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Dr. Larry Arnn On Hugh’s Interview of Donald Trump

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HH: It is the last radio hour of the week, and I am Hugh Hewitt. And this is the Hillsdale Dialogue for the first time in many weeks. Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, is back from his travels. And we are able to return to the Hillsdale Dialogue, our elevated hour of the radio week, the last hour of the radio week where we turn our eyes back on Western Civilization and at least to the founders’ principles, and we try and make sense of what’s going on around us. Dr. Arnn, welcome back. for all things Hillsdale. All of these dialogues dating back to when we began with Homer four years ago are available at If they are debilitated by the summer of rhetoric that has not exactly been inspiring, they can go to and find all of our dialogues back to Homer. How were your past two weeks?

LA: Well, I rose a motorcycle across the country with my son and some other people, and I went on a cruise, the college had a cruise in Alaska. All that was really great.

HH: And on that cruise to Alaska, you probably had 50, 100 conversations about the campaign?

LA: Well, there were 200 people with us on the cruise, so I had 200 conversations.

HH: And of those 200 conversations, who would you, because this is going to be a great group of people. These are going to be supporters of Hillsdale College, correct?

LA: Yeah, yeah.

HH: So they’re going to be good people, patriots, true and straight, the North Star being saving the country. What do they think about Campaign 2016?

LA: Well, it’s wild. Everything thinks it’s wild. You know, the polls suggest that Trump is behind, right, seven or eight points, and so most people are for Trump, and so, and you know, I think Trump may win, myself. And I think it’s too early to tell about these polls. I think Reagan was behind more than this at this stage. And I think these debates are going to be important, if everybody’s not watching football. And I noticed a poll this week myself, which I talked about, and I hadn’t really, we didn’t, the cruise was not about this campaign. The cruise was mostly about where the Constitution stands and what you would do about it. But there was, of course, lots of talk of the campaign, especially around the dinner table. But you know, I saw a poll that, where they focused grouped and polled Hillary’s convention speech against Trump’s. And Trump’s speech polls way higher than Hillary’s speech. And so you know, wow, look at what’s going on in the world. I mean, you know, Donald Trump says things that a lot of people take to be crazy, but well, look what’s going on in the world. I mean, there’s a war on, and it’s getting worse every day. And who’s going to do anything about that? So that’s going to tell, I think.

HH: I find that we are between two candidates. One is eccentric, erratic and often irascible. The other one is conspiratorial, she is compromised, often sinister. The one provides complete access, the other none at all. The one drives ratings, and thus coverage, both good and bad, and the other hides.

LA: Yeah.

HH: And this creates an unusual dynamic. I was on with Lawrence O’Donnell last night, and I had to correct him, because he was declaring it over, and I pointed out well, now, Iowa, Florida and Ohio are statistical ties. And if you have statistical ties in Iowa, Florida and Ohio, you have a very close race. He was pointing to the fact that Secretary Clinton is ahead in Georgia, which is a traditional redoubt of strength, and in Utah, where the Mormon factor is unusual, and we should talk about that. But what I’d like to do with you, Dr. Arnn, is play, I had Mr. Trump on the phone, on a conservation with me yesterday, created more media for this show than we have ever had because of what he had to say, but only in part. And I wanted to walk through the various exchanges with him and get your reaction to them if that’s okay with you.

LA: Okay.

HH: This is the first one on judges, cut number six:

HH: All right, now the NeverTrump movement says, I’ve been writing about how important the Supreme Court is.

DT: Are they still around?

HH: (laughing) Well, I’ve been writing about the Supreme Court a lot, and they keep telling me we can’t trust Trump on his list of 11, and I wrote hey, you don’t have to trust Trump. If he departs from the list, I trust you, by the way, but if he departs, Mitch McConnell can block your nominee. First, can we trust you to live by that list? And second, if you didn’t, would McConnell be justified in blocking your nominee?

