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Dr. Larry Arnn’s Hillsdale Dialogue on Article VI’s Call For No Religious Test For Office

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HH: That music means it’s the last radio hour of the week, the Hillsdale Dialogue with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College or one of his colleagues, all of them collected for many years now at All things Hillsdale available at That’s the college with all the free online courses. You sign up for Imprimis, the speech digest as well. But these conversations are about lasting matters. We’re going through the Constitution in a fairly systematic way. We’re in Article I about Section 5, but we have to do a little jog. Speaking of jogs, Dr. Arnn, seven minutes ago, Scott Nogueira, a leading meteorologist in charge of aviation for the Weather Channel, pointed out that Irma has jogged to the west a little bit, just a touch, because of a trough in the northeast and ridge building east of Florida which means a west tick for Irma. Suddenly, Key West is in the bullseye, Miami not so much, and Tampa Bay and all the Gulf Coast now as opposed to the East Coast. This is quite the show to watch.

LA: Oh, boy. If, if you remember Hurricane Andrew, I do. I was in Miami not long after it hit. And it was like this. It was a category 5. And there was a big housing development, and it was pretty new, and the first thing that happened was that all of the rooves on all these fine, new, tight houses just blew off and just lifted off and just went. And there were still people in some of them, and of course, they just lived in the rain for a few hours.

HH: My bother-in-law had a home in Homestead, and at the end of it, he was left with a toilet and one wall, and had lost 1,000 books and everything he owned.

LA: Oh, man.

HH: And so those, they’ve changed building codes significantly, and Chuck Todd yesterday was worried about Miami. But if it keeps ticking left, it’ll be the Keys. It’ll be one of those classic Keys hurricanes that just swamps those places. And I hope it dies down a little bit. We’ll watch it. How has the Harvey storm and Irma impacted your student body, if at all, Dr. Arnn, at Hillsdale?

LA: Much blessed. We have a lot of kids from Houston, and none of them had their houses flooded. We have an event down in Houston pretty soon at a Marriott, and it wasn’t flooded. And so we’ve been lucky, as far as we can tell.

HH: Well, that’s good. That’s a wonderful thing. Now let’s get to work, because we’ll follow this storm, and Mexico’s earthquake and all that throughout the day. But I want to jog ahead into Article VI of the Constitution. It reads in relevant part, “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” With that in mind, here is Dianne Feinstein talking with a nominee, a Notre Dame law professor, two days ago:

DF: When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for, for years in this country.

HH: Now that, Larry Arnn, was directed at Amy Coney Barrett, a professor of law of extraordinary pedigree at the University of Notre Dame, the mother of seven. And I want to replay it so that people do not miss, now they understand that was a not named, I didn’t name the professor until. She’s very Catholic, she is the mother of seven, she is extremely esteemed in the profession. Here is what Dianne Feinstein says to her.

DF: When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for, for years in this country.

HH: What do you make of that, Larry Arnn?

LA: Well, look where we are, right? I mean, that’s, you’re right. The Constitution protects, it says that there can’t be a religious test for office. But it also says that the Congress shall make no law abridging the, I’m sorry, what does it say, abridging, respecting an establishment of religion or abridging the free exercise thereof.

HH: Correct.

LA: And she quotes, Dianne Feinstein quotes from a law review article that Professor Barrett wrote, and it ends, the law review article, toward the end, has this sentence. “Judges cannot, nor should they try to, align our legal system with the Church’s moral teachings whenever the two diverge.” So Professor Barrett, who’s a very sophisticated woman, is on record denying that there’s any right or authority of anybody, any judge, to act in accord with any system except the laws of the United States. So I mean, that’s just a, it’s a, you know, is Dianne Feinstein too old? Or is she just an expression of an evil that has gotten so explicit that it can be said like that? It’s shocking.

HH: Matter of factly. Now our friend, Ed Morrissey, wrote that, “Try to imagine the reaction,” or not Ed Morrissey, Lachlan Markay. “Try to imagine the reaction to this comment in the context of any other religion in federal posts,” says Lachlan Markay of the Daily Beast, “A Muslim at CIA, say, or a Jew at the Fed. The apology would already have been issued. But it is okay to be anti-Catholic.” Why is that?

