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Dr. Larry Arnn On The GOP’s Way Forward In Congress In 2015

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HH: On this first Friday in ’15, I’m going to do an extended Hillsdale Dialogue with Hillsdale president, Dr. Larry Arnn, this hour, the balance of this hour and next, because we’ve got a lot to cover. Dr. Arnn, a Happy New Year to you.

LA: Happy New Year, Hugh.

HH: I want everyone to know they can go to and sign up for Imprimis. That should be your New Year’s resolution. Get on the game. And you can find all the Hillsdale Dialogues, we have now done this, our third year beginning, over at I have to begin, though, Dr. Arnn. You are an Arkansas man, which makes you an SEC guy. And you are the president of Hillsdale College in Michigan, which probably inclines you to be a Go Blue guy. Nevertheless, I hope you can join in the celebration over Ohio State’s triumph last night.

LA: (laughing) Well, you, like the Michigan State, dry up a lot. But I’ve been crowing about the Midwest for the last 48 hours, because gosh, we’re creaming them.

HH: Wisconsin, Michigan State, if my alma mater, Go Blue, actually was in a bowl, they might have even won. You’re right. So…

LA: You never know. You know, the playoffs, I don’t like jiggling with old things. Like I didn’t like the Bowl Championship Series. I didn’t like going to that thing. But the playoffs are showing promise, right, because it’s one thing to take a poll about who’s best, and it’s another thing to find out.

HH: Well, that is exactly, and I think, in fact, Bill Kristol tweeted out earlier today we have to add Urban Meyer to the list of vice presidential candidates, because we…

LA: (laughing) So like Michigan has now hired Harbaugh from California.

HH: A good man.

LA: And he’s originally a Michigan man.

HH: Yeah.

LA: So maybe those games are going to become meaningful again.

HH: And he’s a very good man. And this is not a passing question. I know you have to hire coaches yourself, because Hillsdale takes its athletics very carefully. And the character of coaches matters a lot. I think the reason a lot of people like Urban Meyer so much, and Nick Saban and others, is they see in there a sort of throwback to an old masculinity and purposefulness that you don’t see much anymore.

LA: Yeah, football is, you know, a very troubled sport with concussions and all that stuff. But also, it’s important, because it’s assertive, and that’s not a bad thing if it’s under constraint. And sports can teach that if you have the right coaches. I’m blessed here. We pay a lot of attention to that, just like hiring faculty, and we’ve got some very good people. And we try to take care of the students. I like to say the purpose of sports, we have a slogan that we have up in a big place in our gym. It says that the purpose of sports is to demonstrate the moral and intellectual excellences in the players and in those who watch. And that means that’s the prime purpose. And then I’ll say, and I repeat that all the time. And in addition, I’ll say and you know the other thing about sports is they keep score.

HH: (laughing) You’re right. What’s that old saying about the playing fields of Eton, right? There is something to be said about that. In any event, it is not frivolous. I’m curious, though, do you interview every head coach that is hired at Hillsdale?

LA: Most of them, I do, yeah.

HH: That’s interesting. I wouldn’t have thought that that was the case. All right, now here’s what I want to talk to you about this hour and next, and it’s a short segment followed by a long, followed by a short, followed by a very long. It was two years ago, I believe, next week, that you spoke to the Republican House Conference. Am I right about my date?

LA: That’s right, yeah.

HH: And you were invited down there, and people were upset. They were upset, because Mitt Romney had lost. They had hung onto their majority, but was it fair to say there was quite a lot of beleaguered looks in the room?

LA: Oh, yeah. And you know, my opinion is the Republicans in the House have improved and become more united with time. And I’m not saying they’re great. I’m saying they’re better. And they’re interested in being better. And they’re afraid, like the rest of us, about the trends, and they are afraid that they’re slipping out of hand, and they’re afraid that they can’t do anything about it. And they’re trying, most of them, and sometimes, recently, effectively, I think.

HH: Now I have got a copy of your remarks from the hyper-competent Kyle in my hands. Were they off the record? Or can I refer to them as though they were not?

LA: Yes and no. I don’t really know whether they are or not. Go ahead.

HH: Okay, well what I’ll say is, I’ll paraphrase then.

LA: Yeah.

