HH: And what an interesting moment to be broadcasting from the Kirby Center of Hillsdale College in the Hillsdale Dialogue on the day after debate, reminiscent of 1960 when presidential debates got going, on the day that there’s a near riot convulsing Chicago, which reminds us of 1968, and on the day that Nancy Reagan is laid to rest, which reminds us of the glory years in Washington, D.C. of the 1980s. I’m joined by Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, www.hillsdale.edu, for our weekly chat. And Dr. Arnn, what a week it has been. Are you watching what is unfolding in Chicago?
HH: Did you watch last night?
LA: Yeah, I’m watching it right now. It’s amazing.
HH: So what are your, there is a combination of events. I watched all of the Nancy Reagan eulogies that I could. There is this debate last night, and now there is this near riot. What is your thought?
LA: Well, first of all, I’d say about the debate, you did a good job.
HH: Thank you.
LA: CNN did a good job, I thought, a very good job.
HH: I agree.
LA: And you have said before that you don’t think you and CNN ought to be the story, and that seems to me exactly right, and you weren’t. So I liked that.
LA: I think the debates have been fierce. They were less fierce last night, but I think these riots in Chicago, there’s something fundamental afoot. And it reminds me of the great turning points that I happen to know about in the American Revolution and in the Civil War. And so there’s a lot of emotion and a lot of fundamental principle that’s up in the air. One thing I’ve been saying about these debates is if you take the people who run for president on the Republican ticket since Reagan, and put them all on the stage with this group, they might break down in tears.
HH: Wasn’t it amazing last night? I said there were no losers last night. The open convention won. Marco Rubio sparkled with a home field advantage, but it was really a tie. He had a home field advantage that gave him a little bit of energy. At least that’s what I felt on the stage. I don’t know how it came across on the TV. I still haven’t seen it on the TV. But on…
LA: He was more effective than he has been since the beginning, and it’s also, you know, my guess is it’s too late, because one of the things that happened was he tried a different tactic, and it was very dramatic, and he has apologized for that tactic and resumed his former way, which I think is a very good way. So that, the state of his campaign is he got behind, he tried something really different, and he didn’t, and he’s abandoned that now and gone back to what he was, which is a very good thing to be.
HH: Now I just asked Chuck Todd last hour, because I’m here in town to do Meet The Press on Sunday what he thought of Florida. It’s his state. It’s his home state. I know John Kasich’s going to win Ohio, because I know Ohio. And Chuck Todd’s from Miami, so I tend to, he doesn’t think Marco Rubio can come back. But in your home state of Michigan, where Hillsdale College is, Hillary Clinton threw away a double digit lead in like five days. And so can’t we believe that such a swing can happen in Florida, especially precipitated by events such as we are watching tonight?
LA: Yeah, those events might help Trump, too, though. You know, sure, of course it can happen. This is, is there anything that is predictable about this whole thing, right?
LA: So we don’t know who’s going to win Florida. It looks like Trump, and Trump has got big momentum. But Cruz has got momentum, too, and Rubio did a good job. And if Rubio were to pull out Florida, and if Kasich does pull out Ohio, it looks even to me, but you know Ohio better than I do, I’m proud to say.
LA: Then you know, it’s still a fight, and it’s going to go on for at least another month.
HH: Now I’ve got to say, Dr. Arnn, I’m going to talk about football now, so it will be foreign to you and alien to your Michigan tribe.
HH: But Urban Meyer, why can’t all conversations be like, Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel and Woody Hayes from above, that’s the father, son and holy ghost of Ohio football, are all endorsing John Kasich. And Arnold flies in, and you and I have experience with Arnold, and drops in on Columbus, and he’s just not going to lose Ohio. So if it goes to an open convention, I posed this question last night to Donald Trump. Let’s hear his answer and question.
HH: Mr. Trump, if you arrive in Cleveland with a plurality and the most, but not a majority, is it legitimate for someone else to emerge from that convention the nominee? And if so, would you support that person?