LA: Yeah, well, you know, I’m fond of making the point that if you’re going to pick who you’re going to protect especially in their rights by color or religion or anything, then slavery is a very terrible thing. But you know, anti-Catholic riots were common in America in the 1800s. And you know, William Sherman was caught up in one, one time before the war, as the war was breaking out. So you know, it boggles the mind that in the Senate of the United States, because she didn’t say anything except that the woman is a Christian. And you know, dogma, we say that somebody can be dogmatic, and that means that they’re citing principles all the time when there’s practical considerations to be taken into account, too. But on the other hand, how could you ever make any single decision without some sense of principle?

HH: Well, there seems to me to be as well built into this a sneer at her seven children, because of the way that it is framed, and I’ll play it again. The dogma lives deep within you is unmistakable to my ear to be a comment on being so productive in the rearing of children. Here’s the comment again.

DF: When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for, for years in this country.

HH: Do you think she would have said that if she, say, had one child?

LA: So the great joke around Hillsdale College is that we’re big producers.

HH: (laughing)

LA: My wife and I are short-hitters. We only have four children. But you know, the top competitor is the Provost with 11, and others despair, although they keep on. So we have an 8, and we have a 7, you know. And we’ve got a bunch of them. And that, you know, around here, children are a blessing. And also, the work, the duty of raising them, that’s a sacrifice. And so to sneer at that? That’s, you know, I guess if you’re a rich senator from the Bay Area, that looks like some terrible abuse of your own life. But gracious sakes, children?

HH: Children. Yeah, it really is…

LA: So we’re going to save the children…

HH: It’s a dividing line. And the second outrage of the week is Al Franken, who whenever he opens his mouth about the law embarrasses himself, because he doesn’t really know basic, he shouldn’t be on Judiciary Committee. He’s a comedian. He doesn’t know anything about the law. And Neil Gorsuch tied knots in him. This week, he announced he will not be returning the blue slip for Justice David Stras, a University of Kansas graduate, law review, editor of the law review, terrific guy, Clarence Thomas clerk, justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, appointed at a young age, and the grandson of survivors of Dachau and Auschwitz, which is significantly only in that it suggests the glory of America that those people could make it here and that their grandson could be a justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court and under nomination. And Al Franken won’t return the blue slip. What do you think of that?

LA: Well, I think that’s sensible on Franken’s part, because this guy is talented, right?

HH: (laughing)

LA: And if he was adult, then he probably would, you know. But this guy’s a star. And he’s going to, you appoint somebody to those positions, and judges, it’s an interesting thing about judges. You live a warped life, and I live a less warped life, but still warped, and that means we know a bunch of appellate judges. And they’re influential people in a quiet way. They do it by thinking and writing and talking, and not as politicians. So of course, you want to stymy the smart ones.

HH: When we come back, we’re going to talk about what the Senate needs to do, and about Vice President Pence and his duty as president of the Senate. Stay tuned, America.

— — — –

HH: In the last segment, we talked about the outrageous comments by Dianne Feinstein violative of Article VI of the Constitution, and then I brought up Al Franken using the blue slip, a privilege of senators which is sometimes used, sometimes not used, where they refuse to okay a hearing for a nominee from their home state, Al Franken blocking Justice David Stras, a brilliant lawyer on the Minnesota Supreme Court, the grandson of Holocaust survivors of Dachau and Auschwitz. And I believe it ought to be destroyed. And that brings me to Article I, Section 6, Larry Arnn, where I believe it’s Section 6, maybe it’s a little bit later, and I’m looking for it, Article I, Section 3, wherein is named the vice president of the United States is the president of the Senate. And the president of the Senate is given, it says, “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.” That’s all it says. Do you think it is possible to read into the bestowal of the title president of the Senate any power over traditions of the Senate inimical to the rules of the order that ought to govern a majoritarian body?

LA: Well, you just proved, you answered your question. Of course, you just did it. (laughing)

HH: (laughing)

LA: So what they should do, you know, Pence is an influential man, and here’s the way that would work, because so first of all, if he just asserted a power, well, if they united against him, what’s he going to do, arrest him or shoot in, or beat him with a stick, right?

HH: (laughing) Yeah, no.

