HH: And so I think this is a prime day to have the Hillsdale Dialogue which we do each week at this time. The last radio hour of the week is devoted to the Hillsdale College Dialogues with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, or one of his colleagues and faculty friends there. All things Hillsdale are available at www.hillsdale.edu, including an application for you 17 year olds out there. I would also encourage all of you who want to take the online Constitution courses, and all the online history courses to go to www.hillsdale.edu. Sign up for the free speech digest. It’s a great Christmas present to give someone. You can tell them you bought them a subscription to Imprimis. I think that will work. Dr. Arnn, is that unethical, actually?
LA: No, no, you can do that.
HH: You can do that. So go and sign up, say here’s your Christmas present.
LA: It’s a private institution.
HH: That’s one of my, I do like that idea. I’m giving you a subscription to Imprimis for this year. It will cost you a nickel, because it’s free. It’s the best Christmas present out there.
LA: And so, it costs me a nickel, yeah.
HH: And then every one, all of our previous dialogues are collected at www.hughforhillsdale.com. Dr. Arnn, there’s lots to talk about. I want to begin, though, with the very here and now, this tax cut debate. The Bob Corker Christmas crash is coming if they collapse on this tax cut bill because of Bob Corker, because they’ve price into the market the advantages of a corporate tax cut. What do you see the Republicans doing over the next 48 hours?
LA: They might do it in the next five. Yeah, so they’re, it looks to me like, at last night’s Midnight news, there’s a bunch of silly gooses among them, and Corker is the chief of them. But the silly gooses also want a bill. And so what are they talking about? This is fairyland, so I’ll explain why it’s fairyland in a minute. But what they’re talking about is they have to have something as a backup in case the tax cuts don’t work, and by work, they mean generate more revenue to pay for the massive federal government. And if the deficit goes up, they were going to put a trigger in. And this trigger would set off tax increases. Well, so if they need Corker’s vote, and also maybe James Lankford and also Ron Johnson were in the newspaper articles this morning, then they need their votes, then they may have to just put in some statutory tax increases to kick in down the road somewhere. So the tax cut bill would also contain tax increases.
HH: Isn’t the best trigger the Constitution and the fact that we have elected representatives who at any given time are supposed to do what’s in the best interest of the country?
LA: Yeah, but see, that runs a terrible risk, and that is at any given moment, the people might actually get involved in the government.
HH: You see, I just, when they talk about triggers because it doesn’t generate enough revenue, I immediately think to myself, well, if a tax hike would be helpful at such and such a time, they can pass one.
HH: It makes no sense.
LA: And if they put in a trigger, they can repeal it at any moment between now and then, of course. And if you didn’t have that, then you wouldn’t have representative government, which increasingly we do not. And this particular latest crisis, and you know, the bill looks pretty good to me. I think they’re going to pass something, and I so hope they do. And remember, it’s got the Tom Cotton-Ted Cruz repeal of the individual mandate of Obamacare in it, and so it would be a big tax cut. The corporate tax cut, I think, is a major thing. And then there’ll be that repeal. And so that’s wonderful. I hope they pass it. And I hope they don’t put triggers or tax increases in it. And that’s because of this point – we have shifted around things so much so that now if the people get to keep their money, that has to be paid for somehow. And we are running huge deficits in the government, but you know, the problems are on the expense side, because government revenues are larger than they have ever been.
LA: And the government itself, directly or indirectly, is managing more than half the economy.
HH: Now I have been in conversations with Senator Toomey, Senator Lankford and a couple of other senators behind the scenes about my proposal, which I’ll share with you, which is to allow a one-time withdrawal of an individual’s retirement savings of up to 25% of those retirement savings. Did you know there are $26.5 trillion dollars in retirements savings in American accounts, $26.5 trillion with a T?
HH: And if you allow people to withdraw 25% of what they have put away, if they have $100,000 put away, for example, they could take out $25,000, and you would tax it at 10%, which would raise $2,500 for the government, and then the rest would go to that individual, provided they use it to reduce residential mortgage debt or purchase residential real estate. Everybody wins. But you know, I brought this up to a number of senators who said that’s a great idea. Where did this come from? I said it’s obvious. Talk to people who hate taxes. They hate retirement systems, because it’s controlled. They’re controlling people’s use of their assets, right? It’s, to me, it’s never made sense that we tell Americans how to use their retirement money and when they can take it out. Does it make a lick of sense to you, Larry Arnn?
