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Dr. Larry Arnn’s Hillsdale Dialogue on the Fallout After the Senate Obamacare Repeal and Reform Failure

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HH: That music means it is the last radio hour of the week and time for the Hillsdale Dialogue. Each week at this time, I sit down with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College or one of his colleagues to talk about matters of lasting import. We’ve been doing this for years. All of those conversations are collected at, and everything Hillsdale, including your opportunity to subscribe for free to Imprimis, which you ought to be doing, it’s a magnificent speech digest, and it will arrive in your mailbox for free, is at Dr. Arnn, good morning to you.

LA: Hey, how are you?

HH: I’m great. I never surprise you with my questions, do I?

LA: Well, I’ve just learned to be unsurprised, that’s all.

HH: All right, there you go. I have a surprising question for you. You are an aficionado of the Times of London. Can you explain, before I read one, the purpose and historical place of the Times Correspondent section?

LA: Ooh. Yeah, I’m well-equipped to do that, because the Times is the only newspaper in England with an index of old. And if your business is to get up every morning and figure out what the devil Winston Churchill is talking about in his speeches and his letters 40 and 50 years ago, then you have to go to the newspaper archive library and look up the index of the Times to get yourself oriented. Often, it’s from some other paper, because he read six papers a day. But anyway, the Times is very handy, and I have read that dang thing in the past for years. And the Letters section is a kind of official record of what important people think.

HH: That is it. It’s an official record of what important people think. Today’s Times has within it a letter from the Right Reverend Professor Tom Wright of St. Mary’s College, St. Andrews. He is perhaps the world’s greatest theologian, right? I don’t know if you’re familiar with Dr. Wright, Bishop Wright, but he is among Evangelicals certainly, but I think across the theological spectrum, among the most admired men in the world. Allow me to read it to you.

LA: Okay.

HH: The caption is gender fluid world. I’m not sure that’s his caption. That’s the caption the Times picked. “Sir, The articles by Clare Foges (“Gender-fluid world is muddling young minds”, July 27) and Hugo Rifkind (“Social media is making gender meaningless”, Aug 1), and the letters about children wanting to be pandas (July 29), dogs or mermaids (Aug 1), show that the confusion about gender identity is a modern and now internet-fuelled, form of the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism. “The Gnostic, one who “knows”, has discovered the secret of “who I really am”, behind the deceptive outward appearance (in Rifkind’s apt phrase, the “ungainly, boring, fleshly one”). “This involves denying the goodness, or even the ultimate reality, of the natural world. Nature, however, tends to strike back, with the likely victims in this case being vulnerable and impressionable youngsters who, as confused adults, will pay the price for their elders’ fashionable fantasies.” The Rt Rev Prof Tom Wright, St. Mary’s College, St. Andrews. I ask you as an educator and no mean theologian yourself, though not a professional one, what do you think of that letter?

LA: So that guy is pretty smart, huh? (laughing)

HH: (laughing)

LA: Yeah, goodness. Yeah, okay, so I agree with that letter 100%. Thomas Jefferson said you can force nature out the front door with a pitchfork, but it’ll gallop in the back door before you can turn around.

HH: I knew you would quote that. I knew you would quote that. Thank you. I get $100 dollars from myself.

LA: There you go. There you go, yeah. It’s an excellent bet. If, so what are we talking about here, right? If, here’s an iron fact. We are like dogs in our needs and appetites, many of the appetites. We have to eat, we have to sleep. I mean, for example, it’s not good for us, it makes us stupid, if we have to get up at 4 in the morning to get on the radio.

HH: (laughing)

LA: (laughing)

HH: It may. In some cases, it doesn’t, but it may.

