacare

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HH: It is Friday, October 11th, and I normally save to the end of my Friday broadcast the weekly Hillsdale Dialogue with Dr. Larry Arnn or one of his colleagues from the wonderful Hillsdale College up in Michigan. And I put it in the third hour of my show, because it’s a great way to start your weekend. But today, I’m moving it to the top of the show, because I think it will frame the conversation that follows on this most important weekend, when the Republican Party has entered into the conversation that will define or break it, I think, for the next many things. Dr. Larry Arnn, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to speak with you.

LA: Great to be with you, Hugh.

HH: Now we have lucked into talking about Churchill for the last four weeks, in the middle of a great crisis in our own domestic politics, a crisis that may be coming to a head this weekend. And I’m curious if you agree with me that this weekend, the stakes are very high for the Republicans.

LA: Well, you know, in a really good thing you just wrote, you raise a bunch of points. And that’s one of them, and I agree with it. And you also link to that article by Nate Silver, which makes the point that it’s hard to know, because we don’t know how all this is going to break. I think if we default on the debt, that’s a very big thing, and somebody’s going to get blamed for that. They’ll both get blamed for that in some way, and that’s, and so much better for that not to happen. And so yeah, and this is, the reason we know it’s important what’s going on is because is the crisis that we face. The crisis can be characterized this way. The government is operating at irresponsible levels, and in ways that threaten to make it beyond the accountability of the people. And so we’re going to have a series of arguments like this over time about whether that can be restrained or not.

HH: And yesterday, and this is the core question, 18 members of the House, the people’s House, led by the Speaker and the Majority Leader, and including your friend and mine, Congressman Paul Ryan and many other good people who have probably been to the campus of Hillsdale College, went down to the White House to sit down and negotiate with the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of the Treasury. Would that be the kind of exchange the framers would be comfortable with and familiar with?

LA: Yeah, they can talk, sure, and they should. But also, the houses have their work to do, and they should be about that, and they have been about that. And yes and no, I guess I’d say. At some point, the Senate has got to pass a bill, and the House has got to pass a bill that can be brought together. And that’s the process that’s going to bring resolution to all of this. And that bill is bound to be a compromise, giving neither fully what they want, or else one of the political parties is going to be broken over this. And I don’t myself think that’s what’s going to happen right now, but it might.

HH: That’s an interesting, that’s really an interesting prospect you raise, because some of the alarmists call the GOP the Whigs, and I think the rollout of Obamacare is a deadly poison entering the Democratic bloodstream, because it is such a God awful piece of legislation and is destroying lives in real time. If you listen to my show up there via the Grand Rapids station, you know that people call up and they can’t pay this. They can’t do it. Their businesses are closing. They’re laying off people. And so there really is a domestic crisis, and you wrote in The Founders’ Key that the framers knew there would be rough times ahead, and that they would have to go through this process of conciliation. But now, we’ve got a great conservative friend of yours, Paul Ryan in the House, a great conservative friend of yours, Ted Cruz in the Senate, representing the same party, but from diametrically opposed rhetorical positions. Is that, can that endure?

LA: Well, there’s got to be a resolution of that, too. And there’s a strategy. Paul Ryan’s strategy is pretty clear. And you know, he knows the budget and the way out of this mess better than anyone, and has staked his career on knowledge of that and on being prepared to take strong positions about that. And that’s why it was such an imaginative choice for him to be chosen vice presidential nominee by Romney, even if the campaign didn’t work out. And here’s a point about that strategy. If you’re right, and I think you are, that Obamacare is an albatross, then let that play, because you can reason this way. You’re not going to beat it from one house of Congress, at least not now. And you can, in principle, do it, because no house, no Congress can commit its successors to spending. And spending bills have to start in the House. So in principle, you could do it, but in practice, you’re not likely to sustain that for a bunch of reasons having to do with public opinion, and having to do with the resolution of the other two popularly-elected bodies, the presidency and the Senate. And so his argument is, first of all, we’re not going to get rid of these entitlement programs. I believe that we should reform them, so that they are affordable, and they actually do provide the security for which they aim. And also, and affordable means there has to be checks on them from running amok and from building perverse incentives into the economy and the political system that give more incentive to idleness than to work. So that’s Ryan’s approach, and you can see why it’s a strategy that could work. And so I like it, and I think it may unfold to be the one that we adopt, and it looks like the best one to me right now.