LA: Well, some sense. Winston Churchill supported things of that kind. Why? You want, you do want people to have, you want people to save. You want them to save their money. And you don’t want to tax what they save. That’s, so the point is to the extent that the individual retirement accounts, a Ronald Reagan thing, and the 403B accounts, which is a kind of business equivalent of the same thing, to the extent that those things encourage people to save tax-free, then God bless them, right? And that trillions, just think, that’s a resource that is a security for people in their age when Social Security and Medicare are busy going broke right now. So I don’t know, I’m not as against it as you are, and I, you know, the alternative, you know, there’s an argument to be made for mandatory retirement and health care savings as an argument against socialism. I’m not making that argument today. I believe a form of it. But what you want is, you want people to hold private resources as a security against their future, and surely, you shouldn’t tax anything they do that helps build that up. I guess your argument is partly equity in their home as a security against the future, too.
HH: That’s exactly my argument, is that most people’s largest retirement asset is their home. If you allow them, but right now, you can’t use your retirement savings to pay off that mortgage even as we eliminate mortgage interest deduction, and that if you want everyone to be…
LA: Oh, I see, yeah.
HH: Yeah, and so you allow them to pay down the one thing that is standing in the way of a comfortable retirement in their own home. But right now, you’re not allowed to do that, because they don’t class your house as a retirement asset. It’s one of those bureaucratic rules that just makes me crazy.
LA: Yeah, well, that’s, and you know, we, if you read the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times this morning, or the Drudge Report, all of which I’ve looked at, you’ll see that there’s a hundred different things, you know, proposed – the child care tax credit, right? And what I hope is that tax reform should be broad and simple, shouldn’t it?
LA: It should aim to get the rates down. It should broaden the tax base, not narrow it. We should have the principle in America that everybody pays something, although if you don’t make so much money, you should pay next to nothing. You should just pay something. Everybody should. And if we get, if we do that and then in the spirit of what you just said, if we, and this tax reform goes this direction, if you pass a reform that has low rates, that means that when you make a dollar, you get to keep most of it. And then you can do with it what you want to. And the deduction thing, you know, I mean, the charitable deduction is still in the bill, and that’s important to the college. But you know, they got close to repealing it one time, and I didn’t scream about it. And I thought…
HH: Well, there are a lot of not for profits that are out screaming. They want to make it above the line, because they’re afraid that you double the standard deduction and a lot of people will stop giving. And I’m not sure about that, but you could put it above the line and again pay for it in a lot of different ways, because charity, charitable deductions really do make a huge difference in this country to the people that do the most good, whether it’s the Salvation Army or Hillsdale College. Deductibility of contributions is a centerpiece of our tax code. We want to encourage that.
LA: Well, I’ll tell you something, though, from long experience. And I have the most blessed experience of anyone I know in this regard. People give money because they want to give. They give for love. And the tax deduction helps, and is a factor, and it would cost the college something, probably, if it were repealed. But you know, the gifts we get from people, it’s inspiring and wonderful the way it works. And I wouldn’t stop giving, and you wouldn’t stop giving if you couldn’t take it off your taxes, would you, Hugh?
HH: No. But I do believe…
LA: And so…
HH: There’s a marginal impact about how much you can afford to give. I do think people are rational, economic actors, and they understand tithing, and they understand sacrificial giving. But they also understand the genuine, the real cost of a donation goes down, or goes up if you take away the deduction. I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn. We have to talk about Churchill, both in The Crown and in Darkest Hour. Don’t go anywhere, America.
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HH: After the break, we’re going to talk about John Lithgow as Churchill in The Crown, and Gary Oldman as Churchill in Darkest Hour. But first, one more bit of headline news. It was widely reported yesterday that by early 2018, the new Secretary of State will be named Pompeo, and the new director of Central Intelligence will be named Cotton. I believe both of these men are of your acquaintance, Dr. Arnn. What would you make of a national security team that included General Kelly as the chief of staff, Jim Mattis, General McMaster as the NSC, Joe Dunford as the chairman, and Cotton at Agency, and Pompeo at State?
