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Dr. Larry Arnn Recaps The GOP Presidential Debate In Las Vegas

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HH: I’m joined by Hillsdale College president, Dr. Larry Arnn, on a very eventful week, and a very eventful Friday, in fact, in the nation’s capital. Dr. Arnn, welcome to the Hillsdale Dialogue, it is always a pleasure to talk to you on Friday.

LA: How you doing?

HH: I’m great. I just made a dash across the river from Reagan, and you can make it from Reagan to the Kirby Center in 18 minutes, I’ve discovered, which is a very, very good thing.

LA: I have done that myself. (laughing) Yeah…

HH: You know that drive?

LA: I do.

HH: So I am curious, our friend, Senator Cotton, who joined me earlier, voted against the bill that our friend, Speaker Ryan, negotiated. And in regular order, he negotiated it. What does this tell you about the nature of this massive $1.15 trillion dollar spending measure, which includes $620 billion dollars in tax breaks, and a bunch of things that Democrats wanted, and a bunch of things Republicans wanted?

LA: Well, the thing is obviously ugly as sin, right?

HH: Yes.

LA: It’s an advancement of the way we do government today. Of course, it’s terrible. It also perpetuates some things that should be attacked right now, in my opinion, as regards to immigration, but it makes some of those things better, too. And you know, the obvious question is how can Ryan do this? And I can tell you what he says about that.

HH: Please do. Please do.

LA: He says it’s going to be ugly. This is a cake that was already in the oven. We should be judged on what happens next year.

HH: And I buy that. Now I know a lot of people online don’t want to, but I buy that. Do you?

LA: Well, I, you know, first of all, it’s not for sale. It’s already sold. And it contains a promise for the future, and so that can be measured. And then the second thing is there’s a lot, you know, I will tell you that conversations with people, they want to make a grand plan and try to implement it, to turn the whole government around. And there’s lots of conversations like that, lots of solicitation of opinions about that, how to do that. And that’s more than I have ever seen of that from leading people in the Congress. So you know, I think it’s reasonable to think, I mean, look, this thing is, this thing is the Titanic, except bigger, and so turn it takes time. And the time to start turning it is right after the holidays, and I think that attempt is going to be made.

HH: Now I want to take for a moment an analogy from football, so it’s going to be Greek to you since you’re in Michigan, and try and apply it. It’s when a new coach takes over, as Urban Meyer did at Ohio State, The Ohio State University a few years ago. He can’t be measured on the last two games of the year, or even sometimes the first season that follows. He has to have a chance to get his recruiting class, and he has to have a chance to train his team. And I think then-Chairman, now Speaker Ryan resisted taking the job, because he knew that this was coming. And so I’m very sympathetic to his position, and not at all sympathetic to people throwing bricks at him, because he has promised a rebuild. And so I’m thinking we ought to give him the opportunity to deliver on that, especially with a presidential election as important as the one ahead of us looming.

LA: Yeah, I’m pulling for him, and you know, I have some, I, first of all, I know him not to be a liar, a good man of good intention. So he needs a chance. But another thing is it doesn’t make any sense to call for infinite patience, because there’s an election next year, and there’s an opportunity for the Congress to set the terms of it by passing comprehensive legislation that begins with the reform of the government. And so they should do that. And there’s a Republican majority. If the Republican Party stands for that, then they should get their act together and do that. And that’s what Speaker Ryan says he’s going to try to do. And I pray that he does, and as soon as he can.

HH: Now yesterday, in the leaving Las Vegas show, Senator Thune, who is the chairman of the Republican Senate Conference, makes him the third-ranking Republican, dropped a little bombshell on Guy Benson who was co-hosting with me, and I, that we both, our eyebrows went up and our ears perked up. He said we’re going to have to look at the rules governing Appropriations bills next year, because we think we need to pass Appropriations bills and send them to the President, and if he wishes to veto them, he can veto them. That is a death sentence that may or may not be commuted on the filibuster, Larry Arnn, and it would be a good thing prior to an election for people to have the President vetoing or signing Appropriations bills that spell out what the Republican vision is.