DT: Yeah, number one, I’m going to live by that list or very close to it. It is possible there’ll be somebody outside of that list that has very similar principles, and I think you don’t want to totally preclude that. But the answer is yes, I’m living by the list, and yes, he can do whatever he wants, because it’ll be either that list or somebody that is very close to it. In fact, I’m thinking about actually naming four or five more people to the list. You know, we had it vetted from The Federalist Society, and we had, and actually got the names from the Federalist, and that’s considered pretty much the gold standard. We have Jim DeMint and his group…

HH: At Heritage, yeah.

DT: …knows those names and respect those names. I have a lot of respect for Jim DeMint. And we have, you know, we have a great list. It’s a great list of people. Yeah, I mean, if we veered from that, I would say block it, and I would be very happy with that. And I wouldn’t even fight it, because I won’t have to.

HH: What do you think of that, Dr. Larry Arnn?

LA: Well, I think Trump is going to appoint conservative judges. He says he is. But on the point can you trust him, well, can you trust Hillary Clinton? The answer is yes, you can. You know, what kind she’s going to appoint.

HH: Yup.

LA: And so if you care about this issue, you’ve got to think that the chances are better with the guy who has, you know, can you think of a time when a nominee to the [presidency] has named the kind of judges with a bunch of names that he’s going to appoint? Yeah, I think he’s, that looks to me like he’s been clear about that.

HH: He has, and he has empowered the Senate Majority Leader, and they keep that power as a minority even if they were to lose it, to block him. He has legitimized that. And I find that the NeverTrumpers don’t want to deal with this reality that you just described, Dr. Arnn, which is that the Court is doomed under Hillary Clinton. It may not be, in fact, it looks pretty good under Donald Trump. Their response is you can’t trust him. My response to that is that’s not serious.

LA: Here’s a factor to think. Does anybody think, you know, the Republican Court nominees have not been consistently good, right?

HH: Correct.

LA: There are problems. Does anybody think that Donald Trump will fail to do something he said he would do because he’s afraid, because he doesn’t ever seem to be afraid, to me.

HH: No, that’s true.

LA: So sometimes, you know, there’s a lot of pressure, and there will be very large amounts of pressure. There are on the president. And they, you know, just, we think of George Bush the elder and the tax thing. Read my lips, he said, at the convention. And he wasn’t, they’re going to bring me taxes, and I’m going to say no, and they’re going to bring them again, and I’ll say no, and they’re going to bring them again, and I’ll say no. Read my lips, right? And then he signed a tax increase. And he said to the journalist, and effectively to the American people, read my hips. Now wow, and that means we haven’t had consistency. And we’re afraid Donald Trump is not going to be consistent? Well, you know, I don’t know if he’s going to be consistent. But I do know he doesn’t seem a very fearful man to me.

HH: And it does seem to me that having said here is my list, and I will not veer from it, and having said the Senate can block me if I do, there is an excellent opportunity to keep the Court at least where it is if you elect Trump. And that matters quite a lot. I devoted a column to this. Without spending 10 seconds, I came up with a dozen different areas of decision where we will depart from long standing important propositions with other than Donald Trump. We’ll come back with Dr. Larry Arnn to talk more about Donald Trump and the campaign ahead.

— – — –

HH: I’m curious how many on this boat, Dr. Arnn, are parents of previous students or prospective students’ parents?

LA: Yeah, there were six or eight sets of those. And so they’re, the way, the dynamic is Hillsdale, we’re very fortunate, right? Things are going pretty well, and our kids are happy, and their parents are happy. And so it’s probably true that the greatest lovefest that I attend every year is the two parents weekends at Hillsdale College. And we get, you know, I mean, I’ve been to some other liberal arts colleges, that’s where a couple of my kids went, and they might get, in one of them, they had 60 people. We get 950. And the place is swarming with them, and they just love the college, right? And so these parents go around talking about how great we all are. So that’s not bad.

HH: You know, I think I ought to be invited on those weekends to serve the role of the fellow who rode along in the chariot behind the emperor in a triumph saying all fame is fleeting. Can I do that? Can I have that job?

LA: Yeah, yeah. Well, they all thank me. Well, they thank everybody, but they thank me, right? And I just, I always reply I’m just here to take the credit.

HH: There you go. All right, here is another excerpt from yesterday’s conversation with Donald Trump for you to comment on. I’m talking to him about how he might alleviate some conservative fears.