DT: I think that what should happen, getting back maybe a little bit to your first question, I think that whoever, first of all, I think I’m going to have the delegates, okay? Let’s see what happens. Let’s see. But if somebody doesn’t have the delegates, and I guess there’s two of us up here that can, and there are two of us that cannot at this moment, but if, no, that’s just, that’s, by the way, that is not meant to be a criticism. That’s just a mathematical fact, okay? If two of us get up there, I would say this. If Marco, if the Governor, if Ted had more votes than me in the form of delegates, I think whoever gets to that top position as opposed to solving that artificial number that was set by somebody, which is a very random number, I think that whoever gets the most delegates should win. That’s what I think.
HH: So Dr. Arnn, he made news there. He said a plurality is actually a majority. He called a majority a random number. But it was very effective, didn’t you think?
LA: Yeah, and look, you read Bloomberg’s statement when he says he’s not going to run. And what did he say? He said that the only way one could be elected president under these circumstances is to be elected by the minority of the people. And this is a country devoted to government by consent. So you know, the Constitution qualifies that in a hundred ways, and thank God for it. It’s why we still have a country. But still, its bedrock is majority rule and minority rights. So whoever gets the most delegates is going to have a very powerful argument, the most powerful argument. And that means if he’s not picked, then it will be seen as questionable. It doesn’t mean he will be picked, but it will be seen as questionable. And so they, you know, and Reince Priebus, before your debate last night, went on the air and said we’re going to support the nominee? Why? Because what political party could separate itself from the plurality of its voters. So it’ll be a very powerful thing, whoever comes in there with the most delegates. But as you keep saying, it won’t be dispositive under the rules, and it’ll be a wild scene.
HH: And made more wild, because as you recall, the 1999 battle in Seattle, when global protesters, 40,000 of them, converged on the meeting of the World Trade Organization for the express purpose of breaking all the windows in Seattle. And if that becomes the political climate, it is a sort of atmospheric condition in politics that does spread. And you mentioned 1860 early. We do not, thank God, have slavery to contend with in the country, but we do have tumult. And that is kind of unprecedented since ’68. That’s really the precedent, isn’t it?
LA: There was a, you know, and I don’t mean to go too far with this, but I’ll tell it, because it’s a historical fact. Groups formed all over the North called the Wide Awakes, community groups. And there is a big banner that I have seen and do not own called the Claremont Wide Awakes, and I got a lot of my education there, so I’d love to have that thing. And what they were was rallies, rallier for the new Republican Party who would march with broomsticks. And there’d be huge brigades of private citizens not in uniforms marching in cadence down the street with broomsticks for Lincoln by the time the election came. And the really great Ohio historian, I’ll give you this, because there have been in history, if you can believe it, people from Ohio who can read and write.
LA: And Bruce Catton, who wrote the country was practicing marching.
LA: So it’s intense right now, right? This debate is unprecedented. And I’ll even tell you I don’t agree with the point that the debate was more substantive last night. What it was, was it was more civil, which is an unmixed blessing, and I think you guys helped with that. I liked, you know, I don’t know Jake Tapper at all, and of course, like every conservative, I have huge suspicions of CNN. But I think they have done a very good job here, and I loved Jake Tapper’s sense of humor, because he was asked, right before you were asked a question why was it more civil this time, and he replied they were afraid of me.
HH: Yes, he did. That was very, he is very good.
LA: That was really good. But the point is, it was also about policy, the details of policy, and that’s what we think is substance today, right? Of course, the policy is the business of the federal government. The details of policy are what politics are all about. And if you’re not a policy wonk and understand all that stuff, then you’re not fit to govern, whereas the earlier debates, and Chris Matthews, I’m really quoting odd people this show.
HH: Yes, you are.
LA: So…American politics. That’s MSNBC, for God’s sake. And he’s been going around saying when Trump is in the debate, they talk about the country. When he’s absent, they talk about government. So there was more about government last night.
