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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Dr. Larry Arnn Previews The Trump Agenda

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HH: It is the last radio of the week when I wrap things up, and I usually do it with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. All things Hillsdale are available at, all of the Hillsdale Dialogues that we have been conducting now in our fifth year, as well as all of their online courses, the sign up for Imprimis available at And this weekly chat with Dr. Arnn has grown in popularity over the years. I don’t know why. We often meander and fail to cover that which we’ve said we will cover, but in the meandering, there is fun. He’s been abroad. He’s been in England supping with famous actors and wandering around the maze that is London. But you’re back in the States, I take it?

LA: I am.

HH: Welcome home. Happy New Year.

LA: Happy New Year, Hugh.

HH: I have sent you a copy of The Fourth Way. Have you received it, yet?

LA: No.

HH: Oh, I sent it to the Kirby Center. And are you in Michigan, or are you at Kirby?

LA: I’m in Omaha, Nebraska.

HH: Oh, that’s not a good place to be. Now I mean, I’ve got nothing against Omaha, Nebraska, but why are you in Omaha, Nebraska?

LA: Well, because there’s some really great people here who have given us a whole lot of scholarship, a whole lot of scholarships for people who are in Nebraska. And the only people who can get, the only college who can get anybody to leave Nebraska is Hillsdale College. And every January, we have a dinner, and all the Nebraska kids have dinner with the people who give the scholarships.

HH: Well, that’s wonderful.

LA: It’s very sweet.

HH: So you have a lot of, you know, getting Nebraskans, I had a research assistant from Nebraska once who helped me with the radio show, and he wore his Huskers stuff all day long. Do they wear their Huskers stuff around Hillsdale, even though they are in Michigan?

LA: You know, we make them stop.

HH: (laughing)

LA: (laughing)

HH: All right, Dr. Arnn, let’s get to the important stuff. First of all, how is Gary Oldman as Churchill? Did you watch any of the filming of that?

LA: I did. I spent, I had dinner with him, and with Doug Urbanski, who’s a producer and a friend of Gary Oldman, his long-time partner, colleague, and then the next day, we watched them film all day. And I don’t even know if I’m supposed to talk about this, so we’ll go ahead. But he looks more like Winston Churchill than anybody I’ve ever seen play him.

HH: Really?

LA: Partly because he’s made up for three hours every morning. Gary Oldman is a very committed actor, you know, and then he’s, it’s, I saw several clips, and I watched them film all day. And I had two of my children and my wife with me. It was a lot of fun. And they were very nervous, because they want to get it right. And it seemed to matter to them a lot what I thought.

HH: Well, you are a Churchill biographer. You are part of the Martin Gilbert team. You know of which you speak. If they get anything wrong, you’re going to call them on it like you do to me repeatedly. And so…

LA: You know, I was nicer to them than I am to you.

HH: Oh, that’s not hard. That’s a very low bar.

LA: Yeah.

HH: And so the question becomes what did you think of the substance of the film?

LA: Well, so he’s playing a Churchill that’s different than they’re almost always played, because Churchill was famous for those great speeches, and when in conversation, Churchill was lightning quick. And Churchill was athletic. Churchill moved quickly. And so mostly, they played these ponderous guys, you know? But Churchill was fun, and he had a sparkle, and he was very fast in conversation. And Gary Oldman is playing him like that. And I asked him, I said why are you playing it like he’s fast? And he said wasn’t he? And I said well, as a matter of fact, he was, but he’s never played that way. He said yeah, he seemed so full of life to me. And I said good for you. So I think it’s going to be great. I really do.

