HH: That music means it’s the last radio hour of the week for me, Hugh Hewitt, and that means the Hillsdale Dialogue is back in the 2018 edition. Begun in 2013, these hour-long conversations with Dr. Larry Arrn, president of Hillsdale College, or one of his colleagues on the staff or faculty at Hillsdale College have made a mark on the audience so much so that when we miss them, when we did when we take a Friday off last week and play three hours of Dr. Arnn, we still get heat from the audience. I don’t know why, but Dr. Arnn has a grip on your imagination. He joins me now from I hope Michigan, because he needs to be as cold as everyone in Washington, D.C. is.
LA: Well, we’ve got global warming everywhere here.
HH: Yeah, are you freezing in Michigan like they are on the East Coast?
LA: It is colder than blue blazes, and I live in Michigan. That’s saying something.
HH: That is saying something. This is about the time I normally get invited to Hillsdale when no one else will come.
HH: I am usually your reliable go-to guy in January. But I’m not going anywhere near your state. Hey, we’ve got lots to talk about, but I want to start. The Golden Globes are Sunday night. Your friend, Gary Oldman, is nominated to be best actor for Churchill. What do you think is prospects are?
LA: Well, he deserves it, so I think they’re great. And the reaction to the movie is good, and the reaction to his performance is overwhelmingly good. So I’m hopeful about it. I really hope he wins.
HH: There are a lot of great movies out there. Dunkirk is competing for everyone’s attention. It seems to me like it may end up with Dunkirk as best movie, and Gary Oldman as best actor not only at the Golden Globes, but at the Oscars. What will that tell us about our time and about that war?
LA: Well, first of all, I’ve now watched Dunkirk, which I hadn’t done until last week. And I think is misses something important, so I’m critical of it in some ways, although you know, it’s a very powerful movie. And it uses these cameos, mostly, as its device. And what you don’t get a sense of is the organization a 300,000 person army on a beach. But I know from my wife’s daddy that they drilled on the beach, and so you would see collections of troops, and big ones…
LA: And you don’t see that very much there. And so it doesn’t look as much like what I think it was, which was lots of discrete units. You know, people didn’t just wander onto the beach, showing up and then getting themselves organized into an army trying to get away. And they, and so, so I’m critical of that. But having said that, and you know, it, also, the army is not, I mean, the movie is not about the heart of the story of the Second World War. It’s just a confrontation between freedom and a different kind of newly-developed sort of tyranny. And so the bad guys are pretty much invisible. And so anyway, so I think that about that movie, but I think it’s a fine movie, and I won’t be cursing if it wins a lot. I hope it does. I just hope Mr. Oldman wins best actor.
HH: I wonder if you were to grab another, this is Larry Arnn, screenwriter, tossing stuff against the elevator time. If you were to grab another Churchill-centric episode from the war, would it be the Tehran conference? Or would it be Yalta? What would you do to make a play or a movie to get Mr. Oldman back into his four hours to apply makeup? What part of the war would you focus on?
LA: Well, he’s interested in doing that, he tells me. And it’s, so that’s, you’re describing now a tragic time.
LA: So we just finished Volume 21. We just finished editing Volume 21 of the document volumes. They end on July 31, 1945. Churchill has been turned out after three years, really, but two, especially, years where Britain is steadily declining through the weight of the war and its tremendous sacrifices. And the Soviet Union is waxing. And so by the end of the war, you know, everybody, serious military people are afraid that the Soviet Union are going to go all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. And so the effect of the war is that Churchill’s country declined. And he’s watching that. And then he loses the election. But the story of him resisting that decline, and of making deals that were imaginative and ruthless with Stalin, that for example saved Greece as a free country, helped eventually Turkey to become that. That’s a great story. And so it would be, this story is very uplifting. It ends on a very high note. It’s the finest hour. The next one will be tragic and sobering. And so I hope he makes that, and he could make that, and he would be very good at that. And it wouldn’t be that hard, because it would be, this story is great, because it happens in a compact amount of time, what, four days, I think there are five when this went on, but I think they do four days in Darkest Hour. And so that helps, right? It’s something you can get hold of. And that four days stands for all the rest. Well, here you would have to pick out conversations and events, and you’ve have to pick maybe three of them or four of them, and you would intersperse, and they’re the same. They have, you know, the characters are Franklin Roosevelt and Josef Stalin and Winston Churchill, and then in the last one, Harry Truman, who does really great things pretty soon after he becomes president. So you could tell that story, and I would love to see him do that, and I think he could.
