HH: It is the last radio hour of the week. That means it’s time for our weekly Hillsdale Dialogue with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College or one of his colleagues. All things Hillsdale available at www.hillsdale.edu, or you can go and listen to all of our conversations with all of our guests, mostly Dr. Arnn, dating back many years now all collected for your binge listening pleasure at www.hughforhillsdale.com. Dr. Arnn, I must begin, I call you the lantern of the north, and the snuffbox of the west is USC, University of Southern California. And I must begin, you put statues up around your campus. Before they go up, do you carefully spellcheck what is at their base? I just want to know if you are guilty of any of the sins that have been commissioned at USC this week where they misspelled Shakespeare on a statue of Hecuba.
LA: Yeah, well, I can tell you, because I looked it up, that Ronald Reagan does not have an E on the end of either of his names. (laughing)
HH: (laughing) Margaret Thatchere? You didn’t get that one wrong, either?
LA: You know, it reminds me of a joke about a former Vice President who’s a friend of mine. How does he sing his nursery rhymes? Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O-E. (laughing)
HH: (laughing) That’s, he is a friend of mine as well, and that’s a very good joke. But how long does it, what does, well, if you’re the president of USC now, what do you do? They tried to put out the Jon Lovitz ‘that’s what we intended to use’. We wanted to use the old spelling. That’s what they, that was their story, and they’re sticking to it. But how long do they put up with that?
LA: You know, first of all, if he were going to do that controversial thing, then you would put a note somewhere nearby saying you knew that before it was pointed out to you, because nobody’s going to believe him now.
LA: It, isn’t that, well, I’m, you know, I know Max Nikias a little bit, the president of USC, and he’s a good guy, right? And so I feel bad for him.
HH: I don’t. (laughing)
LA: (laughing) Well, you know, they did put up a statue of Shakespeare. That’s unusual, isn’t it, in this day and age?
HH: No, it’s Hecuba. They quote Hamlet on the mythical queen of Troy during the Iliad. And that’s why she’s up there, because it’s a diversity play, right? They’ve got Tommy Trojan, so they went with a diversity play. They had to put up the statue of Hecuba, and she’s referred to in Hamlet, and so they quote Shakespeare, and they get it wrong. I just think it’s, on so many levels, it’s just such wonderful payback.
LA: Well, you’re having fun, and also, you’re making me take back my good words. I didn’t know that part of it.
HH: Yeah, it’s a diversity play. I have got to ask you, by the way, while I have you. The New York Times did a story this week on diversity at elite schools. And top colleges don’t represent America’s diversity. How bad is it? And so I went looking in this, and this is of course an argument for affirmative action. But it turns out it’s really quite remarkable when you look what’s happened. When I left Harvard University in 1978, according to this study, 83% of the students were white. Today at Harvard University, 47% of the students are white. When I left Harvard in 1978, 6% were Asian. Today, 22% are Asian. When I left Harvard University, 6% were black. Today, 8% are black. When I left Harvard University, 4% were Hispanic. And today, 13% are Hispanic. In fact, Brown went in the same period of time from 87% white to 52% white. Columbia, from 78% white to 40% white, Cornell from 80% white to 45% white, Dartmouth from 87% white to 58% white, Princeton from 85% white to 49% white, the University of Pennsylvania from 88% white to 50% white, and Yale from 82% white to 51% white. This is over the 35-40 years that I’ve been a graduate of one of these august institutions. And I think that’s fine. I think that’s just great. But how can anyone argue that affirmative action is not happening?
LA: Well, you know, first of all, the Devil’s in, you know, why has this happened, right? If they are admitting students by race as opposed to admitting them by ability to do the work, if they’re picking the people who are qualified by race and not best qualified by ability to do the work, then that will lead to all kinds of harmful results. And if on the other hand, you know, they’re finding a lot of people, and they’re picking the ones who are the best, and they represent a lot of difference races and colors, God, more power to them. Good.