HH: Now my colleague, this too dangerous attack does stick. It’s what they used against Barry Goldwater. My colleague, Robert O’Brian, argued over at Real Clear Politics this week that the way you blunt that is to name who’s going to be your secretary of State and secretary of Defense, and O’Brien suggested John Bolton for State and Jim Talent for Defense. Despite what some people say, that’s not illegal. It’s perfectly acceptable. It would help you tremendously. Will you name your SecDef and your secretary of State?

DT: Well, it is not illegal. It’s seldom done, surprisingly, but it is not illegal by any stretch, and surprisingly seldom done. And it’s one of the things I wonder about. Why is it so little done? And I was actually given a very good answer, because once you name somebody, they attack that person viciously, whereas if you don’t, and you win, and then you put the same person in, nobody cares. So if you name, you know, pick a good name, and there are plenty of them, we pick a good name, we put them into a position, everybody’s happy. That person for the next 90 days gets attacked viciously. That’s why people haven’t traditionally done that.

HH: But if John Bolton said yes, he would consolidate and telegraph seriousness and expansive knowledge. If Jim Talent said yes, you’d get all of his experience on the Quadrennial Commission Review Board. I mean, those two guys would make Team Trump look massively experienced right away. And the too dangerous argument goes away.

DT: Well, I think that’s true. I think John Bolton’s a good man. I watched him yesterday, actually, and he was very good in defending me and some of my views, and very, very strong. And I’ve always liked John Bolton.

HH: So Dr. Arnn, what do you make of that?

LA: Well, I thought, maybe this will be, maybe this will run counter to what you think, but first of all, I thought that was shrewd. I have been saying that if you release the names, they’re going to go, there’s going to be an article a day for the next three weeks hammering every name. He has thought of that. And so what you’re, and he, you know, that was an insightful political answer. In other words, he’s been tempted to do that, I think, and he’s given it thought. Now what you’re naming is two big time names of serious people who would be hard to attack. And that’s a different tack. And I think you’re on to something. I think he might name those two guys. And I don’t think, I don’t think he should try to name people like them. I think he should name them.

HH: I agree (laughing). I think that’s…

LA: (laughing) Because they’re, you know, they’re awesome, right? They’re both really great.

HH: Because John Bolton would just destroy anyone who came after him.

LA: Yeah.

HH: He’s like Cyber Man. And Jim Talent is the same way on defense. He can tell you the wingspan of an F-35 model C 20 years ago. I mean, it’s…

LA: And lots of experience, both of them, right?

HH: Yeah.

LA: And see, another thing that Trump said along the way is he mentioned that one of them, I read the transcript of this last night, he mentioned that one of them has been saying good things about him, so he’s listening, too.

HH: Oh, he is. It would make a big difference in August.

— – — – –

HH: Dr. Arnn, did you motorcycle across South Dakota in the last two weeks?

LA: I did.

HH: Yeah, so you escaped that weather, or you motorcycled through it, and you were undeterred.

LA: I was, it’s, the prairie, so everyone should listen, or we did listen, but you should read the book, Empire Of The Summer Moon. It’s about the Comanches fighting on the prairie, and they’re the meanest, toughest guys ever. So we felt really brave riding across the prairie.

HH: There aren’t any Comanches left there anymore.

LA: Well, we killed them all.

HH: Well, that happened when Scotty Philip saved the buffalo. That’s my family, my in-laws, were South Dakotans. They’re tough people. Thune is a tough person. Let me ask you about this story from the Daily Caller this morning. Joint FBI-U.S. Attorney Probe Of Clinton Foundation Underway. Multiple FBI investigations are underway involving potential corruption charges against the Clinton Foundation, according to a former senior law enforcement official. The investigation centers on the New York City where the Clinton Foundation has its main offices. Prosecutorial support will come from various U.S. Attorney offices. The New York phased probe is being led by Preet Bharara, a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. This is too little, too late, and after the Comey press conference, do you have any hope at all that justice will ever find the Clintons, Dr. Larry Arnn?

