HH: On a day full of news, it’s a perfect day for a Hillsdale Dialogue about all the most important aspects of Constitutionalism, which whether or not you know it, make up a great part of Larry Arnn’s brand new book, Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill And The Salvation Of Free Government. Larry Arnn, of course, is the president of Hillsdale College, and each week at this time, he or one of his colleagues from Hillsdale joins me. All of those conversations about the West and the best of the West are collected at www.hughforhillsdale.com. Last week, we began our series on Churchill’s Trial, the brand new book by Dr. Arnn that will appear next month, and we continue there this week, but not without some coverage of the news. Dr. Arnn, you picked a great Friday to be here in time, on time.
LA: Yeah, I just said I don’t know if it was the Holy Ghost, but some kind of ghost hit Washington this week.
HH: It sure did. I’ve got to ask you, I’m going to start with the announcement from Speaker Boehner this morning, because you and I go back a long way in California when Kevin McCarthy was holding together the Assembly of Republicans in the minority. We’ve known him a long time. He’s going to be the next Speaker. What do you think about that?
LA: Well, you know, so conservatives think he’s not conservative enough, and I’ve met him to talk to several times in my life, including once about a year ago. And here’s a great thing. He’s a very enthusiastic guy. And sitting behind his desk is a huge portrait of Lincoln that’s very good, and across the room looking at him is a huge portrait of Reagan. And he loves to hear anything you know about both of those guys. So yeah, I think the problems in the Congress are deeper than any speaker, Boehner in particular, has made. And I hope that he will be a thinking man who will figure out how to get the Congress to work like a congress again.
HH: That is a very important thing. You know, when the Speaker, Speaker Boehner exited today, he said one thing which caught my attention among many fine things he said. One thing with which I disagreed, just because as a matter of Constitutional law I disagreed, he said his first job was to protect the institution of the House. Do you believe that’s the first job of the Speaker, Dr. Arnn?
LA: Well, I might agree with that. It depends on what it means.
LA: Madison says that the way separation of powers works is that each branch defends its own prerogative. And I actually think they haven’t done that enough. And so I wish they would do more. I think Boehner has tried to do more, and I’ll even list what I think they need to do. Part of this is taken from a really great speech by Chris DeMuth of the Hudson Institute at our Constitution Day celebrations in Washington last week. They need to appropriate. So Congress really does two kinds of bills. One is authorizing things to happen, and the other is assigning the money for them to happen. And they haven’t been doing that second thing. Not only do they seldom have budgets, although the Republicans are better at that, they also need to have appropriations bills that assign in detail where the money goes. And then that sets them up to have oversight hearings to influence what happens in the Executive Branch. Instead, they pass these continuing resolutions, which means basically, the government keeps spending as it did before. And there have been so many of them in a row for so long that now the categories are all mixed up, and the Executive Branch is liberated to do even more than it has the massive power to do. So they should, they didn’t get it done this year. They set out to do it. Boehner announced that he was going to try to do it, and Mitch McConnell, too, but it fizzled, and they didn’t get it done. And that’s one reason why the Obama administration runs rampant.
HH: Well, that’s why I quarreled with the Speaker’s, his characterization, because I think your first job is not to protect the institution, but to protect the Constitution, of which the institution is a part.
HH: And that requires Constitutional order. And you are always talking about regular order, and they didn’t get it done because of the filibuster. And earlier today, I talked with Rick Santorum again. The President can’t veto what doesn’t get sent to him. They can’t send appropriations bills to him because of the filibuster. And I have about had it, because I think the filibuster has come to mean more to people than this regular order.
LA: Yeah, and I think, on my list, on Chris DeMuth’s list, was to end the filibuster. And I would do that. And the thing is, a lot of bad stuff will get passed when bad people are in. That’s true, but then those people, and you know, a lot of bad stuff is happening whether anything gets passed or not. But those people would then be responsible for that bad stuff.
LA: Because right now the way is works is…
HH: And the approps…
LA: …you know, who do you blame, right? There’s this huge administrative state, and it runs on its own, and does what it pleases.