HH: But what do you think is really going on in these private universities? Now in the state of California, it is unconstitutional to use race in admissions because of Prop. 209, which you and I both carried an oar for many, many decades ago, and as a result, the University of California campuses, according to this story, have a 17 point gap between representation of the college age population by race and their actual enrollment. 49% ought to be minorities. Only 33% are, according to this story. But at these private universities, which are not under any obligation of law to admit one way or the other, they can do whatever they want, they can’t violate the constitution by admitting according to race. They’re clearly doing racial balancing. And the clearly, their decision has been to, and for reasons we could debate are good or bad, to decrease the white population and to assign those seats to Asian-American kids, or Asian kids generally, whole holding the African-American as pretty much at 8-9%. Over 40 years, that hasn’t varied at any of these universities, and to edge up the Hispanic from which was very low 40 years ago up to about 13-14%. They are clearly race balancing, Dr. Arnn.
LA: Yeah, and probably so, because first of all, they, you know, they’re proclaimed doctrine is that they’re doing that. And look, if you build a regime where everybody is ranked and categorized and favored and disfavored according to race, it just doesn’t seem to me in any way plausible that that will lead to less racism. And you know, I mean, like the black population thing, that’s a subject dear to my heart, because you know, we had black kids in our first entering class in 1844. And you know, our approach to that is we want to help inner city schools get better, urban schools, right? And we want to, and we don’t care what color they are in those schools, but underprivileged kids, we should be doing a lot in this country for underprivileged kids. And if you do that, you will find that a lot of them are African-American. But you should let them identify themselves by their underprivilege, and then you’ll end up getting lots of Hispanic and Asian and white kids, too. And you know, anything we can do, you know, and what my own view is that what we have to do for the urban schools like the suburban schools, but more urgently for the urban schools is liberate them from this massive bureaucratic system that takes, by the way, more than half the money that is spent in K-12 education, and spends it on people who are not teachers, but rather regulators of various kinds.
HH: I couldn’t agree with you more, and I wish this very simple approach would spread out, and that we could come to the recognition that race politics is never going to work other than ill in the United States, as it has ever been so from the framing forward. When we are talking about race, we are going backwards.
HH: And when we are using race as a means to confer benefits or inflict penalties, we are going backwards, and we are going to the land opposite of the Declaration of Independence. And it seems to me that the allegation, now we’re transitioning to Donald Trump, the allegation that President Trump reopened the racial wounds of Charlottesville this week with his speech attacking the media and excoriating the media is absurd. And I have to play for you Don Lemon on Monday night after the President spent a large part of his speech attacking the media. Generalissimo, do we have that ready? Don Lemon, here we go.
DL: Well, what do you say to that? I’m just going to speak from the heart here. What we have witnessed was a total eclipse of the facts, someone who came out on stage and lied directly to the American people and left things out that he said in an attempt to rewrite history, especially when it comes to Charlottesville. He’s unhinged, it’s embarrassing, and I don’t mean for us, the media, because he went after us, but for the country. This is who we elected president of the United States, a man who is so petty that he has to go after people who he deems to be his enemy like an imaginary friend of a six year old. His speech was without thought. It was without reason. It was devoid of facts. It was devoid of wisdom. There was no gravitas. There was no sanity there. He was like a child blaming a sibling on something else. He did it. I didn’t do it. He certainly opened up the race wound from Charlottesville, a man clearly wounded by the rational people who are abandoning him in droves, meaning those business people, and the people in Washington now who are questioning his fitness for office and whether he is stable, a man backed into a corner, it seems, by circumstances beyond his control and beyond his understanding.
HH: When we come back from break, I’m going to ask Dr. Larry Arnn what he makes of the meltdown in the media over Donald Trump’s campaign-style rally speech attacking the media. Lindsey Graham on this show yesterday said Donald Trump knows exactly what he’s doing. He is running a campaign, and, but the American media sure doesn’t react that way. The Hillsdale Dialogue continues with Dr. Larry Arnn right after this. Stay tuned, America, it’s the Hugh Hewitt show.
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HH: Dr. Arnn, as we went to break, I played for you Don Lemon of CNN saying about the President on Monday night that he lied, that he was unhinged, that he was embarrassing and petty, that he has imaginary friends, that his statement, his speech was devoid of facts, that it had no sanity in it, that he is not fit for office. He is not stable. The intimation, indeed, the emphatic statement is that he’s unbalanced. What did you make of that tirade?