LA: I never did. I don’t know, and never did. It surprises me how much goes on about this, to tell you the truth, but I think some of that is just cover and vindication. I was astonished by the Comey press conference, because I didn’t believe that the Obama Justice Department was ever going to charge Hillary Clinton with anything. And the fact that the director, now there were, you know, and I don’t, I think one of these days, we’re going to find out why all this happens, because the Director said some really critical things about her.

HH: Very.

LA: And there were stories before, you know, all these leaked stories, and you never know what they mean. They’re like opinion polls in August, you know…

HH: Yup. What do they mean?

LA: What do these weak stories mean, right? But there were lots of stories that there were stresses inside the Justice Department that the FBI Director was in hot water with the Obama administration for taking this thing too seriously. And you know, two days later in the Wall Street Journal, somebody wrote an article about what an injustice to Hillary Clinton those negative remarks were, because, and maybe he made a good point, because he said when Justice drops, or the FBI drop an investigation, they don’t usually criticize or say anything about the person they’ve been investigating. So she was martyred, was one reading of it all. So I don’t think any of this is going to go anywhere, and I have never thought that. And so I don’t get very excited about it.

HH: Let me play for you, then, the exchange I had with Donald Trump yesterday about a truly extraordinary release of an email that came out this week. Gilbert Chagoury is a Nigerian-Liberian billionaire, formerly associated with the military dictator of Nigeria, who faced criminal charges there, had to pay off $300 million dollars to the Nigerians to escape from jail. And here is the conversation with Donald Trump about that, cut number 7:

HH: I want to talk to you now about Gilbert Chagoury. I had never heard this name until yesterday, the Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire that got the Clinton Foundation guy, Band, to call up Huma and email Cheryl Mills. This guy’s a bad guy. He was the aide to the Nigerian dictator. He had to pay $300 million dollars off to Nigeria to get off of charges. And in April of 2009, the Clinton Foundation calls up Hillary Clinton’s staff and gets favors done for this guy. How come that’s not front page everywhere, Donald Trump?

DT: Well, because they cover things that are, that should not be covered. And they seem to like to cover anything I say. They try and dissect the words, and CNN in particular has been incredible in their, you know, they’re trying so hard to get ratings, and it’s not working. But they’ll take something that is a totally, totally fine statement, and they’ll make it look like oh, gee, let’s analyze it. They’ll analyze it 77 different ways. In the end, it’s fine, and they go onto their next story. And yet, a story like you just mentioned, they don’t cover it. It’s incredible.

HH: You ought to be demanding Gilbert Chagoury…

DT: Yeah, we have a double standard. We have a double standard in the press.

HH: You ought to be using his name every day, Gilbert Chagoury, and making people investigate it, because he’s a…

DT: Yeah, yeah, but people don’t cover it. The New York Times won’t cover it importantly. The various other newspapers won’t cover it. I mean, they’re very dishonest people. The New York Times is a very dishonest newspaper.

HH: Now Chagoury did show up in the New York Times, so I’ll give them that.

HH: So what I’m trying to get him to do is to use the vast platform not to deal in founder theories about who founded ISIS, but to point the media in a direction. Will he ever become competent at this, Larry Arnn?

LA: Well, you know, I think, so here’s what I think right now in the middle of August. I think that we are going to have some debates. If anybody watches them, and I think very many people will, we’re going to have some debates where Hillary Clinton is directly and fiercely challenged about all kinds of things. And I think we haven’t had those in recent years. I think that the style, Mitt Romney is supposed to have won the first debate last time. And then he thought he was ahead, and he ran all the rest of the race like he thought he was ahead. And he didn’t, he didn’t sort of make his points, right? And you know, John McCain, for God’s sake, proposed that we suspend the presidential race because of the financial crisis. This guy is going to be hammering every day. And you know, on your show, I read the transcript. Are we going to talk about the founder of ISIS?

HH: Yes. So let me play that for you right now.

LA: Yeah.

HH: This is the cut which shook the world yesterday, cut number 9:

HH: Last night, you said the president was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum. He lost the peace.

DT: No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.

HH: But he’s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.

DT: I don’t care. He was the founder. The way he got out of Iraq was, that was the founding of ISIS.