HH: And the appropriations process is so central to the House of Representatives that they’ve passed, I think, ten of fourteen appropriations bills. Not one of them have made it past the Senate, because the President wants to shut the government down. He wants a spectacle, Dr. Arnn, in order to…
LA: It leaves them, that’s right, it leaves them with one tool, which the Congress always loses, because you have to go to the American people and say I’m shutting down the whole government over this one thing. And it starts out looking out of proportion. And then the President gets all the TV time. So it’s a losing battle, whereas the President refusing to sign an appropriations bill because of one thing in it, or ten things in it he doesn’t like, that sets out, that shuts down some parts of the government, but the ball is in his court.
HH: And you can see, and without the filibuster, you can keep sending it back tweaked. You can lower the appropriation or raise the appropriation a little bit, and force him to do it again. And you can focus. But this filibuster is swallowing the regular order. And it’s not in the Constitution.
LA: It is, very much, very much, and Chris DeMuth, he was the president of AEI for a long time. He’s at Hudson now, and he’s a learned man, and he just gave a tour de force talk the other day.
HH: I’ve got to go find that. Now let me talk to you about the exit of Governor Scott Walker, another fine conservative. This surprised me. In fact, on Sunday on Meet the Press, I was predicting like Harry Potter, he would be back, and maybe he will be back in the next Wisconsin governor’s race. But it tells us something about this race, that two executives, Rick Perry and Scott Walker, who won a total of seven statewide elections in the face of, in the teeth of big opposition, are the first two to exit the race.
LA: Isn’t that something? And it’s funny about both of them, because both of them never, neither of them ever got, well, Walker got initial traction, and it faded, mysteriously, and it never came back. And that’s, you know, I’m told, I haven’t read it, that there’s a great analysis of the Walker campaign by Rich Lowry at National Review, a very intelligent man, a very good writer, too, about what went wrong in the campaign. And doubtless, Walker made mistakes. But the collapse was so complete, and the failure of any stirrings was so complete, that it looked like a lost cause from the beginning.
HH: And it wasn’t. He was ahead, and I always assumed that they’d squirreled away enough to go to ground. But Tonette Walker is very level-headed, and as you know, as Mrs. Churchill was, they consult.
HH: And I think she level-headedly consulted with the very level-headed Scott Walker and said not this time, not this moment.
HH: And that’s a good thing to do.
LA: Yeah, it is a good thing, and the field needs to narrow, and I hope it narrows fast, but I regret that he’s among the first casualties.
HH: Now I want to ask you as well before we turn to the second part of our discussion about Churchill. Yesterday, Senator Ben Sasse and our friend, Senator Tom Cotton, voted against a resolution defunding Planned Parenthood, because they had worries about the cap it would have maintained on national Defense. And both of them said we abhor Planned Parenthood, and are disgusted by these videos. But our country is at risk. It’s an interesting choice they made. I applaud them both. What do you think?
LA: Me, too. And both of them, I know them both and like them both a lot, and Tom Cotton is, you know, well-known to me for, since he was in college, and I was at that time only 84 years old. He is making news by being a Senator, by doing what Senators do, and not by pulling stunts. And that’s a gift, and I think he’s going to be a great Senator.
HH: I also have to ask you about the debate in which both the Constitution’s 10th and 2nd Amendments came up. I’m happy with the debate, because I think it was the most prolonged discussion of national security affairs as we’ve had in decades. But I also think you must have been cheered to hear Constitutional amendments being discussed by candidates.
LA: It was good, and it was a great debate. My complaints about the debate, I will state, are two, and they both regard you. And one is you didn’t wear the right tie, and the other one is you only asked two questions, however, they were great. And I know you must have been constrained.
HH: I was constrained on both matters, although not unhappily on the second. On the first, I was told I could not do that. But I wore it on Hannity on Monday night.
HH: And I wear it proudly wherever I go.
LA: Very good.
HH: But I couldn’t promote the college via the tie. On the second, I asked a total of six questions. John Kasich accused me of having more time than he did. And I’m fine because of the complexity of the operation. Jake Tapper did a fine job, actually, given 11 candidates.