HH: You know, in my world, it would be just the back to back, you would put Tehran followed by Yalta, and you would show an FDR visibly failing, and a Churchill cut out of the first key meeting in Tehran trying desperately to keep Europe from the Iron Curtain that is descending upon it. I just think it’s, it would require an epic effort by a screenwriter. But the raw material is there, and you have to find someone sinister enough to play Stalin. Not sure who that is.
LA: Yeah, and he was, you know, that’s, it’s not just sinister. Stalin was, he was very smart, very skillful. He was, he had in spades the attribute that Churchill calls, sorry, that Aristotle, I confuse my heroes, that Aristotle called cleverness. He was inscrutable. He could be very charming. He was, you know, they were, talking to the Soviet Union, when you’re an ally with them, when you’re pouring weapons and manufactured goods into the Soviet Union at a massive scale, which both Britain and the United States did in the Second World War, when you’re losing enormous numbers of sailors, especially, getting the stuff to them, and yet on the other hand, you’re sort of having a conversation with a blank wall. And once in a while, it answers. And so with Roosevelt, and later with Truman, there are messages going back and forth every day. And they’re, you know, business messages. They just, you know, what about this, what about that, you said this, but now what about this, right? And they’re communicating all the time. When they get a message from Stalin or Molotov, the foreign minister of the Soviet Union, when they get a message from then, then they have a good couple of weeks to try to parse out what the devil it meant. And then they’d talk to the ambassador, the ambassador, the British and American ambassador in Moscow, is always trying to get in to see them. And it’s hard to get in to see them, and they’re guessing what’s really going on all the time. So Stalin manipulated that. He was very smart.
HH: Now I’ve got to ask you, tomorrow on my MSNBC show, we always recommend books. And I’m going to be recommending Arthur Herman’s new book, 1917: Lenin, Wilson and the Birth of the New World Disorder. And Arthur Herman is one of my favorites because of his book, To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World. But he’s written quite a number of good books. He made a note in it, though, that as senior statesman of the Liberal Party, David Lloyd George gave a pivotal speech that doomed Neville Chamberlain. That was not in Darkest Hour. What’s your opinion of that assessment of the David Lloyd George speech?
LA: Well, David Lloyd George was, you know, a great man. He was the successful prime minister for Britain in the First World War. And remember, the First World War, too, was a tragedy for Britain, right? It was not a success. Churchill never called it a victory, or at least not unmixed. And so but David Lloyd George emerges as the guy who put the government together and got the war effort organized, and Churchill helped him do that. And so now it’s, you know, 20 years later, and 22 or 23, 22 years later, and Lloyd George is an old man still in the House of Commons. David Lloyd George had been friendlier to Hitler than, you know, to a deal with Germany, let’s say, not Hitler, than Churchill thought was right. John Lucas makes the point in his Five Days in London, it’s a very insightful point, in my opinion, although you can’t prove it, that Churchill maneuvered to get David Lloyd George close to the British government in 1940 thinking that maybe if Hitler did invade and conquer the country, he would pick Lloyd George instead of Oswald Mosley to run the country, and Lloyd George was a patriot. So the point that Arthur is making, who is a friend of mine, and his book, I haven’t read the book, but I’ve heard him lecture on it three time now, and it’s riveting. The point he’s making is it’s a very senior, great statesman stood up and opposed the Chamberlain government. And I don’t, I haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure what he says, but I do, you know, like a very important guy in that was a man named Leo Amery, who was in the cabinet at the time. And so maybe he gets a lot of credit there, too.