LA: Well, first of all, I agree with that very much. I’ll say two things about it. One is a couple of weeks ago, we looked up information about who are the great Speakers, and we found two. And they have two things in common, each of them. One is Henry Clay, and the other is Thomas Brackett Reed. And one, you know, Henry Clay from the 1820s, and Brackett Reed from late in the 19th Century. The two things they had in common is that both of them were very adept at making arguments about the fundamental principles and their connection to the fundamental institutions of America. That means the Declaration and the Constitution. And both of them strengthened the job, the powers of the leadership in similar ways. And so about the filibuster, which is one of the ways, my wife’s friend, Tom McClintock, California Congressman, he knows a lot. It’s funny how much he knows about being a legislator. He just loves to do that, and he’s done it in California and now in Congress. And he said you just, you don’t need to get rid of the filibuster. You need to restore it. And I said pray, Tom, what does that mean? And he said the filibuster is a rule in parliamentary bodies, very old, that if a minority of as much as 30% want to continue talking, they may, but there are, for as long as they want. He said you should have it in the House, too. But he said there are two conditions. One is they have to be present, and the second is their speeches have to be pertinent to the subject at hand. And to enforce that, the Speaker has a right to rule that nothing new is being said. So these are debating societies, and the process of debate in which they engage is the heart of them. They’re deliberative bodies, and you do that by talking together. But the filibuster is now this thing where all you’ve got to do is put in a note, and you can keep something from going to the floor, and you don’t, if an actual floor filibuster gets going, you don’t have to be there, and you can just read into the Congressional record the New York City phone book if you want to, just by sending an email to somebody saying do that for me.

HH: Now I believe that if in fact the new Speaker and the new Senate leadership get together and come up with a plan and implement it, that the Republicans can set the stage for a smashing victory in 2016, and for legislative accomplishment and a reform of the country in 2017, and that this will be forgotten. But there’s a big if there that presumes planning and coordination between the Houses and the leadership. Do you think, have you seen evidences of that?

LA: Oh, yeah, certainly among senior people in the House. But you know, that thing you just quoted from John Thune, a good man, who’s also, I understand, an excellent pheasant hunter from a great state for that, that shows something, right, because that’s a big thing.

HH: Yes, it is.

LA: And if they’re thinking like that, there’s a good interview in the last two or three days with Mitch McConnell, him talking about Paul Ryan. And it’s all very diplomatic and very good, and very diplomatic about John Boehner, too. He says the only thing he doesn’t miss about John Boehner is the cigarette smoke. But his praise of Ryan implied profounder cooperation. And that’s what’s needed.

HH: And I would also note the Freedom Caucus, who were thorns, many thorns in the side of John Boehner, are very pleased with the new Speaker, for even though they may not like the result, they like the process by which it was reached, which may be the opposite of last year’s drama, or two years ago’s drama.

LA: Yeah, that’s right, and you know, they’re not all happy, of course. And you know, you and I are not happy. But they have somebody who’s talking with them. There’s a good quote by Congressman Labrador, who voted against this bill, as did, you know, a large proportion, but a minority of the Republican Caucus voted against this bill, which means there were more Democratic votes for it than Republican votes. And you know, that’s a measure of what’s in it. And so they didn’t like it, right? But they did think that they were having discussions with somebody who was talking to them and stating intentions to which he can be held accountable, which is of course, the price of leadership.

HH: And when we come back from break on the Hillsdale Dialogue, Dr. Larry Arnn and I are taking a break from the great works, and his brand new book, Churchill’s Trial, which ought to be under every Christmas tree, seriously, it ought to be under every Christmas tree. You can get it over at www.amazon.com, and every bookstore, and I will link it later tonight when I have a chance to load up my computer at Hughhewitt.com. But we need to talk about the debate that occurred on Tuesday night with Dr. Larry Arnn. All of the Hillsdale Dialogues available at www.hughforhillsdale.com. www.hillsdale.edu is where you go for all of the online courses and to sign up for Imprimis, which you ought to be doing. I’m broadcasting from the Boyle Studios at the Kirby Center of Hillsdale College in the shadow of Capitol Hill.