HH: And it is reported to me by reliable sources that Dr. Arnn at the time said something like this. It’s a formidable thing for me to be with you this morning. I honor and respect you. I am only one of the few people in the country who does.

LA: (laughing)

HH: And you get, it reports, laughter at that moment. So they did have a sense of humor about their position.

LA: Yeah, well, and here’s what I meant by that. I’m not a partisan of the Republican Party, certainly not in my station, and not generally. But the political process in America is hallowed and extremely important. And people who hold offices under it, when they try to take them seriously, in my opinion, are worthy of respect and the benefit of the doubt. And you know, there’s a big partisan divide in America today, and neither party is really very good, in my opinion. But one of them is more for smaller government than the other one, and I like that one better.

— – – —

HH: Dr. Arnn, back to the speech you made two years ago. The Republicans are going to have a joint retreat next week, or the week thereafter, I guess it’s maybe two weeks, between Senate and House. And they have to try and get an agenda together. And it seems to me that it’s a good time to review what you told just the House two years ago, because the problems are the same, are they not?

LA: Yeah, they are. There’s a kind of a big abiding problem, and that is liberal societies are a modern invention. And you know, to me, modern goes back a long way. But it means that most things in this society happen outside the government according to the wishes of the people who do them. And that kind of society presents all kinds of challenges, and it makes one thing important that didn’t used to be important, and that is the balance between the government, and the society, because if the society is to remain independent, it must be in control of the government. And for it to do that, it needs to be bigger than the government. But the government is very big now, and in economic terms, approaches half of the gross domestic product of the country if you include the regulatory costs, which is a source of great influence for the government, it probably exceeds half. So the question is, how can the society keep its independence? And we see breakdowns in the rule of law that have become more acute since two years ago. And that’s a sign of a government that acts of its own increasingly. And it claims to act in the name of the people and for the benefit of the people, but it’s not really acting, in many respects, under the authority of the people anymore. It has its own authority. And that seems to me a big problem, a very big problem.

HH: There’s one chapter in that very big problem playing out in New York City as we speak at the beginning of 2015, and I just thought I’d get your thoughts on it, because it’s sparked some commentary on the right about the police turning their backs on de Blasio, with some commentators saying that’s a horrible thing that suggests an independent will. What if troops were to change, turn their backs on the commander-in-chief? I hadn’t thought about that. And I began to think, you know, that’s interesting. What do you think about that, Larry Arnn?

LA: Well, cops are not quite like soldiers, which have a monopoly on force. I understand why they did it, by the way.

HH: Sure. Absolutely, I understand it. I’m sympathetic. I was supportive, and now I’m just rethinking whether or not it is right, given this column that I read.

LA: Well, if you deploy force under the authority of American law, you have to show the respect to the people who are elected. That’s what that argument is.

HH: Yes.

LA: And that argument traces back to the example of George Washington, and you know, because he made such a record of assembling for himself enormous esteem as well as power, and then resigning and giving it back to the people.

HH: Not once, but twice.

LA: That’s right. And he, so that tradition, you need that, right, because the whole question of constitutionalism is this. How do you assemble enough force to protect the people and their rights from enemies foreign and domestic and have that force, however, not be used against them and their rights, and their lawful activities? And so this thing that is brought up is a serious thing. Maybe they shouldn’t have done that.

HH: And on the other hand, it is clearly communicated that there’s a crisis in the government of New York City when the Mayor, by word or deed encourages lawlessness, in essence.

LA: Yeah, and see, that’s, you know, that’s a problem, right, because you know, if you take these crises, I know you’ve been talking about them a lot lately, these race crises that are coming up from police activity in two cities in America at least. And the American people, they need to cultivate, and they don’t seem to do it as much as they used to do, and their leaders certainly don’t, they need to cultivate, find out the facts. Innocent until proven guilty. You know, over the holidays, I’m busy making the final revisions to my book, which is back for the second time now. And so I haven’t had enough time as I wish, but they show a lot of old Westerns. And what are they like? They’re always about law and order, and they’re very often in them, thematically in them, questions of the rule of law. And people get a fair trial. And people don’t make up their minds until that trial. And there are people around who do make up their minds. And those people are identified as bad people.

HH: Yeah.