HH: Do we have any idea when it’s coming out

LA: Yeah, we’re going to, I’m going to guess I’m going to get to see it early. And I’m going to review it. And I love these guys so much, and I was so touched by seeing them that if I don’t like it, you’ll find out because I don’t write a review. (laughing)

HH: (laughing) Well, that is, that’s very, now that also leads into what I wanted to talk to you about. Heads of a government and intelligence services – while you were away, we have had a long-running drama. I do not know how much of it has made its way into the British press of Donald Trump casting aspersion on the outgoing leadership of the intelligence community, John Brennan at CIA, James Clapper at the DNI, and generally doubting the certainty with which they have proclaimed Russia as the bad guy in the hacking. I’m persuaded of that, because our friend Tom Cotton is persuaded of that, and he’s on Senate Intel. Nevertheless, I have taken the position that Donald Trump is right to wait and get his own guys in – Mike Pompeo at CIA, and now Dan Coats, who I do not know, but I’ve heard great things about at DNI, and James Mattis at Defense, and General Kelly at Homeland Security, and then hear what they have to say about intel, because there is a traditionally fraught relationship between administrations. This one has a lot to defend, and they might not be in a hurry to tell you, they might be in a hurry to actually divert your attention from that which they don’t want you to see. Do you follow my reasoning?

LA: I do, and so I have followed this, and you know, I happen to know that Senator Cotton and former Congressman Pompeo are big buddies, and both military guys and very alike. I have the privilege of knowing them both. And so think of Cotton’s position, which I think he’s been masterful about. This is very odd, right, because the charge is that the election is illegitimate on several grounds, and the grounds are that Hillary won the popular vote, and by the way, all of these grounds contradict each other. Hillary won the popular vote. There was a lot of fake news. Trump is unknown and has fooled the whole country, and the Russians have stole the election, because they wanted to get Trump elected president of the United States. And the intelligence services, gracious sakes, are confirming that. And Mr. Clapper said something yesterday that I think is even improper. I think these guys work for the president of the United States. They should be, they should keep themselves out of politics. And so in the hearings yesterday, Mr. Clapper went there to defend the agency. And what he should have done is eschewed any question about, you know, is Mr. Trump wrong, is Mr. Obama wrong. He should have just said this is what we think and why we think it. But instead, he sort of said well, there’s a line between, what was it, skepticism or healthy cynicism and demeaning. Mr. Trump is demeaning us. Well, what is Donald Trump going to say? Yes, I believe it, the Russians stole the election for me? And so that, you see, so if you look at Tom Cotton’s position, Tom Cotton’s position is I’ve seen the intelligence. They did interfere. They did hack, and they hacked the Democrats. They did. But then he says there’s no evidence at all that they altered the outcome of the election. And you know, for one thing, Senator Cotton understands that people are not stupid. And so they, you know, we know think they’re stupid, because they voted for Trump and not Hillary Clinton, but just because somebody plants some news story, and just because, you know, people are making up their minds about how to vote in a whole lot of different ways, and this was a very dramatic election. So I have, I’m a little critical of the intelligence community right now, because I think they would do themselves and us a lot better service if they would steer ten miles clear of any politics, including any criticism of Obama.

HH: And you see, and I don’t like to do, I have great respect for intelligence professionals. Mike Morell, the former deputy director who got caught up in the Benghazi meltdown, wrote a great book called The Great War Of Our Time, which I have recommended to many people. But I don’t like second guessing what has happened here, and I especially, but I have to remind people President-Elect Trump has reminded them of WMD. Even more recently, the national intelligence estimate on Iran’s nuclear program of 2007, which at the time tied George W. Bush’s hands, because it came to the conclusion that Iran had abandoned its nuclear program, was 100% wrong. So there are reasons why you have to take all intelligence products very carefully and assess them. And there’s reasons why you would want to wait for your team to come in. That’s what, and at the same time, Paul Ryan said yesterday, I don’t know if you heard this, Larry Arnn, he said the Russians didn’t make Hillary not go to Michigan and Wisconsin. The Russians didn’t install a server in her basement. The Russians did not do all these things. She lost that election. Donald Trump won that election, and this is a sideshow about which we will talk more, because getting the relationship between the head of government and the intelligence agencies right is so important. And on this, we will look to Churchill and Lincoln, as we often do with Dr. Larry Arnn. Everything Hillsdale is available at You ought to be signed for Imprimis. Make it your New Year’s resolution. You can do it during the break. And listen to all of the Hillsdale Dialogues, which resume next week with the Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. Go out and get that and get ahead of us.