LA: It may. It may. We’ve got to watch this. So we’re like that, right? That’s an iron fact. Here’s another iron fact relevant to what the Reverend is writing about. Human babies take a long time to raise. And you know, in a worldly world, when they’re 18, they’re still 18. And what that means is they have all of the mental, most all, and sometimes all of the mental capacities they will have when they are adults, or you have as an adult. It’s just that they’re very inexperienced. And so big things that happen to them are happening for the first time. Now the family is implicit in that thing I just said, because it’s hard to raise a human child. And isn’t it a trick of nature and God that it takes us a long time, longer than other creatures, to raise our babies, and yet we have discretion over whether we do it or not. And if we neglect them, if we fail to give them the love that parents feel for them naturally, then they will suffer. And this, these gender fluidity arguments are just arguments about how we can neglect that duty and deprive ourselves of an important part of life. And I’ll add one more thing. This week, it’s announced, that they are tampering with the human gene in ways that may be heritable so that we have taken a step toward, on the march that we’re on, which is we’re going to become our own designers.

HH: Yeah, it’s very bad. And with a great economy, this amazing theologian, this amazing bishop, N.T. Wright, simply states the obvious that Gnosticism involves denying the goodness or even the ultimate reality of the natural world. Nature, however, tends to strike back with the likely victims in this case being vulnerable and impressionable youngsters who, as confused adults, will pay the price for their elders’ fashionable fantasies. If you leave an infant in the middle of a highway, it will not go well.

LA: Do you know this man?

HH: I have interviewed him at three hours at length about his books. I do not know him in person, but I’ve heard him lecture, and he is widely regarded as the leading Protestant theologian of the day.

LA: He should be an early lecturer in our new channel, our new chapel, which is now peeking its head above the ground.

HH: Oh, very good.

LA: (laughing) So…

HH: Oh, you could not go wrong with N.T. Wright. I doubt there is a single person listening who’s a theologian that would argue, Al Mohler or anyone, that that would be a superb…he has managed to remain orthodox and yet remain relevant. He was, of course, an Anglican bishop for many years until he laid down his duties in order to be a scholar full time. Let me now turn to the second major issue of the week, which is that General John Kelly has taken up his post as the chief of staff. Tomorrow I interview on MSNBC General H.R. McMaster, Silver Star recipient, two Bronze Star recipient, a man who has been in real combat. I asked him, by the way, at the end of this interview which runs almost the full hour tomorrow at 8am if chaos in the White House is anything like chaos on the battlefield, and he laughed, Larry.

LA: (laughing)

HH: (laughing) What do you make of the changes at the White House? I want to spend today talking about where we are six months into the Trump first term.

LA: I think now that it’s come, we should have expected it. But the situation in Washington is very grave. In the White House, it seems that many people who work there even in senior positions are attempting to keep it an Obama administration, or any way lots of the Obama people still managing it. The leaks are terrible. Trump really has very few people he can trust. And I don’t think that’s entirely his fault. Partly, it probably is, because why? Because he’s marking out a radically different path. I mean, the stuff that he’s done in the time that he’s been president is just breathtaking. And if you just read the list and you’re a conservative-minded person, you’ve got to like it. I do. But the Senate doesn’t like it, and many people in the White House don’t like it. And they’re fighting back with the tools that the Democratic Congress used against Ronald Reagan that inside the White House were used against Ronald Reagan, and some of the tools also that were used by the Republican Congress against Andrew Johnson after the Civil War.

HH: Now yesterday, a treasonous thing happened, and I use that word advisedly. I know what it means. Somebody leaked the entire transcript of calls between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Australia and the president of the Mexico, the entire transcript, which has, of course, the effect of deterring any foreign leader from talking candidly with the president. What do you think of that?

LA: Well, that’s it, right? That’s what’s happening. And you know, you may not like Donald Trump. Lots of people do. But he is the president of the United States, and he is charged with the executive authority in the United States by the people under the Constitution. And so to do that, or anything, I mean, gracious, a Coast Guard officer said last week that he would not, in public, that he would not obey an order from the commander-in-chief, and nothing has happened to that guy.

HH: Well, let’s wait a bit on that, because that is not acceptable, either. I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn. Everything Hillsdale at Stay tuned, America.