LA: I didn’t, you know, I didn’t mind him a bit. I’m not actually complaining about anything about the debate. It was coherent, there were sharp exchanges that were intelligent. As you say, and see, there was a time, it’s not as bad now, where conservatives only brought up the Constitution to talk about how they wanted to change it. And these were mostly discussions about relying on it. And that’s the right kind.
HH: Yes, indeed. Indeed. I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn.
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HH: Dr. Arnn, comments on the Pope’s trip? I have to ask you about his, what I call his Four Figures speech yesterday to the Congress. He talked about Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, all pacifists, and then he talked about Abraham Lincoln, the president who presided over the largest loss of life in war in our entire history. It was an odd juxtaposition.
LA: Well, did you notice the Pope has a lot to say about climate change. And what does he know about that? But also, he misidentified which continent he was born on. Did you notice that?
HH: I didn’t.
LA: I, too, am a son of this great continent, he said.
HH: Oh, my gosh.
LA: It’s in the first paragraph. But so first of all, I’ve been polling all my Catholic friends, of which you are one, and most of them think, Catholics, by the way, are like, my favorite Catholics, and I know many, and they’re close friends of mine, and they’re like generals and colonels. That is to say they’re under a discipline and they have to obey, but they’re very good at interpreting.
HH: That is, is that original to you?
LA: Yeah, I was on the board of the Army War College, and I once saw Richard Myers, the immediately retired senior soldier in America, talk to three three-star generals. And I was in a conversation with those four people. And one of the generals, one of the senior of the three-stars, said something to another one. And the other one said yes, sir. And I said I understand now. And Myers, who I know well and like a lot, said what does that mean? I said he just gave him an order, and he just agreed to obey it, but all of us in this conversation know it wasn’t exactly an order, and he’s still got a lot of latitude.
HH: That’s exactly…
LA: And Richard Myers said welcome to the military.
HH: The military…yesterday, John Kasich on this program waxed poetic about the Pope. Just last hour, before you came on, Rick Santorum waxed poetic about the Pope. I am filled with joy at the Pope’s many aspects. I am confused by this written text, because it doesn’t make a lot of sense, actually, to put Lincoln with Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King, unless, if you know Lincoln, right? But at the same time, he will speak at Independence Hall this weekend, and I expect the most important address to be the one that he gives there, Dr. Arnn.
LA: I hope so.
HH: I hope he talks about…
LA: Well first of all, you have to get used to this. So I’m a great admirer of the last two popes, and have read a lot of their writing. I guess that makes me a Catholic fellow traveler.
LA: And those two guys were very sophisticated and precise minds, highly-trained. This guy is not that kind of man, and I don’t mean he’s stupid. He’s, I’m confident, is a brilliant man. And he’s a great man in important ways, in decisive ways. But he says, for example, he objects to fundamentalism, but about ten lines above that, he salutes the fundamental values of the American people, right? So fundamentalism is not so bad, because it just means at the foundation. That’s all it means, the founding. That’s another form of the word fundamental. It just means that you need to get your principles right. And then he goes on from there, and see, as you rightly point out, he mixes up four people who are not in obvious ways compatible.
LA: You know, I think Martin Luther King was a great man, and his great moments, including in his 1964 speech, I think that was a tremendous achievement, and just how we ought to talk about race. But so leave him out for a minute. But the lady he talked about is a socialist, right?
HH: Dorothy Day, yes.
LA: Well, Lincoln was a property rights guy. The Pope quotes the Declaration of Independence, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But at the same, in the same week, in Virginia, six of the same people voted for the Virginia Declaration of Right, which mentions life, liberty and property. And what better help is there for the poor than security in their property and their earnings?
HH: And that is absolutely the, and you know, George Weigel and Arthur Brooks and many other leading Catholic intellectuals have assured me again and again not to believe the Pope when he talks about capitalism, because he’s talking about Argentinian capitalism, which is actually an oxymoron. You know, it’s a grifter society. It’s built on privilege and the exchange of kept monopolies. Nevertheless, it does confuse. I just think of him as a pastor. And you come from a very Christian university. I know your Catholic community up at Hillsdale very well, you know, Professor Smith and many others. And when I go to mass at Hillsdale, basically the entire college is there that isn’t at the Baptist Church or the synagogue down the street. And so everybody is Christian. People are responding to him as a pastor, Dr. Arnn. I think you’re saying don’t read him in the way that we read intellectual giants, like Benedict was an intellectual giant. And John Paul II was actually not on Benedict’s level when it came to intellectual giantism.