— – – – —

HH: Larry Arnn, in yesterday’s Washington Post, I had a column, What If Donald Trump Is Playing The Russians The Way That He Played The American Media. And yesterday with Ted Cruz, I had a conversation which is reproduced at length, and it’s got a very funny anecdote in it about Judge Luttig, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia, so I would recommend it to you, in which he talked about the cabinet being the most conservative cabinet ever because of the Reid Rule. It only takes 51 votes to confirm a cabinet member, and therefore, we’re getting Scott Pruitt and Andy Puzder and a lot of great conservatives. And I point out that, you know, Trump has outplayed everyone. Why don’t we think he can handle intelligence? What’s your response to both of those points?

LA: So I know, what do I know? I know four people in the cabinet. And I just think they’re awesome. I mean, I’m astonished at their appointment, and I have some detailed accounts of three of them, plus Tom Cotton getting interviewed in the Trump Tower. And they all say the same thing. This guy is really skillful, also very business-oriented. And his questions are all about what do you think we should do, and how are you going to do it? It’s very like that. And I know that there’s a famous woman politician who didn’t get the job, because she didn’t have a really great plan for doing a dramatic and amazing thing that Trump is planning to do. And he wants this thing done. And it’s unbelievable. I can’t, I guess I can’t say what it is, but it’s unbelievable that this is about to happen. So first of all, there’s that. But then, the foreign policy team, especially in the Defense area, I don’t know the guy from the Secretary of State, but it’s a very hard-core bunch of people. And they’re not patsies at all. Pompeo is going to run the CIA. And he’s Tom Cotton’s friend, and he’s a military man, and he’s a strong Congressman. And he and Tom Cotton broke the news about the Iran deal that there was no monitoring scheme in place, even months after they signed the deal. So that’s that guy, right? But Mike Flynn and General Mad Dog Mattis, and now it looks like Dan Coats, isn’t it, for Director of National Intelligence, the job that Clapper has? So these guys are tough people. And he’s appointing that team. And he seems to know, from what I hear, but in a sense, reasoning would know this, too, you appoint people to help you and manage for a reason is…and so you want people who can really do it, and that means give them their heads a lot. And so I don’t think what’s going on here is that Donald Trump has a secret plot to reward Vladimir Putin. I don’t think that’s plausible. And so I think you know, and another thing about Donald Trump seems to be this. I don’t know Donald Trump very well, but he, I said this once in a debate with somebody about Trump. If you grow up in Arkansas, and you’re around hunting dogs, you know that when they’re puppies, there are two kinds. And one kind, if they hear a loud noise, they shy away. And the other kind is if they hear a loud noise, they turn toward it. Donald Trump is that second kind. And that means if somebody’s attacking him, he attacks them back. And so all this talk that the election is doubtful, right, and the Electoral College, I left that out in my list, right? And the Electoral College is a terrible thing, and it’s thwarted the will of the people.

HH: Did you just go into a swimming pool? Did you move somewhere? Are you walking around a hotel room?

LA: No, no. Am I hard to hear?

HH: Okay. You were for a moment there. Okay, back on the Electoral College.

LA: Yeah, so Trump is, and you know, he did disparage the intelligence community. I don’t think he should have responded. But I don’t think Clapper should have done that. But I think it should stand up and tell the truth to Congress, which apparently they did yesterday.

HH: When we come back, we’re going to talk about what a head of state and head of government should say about what they are being told in secret, and we’re going to look at what Churchill did as a guide for that.

— – – —

HH: Dr. Arnn, there is a story by Josh Rogin in the Washington Post that says Jim Mattis, the general and secretary-designate of Defense, is fighting with the President-Elect over who will be the heads of the service agencies, who will be his number two. Mattis is very picky. Trump wants his people. What was Churchill’s rule about undersecretaries and deputy ministers and all that sort of thing?