LA: Yeah, well, it, so I’ll cite a companion, because first of all, the man is a news anchor, right? What does that mean? What is that station in life, right? He, that’s just editorializing. So yesterday in the, there’s a story about the Wall Street Journal in the New York Times that Gerard Baker, the editor-in-chief at the Wall Street Journal, said to his journalists who cover Trump. Why don’t you just report what he says? Why is that not your job? Just report what he says. And then he picked out several phrases that were in articles written at the Wall Street Journal about Trump’s speech. And he said that’s just editorializing, right? He didn’t say any of that, right? What he said is what you should report. That’s news. Well, the New York Times is criticizing him today, and apparently a lot of the people at the Wall Street Journal are critical of that. But mostly, what is the service of the news except to explain what Donald Trump said? And Donald Trump’s got enemies who will make, and they can report what his enemies say about what he said, right? That’s what news is. And then there’s also the commentariat, right, of which you know, you are, for example.
LA: But what I notice about your methodology is there are two things that make me think that you know, against my own personal log of you, you might be a really honest guy, even intelligent, right?
LA: One is you love to have people who disagree with you on your show. And the other is you play lots of clips of things so people can hear what the guy, what Don Lemon actually said. And the point is if that’s not improper for a news anchor, then nothing is.
HH: Nothing is.
HH: Now Nicholas Kristof, who is part of the commentariat as I am, worries that President Trump’s attack on the media is empowering dictators around the world to do very bad things, actual bad things to journalists, you know, assassinate them, jail them, throw them in jail. We know that doesn’t happen in the United States, but his concern is that not only is his caricature of journalists dishonest, hypocritical and not true, not only does it ignore the losses among journalists, but that he is buoying the repressive instincts of dictators around the world. What do you make of that argument?
LA: (laughing) I think that’s silly, and I’ll tell you why. What Trump is doing is arguing back with them, right? He hasn’t addressed, he hasn’t arrested any journalists. He hasn’t, you know, and look, in America, it’s just an established fact, and you know, anybody who wants to write, I’ll send you the facts about this. Journalists, especially in the most important media outlets, and the most distinguished ones, are overwhelmingly liberal. I mean, the number of people who work at the New York Times and the Washington Post that voted for Donald Trump is tiny, right? And it’s not 10%. It’s way less than that, the last time I looked, right? And they give money. You can track where they give money, right? And they all give it to Democrats, or almost all do. So first of all, they should, that’s fine. They have the same rights I do to be for who they want, but they should conduct themselves when they’re reporting the news to do the news, and it’s not an assault on freedom of speech when the president of the United States or anybody else argues with them.
HH: Now Kristof continues that this is an extraordinary moment in our nation’s history. I humbly suggest that when a megalomaniacal leader howls and shrieks at critics, this is when institutional checks on the leader become a bulwark of democracy. In other words, amping it up, we have a minute to the break, people have just got to relax. Lindsey Graham just said he’s just doing politics.
LA: Yeah, good for Lindsey Graham. Wow, and see, you know, the other thing is megalomaniacal, is that a diagnosis of Donald Trump that the man has made?
LA: Well, he’s a commentator. Let him make it, right? And then Donald Trump and other people can argue back with him.
HH: And Kristof is a very fine writer. But I do think journalists have talked themselves into a frenzy, Larry Arnn, and you’ve been around students who have done this, right, who talk themselves into frenzies, because they don’t give themselves any distance. And when we come back from break, what the country right now needs is what Lindsey Graham gave us yesterday, and Dr. Arnn does at his best moments, which is perspective. This has all happened before, and it’s going to happen again. And it’s normal. Stay tuned, America.
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HH: Against my better instincts, I have to compliment Dr. Arnn, or relay compliments. I hate this part of my life. I was in Chicago with Guy Benson and Joe Walsh this week, and was approached by an individual who wanted me to relay to you that the Hillsdale Dialogue is a central part of their life, that they look forward to it every week. They want to hear from you. And number two, an individual thinks you need to replace Steve Bannon in the West Wing, because we need a public intellectual in the White House giving the President good ideas. And then number three, I was upbraided in a voice mail by an individual who says I do not pay you sufficient homage as you are the official biographer of Churchill. I refer to you as someone who has been part of the biography team of Martin Gilbert, and that I ought to let people know that you are the guy, you’re in line of succession to Randolph Churchill, Martin Gilbert and Larry Arnn, and that I am insufficiently appreciative of your stature in the Churchill universe. And I said I have had it with Arnn. I mean, I really have this week. So there.