LA: No, and see, I read both of the, his White House speech and his Congress speech with some care, because you told me I had to, a rare time when you gave me some warning about something.
LA: And the first thing I thought about him is it isn’t the same kind of thing, right?
LA: And it may be a very good kind of, I even think it is a good kind of thing. But it’s not the same kind of thing as either of those two guys wrote. And you’re right. Benedict himself was, you know, he was a marvelously-trained academic mind, deeply faithful. His, several things he wrote, I believe, are great achievements.
HH: He will be a doctor of the Church, someday. I am very confident about this, that he will be proclaimed, as was Aquinas, a doctor of the Church.
LA: Right. Yeah, he, so we don’t have that sort of thing, and most of all, I confess to you, I kind of dreaded the Pope’s visit, because I thought he might stand there and lecture John Boehner, who had very much to do with the invitation to the Pope. John Boehner did a lot of good things. And I was afraid he was going to turn and tell him you’ve got to go with Obama. And he didn’t do that, and he didn’t really even suggest that. And also, you know, these moral questions about family and about all those things that the Catholic Church is a bulwark of the view that’s being overwhelmed, I’ve been afraid that he would abandon those. And I don’t think he’s going to, and he didn’t on this visit that I have seen.
HH: No, in fact, in the Congress, in the well of the Congress, he spoke about the traditional family, and that which tears at it from within and without.
HH: And by that, he means both divorce and activist courts, but holding up without too much of a scolding of anybody just the ideal is a good thing.
LA: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, and I, so that’s right. This kind pastor of a fellow representing something with enormous dignity. I mean, that’s an understatement to say it’s a thing of enormous dignity, has come to see us, and God bless him and us.
HH: And I wonder, we’ll talk next week about what he says at Independence Hall. I don’t, I hope they understand the place he is going. I hope they understand Charles Carroll was there, and that he signed, the wealthiest man in America and a Catholic put everything on the line, as well as everyone else. I had my students at Colorado Christian University this week read the Declaration out loud, including the names. And we’ll come back and talk about why right after the break with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College.
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HH: Before I went to break, I mentioned, Dr. Arnn, I had my students this week, undergraduates, first time in my life I’ve taught them, read out loud the Declaration of Independence as we went along, including the names so that they might realize what it is, which is not only a beautiful document of natural law, but also an argument with the King, and an appeal to nature and nature’s God, and an act of treason that had they not succeeded, the men who signed it would have hung by the neck until dead.
LA: Very much, yeah. And you know, they, mostly, they all, mostly, they paid a cost in blood and treasure. And at the moment they signed the Declaration of Independence, they knew the Kind had already issued a writ to General Howe to arrest them all. And they were going to transport them to England. And so they were in peril. And that’s, and it’s remarkable the boldness of the document. It’s remarkable the elevation of the document. And it’s remarkable that they signed it personally.
HH: And what I, and I want people to focus. The reason I’m focused on this, the Pope will go to the room where they signed it, that they did that.
HH: And he will speak as a Catholic in a land that was not founded by Catholics, except in very small measure.
LA: That’s right.
HH: But the document that they signed, that Lincoln, whom he referred to in the Congress that evolved from that moment, from that room, is what protects his ability and the ability of his Church to prosper here. It’s really a remarkable moment coming up.