HH: We will come back and continue the conversation with Dr. Larry Arnn, including the other book that’s making the rounds, Michael Wolff’s book about Donald Trump, very different from Arthur Herman’s book. We’ll talk about how history is different from gossip when we come back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
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HH: Dr. Arnn, there’s a controversial op-ed today in the Washington Examiner by Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina, who is the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, and Representative Jim Jordan, who’s a member of the House Freedom Caucus, and served as its first chair that concludes thusly. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation, but it would appear he has no control at all of the premiere law enforcement agency in the world. It is time for Sessions to start managing in the spirit of transparency to bring all of the improper behavior to light and stop further violations. If Sessions can’t address this issue immediately, then we have one final question needing an answer. When is it time for a new attorney general? Sadly, it seems the answer is now.” What do you make of these two very reputable conservatives calling on another very reputable conservative to step down as he has lost control of his department?
LA: Well, these are deep waters. So I know and I like Jeff Sessions, and admire him very much. I think that if it’s true that he knew when he was interviewed to be attorney general or before he was appointed that he was going to step down in that investigation, and if it’s true that he didn’t tell Trump, which I hear, but you know, it’s in the papers, I don’t know if it’s true. But if it’s true, then that is a cause for resignation right there. He should tell him everything, right? You know, I have been interviewed for a much lesser position than that, and I began by telling him all the reasons why it would be a mistake to appoint me. And then after that, I went on to the reasons why I didn’t want to do it. (laughing)
LA: So you know, we had a common interest, the person interviewing me and I. But anyway, the point is that’s what you would need to do. And if he didn’t do that, then that’s a shame. And then the second substantive question is we are losing sight of some things here, and I think it’s happening in the intelligence community, too, among some people there, although Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, seems to have a handle on that in the CIA now, is that we have to remember that authority flows from the people through the people they elect. And the people they elect are our representatives. They are set off against each other. It’s a fact. And they should be. But it’s also true that they are the people who are to be in control of the government. And so if you just read the New York Times on a regular basis, which I confess I do, you will see that their model of the whole thing is not like that anymore. Their model is that these permanent officials, though they are the check on the political branches.
LA: And of course, that’s a change of sovereignty if that happens. That’s a fundamental change of who’s in charge. And so it looks to me like there’s big doubts about that now, and they do, I agree with Congressman Meadows and Congressman Jordan, two fine people. I agree with them that that has got to be brought under control.
HH: Now yesterday, Rod Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for matters of Russia investigation, and the FBI’s new director, Christopher Wray, sat down with Speaker Ryan and tried to persuade him to abandon the demands for documents put forward by Devin Nunes. And the Speaker didn’t, God love him, because Article I oversees Article II. And they have every right to every document at their request.
LA: Yeah, and those things, you know, see, in the end, if the solution to this program I’m talking about is that the people of the FBI, Mr. Rosenstein, is that his name?
LA: Rosenstein, excuse me, I got his name wrong. I hear he’s a good guy…
LA: And I don’t know him, but the point is, he’s not the kind of guy who gets to decide things like that. And it’s wrong for there to be any pretense of that. And you know, I thought that Clapper, the intelligence guy, he’s certainly said some very partisan things since he retired. But he said some partisan things before he retired, and I just think that’s wrong.
HH: As has John Brennan, unprecedented partisanship from former intel department officials. I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn to talk about what needs be done, and about Steve Bannon and the new book by Michael Wolff. Stay tuned, America.
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HH: Today, I’m not talking about the achievements of the Trump administration, because Dr. Arnn, we could talk about the fact that the Labor Department put out new rules that will basically replace Obamacare for millions of Americans yesterday. We could talk about Iranian demonstrations that have been met with American sanctions of Iran over the treatment of the protesters there. Or we could be talking about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke yesterday announcing that 90% of offshore America, 90% of the coastline of America, will be open to drilling as part of a five-year plan, reversing an Obama-era plan that would have allowed only 6% of the same areas to be available for drilling. So there’s lots of stuff going on. But the media, especially the cable networks, are focused on a book by a gossip columnist. What do you make of this situation?
LA: (laughing) It’s really good gossip, isn’t it?
HH: It’s really good gossip.
LA: Yeah, this guy’s a master. So I will confess that 48 hours ago, I didn’t know who this guy was, and that was a better day.
LA: But I have read now the source himself. I have read from yesterday his article in the Hollywood Reporter where he summarizes what’s in this book, I think is what this article is.
HH: Yes. I read the same article.