LA: And so this whole thing, you know, I mean, in Ferguson and in New York City, this, you know, and there’s been deaths, and two of the deaths are cops in New York City, and there have been private people shot and killed by policemen. And the question is what are the facts?

HH: And they are of an enormous variety. There is no one set of facts. Every single one of these situations requires deliberate, purposeful, careful consideration of the constellation of circumstances.

LA: That’s right. You know, I’ll demonstrate with a historical example how the facts matter, and this is about a politician. So Calvin Coolidge becomes the president of the United States partly, and significantly on the strength of his actions in the Boston police strike, because the Boston Police were organized, and they were shutting down parts of the city, and they were making demands. And they were striking. And Coolidge stepped in and stopped it, and replaced them all. And he said the famous lines, there’s no right to strike against the public interest, anytime, anyplace by anyone. And so that’s one set of facts. The second set of facts is you’ve got a mayor, and he’s condemning the police. And he’s condemning them before he can really know what happened, because the question of what happened takes some time to find out. You know, in a college, for example, you know, you get, things happen. And sometimes, kids do something wrong. Sometimes, somebody is harmed. And you have to find out what happened. And that, you can’t find that out in an hour.

— – – —

HH: Dr. Arnn, when we were going to break, we were talking about New York City and the respect for authority, and whether or not what is going on there has implications for all of us. But across the board in the United States as 2015 opens, there is a deep cynicism about government. Is this unique to these times?

LA: Well, it dates, you know, opinion polling goes back to sometime around the Second World War. But there was a marked change in the disposition of people toward the federal government especially beginning in the 60s. And it has become acute. And it’s very pronounced now. And I think that that dates with the development of centralized, bureaucratic rule in America. If the rules are very complex, and if there’s shifting, and if you can’t be sure what’s going to happen to you when you hear from the law, and if whatever happens is likely to be expensive and damaging, innocent or guilty, then you know, people mistrust that kind of government. And nobody likes the Department of Motor Vehicles.

HH: Oh, you know, over the holidays, I was approached by some landowners about a piece of property that they wish to redevelop. And they were very innocent of the way things are. And it’s a large piece, and it’s in the coastal zone of California. And they suggested that perhaps a year would be enough to begin this process. And I laughed, and I laughed and I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. And I said I’m sorry, you’re talking four or five years, you’re talking millions and millions of dollars. And I think many people are just surprised that do not live their life, especially media people, Larry Arnn, who generally do live free of government constraint. They’re the only ones who live free of government constraint, really.

LA: Boy, I tell you what, they use that freedom, too, don’t they? That’s, and see, that kind of thing, you know, years ago, when I was first getting to know you, Hugh, I was on a presidential commission about housing affordability, and the guy sitting next to me was the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, a very successful mayor named Abraham. We sat in alphabetical order. And in Chicago, we heard testimony from a fellow who said that it can take nine months now, and cost $5,000 dollars, to get permission to develop a housing development. And the mayor leaned over to me and said you know, when they exaggerate, they undercut their case. And I said Mayor, we’re about to go take testimony in California. And if you won’t believe this, you’re never going to believe it there.

HH: You’re never going to believe that. By the end of the sitting of the commission, had he come to understand?

LA: Oh, yeah. And he, I like him. His last name’s Abraham, good guy. His name, I used to go to Lexington, and his picture would be up in the airport.

HH: It is remarkable, and we’ll save this for next hour. Part of the crisis is everything about which America is justifiably proud – Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, the Interstate Highway System, none of it could get built today.

LA: That’s right.

HH: Isn’t that remarkable?

— – — – –

HH: What is the next issue or the past issue going to have in it, Dr. Arnn?

LA: Well, the immediate past issue is me.

HH: That’s very good.

LA: And I talk about the crisis we’re in, and why it is, why it has to take a long time to settle something like what we’re in right now. And I mentioned two previous crises. And I don’t know what’s going to be in the next one. Doug Jeffrey hasn’t told me, yet.

