HH: That music means it is the last radio hour of the week, which means in turn, it is time for the Hillsdale Dialogue. Once a week, Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College and I, or one of his colleagues, talk about some matter of enduring interest, some great work of the West or some great issue. We’ll do a couple of current issues this morning with Dr. Arnn. All things Hillsdale are collected at www.hillsdale.edu. That’s the college’s website. And there, you will find the opportunity to enroll in Imprimis, the monthly speech digest which is absolutely free. I have been proposing the idea you give it to all your friends and family as a Christmas present, the one that costs nothing, but will enrich their lives greatly. All of the online courses that Hillsdale offers on the Constitution are there at www.hillsdale.edu. And all of our conversations dating back to 2013 are available at the Hillsdale Dialogues at www.hughforhillsdale.com. Good morning, Dr. Arnn.
LA: How are you doing, Hugh?
HH: I am terrific. There is a fellow who posts over at Hughhewitt.com, a friend of mine, who is, despite the fact at having been educated at Butler, of some marginal use on matters of controversy. His name is John Schroeder. And he writes this morning amidst headlines on fires, sexual harassment and worse, national capitals and other seeming spectaculars brew two stories that define the true legacy of Barack Obama. The first is the story of the highly-partisan FBI agent Peter Strzok. Many details are to be worked out on this story, but the bell has rung. When combined with Lois Lerner, it’s now abundantly clear that during the Obama administration, there was a concerted effort to politicize the bureaucracy. The second story is the action of Leandra English at the CFPB to overcome a presidential appointment. Such actions make transparent efforts by Obama administration officials and now Obama leftovers to build a truly bureaucratic state. If these stories do not chill you to the bone, then you need to study up a bit. Carried to their conclusion, these efforts would result in a modern totalitarian state. Schroeder is actually quite smart, goes on to talk about some of our past Hillsdale Dialogues having to do with C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man and C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, in which we talked about this. But do you share his belief that these two stories do in fact have pointers backwards to the Obama era, something about which to be alarmed?
LA: Oh, yeah. Well, if you think we have developed an alternative way of governing ourselves, and that’s bureaucratically through the administrative state, a huge thing, and the first one is about partisanship in law enforcement, which second to the military, is as bad as it can be. The very great Kimberly Strassel has an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning saying that Trump should appoint somebody in the Justice Department, not it was appoint somebody to the Justice Department without ties to it, to oversee the Justice Department’s responses to subpoenas from Congress.
LA: Because it’s not just that these things are happening there. I mean, first of all, that, those agencies, you don’t want, you know, a great friend of mine now retired is a three-star general. His name is Burgess. And he’s a Hillsdale College parent, and I know him like a friend. And when he was in the military, I could never get him to say anything about what was going on there, or anything negative about any politician, right? He just, he’s like George Washington. He just thought that that stuff has got to be above partisanship. And so they’ve also got to demonstrate now, Kimberly in here, Ms. Strassel, a friend of mine, she’s really great, lists in her article this morning the connections between the Justice Department and the people on the Mueller investigation. And they’re very deep. Most of them are senior officials on loan from the Justice Department. And so of course, they’re not going to investigate the Justice Department, or anyway, it doesn’t look like they would. So something does need to be done about this. We have to recover, you know, more generally the idea of a civil service, that is to say people who are neutral as to politics, and who serve careers being good at government, and who don’t try to run everything about everybody’s lives. The scope of the government needs to contract, too.
HH: Now I had Jim Jordan on in the first hour, in the second hour, and that transcript and audio is posted, and I would recommend it to everyone. I want to play for you a little bit of what he had to say to the new FBI director, Christopher Wray, yesterday at the House Judiciary Committee, cut number 6:
JJ: Let’s remember a couple of things about the dossier. The Democrat National Committee and the Clinton campaign, which we now know were one and the same, paid the law firm who paid Fusion GPS, who paid Christopher Steele, who then paid Russians to put together a report that we call a dossier full of all kinds of fake news, National Enquirer garbage. And it’s been reported that this dossier was all dressed up by the FBI, taken to the FISA court, and presented as a legitimate intelligence document, that it became the basis for granting a warrant to spy on Americans. And I’m wondering, I’m wondering if that actually took place. It sure looks like it did. And the easiest way to clear it up is for you guys to tell us what was in that application and who took it there.