HH: Let’s look at the other strategy, the Ted Cruz strategy. Now this morning, he gave a thumper of a speech at the Faith And Values Conference, followed by another thumper of a speech by Marco Rubio. Our speechmakers are delivering. But Ted Cruz said to the assembled activists, you are Esther, called for a time such as this, very Biblical, very senatorial in the Roman sense, you know, really summoning up the ghosts, and we’re about to talk about Churchill. And he’s become the lightning rod. And the piece you referenced very kindly that I wrote this morning for and my blog, I caution critics of Cruz that they are radicalizing his core supporters. And that is not a good thing for a political party. Do you agree with that, Dr. Arnn?

LA: I do. I do. And he’s a very intelligent man, and he’s very bold, and he’s doing a lot right now, and good for him. I think that at some point, there has to be a resolution of this, and quite soon. And I’ll tell you what the pressure is, as I understand it. In the Declaration of Independence, the first charge against the King, and remember the structure of the Declaration of Independence, there’s a statement of universal principles under which they are acting, and which justify what they do. And then they say you have to have a Bill of Particulars. You have to have reasons for what you do, and they have to be good reasons, because governments are not to be changed for light and transient causes. Well, the first charge against the King is he has withheld his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. So you don’t want to do that. And that means if in order to defund Obamacare we default on the federal debt, or we, and you know, we’re not doing these things right now, you know, we fail to defend the country, something like that, then that wouldn’t be right. And we wouldn’t, no one would, Ted Cruz would not, in my opinion, pay that price to defund Obamacare, because first of all, it wouldn’t get it done, and that’s a very heavy price, such a thing as that.

HH: Yeah, now what he is doing, though, I’m going back to the Declaration myself, I can’t find the exact quote, “He has sent out a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” Talk about a perfect description apt of Obamacare.

LA: Right.

HH: And Kathleen Sebelius had another event collapse this morning in Pittsburgh with angry people. That’s what’s happening, and I think he’s kind of speaking to that indictment from the Declaration in a way that resonates with people.

LA: That’s right, and that means that we’re in the time where these close judgments are to be made. And you know, the ultimate resolution of these matters is elections. And we have an election coming in 2014, and in that one, and in the following one, and the one after that, and so on for some years, in my opinion, is how we’re going to resolve all of this. And you know, the tone of your article this morning was to salute both sides, which however disagree with each other strongly…

HH: Yes.

LA: And I think that’s the right thing to do. And I think, you know, we’ll see how it plays out. And in my opinion, it’s good that this strong stand has been made. It’s good that there’s an alternative plan and negotiations, and it will be good if a compromise solution is found that does register that we have to do something about this debt, and about this crazy Obamacare legislation.

HH: More coming up with Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College on the weekly Hillsdale Dialogue, all of which are available at

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HH: Now I want to turn to Churchill, about whom Dr. Arrn and I have been speaking for four weeks on the Hillsdale Dialogue series, all of which going back to when we began in January with the Iliad up through the present, are available at, and there’s a link at Dr. Arnn, when we left off last week, the Neville Chamberlain government had fallen, Winston Churchill had been given the reins of power, not such a great thing, given the conditions in which he inherited power. Do you want to pick up there and sort of describe for people. He ought not to have succeeded, given what he was given when he became, when the seals of office were handed to him by George.

LA: Well, that happened on May 10th, 1940, and you know, we should say a word. How about I interrupt for just a second and say something about Churchill’s own views about domestic policy matters like this?

HH: Yes.

LA: Churchill, there are two things to know about him. One was early and late all his life, he feared socialism deeply, and thought it was the death of civilization. In 1945, after this war that we’re going to go back to describing in just a minute, he gave an amazing speech in which he said the Socialist Party could not achieve its ultimate aim without the use of a secret police, yes, I mean a gestapo. And that’s of his wartime cabinet colleagues, he said that. And then darned if they didn’t just whip him like nothing in the election, and proceed to nationalize sixteen major industries. And what did he do, but for six years in opposition until he finally beat them in 1951, launch a campaign called Socialism Against the People, versus the people. And he did finally beat them, and he did finally denationalize all of those industries excepting one, which was health care.

HH: Yeah.

LA: And Churchill was for the social welfare state, the equivalent of our entitlement programs. He just spent his life trying to moderate them, make them secure, and make them not conducive to the building of what he called the society of drones. And that was his life, that he fought that all his life, and that’s the battle we’re fighting today.

HH: I’m so glad you brought up this speech, because I just read an extended treatment about this speech, and how Clementine told him don’t use that phrase gestapo, because his one rhetorical blunder, and most people think it’s a blunder, I’m not sure if you do or not, you can tell us, cost him the seals of government, allowed the opposition to come in. It’s a great cautionary tale to the Republicans who are fighting this menace of Obamacare today not to go over a rhetorical line for which the people are unprepared to absorb in the correct context.