— — —

HH: We were talking about what is essentially a showdown in Washington, D.C. between some pretty entrenched forces and a disruptive president. Last night in West Virginia, Larry Arnn, he gave, President Trump did, quite a remarkable speech, and then he introduced the governor of West Virginia who until that day had been a Democrat, and he switched parties. I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of that. What do you think?

LA: Well, I’ve gotten used to being wrong. You know, as you know, I’ve been a Trump supporter for a long time, but I’ve gotten used to being wrong about him, because of course, half the stuff he does looks kinda crazy. And then it works out. And so look at this. I mean, the situation in Washington is just terrible, and in my opinion, may be amounting to the fracture of the Republican Party, and large elements of it joining the cause of the growth of the administrative state. I think that might be what’s going on, right? It looks awful. Meanwhile, go out to West Virginia, and they’re on a platform, and every headline in the news for two months is terrible about Trump. And the West Virginia governor in front of his own people joins Trump’s party. That’s amazing to me.

HH: Now to me, there is an obvious clarity about a coalition government. And you’re familiar with coalition governments, because you know British politics. We have the Congressional Republican Party, of which I have long been a member and I admire Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, and the platform on which they generally agree. And now we have a new party. It’s called the party of Donald Trump, and it’s actually, its living, beating heart is in Trumbull County, Ohio where I’m from, which was a blue, blue, blue, blue, blue county, all the way back to 1928, except for 1972. And now, it’s a Trump county. And West Virginia, which was blue, blue, blue and elected Robert Byrd all those years is now a red state, the reddest state. These are not my father’s Republicans, but my father’s Republicans and my Republicans are still there. So there’s a coalition government. Can that coalition government go a long time, because we’ve seen coalition governments go a long time in Great Britain, Larry Arnn.

LA: Yeah, well, we don’t, you see, we have, we don’t have the same ground for that to actually operate as we have in Britain, right? They can go a long time, and this, you know, in another way, translate the image a little bit, political parties are big. The American Constitution, in its electoral methods, drive us toward a two-party system. That’s good, in my opinion, because it A) amalgamates opinions in the parties, you don’t have 40 peoples, each one claiming its own deal. But second, and when big questions are pending, it tends to make them face each other and debate them directly so that the people get to choose. That second thing, I think, is what’s not functioning here right now. But there is the makings of a new majority in the Republican Party if it stays together, but they’re not showing signs of doing that right now.

HH: Not yet.

LA: And if, you know, but I mean, goodness gracious, in the Senate, they are reintroducing a forum of the vile 1970s and 80s special counsel law to protect Mueller’s investigation of the President. And the point is, and they’re doing that, by the way, they claim, in the name of protecting the Constitution. But the Constitution doesn’t work that way, and it’s not meant to.

HH: No, in fact, it’s terrible. And I do not want the President to fire Mueller. I think he’s innocent. I think he will be exonerated by a Democratic-applauded special counsel, because I think he’s fair. But I don’t want the independent counsel law back in any way, shape or form. I have to read to you to think about over the break, Larry Arnn, you can go look it up, Stuart Rothenberg is a very wise columnist. He is a very astute observer of politics. I take nothing away from him. Last night, he tweeted about coal miners. Of course, they are hard-working. They mean well, just closed-minded, provincial, angry, and easily misled. My wife’s dad was a coal miner in Pennsylvania. Well, my great-grandfather was a coal miner in Pennsylvanian when he got off the boat from Ulster. I can’t imagine writing something like this, Larry Arnn. They mean well, but closed-minded, provincial, angry and easily misled?

LA: (laughing) So you know, compared to my ancestors, coal miners are aristocrats.

HH: (laughing)

LA: And my ancestors were not like that.

HH: I’ll be right back with Dr. Arnn. The elites are coming apart at the seams. Stay tuned, America.