CW: Congressman, our staffs have been having extensive interaction with both intelligence committees on our interaction with the FISA court, and I think that’s the appropriate setting for those questions.
JJ: Here’s what I think, Director Wray. I think Peter Strzok, head of counterintelligence at the FBI, Peter Strzok, the guy who ran the Clinton investigation, did all the interviews, Peter Strzok, the guy who was running the Russia investigation at the FBI, Peter Strzok, Mr. Super Agent at the FBI, I think he’s the guy who took the application to the FISA court. And if that happened, I mean, think. If this happened, if you had the FBI working with a campaign, the Democrats’ campaign, taking opposition research, dressing it all up and turning it into an intelligence document and taking it to the FISA court so they could spy on the other campaign, if that happened, that is as wrong as it gets. And you know what? Maybe I’m wrong. You could clear it all up. You could clear it all up for all of us here, all the Congress who wants to know, and frankly, all of America who wants to know. You could clear it all up by releasing, we sent you a letter two days ago. Just release the application. Tell us what was in it. Tell us if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. I think that’s exactly what happened. And if it did, it is as wrong as it can be, and people who did that need to be held accountable.
HH: Now Dr. Larry Arnn, in addition to that, as that was unfolding, a story broke that Bruce G. Ohr, O-H-R, then an associate deputy attorney general, then removed, had numerous meetings with Christopher Steele, the author of this dossier while working for Sally Yates. He remained in that same job, allegedly a career civil servant, under Rod Rosenstein until Rod Rosenstein discovered yesterday he had been meeting with Steele, had not told him he had been meeting with Steele. So I am not here to proclaim the end of days, but if half of this stuff is true, if half of it is true, it is by far a bigger scandal than anything we have uncovered on Russia, and it’s getting close to Watergate-level corruption.
LA: Yeah, well, as I say, that’s, you know, these people have the power between them, between the FBI and the Justice Department, of arrest and prosecution. And those are very bad things to happen to a person. And if there’s an idea that it’s happening for partisan reason, because think for a minute about what happens if the government becomes partisanized in law enforcement, then, what it does, it has weapons, or, and the military is worse, by the way. But then what it has is weapons to control its political enemies. And that corrupts the representation system, and that corrupts the control of the government by the people. And the next thing you know, they’ll be prosecuting ordinary people because they don’t like what they say, or because they don’t like them for any reason. So that…
HH: So why do you believe that the Attorney General, Sessions, who has the ability to appoint a second special counsel, or the President, who can order the release of the FISA applications, hesitate to do so?
LA: I don’t know the answer to that. I mean, this is, you know, this is all high pressure, you know, traumatic, huge things, and they’ve got the tax bill going on, and they’re going to turn to welfare. And of course, they’re probably overwhelmed. And you know, outside the bounds of the Hugh Hewitt Show and a few places like that, everybody in the media is like, the Wall Street Journal, not on the editorial page, but the Wall Street Journal’s headline about that thing from which you just played Jordan’s clips, the headline is FBI Director Wray defends the agency against Trump’s charges, right? So it’s not Jordan presses FBI Director why he won’t make public political investigations. That’s not the headline. And so people, you know, they’re under a lot of pressure. And you know, I don’t really know the answer to your question. I think that they have been fumble-figured about all of this along the way. And you know, it’s big, and it’s serious. And you know, Mr. Comey, and you know, in intelligence, James Clapper, while he was still in office, now that he retired, he makes simply partisan statements. But before he retired, and you know, my friends that, you know, my friend that I named before, he doesn’t make any public partisan statements today.
LA: And he’s retired.
HH: That is the, yeah, that is the condition that one expects from most intelligence professionals. Don’t go anywhere. Dr. Larry Arnn is with me. The audio and transcript of the Jim Jordan interview from this morning already posted at Hughhewitt.com. Do not spend your time awry. Go and read it right now at Hughhewitt.com.
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HH: Dr. Larry Arnn, you have probably been following the fires in Southern California. They are sweeping towards the ocean through Camp Pendleton now having charred much of the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt’s old hometown of Fallbrook. Quite the astonishing display, and lots of individual acts of heroism out there. From where do we get such men? Those fire people are really heroes.