LA: And it’s, it’s the kind of thing, you know, it, like there’s a whole bunch of stuff in it, and you can just never know if it’s true or not. Now some parts of it are plausible. The election of Donald Trump is going to be remembered as one of the most extraordinary things, I hope, because we don’t need more like this or more craziness. But it was the arrival of a whole new force into the center of power. And so he makes a lot. I mean, first of all, I don’t know what Steve Bannon is doing, you know, saying these things. Apparently, he has him on tape, but we’ll that’ll be revealed, I guess, maybe. But you know, a lot of people there are doing all this for the first time. And they don’t know each other very well. That seems true. Now what seems untrue to me, for example, there’s a claim in the article that he surprised John Kelly with the White House, to be chief of staff in the White House. But John Kelly had been working for him for months.
LA: His original appointment at Homeland Security, and I hear, what I hear, is what’s plausible, and you know, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know, but what I hear from people who know is that they really got on like a house of fire right from the start. And they talked about this appointment for a time. And then you’ve also got to, you know, make an obvious thing, right? One of the first things Donald Trump did was appoint a cabinet. It’s an excellent cabinet, right? And so the idea that is was just all these crazy guys, and they didn’t know each other, and they didn’t have any loyalty, that may be true in parts of the White House. But that’s not what he did, because John Kelly was right there from the start. So, too, Mattis, so, too, Sessions, whom we’ve pointed…and you know, Sessions is a really good guy.
HH: So, too, Scott Pruitt, so, too, Rick Perry, experienced attorney and governor, both.
LA: Yeah, and they’re, and so they, you know, a lot of things started going right, right away. And you know, their judicial appointments, right, that’s you know, a story now, because he’s just done better than anybody has done in recent decades getting people appointed to the federal courts, and one to the Supreme Court. But that started right away. And so it wasn’t just chaos everywhere. And you know, if you just look, I mean, they just, the White House just sent out something the other day of what did Trump get done. Well, it’s, you know, in the first year, it’s a long list.
HH: Oh, and the tax bill is a fundamental transformation of American economic fundamentals that will have wide-ranging and I believe positive events over a course of many decades. What I’m interested in is the media obsession with a gossip book. Kitty Kelly used to produce a book like this, about Frank Sinatra, about Nancy Reagan. And it would always be a one day story with an eyebrow raised, because it was widely assumed she makes stuff up. And there are other experts in this genre of mixture of a few facts and a lot of fiction. And Mr. Wolff falls into this genre, and we all know it. But you cannot turn on the cable without seeing this book being discussed, and I am very skeptical of everything that is not attached to Bannon, because of the reason I was skeptical of David Stockman’s book at the time it came out, the reason I am skeptical of most insider accounts, is unless you are talking to the lawyer, and you mention Mr. McGahn by reference, or Fred Fielding during my years in the Reagan White House, you’re not actually talking to the one person to whom everybody talks candidly. You’re just getting one leg of the elephant.
LA: Yeah, I think, and I don’t, you know, he, I mean, it, sorry, I’m stumbling.
HH: What? Can we get that on tape?
LA: If we were going to analyze, yeah, right, if you were going to analyze how has a thing worked over the course of a year, you would, at least this article, see, I don’t know what’s in the book, and I pray that I never shall. It, but in the article, it doesn’t start with the fact that after 12 months of Donald Trump doing a lot of big things, some of them, you know, very remarkable and significant that he promised to do from the beginning of his campaign, how did that emerge from these things I observed? Will you be on your way, then, to telling a story, right? And you’d be trying to account for the facts, the big facts, that are known to everybody, like they’re getting a lot done. And so the book’s not like that, and you know, I curse you, Hugh Hewitt, because I got up this morning and read the Hollywood Reporter.
HH: Hollywood Reporter (laughing)
HH: Well, you know, there are a handful of people, and you and I are among them, who remain friendly with 95% of the conservative movement largely because we moved to Switzerland during the course of these proceedings in 2016, and further affiant sayeth not. But we know most of the people, and you know some of them a lot better than I. I’ve never met Rebekah Mercer, for example, and I’ve only talked to Steve Bannon once. You know a lot of these people a lot better than I do, or at all. And it just doesn’t hold together.