HH: Interesting. Hold that thought, Dr. Larry Arnn from Hillsdale College.
— – — – –
HH: Dr. Arnn, Chicago’s getting ugly. And I am reminded of 1992 when the camera stayed fixed over South Central Los Angeles in the beating of a truck driver, Reginald Denny, and the media coverage was omnipresent, and it led to more violence. And there is a cycle where attention breeds attention. And this time, do you think the media ought to break off coverage of a rally that’s been cancelled, an a riot that is insipient?
LA: Well, the judgment there, and I haven’t seen much footage of this. I’ve been reading about it on the internet. The judgment there is do they think in good conscience and judgment that they’re going to provoke more violence? And if they do, then of course, they should stop. And they didn’t in Los Angeles, and they feed on that stuff. And it’s, you know, people get killed and get harmed. So yeah, sure, they should, if they think that they’re going to cause more violence.
HH: That is my assessment. I think, and you know, I’m not, I just got dumped from Don Lemon, because they’re going 24/7 at CNN, because they’re a news network, and the news is in Chicago. So you go put the cameras over Chicago. It’s only 7:20, right? And as I recall Los Angeles, I was at home, and I had to drive to KCET in the middle of that thing a few times, and it was scary as heck, and I think 53 people died in the L.A. riots of 1992.
LA: Yeah, yeah.
HH: And it was because they kept the cameras on.
LA: Yeah, very widespread, too. It got out to West L.A. It went, you know, it must have covered, you know, 25 miles one direction…
LA: …and 7 or 8, so that’s a, north and south, so that’s a really big area.
HH: Yes, and so on a day that Nancy Reagan, the epitome of graciousness and elegance is being so peacefully and calmly laid to rest, it is such a juxtaposition of where the politics went to in the 80s led by Reagan and his spouse, and where they are today. But it is, you’ve said first, something fundamental is afoot. What is that something?
LA: Well, you know, the manner of our government is divided into two historical periods, right? And you can see the difference between by walking around Washington, D.C. There are the old, beautiful buildings, and there are the new buildings, which are mostly ugly. And what happens in the new buildings, there wasn’t any place for them in the old building. The government has become bureaucratic and centralized. And now, the Congress passes about the same number of laws it used to pass, but that is multiplied a thousand fold or more by the rules and regulations, which are effectively laws that are passed in the bureaucracy. That’s a new kind of government. And this campaign, there are three candidates, I don’t include Kasich, because I don’t think he’s systematic about this, but there are three candidates who are raising fundamental objection to that. And since Reagan, we haven’t really had one who did that. So that’s fundamental. And they’re tapping into something, because we know that the Republican primaries are swelling in numbers, and the Democratic primaries are falling. And that is a mirror image of the Romney V. Obama campaign, where I remember when I read, maybe it was Steve Hayes, it was somebody writing for the Weekly Standard. If you go to a Republican rally, it’s like going to a AAA baseball game. And if you go to an Obama rally, it’s like the biggest show on Earth. Well, the Republicans are like that now. And I think that there is pent up in the populace a big objection to what’s going on in the country, and they’ve become impatient with promises that we’re going to fix it. And the promises are made much more intensely this year than they have been in any campaign that I’ve, since Reagan, and there’s a reaction against that, too. So that’s what I think. I think it’s the choice between two modes of governing.
HH: Let me ask you about the reaction to Trump on the right and then on the left. Bret Stephens, eminently astute and qualified and smart, pens an article comparing Trump to Mussolini this week. And I thought, and the Never Trump movement is out there, and I’m not a part of it. I’m never Never Trump, because I actually have faith in our Constitution that it can contain even the strongest of rulers, because it can. Do you think that people who raise that fear lack faith in our Constitution?