LA: Yeah, aren’t they something? I hear that that movie out about firemen is very great. And if you just look at those, the photographs and the height of those flames, and those guys spend days near that stuff? It’s just amazing to me.
HH: It is. Now my friend, Sonny Bunch, the movie critic, was on, just gave a glowing review to Darkest Hour, and then just tweeted to me that the 2017 WAFCA winner as best actor, Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour. He predicted it’s going to be quite the sweep for him in every awards category in every competition, a career-defining performance, he said.
LA: Yeah, oh, wow. I’m so glad. I’m so glad. You know, I happen to know him, and I think that, and I love Winston Churchill. And I approve of the movie, and so that makes me an unusual witness. But I think the thing is great. And you know, he’s coming here to Hillsdale next week, and we’re going to show the movie, and he’s going to answer questions. He and I are going to have a talk about the movie. But he’s, yeah, you know, and he’s, you know, he’s so devoted to his craft. Yesterday, I was interviewing a candidate to replace a retiring, very distinguished drama professor here. And this drama professor, he’s nervous, you know, and he wants the job, and he’s a young man. And I said at the end, I always say do you have any questions for me, and they always say no. And I said, he said do you really know Gary Oldman? (laughing)
HH: (laughing) It’s a great question.
LA: And I said you know, I do know him. And he said why are you not leaping up and down when you say that?
HH: (laughing) Did you like his performance as Smiley in the Le Carre novel adaptation, Smiley’s People, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy?
LA: Yeah, I did. And I did like it very much. And of course, you have to, you have to judge that one, right? So almost no one, only really Albert Finney and Robert Hardy, of the many people who have played Winston Churchill, have done it very well. He’s hard to play, I think. And there’s these caricatures to which they submit. Gary Oldman broke out of that and became more like the fellow himself. Well, Alec Guinness played George Smiley. And so Gary Oldman is just like him, his character is so good. He said that he studied, you know how they always say I didn’t look at that, I didn’t want to just, you know, he said I studied Alec Guinness playing that man. And he said he made his spectacles a character in the film (laughing) And so he was learning, right, and unabashed about saying so. I think he was very good, and I do love that. There’s an old series that was a BBC series, Smiley’s People, and before that, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and Alec Guinness plays Smiley, and they’re both awesome if you can…
HH: I have never watched it. I have read the book, both, all three of those books twice, and I love the novels. I liked The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. That’s just fine, but the other three are just genius. Only Daniel Silva comes close. Very quickly, though, Lithgow is Churchill in The Crown, meets with the Queen after his strokes. Was the Queen kept in the dark about his strokes?
HH: All right, so that’s a major error. I suggested to the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt I didn’t think that was the case. Secondly, they quote Bagehot all the time about the Constitution. Is that, A) am I pronouncing it correctly, and 2) is it true that he wrote the definitive work on the English Constitution, the relationship between monarch and prime minister?
LA: Yeah, he did, and you know, back when there used to be one, and it’s like, you know, the American Constitution, they had one for a long time, but what have they got now? They’ve got the administrative…
HH: They got Brexit.
LA: They got the administrative state. But yeah, he did, and he was famous, and he’s the inventor of the idea of cabinet government. And remember, the British government is, in some important ways, younger than the American government. It actually became a popularly-elected government 50 or 60 years after the United States happened. And so a lot of it is recent. And Bagehot in the 19th Century showed how the cabinet had become supreme in Parliamentary government.
HH: Don’t go anywhere, America. I’m coming right back with Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College. We’re going to talk about the tax bill when we return.
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HH: Dr. Arnn, the tax bill on the table, I was at the Jack Kemp Foundation on Tuesday night thanks to you, or Wednesday night. You sent me there to moderate a fine panel with Antoine Bolden and Jeff Kemp and J.C. Watts. But before that, Tim Scott spoke. He’s coming up after the break. And James Lankford and the Vice President of the United States, and they all reminded us that tax bills are rare. They are very rare things. And the Republicans are on the brink of sending one to Donald Trump, which he will certainly sign. How significant is this?