LA: Oh, yeah. I wish he would realize when he talks about being against all polarization, of course it’s a commandment of Christ to Christians to polarization. And you know, if you’re not for me, you’re against me, He says. But why is that not corrosive, if one has a fundamental understanding of it? The reason is Christ says My kingdom is not of this world. And in America, in that room, not only where they wrote and ratified the Declaration of Independence, but also wrote and sent for ratification the Constitution of the United States. They took religious freedom to its completion. And their idea was anybody who will respect anybody else as a fellow citizen and be a good citizen is entitled to practice his faith as he understands it, and that’s a fundamental right, to use that word again, that must never be, ever be infringed. And it’s a right from God. And those documents were worked out in that room. And that means instead of saying all forms of polarization, he might say instead those who are extreme in their views and would oppress the consciences and rights of other people have to be resisted. And we must not practice those things ourselves. And that’s the distinction you’re after, not that you’re trying to find a way to accept everybody, because what are you going to do, accept Adolf Hitler?
HH: Right, right. You can’t. And that’s why it’s a perfect moment. I’m very, I’m calling people’s attention to it, because it will matter so much, the perfect expression of religious toleration occurred in that room. And he will be speaking there as the leader of the world’s largest denomination, and longest-practiced faith in the West. And I hope he realizes, and I mean, it’s just, the people in that room, two hundred-plus years ago, created the opening that every other society on the globe ought to emulate. I don’t believe it can be improved upon, can it, Larry?
LA: Well, it, what they thought about it was that the principles are perfect. Human practice of them, including in the Constitution, is imperfect. But the Constitution is the nearest thing to perfection any human instrument ever achieved.
HH: And when we come back from break, we’ll talk at greater length about that. But very quickly, Abraham Lincoln called, I don’t want to butcher the quote, an apple of gold in a frame of silver, both of which were constructed in that room, correct?
LA: That’s correct.
HH: When did he say that? Was that Cooper Union?
LA: No, when did he say that? I don’t have that information at my fingertips. I only know that he said it on the South American continent.
HH: Okay, I have one more question before the break. Churchill’s Trial is paginated, as all books are, and it’s organized by chapters and prefaces and introduction. I am curious if you were paying attention to the page numbers when you wrote it.
LA: Uh-huh. Very much to the order of things. But why are you asking about the page numbers?
HH: Because there’s nothing accidental in this book, and I found that the preface and the introduction are very important, and the numbering of them in the course of the chapters very interesting to me. And I just wanted to be assured that in fact it was Dr. Arnn that was laboring over it, not the wonderful people at Thomas Nelson books.
LA: No, no. We, I had, so I couldn’t have written the book without Kyle Murnen, who works in this office. And you work with Kyle, and Kyle’s an awesome, young man. And Doug Jeffery was very helpful in editing, and a few other people that I credit. But I wrote the book, and you know, it took me 40 years to write the book.
HH: And we’ll be back from the break. None of it is accidental, America. We’ll start telling you why when we return. Stay tuned.
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HH: “We should not take for granted that statesmen, even significant ones, are attached to constitutions, for statesmanship and constitutionalism are in some senses, conflicting. Statesmanship is what individual men and women do at the head of a political community. The constitution is the form according to which they do what they do.” That is from Page XIX of Dr. Larry Arnn’s brand new book, Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill And The Salvation Of Free Government, which we’re going to be spending quite a lot of time talking about. Dr. Arnn, you began by talking about, well, actually, that’s not the beginning. That’s the middle, really, of the introduction. It’s the beginning of the beginning, sort of, kind of. But you begin by talking about prudence and about constitutions, unusual, perhaps, for people who expected to sit down and get a Churchill anecdote right at the beginning.
LA: Well, in Chapter 1, I tell some war stories about him that are a lot of fun, but first of all, I wanted to identify, and see, I am a victim of my profession. I’m a teacher, and it’s better with the young to start out helping them to figure out what things mean. So the first question is what is a statesman? What do they do? And the answer is they all do something we all do, and that is we have a conscience, and we have principles that speak to us, but we face necessity every day. And so we’re always compromising, right? We can’t do exactly what we would do in the abstract, ever. And so prudence, say the classics, is the art of judging circumstances properly in light of ultimates, and that ultimates are never perfectly followed, right? So statesmen, the classics say, are the best at that. They have the hardest job to do that, and we can learn about this thing we all need in our lives from statesmen. So that’s what kind of people they are. And also, of course, they’re always very assertive people. Look at Carly Fiorina and why she rose, right?
LA: She’s tough as she can be, right?