LA: I do, but I think two things. One of them is we’re having an election according to the old forms. And the people do get to choose, right? And I will tell you that I personally just answered a claim that Trump is like Mussolini said by a friend of mine. You were on the email list, if I remember seeing your name there. And what I did was I, you know, when I say I did it, I got a bunch of Hillsdale College undergraduates, very brilliant and diligent young people to look up what Trump has said about executive power. And going back to 2000, and we can’t find, and you know, we haven’t found everything, we can’t find any exception to his consistent objections that the executive branch can only properly enforce what’s passed through the Congress. And he even calls, and eloquently, for example, January 28th in the Reno, Nevada Gazette, he calls for the return of a land of laws. And that means that the bureaucracy can’t make the laws. The Congress has to make them. And that is a theme of his, and it came up in your debate the other night, last night.
LA: So first of all, I wouldn’t call Mussolini unless I could find some evidence for it, and I can’t.
HH: That is, I asked him, and I’m going to post later tonight the URL’s hopefully of the 13 interviews I’ve done with him over 14 months, and not counting the debates. And I asked him about would you play by the rules, and he explicitly rejects authoritarianism. And but in reply from his critics comes I can’t trust him. Well, that is a problem with every candidate, isn’t it, Dr. Arnn?
LA: Yeah, and you know, as I say, I will disclose this, well, I won’t, because you put me in Switzerland. There are good, after the primaries are over, I will tell anybody who wants to know who I voted for, right?
HH: You and me both, yeah.
LA: And they will understand that I’m not pumping for Trump. But I do respect him, and especially, I respect the people who are voting for him. And you know, whoever I like the best, I think he’s a serious candidate.
HH: And think on this during the break. The media is attempting to define Trump voters by that man who struck the protester. That’s what they’re trying to define his supporters as. And they do not define either Hillary or Bernie Sanders by their craziest supporter.
HH: It is the biggest double standard in the media going.
HH: And it’s so annoying, and I’ll come back and I’ll talk about it with Dr. Larry Arnn.
— – – — –
HH: I turned to the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Larry Arnn, the Hillsdale College Hillsdale Dialogue is underway, www.hughforhillsdale.com, and I find the headline, “Live Video Skycam Over Protest Outside Donald Trump Event.” Above the story, dozens arrested at Trump campaign rally in St. Louis that begins thus. “Facing intensifying criticism for the violent clashes between supporters and protesters that have come to define his rallies, GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Friday continued to taunt those who interrupt his events while promising that police and security would be gentle as they removed them. They’re allowed to get up and interrupt us horribly, and we have to be very, very gentle, Trump said, in response to one of a nearly dozen interruptions as he spoke at the St. Louis Regal Peabody Opera House. They can swing and hit people, but if we hit them back, it’s a terrible, terrible thing, right? Throughout his speech, Trump was deeply critical of the protesters, all of whom appeared to leave the venue largely without incident. Police later said 31 people were arrested and charged with general peace disturbance, and one person was charged outside the venue with third degree assault. Trump panned the protesters as weak troublemakers, ordering them to go home and go to mommy. Go home and get a job, because they contribute nothing. They are not good people, just so you understand, Trump said. These are not the people who made our country great. These are the people that are destroying our country” And it goes on. What do you make of that reporting? It’s hardly unbiased.
LA: Yeah, I’m watching right now on TV an interview with Donald Trump, and I’m watching, I have the captions on, so I’m reading it. And he’s saying that in Chicago, he’s saying, he had 25,000, he’s with Greta Van Susteren, he had 25,000 people scheduled for his event waiting outside, and that he decided to cancel it, because talking with law enforcement, they were afraid there would be violence. And the most important thing, he says, is that no one is harmed or killed. So you know, it, the good thing about the way the news works today, on your show and on TV, is that you can watch it for yourself and hear what they say.
HH: Yeah, let’s listen to him, let’s hear, let’s listen to him for just a moment.
DT: And then you wonder why they’re angry. So there’s a lot of anger, but I think we did the right thing, because if we would have had the rally, I think it would have been something that would have been not a good situation.
GVS: When you use tough language when people break up your events, and like punch you in the nose or get that person out of here, are you sort of giving ammunition to protesters who say that you’re the bully?