— – — – –

HH: Dr. Arnn, your assessment generally of the two debates on Tuesday night in Las Vegas?

LA: Well, most revealing debate so far. You cost a stink. Well done. (laughing)

HH: (Laughing)

LA: You said to me once a piece of wisdom, and that is you don’t want to be the story. You don’t want any of the commentators to be a story the day after. And you’re not that, but you did cause some stir.

HH: Some stir, yes.

LA: And I thought we got contrast, right? I thought it was good. I very much hope to see the debates narrow in numbers of people in them so that the contrast sharpens to a point, and that right soon. But having said that, this was pretty effective, I thought.

HH: Now to our last point there, the first debate, which featured four good men – George Pataki, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham, allowed for a very substantive, deep, involved and free-flowing conversation which the panelists had even less to do than they did in the first, because the men themselves engaged. And that contrasted sharply with the second debate with nine participants, but I think underscoring your primary point, which is the fewer, the better on these things.

LA: Oh, yeah. You need, you know, you need Lincoln and Douglas. And since they’re dead, the best two we can find would be better.

HH: Yeah.

LA: So it was, you know, there were some exchanges between them, and one with you, I thought, and you provoked some others between them that was, that were very good. And you saw what they’re up to. And they have arguments for what they’re doing, right? They’re thinking deeply, they’re responding to each other. So if you could just sustain that for two hours, you’d have a heck of a thing.

HH: Well, let me go to the first thing that caused a stink. I’ve been booed before, and I’m from Cleveland, so I’ve actually grown up with boos. So here is cut number 31 where I’m talking with Dr. Carson. And by the way, I blame these boos on Dr. Arnn for reasons which shall become obvious. Cut number 31:

HH: Dr. Carson, you mentioned in your opening remarks that you’re a pediatric neurologist surgeon.

BC: Neurosurgeon.

HH: Neurosurgeon, and people admire and respect, and are inspired by your life story, your kindness, your Evangelical core support. We’re talking about ruthless things tonight – carpet bombing, toughness, war, and people wonder could you do that? Could you order air strikes that would kill innocent children by not the scores, but the hundreds and the thousands? Could you wage war as a commander-in-chief?

BC: Well, interestingly enough, you should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them we’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor. They’re not happy about it. Believe me. And they don’t like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me. Sometimes, you, I sound like him, (laughing) you know, later on, you know, they really realize what’s going on. And by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job rather than death by a thousand pricks.

HH: So you are okay with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilians…

Audience boos

HH: It’s like…

BC: You got it. You got it.

HH: That is what war, can you be as ruthless as Churchill was in prosecuting the war against the Nazis?

BC: Ruthless is not necessarily the word I would use, but tough, resolute, understanding what the problems are, and understanding that the job of the president of the United States is to protect the people of the this country, and to do what is necessary in order to get it done.

HH: So Dr. Arnn, your comments, and of course, you’ve never held back. If you feel like you want to critique my question, by all means, do.

LA: Well, I’ll just say the obvious thing. He kicked your butt.

HH: (laughing)

LA: (laughing) But no, first of all, what he, the first thing he said was nonsense. But what he was trying to say was sensible, and the question was good. It’s nonsense, because he seemed to be equating curing children with killing them. And you were saying that would he make decisions that would encompass the death of children. And you’re going to blame me for that because I said that Winston Churchill was a fierce warrior, which you know, anybody with an elementary education should know that.

HH: Well, there’s actually a different quote. It’s when you quoted Clementine Churchill to me about the essential quality of her husband when it came to the Nazis.

LA: She wrote the prime minister in the First World War, only Winston has the deadliness to fight the Germans.

HH: The deadliness.

LA: That’s right.

HH: That is it. That’s what I was looking at, and I may have not aptly stated it, but that’s what I’m looking, trying to ask Dr. Carson, if he thinks he has within him the deadliness necessary to fight ISIS. I think he does.

LA: So if you take Carson’s words and put them in the order that, and you know, it’s very easy for me to do later, right? And I’m not criticizing him at all. But what he was trying to say was two things. To fight, you have to be firm, and you do have to be ruthless. That’s a good word. But the second thing is you have to protect the innocent to the maximum extent you can.