HH: Well that, you know, I have a saying, Donald Trump. The mnemonic device I use is Every Liberal Really Seems So, So Sad. E is for Egypt, L is for Libya, S is for Syria, R is Russia reset. They screwed everything up. You don’t get any argument from me. But by using the term founder, they’re hitting with you on this again. Mistake?

DT: No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it. I give him the most valuable player award. And I give it to him, and I gave the co-founder to Hillary, and I don’t know if you heard that.

HH: Oh, I did. I did. I played it. I just…

DT: But I gave her the co-founder.

HH: I know what you’re arguing.

DT: You’re not, and let me ask you, do you not like that?

HH: I don’t. I think I would say they created, they lost the peace. They created the Libyan vacuum. They created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn’t create ISIS. That’s what I would say.

DT: Well, I disagree.

HH: All right, that’s okay.

DT: Without, I mean, with his bad policies, that’s why ISIS came about.

HH: That’s true.

DT: If he would have done things properly, you wouldn’t have had ISIS.

HH: That’s true.

DT: Therefore, he was the founder of ISIS.

HH: That’s, I’d just use different language to communicate better. But let me close with this, because I know I’m keeping you long.

HH: Now Larry Arnn, this morning, Donald Trump tweeted out that he’s been sarcastic about ISIS, that he didn’t mean it, that he was just being sarcastic about the founder. That does perplex many people.

LA: Oh, I don’t know. He, first of all, he, doesn’t he make the point, I was very interested in that transcript. That was an extremely revealing interview yesterday, Hugh. Good for you. But maybe I draw some different conclusions from it. Doesn’t he say that but people repeat my language all the time somewhere in that transcript?

HH: Yes. Yes, he says, the point is my language works, and yours doesn’t.

LA: Yeah, and Trump is, you know, remember, here’s what’s strange about him. What one would wish is that, here’s what you don’t get. First of all, what one would wish is long practice at saying beautifully fundamental things. That’s not Donald Trump, right? And Ronald Reagan was pretty good at that, and Abraham Lincoln was sublime, right? So we don’t get that. What do we get? Trump is, has worked out some fundamental things, and they revolve around the point that the government of the United States is not working for the people anymore. It actually now seeks to control and manipulate them. And in every area of policy, I think, that’s his theme. And so he thinks of vivid ways to, and he thinks of them on the spot, and he’s fearless about saying them, and he doesn’t take them back. And you know, this thing this morning about sarcastic, he did explain what he meant under questioning from you. What he meant was a bunch of bad policies of Obama opened the way for the ISIS generals, many of whom were senior people in the Republican Guard under Saddam Hussein and weren’t killed, so it’s not just Obama as a matter of fact, so the point is that’s his point. And he just makes it, and he makes it in really strong language, and he dominates the news, and he thinks he’s going to win because of that. So this is what we’ve got, right? And I have, you know, I gave up months ago, I mean, first of all, in the beginning, I was against him, you know? What’s this, I said. But then, I began to notice, first of all, the direction of things he’s saying, there’s consistency to it. And it’s old. He’s been talking like this off and on, but mostly on, for a long time, 30 years. So, and people respond to it. And so I don’t know how this election’s going to go. I just know we’ve got what we got, and he’s not afraid, and we’re not going to scare him into changing. You did a good job, better job than I’ve heard, Hugh, getting him to explain himself yesterday. And that means that there’s art in this. He thinks that by talking this way, he can dominate the news and arrest attention, and make his points unmistakably.

HH: Now in response to that on with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Daily, Chuck is upset that he is calling the President a terrorist. And I pointed out that he may just be speaking past us to people using words completely oblivious or indifferent to what elite media says about him on cable or on radio, that he is doing what Nixon used to do with Silent Majority speeches. He is talking viscerally to voters. Do you believe that might be the case?

LA: Well, I think it’s clear, and I think that he says that talking with you yesterday. But just remember, he, Trump gets 10,000 people to come hear him talk. I mean, even now, being the nominee, nominees don’t get that. Nobody does. What is that about? And he’s trying to make a movement. And he has made one, right? Is it sufficient to get him elected president? We don’t know that. But what we know is he, so let’s forget that Donald Trump ever existed, and zoom back a year and a half ago. What were we saying? We were saying there’s the blue wall. The Democrats start out in a presidential race with 240 Electoral Votes, and they need 272, if I have those numbers right.