LA: Churchill did not retract any more than Ted Cruz is retracting. Churchill kept that up right through, and all his life. And he was very heavily criticized. I don’t think it’s clear that that’s why they lost the election. In fact, I think it’s not why they lost the election.

HH: Oh, interesting. That is contrary to the conventional wisdom.

LA: Well, there’s a lot of people, but you know, it’s like that, read that Nate Silver article, right? It’s kind of hard to tell.

HH: Yeah.

LA: But there were big tides running, and you know, one of the things Churchill attributed the loss to was that the Conservatives hadn’t really done a very good job, had they, not getting ready for Hitler and all that. And so there’s a lot to that story. Churchill also thought that this indicated some weakness in the British people, and he feared that and grieved over it.

HH: You know, it’s an astonishing result for him to have saved the country, brought the West back from the brink of annihilation, and it would have been annihilation, because Hitler would have gotten the heavy water weapons going eventually, and Japan would have had their co-prosperity sphere. He stopped all of that, and they threw him out of office before Japan was defeated. It still staggers the mind.

LA: Yeah, but he was a beloved figure, and they gave him years of power, and he did restructure things and place socialism under a color of disfavor that you know, the Labour Party doesn’t parade socialism in Britain today. And you know, he also feared the other thing, which we’re getting an awful lot of, which is bureaucracy. In fact, Churchill thought that by the building of the bureaucracy it would build, that is how it really would overcome the British people. And that’s what we face today. The question is, is that happening, and you know, there’s an easy to look at the fact, to establish, in my opinion, that there’s a danger of that, because the government of the United States is more than 40% of the total economy now and growing. And the Obamacare thing, if it does lead to the socialization of medicine, that’s going to place it over 50%. And then is that limited government when the government is larger than the private sector? And how would the private sector control the government when the government is so large? That’s the kind of thing Churchill worried about. And he fought all his life to try to prevent it. One of his tools in fighting that was a social welfare state, which you know, by the way, if we could pass what he was for today, we would all applaud and think it’s really great. But he was for a lot of that, and there’s a lesson in that, I think, in a modern society.

HH: Sure.

LA: All of the modern societies have adopted, and you know, in the founding of America, there’s a social, there’s a welfare program. It was local, and you could see with ours that we might find ways to limit it while making it provide the necessary security to the old and the informed and the unfortunate, and employment insurance into which people pay. That’s something Churchill was for. And then in America, a great thing would be to localize it, again, as it was in the beginning. And Churchill was for a much greater element of federalism in British politics than it has ever enjoyed. He wanted to create local parliaments and stuff like that.

HH: Two of our mutual friends, Charles Kesler, professor at Claremont, and Jonah Goldberg, known to all, have both put the center of responsibility for the mess we’re in on Woodrow Wilson, and done so and argued in great books at length about this. Did Churchill ever meet Wilson? Did he opine about him if he did not meet him?

LA: He both met him and wrote extensively about him. And especially, he wrote about him in the context of the Versailles conference that made the treaty that ended the First World War. And Churchill writes about him that his influence was disastrous, because he came in with a claim that he was going to go over the heads of the British powers directly to the people and make a different kind of peace than they would ever make. And he did do that, tried to do that. And what Churchill pointed out was all of them were fresh from elections – Clemenceau in France, and Lloyd George in Britain, and those elections turned on demands from the popular electorate that Germany needed to pay for this terrible mess they had made. They should be, in Britain, the phrase was squeezed until the pips squeak. And they had tried to moderate that. And then Wilson shows up treating them like their unrepresentative, and then he organizes the making of the League of Nations, which…

HH: Hold that thought. We’re going to be right back on Churchill and Wilson on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

— – – –

HH: And Dr. Arnn and I were supposed to be talking about the war. I suspect that’s going to go to next week, Winston Churchill’s role in wartime leadership, because we’ve stumbled onto something, and it is fortuitous, which is the Churchill-Wilson, Woodrow Wilson comparison and collision. And if you think back in the 20th Century, that Wilson made what has become our nightmare in the United States, launched it, and Churchill launched the counterrevolution against it that Dr. Arnn talked about. Of course, we’re in the middle of the Hillsdale Dialogue. All of the Hillsdale Dialogues are available at You were saying Wilson arrived at Versailles intending to go over the heads of the French and English leaders who were trying to moderate their people’s demands for retribution.