DT: Well, I don’t think so, because frankly, you know, we haven’t really had a problem. We had a little bit today where we had some individual people stand up, and it was annoying, because it was probably seven or eight of them where they stood up in pretty much individual fashion.
HH: All right, so Larry Arnn, this is interesting. He’s saying exactly what you just quoted him as saying, because there’s a media narrative that’s developing here, quite independent of the Donald Trump who gave helicopter rides to kids at the Iowa State Fair in the summer.
LA: Yeah, well, look, the media coverage of Trump, if the past is any predictor, is going to become very negative, because he’s ahead. And you know, if he wins, it’ll be incredibly negative. And, but it’ll be incredibly negative on Ted Cruz, who’s in second place. Indeed, all of this would be happening to Cruz if it weren’t for Trump right now.
HH: Well, I asked Senator Cruz, who was on right before you, and he avered that there had been no such problem at his rallies, and I thought to myself, just you wait.
LA: (laughing) Yeah.
HH: (laughing) If you’re the frontrunner, the Black Lives Matters protesters will go where the cameras are. It’s just that simple.
LA: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, that’s right.
HH: It’s just that simple.
LA: And you know, what you aimed for is, you know, Trump is a tough guy, and what he has said many times is if they attack me, I’m going to attack them back harder. Well, this is, you know, that’s the tone. And this campaign has got that about it, and it’s not just Trump. Chris Christie lit into Marco Rubio very effectively, and that began a decline in his campaign, and then Rubio has attacked Trump in ways for which he’s now apologized. And I personally forgive him for that. I mean, his apology is generous and good, and he is a good guy. But the point is these are fundamental things, and not just emotion, but the quality and character of the arguments are very intense.
HH: I sat next to Marco last night on the stage when he apologized again, said he had embarrassed his wife and his children. It was not Christian, and that he would never return to that style of rhetoric again. It’s an amazing moment that got passed over, actually, Dr. Arnn, in the course of a…
LA: Yeah, he said it two or three times, right? And I believe that he means it. And you know, he, starting with the Christie attack on him, he has been falling in the polls precipitously. And it continued right through his taking it to Trump fiercely. And what Trump says, and you know, people should watch this for themselves.
HH: Hold that thought. Hold that thought.
LA: But what Trump says is if they hit me, I’ll hit them harder. And if they don’t, I won’t hit them.
HH: Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn.
— – — – –
HH: I would be really remiss, Dr. Arnn, if I did not at least devote one segment, this last segment of the Hillsdale Dialogue this week, to Nancy Reagan and Ronald Reagan, and the passing. I got to meet with her most recently in 1992 with the President still active, about to go down to Houston. We sat down and talked about presidential libraries. I don’t know if you ever had the great gift of sitting down with President and Mrs. Reagan. And I know you talked with Ronald Reagan, but what do you think is going on today in all of these wonderful eulogies to her style and grace?
LA: Well, she was, first of all, she was the closest person to Ronald Reagan, who’s the greatest president in my lifetime, at least, and I’m an old man now. And the affection between them was so very manifest. Reagan, in my opinion, first of all, I just said it, he’s a very great man. Reagan was, used geniality to keep his distance from people. I talked to Reagan several times. I count it a great privilege, but, and I had long talks with him a few times. And I once argued with him a bunch about something he’d done. And he never said a word to me that you couldn’t read in his speeches. And yet in the middle of one of them, he noticed, the president of the United States, noticed my wife did not have her dessert, and he got up and got it for her.
HH: (laughing) I’ve never heard that story.
LA: (laughing) You know, so don’t say anything bad about Ronald Reagan in front of my wife.
HH: (laughing) I’ve known you for 30 years. I’ve never heard that story. Go ahead.