LA: (laughing) That’s enough. That’s enough. So the thing is, so that’s the chairman of the board of Hillsdale College, probably. His station in life is to make sure that I am sufficiently honored. And I told him I get my horn tooted all the time. But here’s the fact. The fact is the official biography of Winston Churchill is narrative volumes and document volumes. And we at Hillsdale College are finishing the document volumes, almost finished. And this great project that Churchill started in 1962 is going to be complete, we think, by the beginning of 2019, and anyway, it’s awesome, right? And I am the editor of the last six of the document volumes. So yes, I’m the, but that means in that sense, I’m doing that. I did help the man who wrote the narrative volumes, but I didn’t write them.
HH: Well, good. I just want my friend in Florida to realize that they can’t yell at me anymore.
HH: Now I want to go to David Brooks. We were talking before the break about Lindsey Graham, and I would recommend to everyone to go and read Lindsey Graham’s interview with me on Thursday for perspective on what is going on in America right now, which is called politics. And it is not a civil war. It is not a fighting war. It is not even 1968 levels of political upheaval, nor will it come to that. It’s just an overwrought media and a 24 hour, 7 day a week news cycle that needs controversy. And Donald Trump is a hurricane. And he feeds over the warm water of cable news, and they feed each other into hurricane 5 conditions continually, throwing thunderbolts at each other with storm and noise. But David Brooks comes along, and he writes a column, what do moderates believe in August 22nd, and he said, it gives us very helpful headliners. The truth is plural, that politics is a limited activity, that creativity is synchronistic, that in politics, the lows are lower than the highs are high, truth before justice, beware the danger of a single identity, partisanship is necessary but blinding, humility is a fundamental virtue, moderation requires courage, all good things, most important of which is that to me, the most important thing he said is that politics is a limited activity. And Dr. Arnn, we have a limited government that has limited power. And politics ought to be limited, and there ought to be large parts of our lives that are not politicized, and we’re losing that. And that is what I am most afraid about this era, not civil war or upheaval or unrest, but that politics is becoming all-encompassing and consuming.
LA: Yeah, but that, and in a way, then, that means that this fierceness and incivility of the political battle, which is not, by the way, on one side, to quote Donald Trump. There are many sides that are responsible for this. That is a sign that what you just said is true. What you just said boils down to this. We are having an argument about what kind of regime or nation we’re going to live in, and what it’s going to do to and with us, right, because if the government becomes unlimited, then it will be unlimited. And that means it can do whatever it wants, right?
LA: And so that’s what the fight is about, and that is very fundamental. And you know, if you look at other uncivil times in American politics, you know, it was not very civil in the middle of the American Revolution. There was a war going on, and it was not very civil in the run up to the Civil War. There was a war coming, although you couldn’t be sure of that, right? And a lot of these fights that we have today are aiming at delegitimizing one or the other sides of the house divided in which we live. And so I’m not worried about revolution. But I am worried that the government is going to grow to a size and become unlimited in a way that means that it’s out of our control. And that’s the danger, I think, today.
HH: You know, I did an interview this past weekend with Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, and he’s running for California governor. And I pointed out to him California is $440 billion dollars in debt. These are promises they have made to a variety of groups about pensions and health care. I pointed out to him the tax structure out here where the lowest state and local sales tax is 7.5%, the highest income tax is 13.3%, which is four percent higher than anywhere else in the country, and that a variety of taxes all combine to make is the most indebted, highest taxed state in the Union, and crucially, public employee unions collect a billion dollars a year in California in dues, Larry Arnn. That is a prescription for disaster.
LA: Yeah, it’s you know, it’s, so just look at the trend, right? In America, we have a unique constitutional system, according to James Madison. Sovereignty is located outside the government in the society, but all of the power to act is located inside the government. And that, just if you think about that for a minute, in Athens, the people were sovereign, and they were the legislative branch. In England, the king was sovereign, and he was the executive, right, in France and other European countries. So in America, Madison says, the legitimacy to say how rule is done is located with the people, but they don’t have any power to actually rule. They delegate that to the government. And that’s the first constitutional check, see? We’re in the middle of the Constitution now, right?