LA: Well, I’ll answer that two ways. One was it depended. There’s a very notable example where he had a fight with a guy he really needed forming his 1940 crisis cabinet. Ernest Bevin was a socialist and a hard-fighting dock worker guy, and an anti-Communist. And Churchill really needed that guy in his cabinet. But Bevin wanted to pick all his own people. And Churchill wrote him a letter, and he wanted his cousin to be one of his functionaries. And he said in this crisis, I must have people in all of the key areas whom I know and trust. And Bevin compromised. He got mostly his own people. And Churchill got his people. There’s a good rule that I learned of from my friend, Ed Feulner, who’s the head of the domestic policy part of the transition team, and he said that it’s been the rule of previous administrations that people have mutual, that the president and the cabinet officer have mutual vetoes that you know, they piece it together out of who they know and who they want, and they both have to agree. And that looks like a good rule to me. So if they’re quarreling, and you know, I know this from Tom Price and Jeff Sessions and Tom Cotton, I know that they were all told that they would get a very wide latitude to people they wanted, and that Trump and the White House would be involved. And that seems like the right way to do it, to me.

HH: All right, now let’s go to the intelligence community specifically. He’s picked Mike Pompeo, great guy, to be the head of the CIA, Dan Coats, who I do not know, but I’m told is a good, to be the DNI, Mattis and Flynn. These are the, Mattis, Flynn and Kelly, these are the big five when it comes to intelligence – the secretaries of DHS, secretary of Defense, head of DNI, the head of the CIA and the head of our National Security Council. How did Churchill deal with secret matters? And how often did he talk about them?

LA: Well, that’s an extremely important and famous story, because they had a source. They were able to decode increasingly over the course of the war German communications because the Germans were very German, right, very, they had to have a perfect way, and had to be uniform. And so they invented these enigma machines that looked like typewriters. And you couldn’t decide anything without one of those machines. You had to know some other stuff, too, to decode anything, but if you needed the machine, and the machine was very hard to re-engineer, and they got their mitts on a couple. And then what happened was at Bletchley Park, a place outside London, sleepy, little village, you can go visit it and it’s a lot of fun, and this is a little village, right? And there’s this house that nobody knows what it is. It’s been out there on the edge of town for a long time. And the next thing you know, and this happened in months, not years, there were more than 20,000 people working out there. And so the neighbors noticed more activity.

HH: (laughing)

LA: And they were decoding the German military transcripts, and it was the most important thing that the Germans not know it. And so the man who ran it was a guy named Menzies, and he was known as C. And this thing was called Boniface, which is a good name if you think about it for a minute. And there were seven people who knew about this, and nobody ever spoke of it. And Churchill kept the key to the box that it came in every day in his own pocket all the time. And that means that people in the office, and most of the members of the cabinet, did not know about this thing. And it happened that in the Middle East, and in 1943, the Allies won their first parts of the war in the Middle East, in North Africa, fighting Rommel. And they learned over time that Rommel was running out of gas to drive his tanks. And he was running out of troops and ammunition. And Churchill traveled to the Middle East to tell two different generals that he knew this for sure, and how he knew it, but he wouldn’t send them a cable about it. So, and Churchill said famously, because he always had the greatest phrases in the world for whatever happened, in war, truth must always be guarded, accompanied by a bodyguard of lies. And he was a big believer in spying and in intelligence, and in fooling the enemy. And he guarded it really closely. And so, I don’t know if Trump’s going to, maybe Trump’s going to tweet out all the secrets. Who knows? I doubt it, but if he does, that’ll be really bad.

HH: Do you think he has the capacity? I raise the question in the Washington Post yesterday. Didn’t answer it, just that does he have the capacity to head fake Vladimir Putin? In other words, could all of this conversation that is ongoing about Putin be a head fake? Or does he also have the capacity to think strategically about doing a reverse Nixon to China? The stronger of the two competitors in the superpower category now is China. When Nixon went to China in ’72, it was the weaker. And so he aligned himself with the weaker of the two rivals, and thereby improved our strategic position. Is it possible Trump is thinking along those lines? Is it possible that he has a head fake? Or is it all just Trump being Trump, in your view?

LA: Well, I do very much think it’s Trump being Trump, but I wouldn’t say just. I mean, first of all, Trump has head faked the whole flippin’ country, right?

HH: Yup, that was my point.

LA: So…

HH: Yup.