LA: Getting to be a really bad time to be a terrorist, isn’t it?
HH: Yes, it would be a really bad time to be a terrorist. And so I am hopeful this actually comes to pass. I have no inside knowledge of whether or not it is going to. I have, John Dickerson and I were talking about this last hour. All is smoke and mirrors, but it was an extended here’s your hat, why are you in such a hurry moment for Rex Tillerson yesterday.
LA: Yeah, well, I know that there is talk of that. I have, you know, I have inside knowledge. There is a lot of talk of that. But I was rejoiced to read those articles this morning, because it’s a grand idea. And I think, I’m no enemy of Rex Tillerson, myself. I don’t think he’s done a bad job. But I think that Pompeo has apparently gotten along with Trump really well, and he’s a very smart man, and a very accomplished man. And you know, he’s sorted out that mess at the CIA. And you know, we need that thing, and we need that thing to be effective, and it is more so now under him. And then Tom Cotton is, you know, a brilliant man, and he would take over the, just think of, you’re right, that team. And if you look, you know, North Korea and China, and Russia, and the terrorist threat, that’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world. And we need a skilled and aggressive team to deal with it.
HH: And you need a secretary of State who when he speaks actually is understood by the world to be speaking on behalf of the president, not in opposition to his policies, whatever they are. That is the profound difficulty with Secretary Tillerson – not a bad man, I don’t think he’s a particularly accomplished administrator, because oil companies are not bureaucracies. But it does seem to me that you’ve got to have very little daylight. You need a Nixon-Kissinger situation. You need a George Schultz-Reagan situation. You’ve got to get along with your secretary of State.
LA: Yeah, he does. And he, you know, Trump, every presidency goes through this, and Trump’s starting from a lower place. Trump’s never been in politics before. But every presidency has got to put its team together and find the people it can work with. You know, just think of the way Churchill and Lincoln went through generals until they found a bunch that they could work with. And you know, there’s a really great thing in the Bruce Catton History of the Civil War, where he describes Phil Sheridan and William Sherman and Ulysses Grant and Lincoln meeting on the presidential yacht. That’s a kind of dream team, you know, kind of like what you’re talking about with Mattis and Kelly and Cotton and Pompeo. And he said that when those men sat down, winter came across the South. (laughing)
HH: Yeah, it did.
LA: So you know, so yeah, of course, why is John Kelly the White House chief of staff? Well, Trump met him, and Trump put him in a hard job, Homeland Security, and they just got on really well. And it was effective, and they were on the same wavelength. And that matters. And of course, the President is the elected head of the executive branch. He should pick people that he gets on with well.
HH: Yeah. I also have to bring up before, we have one minute left, Mick Mulvaney went over and took over a bureaucracy, which is unconstitutional, the Consumer Finance Protection Board. And a bureaucrat sued to get control of the bureaucracy on the theory that it was a perpetual motion machine. That was, I think, an inflection moment, Larry Arnn. That’s when it became impossible to deny that the project is to destroy citizenship and put the experts in charge.
LA: Well, if you’re making a list of who’s the greatest man in America, Mulvaney is under consideration. He has been an awesome budget director, but…
HH: He also has to host this show. I think he should be president of Hillsdale College and the host of the Hugh Hewitt Show, because he can obviously do a lot of jobs. I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn. www.hillsdale.edu. Sign up all of your friends for Imprimis and tell them it’s their Christmas present. It’s absolutely free to you, and they’ll think you actually subscribed something for them. Stay tuned.
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HH: Now I have tell also an update of breaking news. Steve Daines of Montana, good senator, announced he is supporting the tax bill after working with Ron Johnson to obtain a high raise in the deduction for pass-through businesses from 17.4% to 23%. He called it a hundred billion dollars tax cut for Main Street businesses. I think that basically leaves Bob Corker out there on a limb by himself. And I think that means he’s done.
LA: So Steve Daines, whom I happen to know well, I just rejoice. I didn’t know what you just said, but I just rejoice, because that is a great guy. He’s very smart. He’s a very good friend of Tom Cotton’s. And he’s up there in the upper Midwest with Ron Johnson, and he’s worked a deal. Good for him.
HH: That’s what persuasion in the negotiation process is all about.