HH: Yes, we are. We’ve in Article I.
LA: But then that works handsomely when the government is something like 10 or 12% of the whole gross domestic product of the country. But if the government is 53%, then the government becomes very influential in elections. And many, most of the top ten givers in politics today are public employee unions, that is people who have a direct economic stake in the outcome of elections. And so that is why I fear, and you know, all I said were money measurements, right?
LA: But what can they not regulate? You know, I fight a continuing war at Hillsdale College to keep us from being broken to the wheel about bureaucratic language of compliance, because we spend enormous and increasing amounts of money complying with unreasonable rules. We circulate documents that no one can read, that we are required to circulate. And we’re in a college where we try to learn how to talk…
LA: …and read and write, right? And so I try to keep, you know, of course you have to comply with the law.
LA: And you have to do that well, and we do.
HH: Oh, my gosh.
LA: We work on it. We have a general counsel. But to try not to be overcome by the activity of it, because it can be all you do today, right?
HH: Oh, I could tell you stories about the ABA. Oh, I could tell you stories about the ABA. But I don’t want to waste my time. I want to go to Article I, Section 5, because President Trump has made this an issue. He is in a battle with the Congress about how they ought to legislate. And Lindsey Graham pointed out that this is what he ought to be doing if he wants him, and he wants them to legislate and put Democrats in bad positions. Article I, Section 5, Paragraph 2 says each house, meaning the House of Representatives and the Senate, may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member. This is an interesting paragraph, because President Trump wants them to change the rules, but the Constitution clearly gives that authority to the houses. And they can expel a member, and we’re about to convict, I believe, a senator from New Jersey of felonious conduct in the next few weeks. Do you think he ought to be ejected by two-thirds, Larry Arnn? It doesn’t say you have to. You don’t have to throw a felon out. Let’s be clear. You don’t have to do that, but it will be a choice, right?
LA: Yeah, and you know, of course they should eject a felon. (laughing)
HH: (laughing) But they won’t do it. You know the Democrats will not throw out Menendez, because Chris Christie will appoint a Republican. So they won’t do it.
LA: Yeah, but they should, you know, and the Republicans should make them pay, you know, because it’s a little embarrassing, right? I mean, Donald Trump is a threat to Western, no, not Western, we don’t, we are threat to Western Civilization. We reject the idea. We also reject the idea of civilization. I’m struggling to understand, to come up with what exactly Donald Trump threatens. But whatever it is, it’s the most precious thing, right? But he’s not a felon.
LA: And so, so yeah, you know, if people who make the laws should, I mean, in an ideal world, be expected to obey the laws.
HH: So why did the framers not include that, do you think?
LA: Well, because if you, because it’s a simple thing, and we have a lot of trouble following this today. But precise legal prescriptions, to the extent they settle things like who can be elected, become replacements for the people making judgments through politics about that.
HH: Yes, yes, and because, I was going to point out, Tom Delay was unjustly prosecuted by a out of control political prosecutor in Texas, a Javert. And he had to leave the House because of that.
HH: …even though he was subsequently found innocent. Ted Stevens was unjustly prosecuted and convicted right before an election, even though the conviction was overturned later. He was deselected because of it. So they don’t make you go along, because there’s a political argument about whether or not those prosecutions are legitimate.
LA: That’s right, and you know, in the case of Ted Stevens, he was acquitted on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.
LA: All right, they had exculpatory evidence, and they didn’t give it to the public or to Stevens’ side. And you know, that was a political hit, right? And in the end, like we, you know, of course, lots of people listen to our program, your program that I come on, who love the Constitution. And a lot of them think well, you know, there should be a specific provision in the Constitution that covers everything. But if there were, then there wouldn’t be any room for the people to decide to make decisions.
HH: And more on that when we come back as we’re talking about Article I of the Constitution in our series on the Constitution with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College.
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HH: Dr. Arnn, I want to go back to our, we’re up to Article I, Section 5. We’re moving slowly, turtle-like through the Constitution. And it says here that each house may determine the rules of its proceedings. Now President Trump is using his tweet storms to attack the Majority Leader, McConnell, and the Speaker of the House, for the way they are conducting business. But it’s okay for him to do that, provided we all recognize it’s up to each house to determine the rules of its proceedings.