HH: The movement, except for Mr. Bannon, who is incendiary, the movement is not splintered.
LA: Yeah, and you need to, you know, about Switzerland, right? First of all, I’m, you know, I don’t, I don’t spend my days. I run a college, right? In the college, there are plenty of opinions about Donald Trump. Not everybody likes him as well as I do. And there are things about him I don’t like. But you know, there’s some big things that I do like. And I bring those up. But other people in the college don’t agree with that. That’s fine. And that’s not my job, right? You know, my job is to try to understand how we would get our country back to Constitutional rule and teach kids Aristotle. Those are my jobs. And so it, this account doesn’t make any sense. Another thing that’s absent from it is a lot of people are deeply worried about the country. And so this upsetting of the status quo, that’s the story here. There’s a huge story. There was an uprising in the last election. And it was broad, right? It didn’t quite get a majority. It’s a fact of the popular vote. But it got a Constitutional majority of significance. And it set, and there’s no precedent for this, no one ever got elected president of the United States as his first significant public service.
HH: You know, I also saw an analysis this week by a very credible pollster that in close elections, no one has ever won all of the close states the way that Donald Trump did.
HH: All of them broke for him. It’s really an outlier when you cut, when you parse it that way. We’ve had close elections before, and usually, the close states divide between the two people. They all went to Donald Trump. And all of those close states are in a part of the country where there’s tremendous upset, the fabled cracked blue wall now. And this was before deep-seated worries. You know, I reject the term deep state, because that has the ominous clarity of what’s going on in Turkey and Iran right now. But before concerns about who is going to govern whom arose, and is the FBI indeed accountable, and is the Department of Justice playing fair, and do we really have fingers off the scale or on the scale? And I think that a lot more people are a lot more worried than they were this time last year, Larry Arnn, as a result of this.
LA: Well, you know, you can ascribe a theme to some of these things that have come out, right? I mean, Mick Mulvaney is at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget right now. And that CFPB is, it’s a huge regulatory entity that doesn’t get its budget from the Congress.
LA: And the Congress is not allowed to have budget investigations of it, even hearings, right? So that’s a statute that was passed by a Democratic Congress under Obama. And now the Cordray, who’s going back to your native state, I think, to run for office.
LA: …has resigned, and so President Trump, the elected president of the United States, appointed Mick Mulvaney, a very skillful, talented man, a very important man, to the job. But sitting two doors from him, I hear of where she is, is this permanent official there who is acting and claiming she is the rightful director of the thing right now. And so where is the political accountability in that? And by political, that can be a synonym for lying, cheating and stealing, but it’s also a synonym for the manner by which the people of the United States control their government. And that’s what’s at stake here. And I think people have a sense of that. There’s a troubled mood in the country, and it concerns that, because we’re certainly not troubled about the stock market right now.
HH: No, and in fact, I just saw my good friend and your friend, John Podhoretz, upbraiding Steven Rattner, who had posted that President Obama saw the Dow increase 33% in his first year. And Donald Trump saw it increase 26.5%. But of course, as John Podhoretz points out, that’s not an apples to apples comparison, because Obama’s first year was coming out of the great recession, the deep dive of the stock market, whereas Trump’s first year reflects genuine economic enthusiasm, not relief from panic.
LA: And I think, you know, first of all, I think, the Wall Street Journal says this morning that, and they’re right to say it, you know, it would be a mistake for any political administration to hang its hat on the stock market levels, or indeed, really, on the whole performance of the economy, because it’s not really the job of the government to run the economy. The job of the government is to establish the rule of law and property rights, and fair dealing in the economy so that then people can make a living, and entrepreneurs can make it grow. So that’s a good point. But on the other hand, there have been revolutions in regulatory policy, you named one of them before with these off-shore oil drilling, and there’s just a lot of reason to think now that you can invest, and you can profit, and you can keep what you earn to a reasonable degree. And this tax bill has got a huge impact on that stuff, too. So those are big things that have happened, and they, you know, so the economic picture is better right now.
HH: And as a result, the market reflects that, not a relief of panic. I’ll be right back. Final segment of the first Hillsdale Dialogue of the new year, 2018.