LA: …if they don’t do what he says. But you know, an extremely interesting thing happened that changed the political landscape in the last, what, two days. President Trump just made a deal with the Democrats to extend the debt limit. And he might do more of that. And the Republicans have a majority, and they have, the main things he wants, what, he wants a wall, he wants a repeal and reform of Obamacare, and he wants tax reform. And back when they knew Obama would not sign those things, they passed tougher immigration laws, and they passed tax reform, and they passed repeal and, a flat-out repeal, and also other things replacing Obamacare. And now, they can’t pass anything. And then add to that, that the filibuster in the Senate is a big thing here, as are these blue slips about judges. And both the filibuster and the blue slips are customs, not written in the Constitution, of uncertain practice over years, right? We like to think that George Washington, with his dying words, gave the injunction to America, do nothing with the filibuster and the blue slips.

HH: (laughing)

LA: But of course, they were both unknown to him. And so they should get about their business, because the President is going to govern in some other way if they don’t help him. And it’ll also be a great test for the President, because the thing that I like best about Donald Trump is his long-term and consistent attacks upon the regulatory state where all the laws these days, not all, but 80-90% of them are made, and the Congress could use this as an opportunity to recover their ancient majesty. They could become the legislative branch again. And they’re showing no signs of doing that, and that’s a failure. And so if he’s going to govern in some other way, putting together coalitions, you know, one on immigration, one on tariffs, one on health care, one on tax reform, if he’s going to do that, first of all, it’ll make him more powerful, and but second, will he be able to bring consistency, some direction to these series of smattered compromises that he may be about to embark on making? And so this is exciting and interesting, and it’s going to be very revealing of Donald Trump, and very revealing of the Republican majority in both houses.

HH: When we come back from break, Paul Ryan spoke to this very matter. But I would encourage anyone who knows the Vice President to start thinking about the fact that while the rules of the Senate are indeed the rules of the Senate, the customs of the Senate ought to be subject to the head of the Senate. That is the president of the Senate. That is Vice President Mike Pence. Stay tuned. It’s the Hillsdale Dialogue.

— – – – —

HH: The Speaker of the House, a Constitutional office, is held by Paul Ryan, a friend of Dr. Larry Arnn, my guest. All things Hillsdale available at All of these conversations for binge listening at And he gave a remarkable interview to Martha McCallum yesterday, Larry Arnn, that I want to walk through four cuts with you and get your comments. This first one is about the Congress that we have, cut number 4:

PR: Well, I can’t speak to that. I don’t know what, Mick and I talk all the time. The point is in the House, go to We’ve actually passed more bills in the House for the President and his agenda in this first six months of his administration than in the first six months of Obama, Clinton and both Bushes. The House has passed 316 bills. That’s a record paced. Now 260 of them are still in the Senate. The Senate’s busy working on judges and appointees and the rest. But the House has been extremely productive, and not just extremely productive, the House has been more productive than any Congress in the modern era.

MM: I think he was mostly talking about health care in terms of his frustration. He went on to say you know, everybody is still smarting that health care…

PR: We’re frustrated, too. Like I said, we passed our bill last May.

MM: Right.

PR: …on repeal and replace, and we were hoping to get it done then. And yes, we, too, are frustrated that this hasn’t gotten done, yet. But what I always say to my colleagues, especially in the Senate where this bill didn’t go through, if at first don’t succeed, try, try again, get back at it. Health care is collapsing. Obamacare is a total failure. We’ve got to keep at it. The House did its job, passed its bill, and we’ve just got to keep at it.

HH: And so the Speaker is proud of his record, and he is upset with a media that does not report much like 14 Congressional Review Act successful passages.

LA: Yeah, and you know, they did pass a health care bill, and they, you know, and the problems are mostly in the Senate. And the point is many senators, in my little opinion, and some of the best ones, are stuck with a false sense of tradition and checks and balances, because the checks and balances are written in the Constitution where the filibuster is not to be found.

HH: Absolutely. He went on. Paul Ryan continues about the biting of his ankles that is underway, cut number 5:

PR: I don’t worry about this stuff at all. Look, when I took this job at the request of our members, I knew it comes with lots of slings and arrows. This is not something I’m worried about or focused on. I’m worried about getting our agenda passed.

MM: If you don’t get tax reform passed, would you consider saying this isn’t working?

PR: Oh, I’m not going to get into any of that stuff. Look, I’m just focused on doing our agenda. Mark and I have had great conversations, and I think there’s a lot in the press that isn’t accurate, but I’m not going to worry about any of that stuff.

MM: Okay, and you’re going to have dinner with the President tonight?

PR: Yeah, that’s right.

MM: Is that going to be cozy?

PR: Yeah, yeah, we talk all the time.