LA: But, as a person…it’s awesome, yeah. It just was really great. You know, Penny, and Penny called her mother in England, you know, and said you know, guess what happened to me, you know? What a gracious thing, right? He was a wonderful man. But he has a reputation, even among other members of family, of a certain coolness, but not with Nancy. And the love between them was so clear, and she’s such a lovely woman, such a kind woman. I never heard her say anything that I didn’t think was gracious and artful. You know, and first ladies get scrutinized a lot, right? She was good at it. So of course he’s…
HH: Now I want you to do something. I want you to do something. I’ve been to only one first lady funeral, Mrs. Nixon’s, and it was very highly-choreographed. Nancy Reagan is said to have provided every detail of this. And the people who spoke at her eulogies today were Brian Mulroney and Jim Baker, her two children, Tom Brokaw and Diane Sawyer. From what do you gather, I gather a great lesson in that, her message, her last message, but what do you decipher in that?
LA: Well, friends, you know. I mean, first of all, well chosen.
LA: So I met Brian Mulroney one time in my life, and it was at the Reagan Library, and I had lunch at a table where he and Nancy Reagan were both sitting. And I was there in case somebody dropped something. And they were, they got on famously. I talked to him for half an hour after lunch. I had said something about Reagan, and I gave a talk about him, and it went well, because I figured out that Reagan gave one of the greatest inaugural, his first inaugural address, one of the greatest in history, and that’s saying something, you know, because Lincoln and Washington both gave those addresses.
LA: And I explained why I thought that. And so I talked to Mulroney at length about that, and he said, the first thing he said to me was, he said so you think that he is historically great, and I said well, I think what I said, which is it’s hard to tell, having lived in his time. It takes time, but yeah, there’s a lot of evidence of that. And we went on about that for a while. Well, she was in part of that conversation. And what she was, was sweet and interested and asked a couple of questions, and said one thing. So yeah, I really liked her.
HH: And I think in picking Brokaw and Sawyer, they were generous and kind-hearted friends as their remarks testified to, and they remained friends even after her eclipse was fairly complete. She was also saying I took care of my husband by making the right friends in the very powerful fourth estate, and that it just telegraphs that to me. Here are my children, here is a man who worked with Ronnie, Baroness Thatcher is not there. She probably crossed her off the list and put in Brian Mulroney as she worked through the warriors of the Cold War. And she wanted a choreograph, and James Baker, the secretary of State who guided the White House and was her ally in the White House, along with the right Honorable Fred Fielding.
HH: It’s really something to study the program.
LA: You’ve got to be, another thing is to be first lady, you’ve got to be smart not to get in trouble. And she wanted to support her husband. I know people who knew them well, and both of them, you know, from before they were president of the United States and first lady. And I know stories about her care for him after he, through Alzheimer’s, lost his recognition of people, including at the end, her. And I have heard stories about the pain that that caused her. I mean, you know, they were, they would go to, if you were to ever go to the Reagan Ranch, which is very worth doing.
HH: Very much.
LA: You’ll see a picture of the life they lived together. And they were happiest together, and especially happiest when they were there alone. And so she lost her alter person, right? She lost her soulmate. And, but he was still alive, and he didn’t know her. You know, I know a story, a friend of mine, Reagan walked into his office in West L.A., and Ed Meese, no one more faithful to Ronald Reagan than Ed Meese.
LA: Or no one longer, and Reagan said to the person, I know that man well. What is his name? And that was just before Reagan stopped coming into the office. And then by report, he eventually didn’t know his own family. And she tended him through that. And there was never a public utterance about any complaint.
HH: That’s remarkable, actually. And on that note, I think we will wrap it up. And I just, the juxtaposition between the terrible situation in Chicago and the wonderful testimonies, including yours, to an amazing lady are complete. And they’re very, very different times, ’88 and ’16.
HH: Very, and it’s not that long, right?
HH: It’s just not that long, 28 years. But we shall see. Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College, thank you. Thank you so much also for the Kirby Center in Washington, D.C. and the use of the wonderful studio here brought by the Gold Media Group to service everyone who wants to use the airwaves for freedom.
End of interview.