— – – – —

HH: Dr. Arnn, there is an Article I – Article II argument going on right now. Article I passed a law about Russian sanctions this week, and they included in it restrictions on the president’s ability to elude those sanctions. And the Article II signing statement issued by the President says those are wrong. I’m going to sign this law, but I’m going to tell you that you don’t have the authority to tell me I can’t take these off. This is not unusual. It’s being played as unusual by a media that may be ignorant of yesterday, much less the Reagan Nicaragua wars with Congress, but it’s not unusual. It is the institutionalized friction between Article I and Article II.

LA: That’s right, and what’s surprising to me is how quickly, see, what the Congress does, what they did to Reagan, what they do when they’re very opposed to a president, and when they’re Democrats, the Republicans have not been very good at this. What they do is they try to invade the authority of the executive branch, and a certain amount of that is supposed to go on. And they try to control what the president does. And of course, they control if they would but pass budgets and appropriations. They could control the purse strings of the nation and say where the money is spent. And that’s a massive power. They don’t do that much anymore. They don’t really appropriate in the way they used to. We should talk about that. But they used devices like this. Well, that’s okay, but I mean, gracious, we’re early in a Republican administration, and the Republican Congress is turning to do things like this to Trump. Of course, mostly with Democratic votes, a lot of that, and that could mean, you know, I mean, that’s, and see, just like this is a step toward a war between the executive and the legislative. That’s a step toward the fracturing of the Republican Party, which you know, there are other steps underway like that, too. I don’t know it’s going to happen, and I hope it’s not going to happen, but there’s the look of it when you look.

HH: Well, I would hope that cooler heads prevail. And I believe the arrival of John Kelly is such a cooler head. I interview H.R. McMaster tomorrow for an hour on MSNBC at 8am in the morning, a very impressive man, and he has been a hero. He has a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars. He knows real combat. I see some of the far reaches of the right wing suggesting he’s part of the deep state. That’s just silly nonsense. He’s an American hero. On the other hand, I see Kim Strassel who is a very significant journalist, a serious professional, one of the hardest working, most careful journalists in the world, writing in the Wall Street Journal this morning. Have you seen this column, yet, Dr. Arnn?

LA: No, I haven’t.

HH: Well, let me read you a little bit of it. Imran Awan was arrested at Dulles International Airport July 24th while attempting to board a flight to Pakistan. For more than a decade, the Congressional staffer had worked under top House Democrats, and he had just been accused by the FBI of bank fraud. It was a dramatic moment in a saga that started in February when Capitol Police confirmed an investigation that Mr. Awan and his family on separate accusations of government theft. The details are tantalizing. The family all worked for top Democrats, were paid huge sums, and had access to sensitive Congressional data even while having ties to Pakistan. The media largely ignored the affair, the ho-hum coverage summed up by a New York Times piece suggesting it was nothing more than an “overblown” story typical of mid-summer. But even without evidence of espionage or blackmail, this ought to be an enormous scandal, Strassel continues. Based on what we know, the Awan story is at the very least a tale of massive government incompetence that seemingly allowed a family of accused swindlers to bilk taxpayers out of millions and even put our national secrets at risk. In a more accountable world, House Democrats would be forced to step down. It goes on to talk about how he worked as an IT staffer for House Democrats since 2004. The family, by the way, has also run a million dollar indebted car dealership that operated full-time on the Hill. They’ve got loans to a man stripped of his medical license. But the key is that they are IT staffers. And of course, we have a Democratic Party that is compromised by its IT system. And I, the obvious question to me is does Mueller get this investigation, because he’s a corrupt IT staffer when the Democratic Party’s IT corruption is at the heart of the Russia investigation? Don’t you think it is obvious that Mueller ought to get this, Larry Arnn?

LA: Or, you know, if they were good, you know, the Congress itself has enormous investigative powers. And a lot of what’s going on right now is a ceding of authority from the Congress to the administrative state. You know, Congress passes a tiny fraction of the laws that come into effect in America today. Last year, maybe the Congress passed something like 150 laws. Last year, the Obama administration added 87,000 pages to the federal register. Those are all made in administrative agencies, right? So they also love to farm out their investigations. But the Congress has a Republican majority, and they have subpoena power. They could haul people up and find this out. And that would be good, and it would be located where it ought to be. And the Congress can, so the idea that the Congress can control the executive branch and the prosecutorial power, there is in the Constitution a forbidding of the Congress to pass bills of attainder.