LA: Yeah, because you know, a lot of people had died in that war, and Germany was the aggressor, along with Austria. And so he, and then he…and then it proved, because Wilson came back to the United States, and we didn’t join the League of Nations, which means that Wilson was the one who was out of touch with his people. And Churchill supported the League, but he thought that Wilson’s influence was disastrously impractical. And what Churchill thought about these politicians of the left, there are powerful hints in things that Churchill wrote, that he thought that of Franklin Roosevelt, although he was very careful always what he said about Roosevelt, including in the 30s when he wrote two articles extensively dealing with him. What he thought was that they were theoretical, and that they couldn’t see the truth, because they had these theories that drove them to do things that were not practically smart or theoretically sound.

HH: Who does that sound like?

LA: Yeah. You know, in an essay called Painting As A Pastime, which is one of the most revealing things about Churchill’s thought and also his abilities, he describes in a place where the French painters insist on painting their tree trunks with side to side strokes, and their seas with up and down strokes. He says it is as if they fall in love with their theories, and make sacrifices of truth to them. And you know, we are gripped now, stemming from Woodrow Wilson, in a grand plan to subject everything in the country to professional and scientific administration. And that’s why these laws that we pass now are so complex, because they want to cede to professional, remote, independent, tenured agencies the management of things. And that is the direct conflict with the Constitution of the United States, and this form of government. And it comes to a head on this question. What Madison says of the Constitution is that you need the structures and restraints of the Constitution, because men are not angels, and angels do not govern men. If you give anybody unaccountable power, over time, they will abuse it. Now the question is, are these independent agencies in fact trustworthy with the power that they have, especially when they are removed, as they are now, extensively, especially in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for example, when they are removed from popular control? And that’s the test, because what Woodrow Wilson and his friends claim is because of the power of science and scientific training, and disinterested administration, you don’t have to worry about that anymore. Men can behave, to use Madison’s terms, Wilson doesn’t say this, but put it in Madison’s terms, men can behave in this new system as if they were angels, because the system will produce fairness and the public interest from people who have power apart from those who are governed. That’s the claim. And that’s the test that we’re in, in America. And that test is unfolding, and it constitutes, in my opinion, one of the great crises in the history of the country.

HH: And it’s unfolding in real time. I mentioned earlier, and I misspoke. I said this morning. It was last night that Kathleen Sebelius was in Pittsburgh, and with Andy Rooney, the owner of the Steelers, and they all tried to enroll people, and everything flopped, and she blamed Heinz Field’s internet connection, and in fact, it’s because these massive exchanges don’t work. And I don’t know that they can actually be made to work, because they’re trying, well, we’ll come back after the break. We aren’t in the war, and obviously, the war will start next week, that with Winston Churchill. But I’ll come back and talk with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, about how that Wilson-Churchill tension that defined a lot of the 20th Century is back, front and center, this week, this weekend, as to whether or not we can trust technology, expertise and professionals to manage our lives for us, or better that they be gone.

—- – – – –

HH: Dr. Arnn, let me read this to you. “Kathleen Sebelius came to Pittsburgh Thursday to team up with Steelers chairman, Dan Rooney, to promote the newly-launched Obamacare exchanges.” This is from, our friend, Ed Morrissey. “Maybe she should have tried the Denver Broncos. The promotion flopped as badly as the Steelers in their first four weeks of the season, thanks to the $634 million dollars website that can’t make a play. ‘Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, had a front row view of the problems plaguing the website that the government established to allow people to shop for health insurance under Obamacare. Sebelius and Steelers chairman, Dan Rooney, were at an enrollment and education event Thursday at Heinz Field to promote But people who showed up encountered problems in signing up for coverage on the website. Believe me, we had some glitches. Sebelius, who was introduced by Rooney, a backer of the law. But it’s getting better every day. At the back of the room, it was a different story. About 20 people armed with laptops and certified by the government to sign up people for coverage were meeting with uninsured people, answering questions, and fruitlessly trying to access the website. Laquisha Lowry, 41, came to the event to find out about her health insurance options, but the North Side resident said she was not able to access the site, even with the help of a certified application counselor. It said try again later.’” And Larry Arnn, that’s been the story across the country.

LA: It’s, I’m no expert on Obamacare, and neither is anyone else.