HH: And they staked out a position, and they threw a little bit of a fit, and they got what they needed. And now, they have to go find a way to pay for it, and I’ve given them the answer to that. Let’s turn to my email last night from abroad. A young service member stationed far away is watching The Crown, which I began to watch this week as well, and the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt with me for the second time. But I am enjoying this recounting of the young Elizabeth’ ascension to the throne, the return of her abdicated uncle. It’s all very interesting. Churchill is played, the old Churchill, is played by John Lithgow. Have you watched this, Dr. Larry Arnn?
LA: Well, I have guilt about this, because it’s the kind of thing my wife loves, but I watched the first half of it and could hardly carry on, because there’s some stuff that’s wrong in there about Churchill. And I hear it gets better in the second half, and I don’t want to discourage anybody. I’ve actually pled with my wife to watch it when I’m out of town, but she won’t. I think she’s holding it over me. Anyway, there’s, the relationship between Winston Churchill and Elizabeth II, the current queen of England, is a sublime story. He adored her when she was young. He thought she looked like a warrior princess, he wrote about her. She was a tremendous horsewoman and very beautiful. He just loved everything about her. Now she, on the other hand, you have to know what she did for him, not very long after this filming is set. First of all, she offered to make him a duke, which is the highest part of the peerage. And they haven’t made a duke outside the royal family in more than 150 years. He turned it down.
HH: I didn’t know that.
HH: She offered to make Winston Churchill a duke?
LA: She did.
HH: Even though his great biography, Marlborough, boy he must have been tempted, Larry Arnn.
LA: Well, he was a man, he said, of the House of Commons. And there was, you know, there was talk back and forth. There was some assurance, because people were concerned about it, that he wouldn’t take it. She wanted to make the offer. Well, why he not take it? Because he can’t, in this day and age, give a person a whole bunch of money so they can be a rich duke, you know? And if you’re a poor duke, that’s kind of ridiculous.
LA: And so Churchill was relatively poor. But, so he didn’t take it, and it was understood that he wouldn’t take it. But she wanted to make the offer. And then, then she gave him the highest decoration available to the commoner, a knight of a garter, which carries a particular responsibility to guard the monarch, right, part of her protection, the Knights of the Garter. And then, she went in her carriage and her gowns, and she dined with him in state at 10 Downing Street, a monarch dining with a commoner in state, very rare. And then, she wanted him to be buried in Westminster Abbey. And he wanted to be buried at Bladon, out near Blenheim, where his parents are buried. And so instead of that, she put one of the largest plaques in Westminster Abbey in the front door as you walk in. If you go, everybody should go look for it.
HH: I’ve seen it. Remember Winston Churchill. It’s all it says.
LA: And it’s in the imperative mood, right? Remember Winston Churchill.
LA: That’s an order from Elizabeth II, right? And so if you tell the story that he is hiding from her that he’s ill, which he didn’t do, and if you tell the story that she instructs him on how the British Constitution works, having read Walter Badgett, which of course, he had read before she was born, then…
LA: (laughing) Then you don’t have the relationship right.
HH: Well, here’s what I wanted to ask you. I am enjoying it, but I do not know much of the period until after Eden becomes P.M. and withdraws east of Suez. And so this is a period of British history with which I’m not familiar, because it’s so grim, right? It’s after the war. There isn’t much. The socialists have destroyed everything. And he comes back for a last hurrah. And he’s election. Was it a consequential period of time?
LA: Well, sure. They were, you know, first of all, it was a pretty good time, you know. Britain was the last country in Europe to leave rationing. And Britain, outside, you know…
HH: I didn’t know that. Interesting.
LA: …the countries, oh yeah. Britain was, its war effort was tremendous. I mean, pound for pound, they contributed more than any Western country, and that was partly because of the efficiency of the Churchill administration. By the time he became prime minister in the Second World War, he really knew how to run a war better than anybody alive. And it cost them. You know, it bankrupted them. And so they had to recover. And so they, and then they elected a socialist government, and we all know that that was of course great for production and the economy. And so Churchill was reelected in 1951. And they began to claw back. And the 50s and the 60s were increasingly good periods for Great Britain. But it took a lot of building. And those were the early reign years of Elizabeth I’s reign. And of course, the empire is at an advanced stage of dissolution now, and she works very hard to keep the commonwealth alive, that is the voluntary association. There are many countries in the world, important countries, where she is still the head of state. And she personally went around and did a lot of work to help preserve all that. And Churchill urged her and helped her to do it.