HH: Yeah.

LA: And that’s because they’re not supposed to be able to accuse people of crimes. They refer that to the executive branch, which would then go to the judicial branch, see? So you’ve got this confusion of how the thing is supposed to work. And the conflict between the branches, as you said earlier, is supposed to follow certain patterns that also reinforces the independence of the branches. And what they’re doing right now is mixing up that independence in all kinds of ways.

HH: We are going to begin a disciplined study of Article I, Article II, Article III and the other articles when we return from our current pressing events. But the pressing events are so pressing that I want to spend another moment on it. Today, the Labor Department announced, Dr. Arnn, that 209,000 jobs were created in July, well above expectations, well above expectations. I think more than 10% above the number, I think they were expected to come in at 180,000, and so job growth continues. I’m not sure what the rates do. The rates are based on, I don’t know, hokum, as far as I can tell. But I do know when you’re creating jobs, that’s a good deal. And it’s down to 4.3%. That’s tying a 16 year low. If this continues, I don’t believe Trump country gives a doggone about most of what elite media obsesses about. What do you think?

LA: Well, his, you know, his approval ratings don’t mean much right now, but they’re very low.

HH: They’re very low, historically low.

LA: Yeah, yeah, and you know, he’s a very controversial man. And so yeah, you know, will that matter later? That depends on a lot of things. Let’s say that the Republican Party got, you know, the Republican majority in Congress, right, that I think this is what they were elected to do by any fair reading of what they promised and what people said they voted for them for. If they would add to this job creation something, which is a welfare reform that returned us back, excuse me, back to a regime which if you want public benefits and you’re able-bodied, you’ve got to work for them. That’s a very popular thing. And when they did that back in the Clinton years under the Gingrich-led Republican House and Senate, or he wasn’t in the Senate, when they did that, there was a big spurt in job growth and a decline in the welfare rolls, and we have historically high numbers of people who have opted out of the job market. So just think how many jobs you could get if you added that to this burgeoning economy, and then how much growth and wealth you could get, along with, for example, a tax cut and some moderation is all they’re really failing to vote on, of the health care regulations that are costing people a fortune. So in other words, if they would do their business, then that would help a lot, too, and they haven’t done much of it so far.

HH: No, and the three senators, I want to be specific, it’s not the Congressional GOP that failed the party promises. It was Senators Collins, Murkowski and McCain. They have names. They voted it down. They stopped the regular order. And as a result, the premium hikes are ridiculous. I point out senator Jeff Flake is a friend of mine. I look forward to talking to him. But man, is he upside down. In the GOP in Arizona, the Republican Party in Arizona, Donald Trump has a plus 35 favorable rating. Senator Flake has a negative 35 favorable rating. What does that tell you, Larry Arnn, about someone who writes a book, The Conscience of a Conservative?

LA: Well, that’s math, isn’t it? That’s arithmetic. (laughing)

HH: Yeah, he may not, he may have misjudged about the conscience of most conservatives.

LA: Yeah, it’s, you know, in some broad way, you know, all these ignorant coal miners and stuff, all the poor, ignorant American people who don’t understand Washington, D.C., actually probably have a rough common sense understanding of it, and that is people are, it’s a culture of its own. It’s a great, powerful governing city that has isolated itself from America in powerful ways. Just remember, remember the stark and amazing fact. All legislative power shall be vested in a Congress, right, paraphrase of the beginning of the Constitution. All, it says, legislative power, and yet 90% of the laws are not made in the Congress anymore, and the people who made them are not subject to the popular will. And so that’s why things like that are why that city is the way it is. And I think people understand that. I think they’re used to it, and I think they don’t like it.

HH: People do. When I come back with Larry Arnn, we’re going to talk about the weeks ahead.