HH: (laughing)

LA: But isn’t it true that the complexity of this thing is written in the fact that it depends upon management from a central source, away from the place where the actual transactions take place? So I’m in the education business. And I know a fair amount about it now, after years of working at it. And with Hillsdale College, we have some success. And what we know is the problems that come up in education are very near to the people who are trying to learn and teach. And you just have to work on those all the time. It’s not very hard to understand how to do it if you give your life to it, at least. But it’s hard to do. And so you want the authority near the people who do it. And so we’ve invented this system with these incredible complexities. And you know, George Will was here at Hillsdale this week. We had a big gala celebrations and kicked off a capital campaign, and it was a lot of fun. And Will did something I’ve never seen him do. He brought a copy of, I can’t remember which law. It doesn’t matter. Oh, it’s the immigration law. It’s about 1,100 pages long, and he flopped it down on the podium, and then he held up, this is something I’m very fond of doing myself, he held up the Homestead Act.

HH: Oh, I could have guessed that. That’s interesting. That is your favorite law to hold up.

LA: I just love that thing, right? And it’s 1,320 words long, and it gave away 10% of the land area of the United States. And the genius of the thing, it was signed by Abraham Lincoln, and the genius of the thing is it locates the authorities where they go. So you can have this free land, everybody can have it, anybody can have it. We’ve got no idea who’s going to have it. But they, on the other hand, have got to live on the land and work the land. And that’s not hard to verify. And it’s not the end of the world, by the way if it isn’t verified. Millions of people are going to get land. I think it was close to two million that got land. It might have been close to three. I’m forgetting now. And that’s, you know, a big percentage of the population of the United States. And they, and when it goes wrong, it won’t go terribly wrong. And it’s simple. And the health care laws could be like that, too, if they would just focus on placing the authority in the hands of the people whose bodies are being cared for, and in the hands of the people who care for those bodies.

HH: And this is, oh boy, there’s a Phoenix free Christian clinic which I go over and help occasionally, and built by people of their own volition, and staffed by doctors and nurses on their volunteer time. And it always, if you want to provide health care to poor people, provide health care to poor people by building places where poor people can go, and staffing them with doctors who can take care of poor people. But they haven’t done that, Larry Arnn. They’ve created a nightmare.

LA: That’s right, and you know, it’s a fact, as I understand it right now, it’s a fact that if you show up in an emergency room with a medical problem, every emergency room in America is required to treat you, whether you have any money or not.

HH: Yes.

LA: And that’s good. It’s a huge commitment, and hospitals work it into their budget best they can. But the truth is, large things are being done. And to pretend that they’re not being done, and make that an excuse for a complexity of the kind that we have passed, is the nature of modern government. And of course, the bill, I’m told, I haven’t read the bill, and neither has anyone else, but I’m told that the bill is full of unionization provisions so that health care workers have to be unionized in various ways. And if that’s true, you can see why they would put that in there, because the people who passed it get something for that, get something for their own careers and the standing of their own party. And it looks to me like, then, that the nature of this thing actually demonstrates what needs to be demonstrated, and that is that the people who run the government of the United States are still human, and they’re likely to act like humans.

HH: Yeah, even as Madison foretold. I’m going to keep Dr. Arnn one extra quick, little segment to conclude this special hour opening Friday, the October 11th show. We will do Churchill and the war next week. But we’re going to finish with Dr. Arnn’s thoughts on what Paul Ryan and his gang ought to be trying to achieve this weekend as they go into marathon negotiations with the executive and with their colleagues in the Senate, words of wisdom for our legislators from someone who’s spent his life studying that Congress, and that executive.

— – – – –

HH: I’m curious, Dr. Arnn, what your advice would be, especially to Chairman Ryan, and all the others who visit the Hillsdale Kirby Center on Capitol Hill, this weekend.

LA: Well, I’m, I think they have to navigate between two things. And let me enter a caveat, too. They’re doing this, and it’s very hard to do, and you and I are not. And that’s one reason why we have executive authority, and one reason, by the way, why decentralized government is good. You can’t really, we can’t do it for them. And so I liked your article in part because it’s got the right humility about it. These guys who disagree right now are both working for the same end, and they’re doing their best. Having said that, then, I think that there are two criteria, and they’re not very hard to know what they are. One is we do have to demonstrate that we are against this kind of government, and we favor the other kind, and we mean it. and then the second thing is we are not going to be responsible for the failure to protect the nation and do the things that it’s necessary for the government to do, and we’re not going to be responsible for defaulting on the government’s debt, which has never happened. And so they should work, and you know, I said earlier, I like the Ryan approach, and we’ll see how it plays out. But I would keep a mind to both those things as I tried to figure out what the devil to do, operating against incredibly hostile forces who are the aggressors here.

HH: Yeah. Dr. Larry Arnn, thank you for a wonderful hour. It will be available, as all the other Hillsdale Dialogue hours are, at You can go directly to for every one of our hour-long conversations each week, or you can access it via

End of interview.


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