HH: Yes.

LA: And Churchill, you’ll never see Churchill saying and we’re going to go over there and kill the German babies, and you know, many were killed. What he said was we will fight the war to the most rapid and merciful conclusion possible, and we will use the tools when we have to that they use against us. Churchill was not bloodthirsty about the innocent ever. And you know, he, Churchill didn’t like war, tried to avoid it, tried to avoid both those big ward, despite the fact that he won his glory in the second one. So Carson might have said that, and then, but you know, we don’t do enough of this now, especially with Obama as president. Don Rumsfeld, you know, a very great Secretary of Defense, in my opinion, he did this a lot. He would talk about the people who had been killing Americans, and he would say we’re going to go over there and scour for them and kill them. And that’s the ticket, right?

HH: Yes.

LA: That’s what you were looking for. And he said something stronger about that.

HH: And I got it, we got some of that from Ted Cruz. We got some of it from Chris Christie as well, and some of it from Marco Rubio. I spent the flight from west to east today reading Joby Warrick’s new book, Black Flags: The Rise Of ISIS. He’s the Pulitzer Prize winner. These are maybe the most relentless enemies we have ever faced, Larry Arnn. They will kill everybody.

LA: Yeah, and you know, they may be, by the way, old enemies. I found an article today, and I’m not putting myself forward as an expert about this, but I’ve been reading about this. I’ve been trying to figure out who’s our friend over there. And that question in the beginning is easy to answer. Our friends are Israel and the Kurds, especially Israel. Why? Because the way they treat their own population is the way they’re likely to treat their neighbors. And you know, Churchill always said there are nations where people own governments, and nations where governments own people. These Arab countries are the second, mostly. So it’s hard to find a friend.

HH: And King, we have King Abdullah as well. We have to talk about him. I’m learning about him in this book by Joby Warrick. He’s a friend, too, not surprisingly, educated at Sandhurst makes you into a friend. I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, as we continue the debate recap on this, the Friday edition of the Hugh Hewitt Show.

— – – – — –

HH: He has said earlier, Dr. Arnn, that I created something of a stir or a stink. This exchange is one of those that did produce follow-on news for the next few days, cut number 35. It takes two and a half minutes, and then we’ll give Dr. Arnn at least that much time to analyze it.

HH: Mr. Trump, Dr. Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command, the control and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad. The B-52s are older than I am, the missiles are old, the submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision. What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?

DT: Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust who’s totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is doing, that is so powerful and so important. And one of the things that I’m frankly most proud of is that in 2003-2004, I was totally against going into Iraq, because you’re going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it. I called it very strongly, and it was very important. But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ballgame. Frankly, I would have said get out of Syria, get out, if we didn’t have the power of weaponry today, the power is so massive, that we can’t just leave areas that 50 years ago or 75 years ago, we wouldn’t care. It was hand to hand combat. The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable this is what he’s saying, the biggest problem we have today is nuclear, nuclear proliferation, and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That’s, in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.

HH: Of the three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority, because I want to go to Senator Rubio after that and ask him…

DT: Well, I think, to me, nuclear is just, that the power, the devastation, is very important to me.

HH: Senator Rubio, do you have a response?

MR: I do. Well, first, let’s just explain to people at home what the triad is. Maybe a lot of people haven’t heard that terminology before. The triad is our ability of the United States to conduct nuclear attacks using airplanes, using missiles launched from silos or from the ground, and also from our nuclear subs, an ability to attack. And it’s important. All three of them are critical. It gives us the ability at deterrence. Now some have become more critical than others, for example, the submarines. And that’s the Ohio-Class submarine. That needs to be modernized. The air component also needs to be modernized. The B-52, as someone earlier pointed out, is an outdated model that was flown by the grandparents of people that are flying it now. And we need a serious modernization program as well on our silo-launched missiles. All three are critical for the defense of the country.

HH: Dr. Larry Arnn, your assessment of that two and a half minutes of the debate which has generated hours of conversation?