HH: Now there is in The Crown quite a lot about the abdicated king, now the duke of Windsor, and the dying king, the stuttering king who took over for him. Did you watch those episodes? Did you consider them accurate?
LA: Let me see, did I get that far? Yeah, I did. And the answer is fairly, but the thing you’ve got to get across about that guy, about the abdicated king…
LA: Edward, Edward VIII, who became the Duke of Windsor, that guy was a Nazi, you know?
LA: He was a not a very good man. And Churchill threatened to have him arrested during the Second World War, and because he wrote his brother, now-George VI, wrote his brother that he was going to come give some speeches in the middle of the war. And Churchill wrote him a letter, and it’s a letter I can quote almost all of it from memory, “My dear Windsor, I write to remind you that you are a field marshal in the British Army, that you have been appointed to a government post as Governor of the Bahamas, and that you have failed to report. You are subject to all the rules of courts martial.” (laughing) So you see, that guy…
HH: But at the time of the abdication, did not Churchill attempt to persuade him not to abdicate?
LA: Churchill flummoxed that thing pretty badly, and he did it because he trusted him. And he didn’t trust Stanley Baldwin. And he should have not trusted either of the two of them. Stanley Baldwin was a very clever man, and he was basically, when they quarreled in politics, Stanley Baldwin always outmaneuvered Winston Churchill. It was sort of an iron rule. But, and you know, to the great cost of Britain, because they couldn’t get the country rearmed. But Baldwin was patiently going through this problem with this guy who was not a very good guy and not, you know, dutiful, responsible man with these wild and evil political opinions, or sympathies, at least. And Baldwin was patiently maneuvering him out. But Churchill, and that was the right thing to do, but Churchill thought the government has to be loyal to the monarch, and this has got to be done in a way so that it doesn’t damage the monarchy, which should reign but not rule, Churchill always believed. And so he stood up and gave a speech at just the wrong time supporting Edward. And Edward was not deserving of his support. But Churchill didn’t know that. He didn’t see that. And so yeah, that thing was a disaster for Churchill.
HH: The reason I bring this up, and people over-interpret. This is not a defense of Donald Trump. But people do, it is a defense of leaders. They inevitably make mistakes. Ronald Reagan – Iran Contra. Donald Trump’s retweeting of three far right fascist tweets, huge mistake. But leaders make mistakes. If you’re in the job, no one is perfect at this. Was Churchill’s support of Edward the biggest mistake?
LA: Well, it was a big mistake. His biggest mistake in his life by his own account was to make himself responsible for the Dardanelles campaign in the First World War without the authority to carry it through. He didn’t think the campaign was a mistake, but he thought that he put himself in a spot that hurt him and made the thing unsuccessful. This was a serious mistake, but you know, this happened before the Second World War, and Churchill recovered from it, and you know, went on to his greatness, and eventually to know Elizabeth II.
HH: What do you think of the mistake Trump made about retweeting the far right fascists? He did not know. It was made clear at the press conference yesterday, I was glad to hear it, I watched Sarah Huckabee Sanders, he did not know the province of the tweet, which is a reassurance to me.
LA: Well, I, so first of all, I judge Trump according to these three points. The first one is most of what he’s doing is good, and even much of it great. I mean, his, what they’re doing with the regulatory state, the way they’re preparing for if the Congress will just take it in the new year, for the Congress to recover the legislative power and actually start making the laws again instead of all of them being made in these bureaucracies, those are things Trump believes in, and he’s got a team working on them in the Domestic Policy Council, and Mulvaney over in OMB…
HH: All right, stand by. We’re going to come back to that after the break. I’ll let you know, by the way, Senator Ron Johnson just announced his support for the GOP tax bill as well with the changes that have been made. It’s going to pass today. Markets, be frothy. Bob Corker can’t cause a crash. I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn.