HH: You know what’s amazing, Larry Arnn, is that there are 3,000 reporters in this city that want to find conflict, and so they invent it when some of it just is simply politics.

LA: Yeah, well, that’s journalism, right? And what was it, the great Arthur Balfour, senior statesman admired by Winston Churchill, once said all the problems in the world come from religion and journalism.

HH: (laughing)

LA: And he replied religion surely, but why journalism? (laughing)

HH: (laughing) Okay, more Paul Ryan, because one of the big stories yesterday was the President’s deal with Pelosi and Schumer as an Earth-shattering development. I laughed that off yesterday. Here’s what Paul Ryan said, cut number 6:

PR: No, I wasn’t furious. I just, I have a belief on debt issues that we should, for the credit markets to have longevity on these things, but I completely understand why he was doing what he was doing, and why his motivation is we’ve got hurricane relief, let’s make it bipartisan, and let’s clear the decks so we can focus on our shared agenda like tax reform.

HH: And then he added this about what that deal was about, cut number 7:

PR: Oh, look, I think what he’s trying to do is clear the decks so we can get focused on our big things like tax reform. I’ve spoken with the President a lot about this, talked to him this morning. He wants to clear the decks so we can basically get our job done and focus on our big issue like tax reform, border security and the rest. Second point is we’re getting hit with two hurricanes. We’re still dealing with Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. We’re just now getting hit with Irma. And he wanted to make this a bipartisan moment. He wanted to make this a bipartisan moment where we weren’t fighting each other up in Washington about hurricane aid. He just wanted to get it done, get it out of the way so that aid is flowing to the states that need it right now so that we can go and then focus on things like tax reform. So it’s perfectly reasonable and rational why he’s doing what he’s doing.

HH: And I just think Paul Ryan is such a normal fellow, and Washington can be, and McConnell very normal, and we just have monetized conflict to the point that we don’t actually recognize regular order when we see it. Lamar Alexander was on yesterday, and he said I’m just happy they agreed on something, and by the way, I’ve got hearings on health care reform. They’re doing regular order now, Larry Arnn.

LA: They are, and if the, you know, so it’s possible, there’s a lot of things that are possible. Tom Cotton, admired friend of us both, loves to say we don’t get elected in Congress. Nobody in Congress gets elected for one-year terms. We all get two-year terms, or senators longer. So the fact that we didn’t get that much done in the first term, that’s not dispositive. We’re working on it. So that’s true. I agree with that. But if you, but on the other hand, are they going to get these things done? They need to get them done, because the people elected them to get them done. And the people want the Congress to follow through. So it’s possible that we’re seeing, there’s a variety of things that may be happening. The obstacle in the Senate, and to a lesser extent in the House, is that there are about 15 or 20 members who are relative to Republican standards pretty left, and there are about 15 or 20 or 30 members who are more to the right. And you know, and the Republican caucus is much more conservative than the Democrats, you know, and they don’t really even overlap all that much. Anyway, the point is can you turn those two groups, and let’s say it’s 40 or 50 votes, can you get something good that they will all vote for, because then you have a ruling Republican majority in the House and the Senate. And you only need to add one more thing, and that is you need something done about the filibuster. And I’m a broken record about that, but I just think they need to change that thing.

HH: Well, we will continue to push on. First, the blue slip, because that’s not even in the rules. The blue slip exists as a phantom of the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and it’s got to go, because to allow one person to veto a nominee that is supposed to be voted on by the Senate, now a majority of the Senate can choose not to vote on them, as we kept open the Merrick Garland nominee without a hearing. That was appropriate and Constitutional. But to allow one senator…

LA: Yeah.

HH: …one member of the Senate to not allow a nominee of the president elected by the people of the United States to advance to a hearing? The Senate’s out of its mind, Larry Arnn. That just doesn’t make a lick of sense.

LA: And we need the judges. And I should add in fairness and honesty that I talked to somebody in the White House who’s in charge of all that stuff not long ago, and one of my boys, one of my kids works for him. And you know, they say they’re getting a lot of judges appointed. And they’re frustrated, because some of the best ones are held up, including the one that you’re talking about today, because it’s just a shame. That’s a talent, and they do tend to focus on the best ones and stop them, or some of the best ones. I mean, that’s what that thing with Feinstein is about Professor Barrett. That woman is a talent.

HH: Yes.

LA: And why wouldn’t Dianne Feinstein say look at you, a woman and a mother and a high professional woman, aren’t you a model for the current age? And instead, no, she doesn’t even get to be a woman anymore, because she had a bunch of children.