LA: Yeah, I think it’s just awesome. And I’m, I mean, I hope what it means, when they failed early in, you know, you have to pass a bill through both the House and the Senate. A lot of really good bills passed through the House. But few in the Senate, and it’s harder because of its rules, because the majority is very narrow. And so I thought in the beginning, when they would fail, I thought they’ve got to learn how to do this. And what’s going on now, and you know, because to be in the majority and to have a president who will sign things, when’s the last time that happened, especially somebody as radical as this president who will sign very strong things. So I think they’re figuring it out, and there are two signs of it above all, and one of them is the very great success that they’ve had through the Senate under the leadership of Mr. McConnell and Senator Grassley getting judges through. They’re just doing great there, and they’re going fast now. And the blue slips are relaxed, let’s say. And then the second thing is this tax bill, which you know, it will go in, it is in conference committee, and they will iron something out, and I predict it will pass both houses, and that’ll be a great thing.
HH: I spoke with Senator Majority Leader McConnell this week. He says his greatest achievement is saving the Supreme Court vacancy for whoever won the 2016 election. It turns out to be Donald Trump. It turned out to be Neil Gorsuch. And he’s right. That is his greatest legacy. But they’ve now already confirmed nine, soon to confirm at least three more judges to the appellate courts. That will be twelve, four times the number that President Obama approved in his first term, thanks, and he have to hat tip here, Harry Reid, who broke the rules in order to abuse the rules, and he’s inherited the wind that he reaped.
HH: He’s reaping the wind that he sowed.
LA: Yeah, and you know, I personally like that, whoever was the father of it, because the legislature is designed to go slow. And the mechanism for that is two parts – real bicameralism, two different houses, but then they’re elected in different ways and at different times. So that’s the protection against hastiness. And the filibuster is just a corruption of a thing that’s been around a long time, but originally functioned to guarantee debate. Now, it stops debate and stops voting. So I’m glad that Harry Reid did that, and I wish that they would do more of it under the Republicans. And I wish they would restore the filibuster to its 19th Century meaning, which is as long as there’s somebody there who wants to argue the point, and the chair judges that they have something to contribute pertinent, debate will continue. But when that’s over, then they vote.
HH: Now let me ask you about where they have fallen down, and I talked about this with the Majority Leader. Many ambassadors have not received votes, including Richard Grenell, who has been nominated and been cleared through a hearing and sent forward to the floor, but not scheduled for a vote, to be our ambassador to Germany, the most important non-nuclear state in the world, and one in which is in the middle of a crisis, not like Theresa May where they succeeded in securing a Brexit deal with the EU this morning. That’s huge news. It’s breaking. And the Leader is considering a bipartisan move to shorten the time allocated to the debates over these, because these people will all be confirmed. Rick Grenell will be confirmed to Berlin. But what is it about Democrats that they don’t understand they’re not hurting anybody except the interest of the United States by obstructing ambassadorial appointments?
LA: Well, that, yeah, and you know, just, if you’re fighting for keeps, and anything comes up that you can use for leverage, then you use it. And that’s the tone of the place. And alas, it, so it would be, you know, there was, there’s a book out about Arthur Vandenberg. And you know, he was a hard-core isolationist who changed and helped build America’s modern foreign policy. And he did that, because there was a recognition by him, and then the Franklin Roosevelt administration, that Wilson had messed it all up. You know, this ambassador thing that you’re talking about is an example, right, because he goes over there and promises we’re going to get the League of Nations. He didn’t talk to anybody in Congress about that, and then he couldn’t get it through. Well, you need both sides to bow to the larger interests of the nation. They should fight like cats and dogs about partisan things, and then they should go be responsible for, keeping people for the positions that take. But about things like this, like the ambassador to Germany? Confirm the person, right? Get it done.
HH: Let me now turn to Al Franken. Democrats are tearing themselves apart over whether or not Al Franken ought to have resigned. I thought he should have resigned two weeks ago when the picture came out. And the story of Leeann Tweeden who said that he had serially, cruelly abused her for two weeks, mocking her after she rejected his unwanted advances, the tongue thrusts, etc. And then he took a picture mocking her that remains in infamy for forever, has been retweeted 27,000 times. I just thought this man should not be a senator. And they had a debate yesterday about whether or not the Franken resignation was adequate, and B) whether or not it sets a new standard that acts prior to joining the body are appropriate for the body to consider in whether or not to employ the Article I, Section 5 expulsion power. What did you make of Franken’s non-apology resignation, non-resignation? And what do you think of the idea of acts prior being included in considerations of expulsion?