LA: Well, Trump said a wise thing when he said it’s modern technology that makes this more dangerous to us. But the first thing he said is not true. The idea that we destabilized the Middle east in the first Gulf War, Iraq attacked Kuwait, an old country with a constitutional monarchy of a sort that has been very friendly to us ever since we save them and before. And so that was a destabilization underway. And here’s a point I was about to make a minute ago. There’s, the biggest English newspaper in Turkey is called Zaman, which means time in Turkish, I gather, and they have a really great article about ISIS recently. And what they say is the lead commanders of ISIS are former commanders in Saddam Hussein’s army. And I don’t know the truth of this, but I’m interested in the question, were they the people in the Republican Guard that we spared at the end of the first Gulf War when we had them trapped against a river? And so first of all, it was an aggressive act by a rising attempt at an empire by Saddam Hussein that has led to this chain of events. And so is that a stable Middle East? There was not one. We needed to do something about that, and we did.

HH: And so when it comes to felicity with the terminology of nuclear weaponry and having thought deeply about it, Marco Rubio displayed it, Chris Christie did on the show yesterday, Donald Trump, not so much. Disqualifying in your view?

LA: No, well, first of all, Rubio is very impressive in these debates, as is Cruz, as is Christie here, I think, and last night, he was good a couple of times at least, or in the recent debate, he was good a couple of times at least. So disqualifying, no. I think where we are is that there’s a range of opinions in the Republican Party about these subjects, and Rand Paul is at one end, and Rubio is somewhere near the other end, and Trump and Cruz are between them so far.

HH: Yes.

LA: You know, Cruz, you know, who’s got the best position for the politics today on immigration by a lot, outside Trump, Cruz voted against the intelligence bill. And he and Rand Paul are the only Senators who voted against that. So there’s that, right? There’s a contrast there. And it’s closing, because in the end, both Rubio and Cruz, I think, are going to be strong and make America stronger if they have the votes in the Congress to do it.

HH: Indeed, they will. We’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn.

— – – —

HH: As we went to break, Dr. Arnn was talking about the contrast between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Senators both at the debate on Tuesday evening. I want to play one Senator Ted Cruz exchange which opened, actually, my participation at the debate when I asked him to remark upon his stated differentiation from Donald Trump on the question of whether or not Muslims can enter the United States who are not American citizens. That is cut number 30:

HH: Senator Cruz, you’ve said you disagree with Mr. Trump’s policy. I don’t want a cage match. You’ve tweeted you don’t want a cage match. But Republican primary voters deserve to know with the kind of specificity and responsiveness you delivered in your nine Supreme Court arguments how you disagree with Mr. Trump. Will you spell that out with us?

TC: Well, listen, Hugh, everyone understands why Donald has suggested what he has. We’re looking at a president whose engaged in this double speak, where he doesn’t call radical Islamic terrorism by its name. Indeed, he gives a speech after the San Bernardino attack where his approach is to try to go after the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens rather than to keep us safe. And even worse, President Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing bringing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to this country when the head of the FBI has told Congress they cannot vet those refugees. I understand why Donald made that proposal. I introduced legislation in the Senate that I believe is more narrowly focused at the actual threat, which is radical Islamic terrorism. And what my legislation would do is suspend all refugees for three years from countries where ISIS or al Qaeda control substantial territory.

HH: So you’re saying you disagree because he’s too broad, and you’re having a narrower focus? Why do you disagree with him?

TC: Well, you know, I’m reminded of what FDR’s grandfather said. He said all horse thieves are Democrats, but not all Democrats are horse thieves. In this instance, there are millions of peaceful Muslims across the world in countries like India, where there is not the problems we are seeing in nations that are controlled, have territory controlled by al Qaeda or ISIS. And we should direct at the problem, focus on the problem, and defeat radical Islamic terrorism. It’s not a war on a faith. It’s a war on a political and theocratic ideology that seeks to murder us.

HH: Now Dr. Larry Arnn, that was so elegantly done on a lot of levels, and I was reminded. We spent many weeks going over the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and both the humor of the participants, but also their ability to weave an argument that would take a couple of side turns and then take an off-ramp and return to the main highway at the end. I think Ted Cruz did that in that answer.