HH: Okay, well then, people need to go and get it for themselves, Imprimis. Just sign up for it at And if you enjoy these dialogues, and have, all of them are still available, and will be, online, at If you want the transcripts, they’re all transcribed as well over at’s transcript page. Dr. Arnn, when we went to break, I was telling you that last Tuesday, Jonathan Alter, a man of the left but a friend, a good friend of mine, and an presidential historian, had been to see the Nixon Library, and he called me up to tell me about that. And we were chatting on air. And he said you know, Hugh, the Republicans were originally Whigs, and the Whigs believed in internal improvements. And if you were really part of the Republican party of Lincoln, you would support President Obama in his support for infrastructure spending. And I didn’t have time to point out to him that no matter what the ideal is, Jerry Brown’s you know, train to nowhere, or anything, any public project, nothing gets done in this country because of this vast bureaucracy of ineptitude and inertia.

LA: Yeah, and see, look at the cost of that in time. It’s significant. But I was thinking about your friends who came to see you about developing their property. It’s going to cost them millions of dollars. And so first of all, that money’s going to be spent on that. And that’s, you know, that’s a loss to the economy, you know, unless, by the way, you regard that as really valuable. But one thing that these people could do, by the way, if they don’t have the money, is they could go and make a deal with the developer, who would have the money and spend the money and take the time, and of course, he would get most of the gain.

HH: Yup.

LA: And attorneys, like your good self, for example, would get most of the gain. And that activity means that that property, whatever is finally built there, consumed much greater resources than it would if they just built it.

HH: Sure, the rent seekers all along the way, and the Land Use Bar would be among them, and I’ve said this for years, and every environmental consultant, and every planning official who’s charging fees, and every traffic consultant who’s, you know, contributing there, they’re all rent seekers on that property.

LA: That’s right, and you, one more, you hire experts, you know, the college hires them all the time. And what they do is they help you remain in compliance. And your choices are spend all your own time doing that, or hire expensive people who cut back the amount of time you have to spend doing that. And if that’s what you do, that’s what you are, see? And that’s, you know, in the college business, for example, our constituents are our students. We have these students, right, and then the public which supports us. And so we like to think that we spend our time, and we get pretty good at dealing with those two, and being of service to them in a way that they value. And then now there are third-party regulations, none of whom work in education, and they make rules. And you spend a lot of time conforming to those rules. And very often, just like in every other business in America, you scratch your head and think gracious sakes, you know why would this be good? How would this help make our college or any college any better?

HH: Oh, the explosion over the last month of inquiry in to the University of Virginia’s fraternities, and allegations subsequently proven to be completely malicious and fabricated about individuals who didn’t exist, but they had collateral damage. And it launched a thousand missiles at a thousand campuses, Larry Arnn.

LA: Oh, sure, and see that’s the point about the rule of law again. Like if there’s an allegation on the campus, well, I’ll tell you about one. In recent days, I had somebody say that they had heard that something had happened at one of our fraternities, not anything like what happened at Virginia, but the kind of thing we wouldn’t have. And so I called in the chief of the staff into the office right then. And he’s involved with that fraternity, just happened to be handy right there by me, and I said what about this. And he said well, the president of the fraternity is coming in, in a minute. And I called in the president, and then we’re all sitting there. And I said here’s what, tell him what you heard, and then young man said oh, no, sir, we don’t do that. What it was about was drinking upstairs.

HH: Yeah.

LA: And you know, with minors there.

HH: Yeah.

LA: And I said you’re confident? And he said oh, yeah. And I looked at the boy, and I said so you heard this report, and you’re not telling me who gave it to you, and you don’t have to if you heard it in confidence, but what do you think? You believe this? And he said no. I said so you go back to the person who told you this, and tell him what you just heard. And if he has evidence about this, then me and him, and the president of the fraternity will get back together, and we’ll talk about it.

HH: Interesting.

LA: And so the point is you’ve got to find out, right? And this kind of thing, you know, and you know, I can tell you in dealing with college students, generally you can find out. At Hillsdale College, you can find out, because they don’t lie to us, and we don’t lie to them.

HH: It’s absolutely true in a law school setting as well, at Chapman Law School. You can find out what you need to know if you’re careful and you ask the right way. Now Dr. Arnn, in your speech two years ago to the Republican leadership, you also said something that was very interesting. I’ll paraphrase it. Mitt Romney’s 47% remark was imprudent and indecent, not the man, but the remark. Imprudent, because of course, it injured the campaign, indecent because it targeted the wrong people. It did not target the elites, who are in fact the problem, not the beneficiaries of government largesse, but those who have operated the system. And this ties into a conversation I had over the holidays as well about the K Street problem. I’m part of the K Street problem, because my law firm’s got an office on K Street. But what they mean by that is it’s becoming Rome. And nothing is as it seems, and everything is string-pulled.