LA: You’ve got to be that kind of person. So that’s on the one hand. On the other hand, constitutions are rules, grand rules, hard to change, written up a long time ago. And it just so happens that Churchill lived in a time when the greatest statesmen wished to diminish the operation, or eliminate in the case of the tyrannies, the influence of constitutions. Churchill did not do that, and I think that’s one, the first step, just like Lincoln. Lincoln’s whole politics was built on fighting slavery and the principle of slavery under the forms of the Constitution, and they exercised the restraint upon him. Abolitionists, not so much, those who would extend slavery, not so much, but Lincoln, and Lincoln proved to be an incredibly willful human being. My favorite quote from Bruce Catton after the battle of Antietam, he says, “And then the war expanded again to dimensions that no one had expected. But also, it came down to two men – Lincoln and Lee, with the awful ability to make men love them, and the ruthlessness to tell them what to do.” That’s what Lincoln did, right?
LA: That’s what Churchill did.
HH: That’s why when the Pope brought up Lincoln this week, I wondered if anyone had shown him at the Lincoln Memorial the text of the Second Inaugural that you and I spoke about two weeks ago, if it requires another 200 years, that every drop of blood from the bondsman’s lash be repaid, so shall it be. The ways of the Lord are just. This was not a pacifist.
LA: No, and see, that’s, and so this combination that’s inherent, by the way, it’s the place where human beings live their lives. They must follow their consciences, and yet they have needs as pressing as any wolf or any bear. And so that’s it. That’s what it is to be human, is to cope with that problem. And statesmen do that. And today, in my opinion, too many of them forget those ultimate things. It’s, the whole movement of America since the progressive era has been to liberate the government from restraints and let it just get on with the job of helping society. And Churchill was against that. He understood that. He faced it. He thought at home, and he thought abroad, in communism and Nazism, but he also thought at home in bureaucracy and socialism he was facing, we in the modern world were facing this challenge that we were giving up on following our consciences too much in favor of just doing what we think is right based mainly on our will.
HH: It’s elegantly argued in the preface, in the introduction, which we will talk about next week. I want to close by reading the last two paragraphs of your very short preface, though. “There are practical reasons then to know the story of Churchill. There are lessons to be learned, both positive and negative, that can help us live our lives, cope with our problems, and serve the cause of our country as it appears today. There are also reasons beyond the practical to study Churchill. The study of justice and injustice, of life and death, requires us to see things, if we can, that reach beyond our problems and lives, that require us to consider what our lives are for and how to face our deaths. Churchill faced his death repeatedly and bravely. He led many millions of people who did the same. Why did he, and they, do these things that we still remember and honor them for doing? So you’re really about to embark upon a study of what we honor and why.
LA: Trying to, yeah. It’s very hard to write about Churchill. He was very great. And I have a humility about it. This is a great time to be talking about the book, because nobody’s read it, yet.
HH: I know, that’s why, and I’m trying, I’m leading people now. They can go over to Amazon, though, and they can preorder it, and they can get it and have it at their fingertips when we actually turn to the introduction next week. But they will, it’s very surprising how you went about this, and it is, it’s actually easier than I thought it would be. You’re trying, you’re dealing at my level, so I’m appreciative of that.
HH: You’ve dumbed it down for the rest of us. But I’m overwhelmed, and let’s close this week by again, 8,000 speeches, countless articles, 50 books, I’m surprised you’re done. You have a minute left, Dr. Arnn.
LA: That’s right. Since prudence, this virtue that we all need and guide our lives by, requires us to understand details, it means the study of statesmen is to pay attention not just to his principles, but to the details in which he operated. We have the richest account of that in Churchill of anybody I know.
HH: And that’s why it’s the perfect study. That’s why we’re spending many weeks on it, Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill And The Salvation Of Free Government, available at Amazon.com now. We’ll be speaking about it, and at www.hillsdale.edu, Dr. Arnn will be teaching a course on Winston Churchill over the course of six weeks. You can register for that for free at www.hillsdale.edu, and you can listen to this and every Hillsdale Dialogue from the last many years at www.hughforhillsdale.com.
End of interview.