LA: I thought that was an awesome answer. I agree with it. You know, he’s, of course, very smart. And he, so you know, first of all, he’s right about this. You know, if there’s, what are there, two billion Muslims or something, right? And 80 or 90% of them are Sunnis. And 10 or 20% of them are Shiia. And there’s a lot of animosity between them. But that animosity is focused in a war, in a region, and so attack that. And you know, the United States needs to be the friend of everybody it can be the friend of.

HH: Right.

LA: So that’s why a general prohibition on immigration against a faith is not a good idea. But this, you know, Paul Ryan was the first one I heard say it in a speech in the House right after these attacks in San Bernardino. He said we should have a pause in this while we figure out the security implications of these refugees. And that’s what Cruz is calling for more definitely, and with a time limit. So that looks to me like the right approach. You know, we need to be the friends of anybody we can be. We need allies.

HH: And one last exchange. Again, this is between myself and Donald Trump, cut number 32:

HH: Mr. Trump:

DT: Yes.

HH: We are talking about the most important thing. That’s why it’s heated. And it’s, you’re okay with Mr. Assad staying in power. But you’re also in favor of winning. If he stays in power, Iran is winning. Hezbollah is winning. Iran is winning in Yemen. They are winning everywhere. If they’re winning, how can we be winning?

DT: I think Assad is a bad guy, very bad guy, all right? Lots of people killed. I think we’re backing people we have no idea who they are, the rebels. We call them the rebels, the patriotic rebels. We have no idea. A lot of people think, Hugh, that they’re ISIS. We have to do one thing at a time. We can’t be fighting ISIS and fighting Assad. Assad is fighting ISIS. He’s fighting ISIS. Russia is fighting, now, ISIS. And Iran is fighting ISIS. We have to do one thing at a time. We can’t go, and I watched Lindsey Graham. He said I’ve been here for ten years fighting. Well, he’ll be there with that thinking for another 50 years. He won’t be able to solve the problem. We have to get rid of ISIS first. After we get rid of ISIS, we’ll start thinking about it, but we can’t be fighting Assad. And when you’re fighting Assad, you’re fighting Russia, you’re fighting Iran. You’re fighting a lot of different groups. But we can’t be fighting everybody at one time.

HH: Dr. Arnn, I thought of Churchill’s Trial, and what a statesman needs to do is prioritize, of course. But they sometimes don’t have a choice of just doing one thing at a time, do they?

LA: No, you know, first of all, about the question of Assad, Assad’s the kind of guy, see, he’s just what Trump described. I actually kind of liked that answer. And what he described was a man who’s a treacherous tyrant. But also, he’s not in this messianic movement that’s making war in the cells popping up all over the world. And he’ll be a good guy as long as we’re strong and we know we’ll kill him if he’s not, whereas ISIS doesn’t seem prepared to listen to any kind of reason, and we haven’t given them many reasons to listen to. Some of those reasons are going to have to come with a gun. So I would, if it were me, I would think through, what I’ve been, actually, reading up on this of late, and I’m no expert. But you know, most of these rebel groups in Syria, are, they all have Islamic in their name. So it’ll be tricky to figure out who’s the friendly ones, if any. And if it’s true that ISIS is born out of the remnants of the Republican Guard, then gracious sakes, we ought to have taken care of that problem a long time ago, and we had them right where we needed them. So I would focus for sure, and I’d be flexible about this, about Assad, because you know, look, here’s a classic example. There have never been an enemy of communism so early or so consistent or so fierce than Winston Churchill, and he made a pact with Josef Stalin the minute Hitler turned on Stalin, and Stalin had been his enemy to that moment, an actual ally of Germany in war. And in the House of Commons, he explains it. He said if Hitler invaded hell, I would at least make a favorable mention of the Devil in the House of Commons.

HH: (laughing) On that note, we conclude the recap. Dr. Larry Arnn, the Hillsdale Dialogue is concluded for a week. Thank you so much. www.hughforhillsdale.com for all the Hillsdale Dialogues, www.hillsdale.edu for everything Hillsdale. Go. Wallow in it. You’ll be better for it.

End of interview.

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