LA: And see, given the way things are in the country, so here’s, you know, here’s what I think. It’s a simple, little thing. I think in general, ordinary folk, and a majority of them, a big majority of them, are basically pretty reliable, although they don’t think much about government. When they do, their thoughts are pretty simple. I think the problem started with, and has grown amongst, and become acute amongst, elite educated, the intelligentsia. You can just trace the movements of progressivism from two universities out into the world, and now dominate most universities. And so you have to be able to appeal to the common sense of ordinary people. And it’s good if you know a lot, because you can teach them things. But things that you teach them are likely to fall on receptive ears. And so you just be careful if you’re, you know, in politics, at insulting a large percentage of the American people. And that’s the part that I thought wasn’t right. I think you, you know, I saw, I study Winston Churchill a lot. And what Winston Churchill witnessed in his life was the democratization of Great Britain. And he came into Parliament the same time the Socialist Party did. And the Socialists predicted that once Britain was fully democratic, then socialism was inevitable. And it’s certainly true that first, the country became fully democratic, and then the Socialists were elected over Churchill. So their prediction was right. Now Churchill didn’t think that their explanations of cause and effect were right.

HH: Yeah.

LA: And he always kept to the principle. One of his favorite things to say was have faith in the British people. And he would say politicians owe them candor. They have to tell them what they think. And so you have to trust them. And see, you don’t just have to trust them about that judgment I made, that there’s more hope among ordinary people than there is among the intelligentsia. You also have to hold them in respect and treat them with respect if you think that in fact, they have a right to govern themselves. And if you think that, then you have to respect that right. And so that’s what I didn’t like about that statement.

— – – – –

HH: Dr. Arnn, yesterday, Mario Cuomo died, on the same day his son, Andrew Cuomo, was sworn in as governor for his second term, very sort of sad, melancholy thing. But it also occurred to me that this is an era in which families, more than any other time in America, I think, are having legatees in their children to power, whether it’s Clinton or Cuomo or Kennedy or Bush. It just seems to happen more now. What do you make of that trend? Am I right that that’s unique?

LA: Well, it’s partly a public relations thing, right? In other words, mass name ID is a big deal. In Lincoln’s day, or you know, before the mass media, what happened was you built support among the people around you, and it spread, you know, through a political party if you’re running for president. And it mattered what section of the country you were from. You could win support from other sections. Lincoln did, for example, because he was from a swing state. And then your speeches mattered a lot. And these guys get their name in the media a lot, you know, and it’s a famous name. It’s a recognizable name. And so that gives them a leg up. I think that’s part of it.

HH: It is. The other thing I wanted to return to from last segment, when we covered in the first year of the dialogues Plutarch, you kept pushing me to move on. I would have stayed there. We’d probably still be there. But one person we didn’t cover was Marcus Crassus. And the famous thing about Crassus, and I’m reading from Plutarch here, the Romans, it is true, say that the many virtues of Crassus were obscured by the sole vice, his sole vice of avarice. It is likely that one vice, which became stronger than all the others in him, weakened the rest. And he was, he just wanted to own everything, and more money than anyone had ever had before. And he probably achieved it before he went off and got slaughtered by the Persians, or the Parthians, or whoever he got slaughtered by. And now in Washington, D.C., there is that element of people making enormous money because of who they know and how they know it, Larry Arnn.

LA: Well, that’s, you know, that’s right. And if you leave a high station, or a station we are connected to somebody at a high station, you have a marketable thing, and people make millions. And you know, you need it if you’re going to live in that town.

HH: There used to be profiteering committees, though. After World War I, I believe, Truman chaired one. And then there was another one after World War II, if I’m not mistaken, where they looked into who profited from this. You think it would be appropriate to have a profiteering…and just who’s making money on government?

LA: Well, you know, it’s hard to regulate, because the government’s so big, see? And so you know, look at it this way. Here’s why, by the way, limited government, ultimately we have to restore it, and nothing will do except that. That’s why it has to be done, because if you pass rules, you know, because ethics rules today are very complex. And you know, if you give somebody worth, like you can’t give a Congressional staffer a meal worth more than six dollars.