— – – – —

HH: Dr. Arnn, Jamie Dupree is a terrific reporter, and he often provides context. And this morning, he posted the job creation numbers dating back to 1997 for July. I go back to the year before the great recession started to come up. That year in 2006, July job numbers were 206,000 jobs created. 2007, the great recession had begun, but not the crash, minus 34,000 jobs. The great recession hit in the summer of 2008 and the fall of 2008. We lost 213,000 jobs. It was in full grip of the country during the first year of Obama. We lost 329,000 jobs. A year later, we lost 68,000 jobs. Then the recovery began. In 2011, we gained 69,000 jobs in July. In 2012, we gained 143,000. 2013, we went back a little bit, 122,000. In 2014, we went up a little bit to 202,000. 2015, we went up a lot to 254,000. 2016, under President Obama, we went to 291,000. And this year, we’re at 209,000. That’s context. It seems to me that July is a time of some job growth, but not booming. You just don’t want to be negative. That’s context. Where is context in reporting? It’s all about Donald Trump and not about trends.

LA: Yeah, well, in rare cases in the past, there have been great newspapers that have been stable providers of context and dispassionate, right? And their job, when it’s good, is a little bit like historians. You know, in other words, they, you know, when’s this happen before, how does it compare to other things like it. That kind of reporting is really great. It’s also really hard, and understand it’s very rare. I could, there’s, Winston Churchill had a great thing. He would write long letters to people for his own satisfaction, and mark on them not sent, and then he would write a second draft of half the length not sent, and then a one paragraph letter making a small complaint. And he did that to Jo Stalin. He did it to the proprietor of the Times of London. And he went through the last 20 years. He wrote this in 1940. He went through the last 20 years, and the things about which they had been wrong, and persistent. (laughing) And he never sent that letter, but it’s really great. And you could write it about the media today.

HH: Amen. I want to close with a retired colonel sent me a note this morning. North Korea is the most important issue out there, and most people are thinking of it. My second biggest fear after their artillery is that Trump’s American domestic enemies would use a conflict to leverage their personal advantage undercutting the critical unity we would need to face our greatest military challenge since Hitler. Do you share that concern?

LA: You have to add context, but I do. It looks to me like North Korea is operating in some considerable cooperation with China, indeed is in some ways a tool of Chinese foreign policy because of a simple fact that I learned lately, and that is trade between North Korea and China has been growing rapidly in recent months, and North Korea’s having a kind of mini-economic boom, you know, which for them is people actually might have grain to eat. And so this is being subsidized by an emerging, ambitious, clever, patient, steady power that is a danger to its neighbors in the Far East. And China, I don’t think, wants a war. I don’t think they want, I don’t think they want all of this to break out. I think they want to neutralize us. And I think the danger will come if we try to stop that, and I think we do have to try to stop that, because that vast continent and all its people and its rapid growth, you know, and our friends are the littoral nations, the nations along the periphery, because we’re a big sea power, right? We’re removed from the great population centers of the world. Our strategy is rather like Britain’s. It’s just on a bigger scale. We’re kind of an island nation. And so funny to think of it that way, isn’t it? But that means that just go down that coastline, right, and you’ve got Korea and Japan, and you’ve got Taiwan, and you’ve got around the corner to the Philippines, and Indonesia. Those are places that we need to reach. And we don’t have any aggressive intent toward any of them. You know, we conquered them, right? And then we did what we do. We left. And so that, we need to preserve the ability to do that for the stability and growth of the world, and for our own security. And I think what this is about is they’ve got, you know, it’s kind of handy to have a madman, isn’t it?

HH: Well, tomorrow, I’m going to interview H.R. McMaster. I hope you are up wherever you are at 8am to watch it, because it does help to have the world unfamiliar with how people are going to react, and he says that. The President has no red lines. He doesn’t want people to know where his red lines are. That’s almost a direct quote from tomorrow’s interview, and it is a dangerous time. I mean, it’s a really dangerous time. So it’s good to have you talk at that time. Dr. Larry Arnn, all things Hillsdale available at

End of interview.


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