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HH: Steve Bannon, the now-former senior advisor to President Trump, is under pressure from the Breitbart board to leave, allegedly, after piloting the Roy Moore campaign into the ground, and after blabbing to Mr. Wolff in tape recording, and the President getting angry at him. What do you make of all of this? David Stockman had one of these moments with Ronald Reagan, I remind people of.
LA: Well, I would say if you win major national fame by being associated with the President, it’s a setback if the President criticizes you harshly in public. So it’s not been a good week. If you go back to the source of the week, and you know, Michael Wolff writes, you know, I’m now going to quote him as an authority, ugh, he writes that when John Kelly was appointed chief of staff, that that somehow, the steps began that led to Bannon’s dismissal, well, Kelly was trying to bring order to the place, and there is a lot better order to the place. Read the good editorial about Bannon in the Wall Street Journal this morning. And so one part of the order is a lot of these guys were given these amazing interviews, which is common in the White House, that it ought not to happen, really, about other people in the administration. They were fighting a war with each other. And so you know, I don’t know when he gave these interviews. I guess some of them happened early in the Trump administration. Well, is that just because he was green and he didn’t know, you know? But, and he wanted to, you know, you want to use the press to win your deal. I guess that’s how these Washington journalists makes their living, that you want to use them to generate stories that harm your enemies inside the administration. And that was apparently going on in the Trump administration a lot more than it does now. It goes on in every administration. And if he was part of that, he probably shouldn’t have been doing that.
HH: Agreed. Now let me close by talking about, I will be on MSNBC tomorrow morning as is the show’s character. We always talk about the most important story of the week. And I’m always different from everyone else, because I think the most important story of the week is that Iran erupted in protest against a totalitarian, fascist theocracy, and that only moments ago, Iranian state TV was forced to disrupt a live broadcast of a soccer match in Tabriz, because the spectators began to chant Khamenei, shame on you, leave our country alone. So they had to state is off state…something is afoot there, as you used to say about 2016, fundamental things are afoot there. The Iranian deal with America was a disaster, and it’s being revealed as such. This is a moment in time that is being obscured by a gossip book, Larry Arnn.
LA: Yeah, and you know, interesting, I read some about that this morning, too, and in the New York Times this morning, and in the Washington Post this morning. They revealed that one of the complaints of the protesters is this foreign policy of Iran. No more Lebanon, no more Syria, let’s have Iran, you see?
LA: So that’s, that undercuts the fundamental direction of the regime. And we should, by the way, these stories are plausible that you know, first of all, they’re plausible because there’s TV footage of people in the streets, and this chanting and stuff. But another reason it’s plausible is if you look at a despotism, it’s just, there’s a temptation to think that people like it, but they never do, ever, right? Nobody likes to be ruled without his consent. And so Iranians, in Iran, what’s it like, right? You’ve got to dress a certain way, you’ve got to talk a certain way, you’ve got to be careful what you say all the time. And then they can’t get anything to eat. They’re not likely to be very happy.
HH: And the inflation is at 40%, and here’s where I’ll end. We began the hour talking about the Darkest Hour, and hopefully, we watch Gary Oldman pick up a Golden Globe on Sunday night. But the people of Germany did not want Hitler, what his vision was. They thought they did, but they did not. It brought ruin to them, and it came suddenly after appeasement. We appeased these people for the last eight years. We gave them $100 billion dollars, $1.3 billion on a ballot, including gold. And now, we’re discovering that that deal is horrible, but the American media is invested in it. So it’s sort of like the Times of London during the 30s. They’re just not telling us the truth.
LA: Yeah, that’s right. It, you know, the thing is, we’re going to welcome them as a responsible power. Well, there’s no choice but to welcome them as influential people in the Middle East. They are that. But to support them or to treat them as responsible? You know, Churchill used to say we must have nothing but friendship for the German people. Our hearts go out to them. But our relations with Germany must be diplomatic and correct. And instead, we join arms with those guys, and that’s not a good idea.
HH: It’s a terrible idea. And the result of that is what is in the Darkest Hour. We’ll be watching the Golden Globes on Sunday night, Larry Arnn and myself, hoping Gary Oldman is up there to give a speech about it. It would be interesting to hear what he says about the great man when he accepts the award, which as we hope is.
End of interview.