HH: Right, they have to stand up to eat. That’s called the stand up rule.

LA: And there’s all kinds of things like that, right? And that tends to make the government less approachable. And then, of course, people who can organize and interpret the rules, and get themselves all set up, they have more influence than ordinary folk. It’s much harder to go into the Capitol than it used to be. And you know, and that, the Capitol was built with those wide steps going up a hill, and big doors in the front, because the Rotunda was to be a gathering place for the people of America whenever they were near the government.

HH: Yes.

LA: And so that’s been restricted, and so you see, if you live in an age where something north of 40% of the gross domestic product is deployed through the government, then a lot of powerful people use a lot of sophisticated means to get close to it.

HH: And that is, is that the crisis that in fact is its own organism now. It’s not of the people, by the people, for the people. That’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché in the greatest speech given in American history about the greatest document that gave rise to that history.

LA: That’s right, and so you know, the crisis has two subsets, in my opinion. Two things are different about America and government. And one of them is the entitlement state. And the other is the regulatory state. And those two things are new. They didn’t exist 50 years ago, and now they’re massive. And they have to be reformed. And the entitlement state, it looks to me like, can be reformed in a way that gives people real security in accounts that they have contributed to. That’s more or less what Paul Ryan’s plan is. And there will be transition costs and lots of things, but much more security and independence could be won than we have now with much less money. And the regulatory state, that needs to be devolved. And there’s just an enormous army now of people. You know, look, 2015, 2014 has been the year of presidential lawlessness, in my opinion, to a very large extent. And goodness sake, in the 2012 election, the Internal Revenue Service was denying applications to form groups on what looks like partisan ground.

HH: Yes, yes.

LA: And then they lost the evidence for that, and have not recovered it, yet. So look at that. That’s a danger. And that means that the government is interested in the outcome of elections, and has the means to influence them.

HH: And in fact the, over the holidays was released, the list of the 20 largest contributors to the election, and it was very fundamentally astonishing that it was only number 8 or 9 was the Chamber of Commerce, and the Koch Brothers, I don’t think, made the top ten. It’s mostly public employee unions. There is Tom Steyer. There are a few other individuals on the left with enormous amounts of money. But it’s mostly unions. And they are not, they’re not pursuing an ideology so much as they are pursuing the financial interests of their membership.

LA: Well, the two are the same, because there’ll be more jobs, and there’ll be more pay, and there’ll be more promotion if the government is larger.

HH: And that is a cycle that doesn’t stop. And you know that, and I know that from California. But it’s now transferred over. So when we come back from break, but I’ll get the first start of it here, the Republicans are about to come in. They have a majority. So they have more power than when you talked to them two years ago. But they still don’t have enough power to do what they want to get done. So how do they communicate that, that they are in a position of more authority, but not enough?

LA: Well, they, you know, there are two kinds of things they can do. They can pass a bunch of bills that are good, and get the President to veto them. And that makes a public record. And then they can run on that. And then the second kind of thing they can do, they started to do. And it’s ugly, and it bears some good fruit. They need to pass a proper budget. And that means that they have to do appropriations bills. And those are big and ugly and messy, and they’ve been doing continuing resolutions instead of those. But they can exercise more authority of where the money is spent in the executive branch of they do that. And they can attach riders to those bills. They can get some good things done. And you know, then, hopefully people can understand this. I’ll try to explain it clearly.

HH: We’ll come back. Let’s come back after the break so that we can lay down a good six minutes on how this works, because this is the key. So it speed, by the way. And Republicans are again moving at an elephant-like pace.

— – – —

HH: So speaking to them, then, about this budget, and to our audience about its importance, why does it matter that they do it this way, Larry Arnn?

LA: Well, if you pass a continuing resolution, what that does is it funds the government. And the categories under which it funds it are very broad. And that leaves the executive branch free to move money around. And if you pass appropriations bills, and you make them as detailed as possible, then the money goes to this place and that place. And then you can also put things in such a bill that the President has to veto the whole bill to get rid of. And that, and you know, you can put good things in there, like you don’t want money spent for Obamacare…

HH: National Public Radio…

LA: And you don’t want money spent to implement the immigration action of the President. Well then, you negotiate about that thing, about those things, and you’re likely to get some of them, because otherwise, you’re going to be able to say that the president has shut down the government on issue X or Y. And so the Congress has abdicated that authority for a long time now. And the Senate hasn’t passed a proper budget, I think it passed one last year, but it hadn’t done it for five or six years.