LA: Isn’t that odd? But I think that there’s, here’s what we can know so far. And one thing we can’t know is we can’t really know what he’s going to do or how good he’s going to be. I just believe that, and I’ve believed it for months, that the signs are good. But here’s a thing you need, right? The military of the United States has not been properly maintained. And diplomacy starts with military power. It doesn’t end there, but it starts there. And so the foundation is that. And Trump says he’s going to cut the government and cut the deficit and all that, and he also says he’s going to build up the military, and it’s going to be the best in the world. And those five guys that you named earlier, those are all guys that want to do that. And that’s the team.

HH: And Paul Ryan, our mutual friend, was on the program two days ago, and he stunned me. There are $2 trillion dollars in American profits stuck abroad that will not be repatriated, because our corporate tax rate is around 30%, and they’re just not going to give 30% to the government, because they don’t have to do that. And Paul Ryan is going to propose a repatriation window where the average rate’s going to be about 5 ½%, stunningly low. I was expecting 10%. That will generate between $200 and 300 billion dollars, according to the Speaker, which will pay for a lot of boats. It will pay for a fence. It will pay for a lot of infrastructure. It’s brilliant if they do it.

LA: Oh, yeah. Yeah, and you know, I mean, those, the Obama administration, I mean, you know, some things about that administration were deplorable. And he, these tech guys who have a lot of this money abroad, they came to him. And you know, they were all, they were his greatest supporters, right? They just fawned on him, and they came to him and begged him to do something about this, and he wouldn’t do it. And you know, he had the Congress for a while. So that’s, it is a brilliant plan, and if we start repairing the military so that it’s like the first thing you’ve got to do is you’ve got to make Vladimir Putin and China, and their leadership, Mr. Z, you’ve got to make them afraid. You’ve got to make them worried, nervous, because they’re playing that game. And look at what Trump did. So in the South China Sea, China is claiming very wide boundaries, right, the 300 mile or whatever it is, and they’re taking a rock, a coral reef, and they’re building it into a military base. And there are signs they’re going to do another one.

HH: Yup.

LA: And they’re trying to deny us access to the South China Sea. And they’re, diplomacy is all made to make their neighbors cower, and also offer them inducements with a plain purpose, also the weapons they’re building have this purpose, to deny the United States Navy and the Air Force access to the Pacific. And so what does Trump do, but take a phone call from the president of Taiwan? And that’s just brilliant, in my opinion, and the stories are that it was carefully prepared. And that’s, and see, China has enormous advantages. They have population, they have growth, they have proximity to most of the people in the world, right? And we’re off here by ourselves, right? It’s our advantage, but also disadvantage. Well, another really great advantage that we have is that in the Pacific, they hate and fear China. And so those people in Taiwan do not want to be ruled by those guys in the mainland, because for one thing, they see that you can get arrested in the middle of the night, and they see that Apple Computer is recently, last week, compelled to disable its app for the New York Times in China, because they, I mean, God, I don’t like the New York Times, although I read it, but it’s too freedom for China, right? And so there’s an advantage for us there. And Trump just took a phone call. And it just shook up the whole world.

HH: Yeah.

LA: And that’s really cheap, you know? It didn’t cost anything. It cost, I think, the lady from Taiwan paid for the phone call.

HH: Paid for the call. But then he does this, this morning, Dr. Arnn. Wow, the ratings are in, the Arnold Schwarzenegger got swamped or destroyed by comparison to the ratings machine DJT. So much for being a movie star, and that was season one compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1, but who cares? He supported Kasich and Hillary. What do you make (laughing)

LA: (laughing) Well, he is, you know, Donald Trump is like, Donald Trump is not Winston Churchill. Nobody is. But Winston Churchill did have a gift for the indiscreet.

HH: (laughing) Come back on that thought. Stay tuned on that, a Churchill-Trump comparison to end your week, America, a taste for the indiscreet.

— – – — –

HH: You were about to say that Winston Churchill was also given to idiosyncratic flights of fancy. You are the last person to compare anyone to Churchill, but I think you were planning on saying get used to it. People don’t change.