LA: Yeah. Yeah, and I’m so proud of Lindsey Graham this morning. I have not been proud of him on some mornings in the past, but what a great guy, because a lot of this, of course, is just posturing. It’s just politics, right? So Trump tweets that they ought to do X, and they tweet back about how brave, well, they don’t tweet, really, most of them don’t tweet.
LA: But they respond how brave they are to stand up to the president of the United States.
LA: You know, what’s he going to do to them?
LA: In the end, there isn’t anything he can do to them that we people don’t help him do, and that’s who he’s talking to.
HH: And so that brings us back to the fact that they are acting within limited roles. And the glory, the reason I’m an originalist and a Constitutionalist and a conservative of that sort is because no one can color outside of these lines. There is no Constitutional crisis, if I can borrow from Leo Strauss in the City And Man, that the West will never be in crisis if it never loses sight of what it is about. And we can’t actually have a Constitutional crisis unless we break the rules of the Constitution.
LA: That’s right, and see, because the Constitution is both dividing of power and uniting of power, and it wants to get things done, right, because you know, we need a government, right? We wouldn’t have one if we didn’t need one, because they’re very annoying things. But we need one. And so you know, my own view right now, my advice to the Congress is this. We have to be the party of change. If we like the Constitution, we have to recognize that it has been substantially compromised and is in danger of becoming completely overcome. And so we need to change things, right? If you’re a reformer, you need to change things. And so the Congress should pass a bunch of bills, and they can fight with the President, and they can be offended with the President, and they can accuse him of Russian collusion. They can do all of that. And you know, they do do all of that. But what they should not do is use that as an excuse not to pass the bills they promised to pass when they campaigned for a majority, because if they do pass those bill and send it to the President, he will sign them.
HH: He will sign them. And that brings me to my last, it’s a very practical, political moment. We have to raise the debt limit. For eight years, we heard whenever Republicans tried to get something out of the debt limit, the Democrats would say how dare they endanger the full faith and credit of the United States by attempting to leverage the debt limit raising? So now it seems to me we ought to put the construction of the fence and the repeal of the Pentagon sequester and a whole bunch of other stuff on there and say how dare they endanger the full faith and credit of the United States and the border security of the United States and the readiness of the American military by not passing this. But we don’t do that. Why are the Republicans, the party of Lincoln who was so artful at politics, so doggone bad at it?
LA: Because they don’t have much experience of governing. And so the difference in the situation today as opposed to the debt ceiling fights with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama is that the president of the United States gets to decide what gets closed. And there are very large parts of the federal government that could be suspended in operation for days or weeks or months, or a blessed thought, years.
LA: And nobody would miss it.
HH: You know what? There are a few that I would miss – the Battlefield Memorial Commission, which takes care of our cemeteries abroad.
LA: But Hugh, that’s what they close.
HH: I know they do that (laughing).
LA: They close that stuff, right?
HH: They close Mount Rushmore.
HH: And they close the Washington Monument. We could shutter the EPA and my son works there, and he would not be paid. He would probably call up and ask for money.
HH: …because his job would not be paying him. But you know what? I’m willing to run that risk, because my guess is the EPA would not be missed.
LA: You know, if they closed the EPA over this, I will help sustain your son.
HH: But our point is a serious one. There are a lot of good people that do a lot of good things. But you don’t, the government, life would go on. Transfer payments continue.
HH: Social Security disability payments go out. But the Office of Personnel Management will not make its background checks in an orderly fashion.
HH: And they will not conduct the Combined Federal Campaign on time. There will be lots of stuff that doesn’t happen that won’t matter a lick if he shuts the government down.
LA: Yeah, and they, you know, so I’m much more tempted to that idea now than then, right? And because look, this government, one of the biggest political movements in all of human history is the centralization of power in Washington, D.C. And it’s taken about a hundred years, and it involves about 40% of the largest economy in the world, right? And so to reverse that is going to be messy work if one wants to reverse it, and I happen to do so.
HH: And we will continue, and the Constitution will guide in how to do that. It will, and we’ll continue that conversation. Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College, thank you.
End of interview.