HH: And this will be the first budget that will actually be agreed upon by both sides.

LA: That’s right.

HH: By the House and Senate, and therefore, the appropriations, but Larry Arnn, they do not move fast…you know, Tom Price is a good man, Paul Ryan at Ways and Means, you know, Kevin McCarthy well. These are good people. But there is a culture in D.C. that says we’ll get to the budget in April. What is it about the need for speed that Republicans have never understood?

LA: Well, if they do a good budget, they’ve got a lot of work to do, because the government is so big. You know, it’s trillions, 15, something like that, I don’t know, 13. And they need to get at it, and they need to develop a common way of thinking about it. And the question before the House is not just how do you put the President in a bad spot. That will certainly come up. But in addition, the question is how would you begin the conversion of this country back to a limited and constitutional government? And that raises a whole bunch of questions about how you achieve better the things that are achieved badly today, to the extent that they’re achieved, like I talked about those entitlement programs. Paul Ryan has plans about that. And the House has been passing those plans. The Senate should pass plans that are like that, and they should send bills to the President, and let him veto them.

HH: And then allow the next two years to be about which vision will triumph. At the same time, though, we have to not only order our domestic house, we have to repair the standing of the country in the world. Speaking of Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton, both of them believe in a vigorous regime of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which may in fact have a veto-proof majority behind it. What do you think about that being the first or second thing on the agenda?

LA: It’s a good idea. And you know, and see, foreign policy is harder for the Congress to affect than domestic policy, and domestic policy is hard enough. But something like that, some bright line things, you know, and the President is making some international agreements about carbon emissions and stuff like that. And through a good budget, at least implementation of those could be defunded, or at least you could make a fight about it. And so they’ve got opportunities to do a lot of good.

HH: I have a question for you. The President has made this agreement on emissions. What do you make about the Senate, since it has a treaty-making power, taking it up sua sponte and turning it down sua sponte? In other words, he’s not going to submit it as a treaty. But they can read about it in the federal register, and they could simply introduce it as a treaty and then reject it.

LA: Yeah, that’s right. And then you know, and again, they have some power to change what’s in the federal register, of course, but the President has to sign it. And they would need a veto-proof majority, and they’re not going to have that. And see, the country is still poised on a fine balance, right?

HH: Oh, yes.

LA: …because the election was good for the Republicans this time. One of the things I say in my current Imprimis article is there have been a series of wave elections in recent years, and they go both ways. And so I think the country is having a lot of trouble making up its mind, and seeing a way through. I think they’re very unhappy. But I think they haven’t resolved with a sufficient force and consistency to change the way things are.

HH: That’s very, and when we come back for our last segment, I want to talk about judges specifically in the context of what are we telling the people about the judges, and what ought the new Republican Senate to do about the judges.

— – – – –

HH: So let me ask you, Dr. Arnn, in the last show of the year, on New Year’s Eve, I had the Smart Guys – Erwin Chemerinsky, John Eastman. And they are smart guys. Erwin’s a man of the left, of course, so he’s smart, but wrong. And John’s a man of the right, so he’s smart, but right. And I asked them for predictions. And they both predicted that the Supreme Court will take up the issue of marriage, which is itself astonishing, and will decide it. And I have to agree with Erwin it’s highly likely that they will decide that marriage must be available to people of the same gender everywhere in America immediately. And they’ll take up Obamacare, and they’ll decide whether or not risk corridors were written into the law, and they’ll probably get that one right. So one right, one wrong. Nevertheless, there is this extraordinary amount of power in the judiciary, and it’s been packed by President Obama by the breaking of the filibuster rule. I don’t want one more judge confirmed. But I don’t think that’s a tenable position unless Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn and others stand up and explain it. What do you think?