LA: (laughing) Well, Churchill was not, and they’re alike in this. I mean, Churchill was a genius, and we don’t know if Donald Trump is a genius. But, and he is not. Churchill wrote 50 books, and they’re worth reading, and Donald Trump hasn’t written that many. But, and Churchill saved the world, and Donald Trump hasn’t done that, yet. So anyway, those are differences. But they were very firm people, and they were also, I mean, Winston Churchill was a very confident man. And he could be witty in very tense and terrible situations. And his sense of humor was legendary, and it got him into trouble. But it also sustained him. And Trump is like that, you know. I sometimes thought that our friends in the conservative movement, and in the Republican Party, were not interested enough in politics, because what I thought, having read about politics, I guess, all my life was if some guy’s getting 20,000 people coming to his events, wow. What’s that about?

HH: Yes.

LA: You know, we should look for a way to get that on our side, huh?

HH: Yes.

LA: And Trump does that, and it’s because he’s, one reason is he’s so bold, and he’s so funny. So yeah.

HH: So of these conversations you’ve hinted at, do you expect a rollicking first 100 days?

LA: I do. It’s just, it’s just arming for business. It’s just that. It’s just, as far as I can tell, and everything I hear about it is they’re getting ready to do a bunch of dramatic stuff. And Trump has a taste for, has a gift, I think, for getting things done right away and cheaply. And of course, a lot of things, like building up the military, it’s going to cost a lot of money, and for a long time. And just right now, the political temper of the country is we’re, you know, that’s okay. That’s what we’re going to do. You know, when Reagan came in, there were brawls about the tax cuts and about the Defense budget, with the Soviet Union staring us down. In 1976, Leonid Brezhnev in Berlin gave a speech, and said that the correlation of forces has changed, and we’re going to dominate the world. And then he paused in the speech, and Migs flew over, a violation of the Berlin Treaty. And so we weren’t doing anything about that. And in that atmosphere, Reagan winning the election by a lot, more than Trump won by, saying he’s going to build up Defense, there was a terrible brawl about that. But you know, Trump’s got the Congress. And I think that he’s going to get a lot of these things done.

HH: And he’s got to do it. Now there’s a story in Politico that the House Republicans are slow walking his infrastructure plan. In my new book, I say that’s a mistake. They ought to give him one-tenth of what Obama got, which would be $83 billion dollars. He’ll do a hundred times what Obama did with one-tenth of the money. If you do it the right way, if you let local people pick the projects on which to spend it, they will do so. If you let local congressmen control the money, not bureaucrats, I think he is going to be an enemy of the bureaucracy, Larry Arnn, and I love that.

LA: Oh, yeah. I mean, he’s, he, you know, he’s got a real sense of value for money. So you know, you invented the best term for this that I’ve ever heard, and that is Trump tattoos, right?

HH: Yes.

LA: So Boeing is building a plane that’s going to cost a lot. Is it Boeing that’s building it?

HH: Yup.

LA: And now the Air Force One, right?

HH: And they got a Trump tattoo, yeah.

LA: They got a Trump tattoo, and everybody gets them all the time. I mean, you know, I like Trump, and I endorsed Trump, and I stood by him during the Hollywood tape thing and all that, right? But I’m waiting for my Trump tattoo.

HH: Tattoo someday, and I also have a new term, tangible Trump trophies, T3’s. I want, I think he will want to build some tangible Trump trophies, T3’s, all over the country. And you know what? That’ll be good for him, and good for the country if we build things.

LA: Yeah, he, and he, you know, I’m hoping that they’re going to do toll roads. And you know, those are annoying to people, but if they’re electronic, they don’t take any time. And what they have the promise of doing, especially if they’re private, is they have the promise of keeping the revenues associated with the expenses in transportation. And it just so happens Hugh Hewitt and I know a lot about this, because we used to fight the development wars in Southern California trying to protect people’s property rights. But what they were doing is they won’t build any roads, and they take all the money that used to go for the roads, and they spend it on themselves.

HH: Yup.

LA: The government, right

HH: And on studies, on studies.

LA: And so, yeah, yeah, lots of studies. And so the truth is we should get modern here about transportation. The cities should work. And Trump likes things like that. So I would be surprised if he doesn’t think of some really innovative things to do.

HH: More on this next week, and the beginning of our conversation about the Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, our next great work on the Hillsdale Dialogue. Dr. Larry Arnn, welcome back to the United States. Welcome to 2017. America, thank you so much for listening.

End of interview.


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