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HH: He is an extraordinarily fun guy to have on the radio, but now we have to turn to something that is even more fun than him, which is talking about Churchill and the movie, Darkest Hour. I don’t know if you’ve seen these reviews, Larry Arnn, but everything you said about Gary Oldman when you watched him film this has come true. He is going to win the Oscar if there’s any justice in the country. And I began thinking about the diffidence. I read an interview with him about how some things make him nervous, but not very often. I don’t know that, how many people would have the guts to take on this role.
LA: Well, he’s, so I’m fortunate enough to know him. He’s coming to Hillsdale in the middle of December. We’re going to show the movie and talk about it. I have known him pretty well, and know one of his producers, Doug Urbanski, really well. He’s a worker, and he’s a craftsman. And so it was because it was hard that he wanted to do it. And you know, he, hours and hours, he wanted to look like Churchill. He wanted to be like Churchill. He has that thing in art that’s decisive. He doesn’t think it’s about him. He thinks it’s about the subject that he’s depicting. And so just watch him, you know. I think he might be the highest-grossing actor in history, because he’s been in Harry Potter and Batman and all that, and he’s everywhere. But just watch him. He always does a good job, and very different kind of people. And he plays Churchill better than anyone I’ve seen. Robert Hardy was very good back in the day, the late Robert Hardy who died lately, and I like Albert Finney in that thing directed by Ridley Scott. But this is really great, because he captures the quickness and the humor as well as the determination and the fierceness of Churchill.
HH: Now I’ve only seen the trailer, and I’ve also seen Gary Oldman in many things like Smiley’s People and the Le Carre novels. How long did it take him in makeup, because it is spooky, scary good.
LA: Three hours every morning, and then two hours to get it off. And so his day started at, I went over there, and I’ve never done it before, but I visited the set of the making of the film. It’s fun to watch that. And you know, his day starts at 3 in the morning when he wakes up, and the night before, we had had dinner until 10:45 at night. So it takes stamina to be an actor. And he’s got a lot of it.
HH: Three hours, though, to get it right? I’m reading, I’m looking at his picture photographed by Jack English over at the Washington Post, and Oldman, who underwent a remarkable metamorphosis to play the iconic politician as a frontrunner for best actor Oscar nomination. And he talked about playing characters with the gift of gab, and he said one of the themes of the film was to show Churchill as a writer. Nowadays, it is somewhat unusual for anyone to write their own speeches, says Oldman. The genesis of the project was that Anthony McCarten had this book on his shelf for many years, and he went to it one day, and one of those anthologies of the greatest speeches in the English language, three of them, he discovered, were by Churchill, written in the space of four weeks. Isn’t that a remarkable story?
LA: Oh, yeah, yeah. It’s, you know, very rare, and they’re beautiful. You know, Churchill, you’ve got to absorb the fact about the guy that he wrote 50 books. He did all those famous things we know about in politics. He wrote all those speeches himself. And there are thousands of them. There are many, how many, there are 8,000 pages of them. So there’s probably 800 or 900 of them.
LA: And you know, he produced all that, and he, you know, people think of him as a growler and a, you know, deep man, a barker, you know, and what he was, he was hilarious. And he was lightning quick in his mind. He didn’t speak fast, but he could move until he got old. At the beginning of the Second World War, he wasn’t really that old, but before he was old, he was a tremendous athlete. And so Gary Oldman captures his quickness and the light in his eyes, and talks just like him.
HH: They asked him about, they say your physical and vocal transformation, Oldman says they were far from a pain in the blank. First of all, you know what you’re getting into. You have to surrender to shaving your head every morning. This was the year of surrendering to Winston. We had four weeks of rehearsal on tops of 50 days of shooting, which is unheard of. That is really, you know, befitting of someone trying to do the greatest man of the last century.
LA: Yeah, in fact, the day I was there, I’ve seen the film. I’ve seen it, I saw a preview of it in September in New York. The day I was there, they spent all day long filming Churchill watching his favorite movie that Hamilton woman about Nelson’s paramour. And Churchill loved that movie, and it’s a very noble movie. And they spend all day long filming Gary Oldman talking the words quietly to himself while the film is playing, and you can see it. You know, I was there for seven hours, and that’s what they did. None of that got in the movie.
HH: That’s amazing. Larry Arnn, thank you, my friend. It is always a pleasure. All the Hillsdale Dialogues are at www.hughforhillsdale.com. All things at www.hillsdale.edu.
End of interview.