LA: Well, the judicial process is, the confirmation process has been in a mess for a long time, because here’s what they do. They are unable to ask questions to solicit the general opinion of the Constitution of the candidate, of the nominee. And so they ask the lightning bolt questions, the lightning rod questions. They ask abortion, and they ask gay marriage, and they ask where are you on this. And then the answer they get back is I can’t say.

HH: Yeah, that would be dispositive of a case that might come before the Court.

LA: That’s right. So what they should, one thing they should do for sure is they should become skillful at exploring what limits do you, your honor, find in the Constitution on the authority of the government to act? And then you should explore a bunch of areas of policy, not particular issues. Can they do this? Can they do this? What can’t they do?

HH: That’s interesting. Have you written about this?

LA: No, I don’t think I have.

HH: That’s interesting. This is a good, it would be a very revealing and very different approach to what has been perceived as the appropriate confirmation question and answer ballet.

LA: Well, name me something under the Constitution, under the Commerce Clause, that the federal government cannot do. And then ask them a series of questions about things that it’s been said they can do, like for example, stop you from growing something to eat yourself, because it’s engaged in interstate commerce. And ask about that, and then go into that. The Commerce Clause and the 14th Amendment and the Bill of Rights are full of things like that. And what do you understand of the whole structure of the Constitution? I would ask them in detail about the issues that arise in those several court cases about Obama’s actions that are done around the Congress where the Supreme Court has overruled all or nearly all of them. And I would say what about the executive power? What about the legislative power? And I would, you know, and in other words, that’s what you want in a judge, as it turns out, somebody who understands that stuff, and has a reverence for the Constitution. Ask them how do you understand the meaning of the Constitution? Does it evolve? Or is there some fixity to it?

HH: But I want to come back to the general question of making a blanket statement. Out here in the state that you abandoned, California. Governor Brown has just made his third announcement of an appointment to the California Supreme Court, Leondra Kruger, 38. She has not, barely made the ten years of practice requirement in the California Constitution. She’s been in D.C. for the last six years with the Obama administration in the Department of Justice. She is obviously quite a woman of the left, following two law school professors. So Jerry Brown has appointed absolutely three hard left people to the California Supreme Court who will be there as long as you and I are alive, in all likelihood, and far into the future beyond that. You know, the state really can’t survive that. And the country really can’t survive any more liberal judges, Larry Arnn. They’re taking over the country. They are in fact the administrators or the guardians, Plato would call them, of the bureaucratic state.

LA: Well, you have to have a reason, right? You can’t just say I’m not going to let him appoint any more judges, nominate any, and I’m not going to approve any more nominees. The Constitution says he can do it, and says it’s your duty to approve them or not approve them. So my point was in response to that, is you have to establish some ground. And you could make it a ground that’s somewhere where they have to answer the questions, right, because the judges, see, most Supreme Court decisions today, I am told by people who have clerked on the Supreme Court, are ruled 9-0. And they are, almost all of the cases the Court hears, they are matters of law that don’t involve big political implications.

HH: Sure, copyright and all sorts of banking issues. Yes.

LA: That’s right. So the point is they’re controversial when they deal with the actual operation of the Constitution as a governing document. And they have the power to overrule, in this particular case before them, a statute or an act of Congress or a state, if they find it conflicts with the Constitution. And that’s a necessary deduction from the fact that the Constitution is the only law ever passed by the people, and is the supreme law of the land. So the question is what do they understand by the operation of that document? And there’s a lot of smart people in the Judiciary Committee. It wouldn’t take long for them to write down what they’re looking for, and question them. And if they don’t find the answer satisfactory, then don’t confirm them.

HH: And vote that way, and say we are not sending you for this reason, because almost certainly, he’ll send up some trial lawyers who are just fine. But I’m looking for ground on which the Republicans can stand and be understood by the public as to what they’re doing.

LA: If they couple the case about the meaning of the Constitution, you see, the Constitution is a written document. And that means it’s not folklore that evolves, right? You can read it. It’s not very long. And so if they think it means something, then the will of the people, as is expressed in the founding, remains sovereign. But if they think it evolves with evolving standards, and they’re the interpreters of that, then they really are ruling.

HH: And they ought not to be confirmed. Dr. Larry Arnn, a great first Hillsdale Dialogue. I knew we needed the extra time. I appreciate that you had it available today. For everything Hillsdale, go to on this first Friday in ’15.

End of interview.


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