HH: That is, and can we pause on that for a minute? Miguel Estrada, a brilliant, a brilliant legal mind, and there is personal tragedy associated with this, under George W. Bush was nominated in 2001 in his initial group that included Justice Roberts, eventually Chief Justice Roberts, that was blockaded for five years. And it was because he was, I believe he was from Honduras, and he spoke fluent Spanish, and he represented a demographic identity politics threat. That’s who they opposed. They oppose people of firm conviction, talent who threaten the identity politics with which the Democratic Party, I believe, is destroying itself. I know they think they’re in pretty good shape right now because they hate Trump so much, they’ve got their blinders on. And journalists encourage this, and they create, I have a piece in the Washington Post today called Journalist, Heal Thyself, about the echo chamber. And I honestly think most Americans see, I was in Kansas yesterday, good old Kansas, 300 hospital administrators laughing along with me at the idiocy of Beltway-Manhattan media. They just don’t cover what the country cares about.

LA: And isn’t Senator Feinstein, by the way, one of the world’s leading exemplars of dogma?

HH: Yeah (laughing).

LA: (laughing)

HH: Yes, she is. And I’ve got to tell you what the President has tweeted this morning. Donald Trump tweeted Republicans, sorry, but I’ve been hearing about repeal and replace for seven years. Didn’t happen. Even worse, the Senate filibuster rule will…

LA: Oh (laughing)

HH: He’s going after the filibuster this morning, Larry Arnn.

LA: (laughing) I hope he’s listening.

HH: He’s going to go after the filibuster. Now there are good reasons to have the filibuster, not good enough to stop Obamacare. If we’d had 66, it would have been the case. But the filibuster defended separate but unequal. The filibuster stopped the Civil Rights Act. The filibuster is not in the Constitution, and we had some pretty smart guys write the Constitution.

LA: Yeah, and add a caveat again. So Tom McClintock, the Congressman, friend of mine and yours, he wrote a beautiful article in our Imprimis about that, because he’s thought about this for years. And the point is the filibuster is a real old parliamentary rule, but its function is to guarantee debate, not stop it. And so the rule, if it’s rightly interpreted according to its ancient meaning, the rule is as long as there’s somebody there with something to say that is pertinent and a contribution to the debate, the debate shall continue that long. And then the chairman or speaker of the meeting may call the debate to a halt when there’s nothing left to say. So in other words, you get to, in the Senate, that’s its tradition. Senators should get to blow off until they’ve blown off all they’ve got to blow. And then you should have a vote, whereas today, what happens if they’ve even got rid of that thing where they read from the phone book, you know, and have to stand on their feet for 18 hours. Now, they just say something to the clerk, and that stops the whole thing. And that’s, in other words, the filibuster has been reversed into the opposite of its purpose. Just restore it back to what it was.

HH: What it was. One more Donald Trump tweet from eight minutes ago. Our incredible U.S. Coast Guard saved more than 15,000 lives last week with Harvey. Irma could even be tougher. We love our Coast Guard. Do you notice that he is, he’s evolving his Twitter feed to both bash and to praise, which is a very good evolution, I think?

LA: Oh, yeah. Well, you know, he’s, he’s a, this is the hardest job, right? Just name the people who have been good at this job, and the ones who haven’t been, a lot of very high quality people. So he’s bound to be learning while he goes.

HH: Yeah, and I close our segment with Hurricane Irma continues westward shift, putting more of the south in its path. That means everyone in the Keys is now in the hit list, and Miami might not get the direct hit that they had been worried for, but boy, the Keys are in the, and then up the coast. Dr. Arnn, I will talk to you in three weeks when I return to the United Kingdom. In the meantime, do good up there in Hillsdale. It’s the nice time of the year. I’m never invited up there. I hope you’re having a wonderful fall.

LA: It’s as happy as Disneyland right now. We’re new, back, and we’re rested.

HH: And you haven’t had a single test, yet.

LA: Oh, let me say this. I gave a talk in Troy, Michigan last night, and I swear, 20% of the people were Hugh Hewitt fans, and they wanted me, because a bunch of them overheard this, they wanted me to repeat you a line from a woman who was there. We love the Hillsdale Dialogue so much that my husband will even listen to Hugh in order to get to Hillsdale.

HH: (laughing) All right, Arnn, have a good week.

End of interview.


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