HH: Correct.

LA: So they’ve almost won before they do anything. But thank God for it, they’ve got Hillary Clinton, and she’s going to be a weak candidate, and we’ve got a really good field, including the inspiring Marco Rubio, right?

HH: Hold that thought. I’m going to come back, because this is important. It is the windup of where we’ve traveled in the last year, but I have to take a break right now. Don’t go anywhere, America. I’ll be back with Dr. Arnn.

— – — — –

HH: Dr. Arnn, yesterday, Donald Trump said I don’t know that we need to get out the vote. I think that people that really want to vote, they’re going to just get up and vote for Trump. And we’re going to make America great again. This is what I call the Vandals and the Romans strategy. Rome is Clinton. They have the legions, they have the data, they have their operation, they are awash with money. And then they have the great unwashed masses moving out of Germania towards the Rhine, and those are the Trump people. Is that a fair way to look at this?

LA: Yeah, well, you know, the point I was making was we want Donald Trump to act like we’re used to presidential candidates acting like.

HH: Yes.

LA: And he, you know, I was saying where we were a year ago, right? Where we were a year ago is that we think, what we really think, is we think we’re losing the country. And that’s what the blue wall means. And the Democrats think that they’re gaining the country.

HH: Correct.

LA: That’s what that means. And then we think in this year, there’s an unusual opportunity, because Hillary ain’t too swell, and people are tired of Obama, and we’ve got a really great field, right?

HH: Yup.

LA: And including Marco Rubio, the favorite, you know, who is a heck of a guy, right?

HH: Yup.

LA: And so what’s happened now? Here we are in the middle of August, and Donald Trump has changed everything. And the way he’s done it, we never saw it coming, and we want him now to start studying our ways. And what possible incentive can he have to do that, because he blew us all away, right? And you know, not me. I wasn’t in the race, you weren’t in the race, and you and I were in Switzerland.

HH: Yes.

LA: …which is the only redoubt we’ve been able to defend.

HH: Yes.

LA: And…

HH: And occasionally, they’d come for us there.

LA: I’ll tell you, we’ve been up against the walls many times, right? But the point is he’s going to do it his way. And you know, look, I was talking to your buddy, Duane, you know, and he says, you know, there are all these inconsistencies, and there are broad consistencies, too. And if you can live with them, then you can have some confidence in him. But if you notice the many inconsistencies, which tend to be of detail, although important detail, often, but you know, he’s going to build a wall, right? That’s consistent. He’s going to build up the military. That’s consistent. He’s going to be very cautious about using it. That’s consistent. He’s going to cut taxes. That’s consistent. He’s going to cut the regulatory state. That’s consistent. And I will tell you, for a long time, because that’s the thing I looked up and like very much, right?

HH: Yup.

LA: He’s going to guarantee the entitlement state. That’s consistent, right? I don’t know where he varies from those things, at least not much. And you get to thinking wow, he means what he says about all that stuff. And that’s not, you know, oh, he’s going to make better trade deals, sometimes stated as I’m going to put a 45% tariff on China, right?

HH: Yup.

LA: That’s consistent. Those last two things, I…

HH: And he’s going to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court.

LA: Oh, yeah, consistent all the way, right?

HH: Consistent, right.

LA: So the truth is, those are all big things. And you know, when he’s questioned about the little variations, he hold them, and you know, some of those little variations are big, by the way. I admit that, right? They’re just not as big as that list of things we just named. And so he holds those very big, but not that big things, he actually openly holds them in contempt sometimes.

HH: And that makes for the year that this is. Dr. Larry Arnn, it’s good to have you back from these extended presidential vacations that one gets to take when they lead an institution like Hillsdale College. But you need to lead your radio fans as well. We’re glad that you’re back, and we encourage everyone to sign up for Imprimis at, and to binge listen, if you will binge listen to Dr. Arnn, at He’ll be back next week.

End of interview.


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