LA: Well, you know, first of all, he, Senator Franken is having it both ways, and, of course, and you know, there’s, one of the spins in the newspapers this morning is that the Democrats are purging themselves even of Franken, not so guilty, in order to set an example to beat the Republicans with. And you know, maybe that’s what’s going on. But you know, aren’t people supposed to confine their sexual advances to their spouses? I mean, it’s an old-fashioned notion, but…
LA: You know, if I did a thing like that, the person I would be worried about would be Penelope Arnn, right?
LA: …and not the Senate of the United States. And so we, and then about that prior act stuff, well, that’s a prudential thing, right? It sort of depends on what they are. And a lot of this is driven, I mean, first of all, some of this stuff that’s gone on is horrific, right? I mean, to invite an employee to your house and parade around naked in front of the person? What, there are two, you know, Charlie Rose and Louis C.K…
LA: You know, ask them there on business and do that. That’s amazing, right?
LA: And so if it’s something like that, and what I worry about, there’s a good article about this in the Wall Street Journal again this morning. I got up and read the paper, because I’m going to be on Hugh Hewitt today. And what it says is one of the dangers here is that we’re going to get used to things like this, you know, because it’s, there’s a lot of it, and it’s amazing to me that it goes on. These, you know, a lot of it is done abusing power. They hold something that somebody really wants, and they offer it to them – fame, notoriety, salary, on condition, you know? I mean that’s, that’s a very base and terrible thing to do.
HH: It is, and Phil Boyce of Salem has called it the great purge, and we welcome it, actually, Phil and I do.
LA: Yeah, sure.
HH: …and many other people do, because it’s a good thing to purge. I don’t know how it got into the system and grew to metastasize this way. I want to close by asking you about the headline. The U.S. added 228,000 jobs in November. Unemployment is at 4.1%. The economy is cooking. Do you think the Democrats opposed the tax bill because it’s bad for the economy, or because it will work, Larry Arnn?
LA: Well, they oppose the tax bill on principle, right? They think there’s not enough money in the government, and that’s why we have deficits. And they legitimately think that. And they think that, you know, the best of them, the smartest of them, they think that, because they think that we’re starving the government, and we’re still too isolated as a people, and still too selfish, and the government is the engine that can plan the society and make it more equal and right. I think the best of them oppose it for that reason. That’s what they think. And I think that myself, except just this far. I also think that if you give power to people in the government, it turns out there are people like us. That’s James Madison’s point, right? And so if they get more powerful than the economy, then this society that’s supposed to control them, then they might act badly. So I think at the bottom of this is a real dispute about that point. And that is the defining dispute in modern government today. And yes, the economy is doing well, although young men, I read in the newspapers this morning, there’s a study out, and it’s done by somebody serious, that employment rates among young men are still lower, I mean, not rates, the number of young men employed is still lower than it was before the great recession started.
LA: So there hasn’t been a full recovery, and the estimation of this study is that there are 2 million people still who are not working, who used to work. And so those people, you know, unless they are disabled, those people should work. Able-bodied people should work.
HH: And that’s why we need to bring home corporations and their profits. That’s the key to this deal is 20% corporate rates, otherwise we will not be competitive. We will not. And Dr. Arnn, your graduates, however well-skilled from Hillsdale, need a growing economy, because they’ve got to work for 70 years.
HH: This is what, they’ve got to find jobs for 70 years. Isn’t that amazing?
LA: That’s right. Yeah, you know, and if, you know, my, I grew up in Northeast Arkansas. My parents grew up on Depression-era farms, right? So I grew up with the idea you’re supposed to work, and not just for money. You’re supposed to work. And you know, I’m teaching Aristotle this afternoon, last, Book 10 of the Ethics this afternoon, a great culmination. And Aristotle says that leisure is the real purpose of life. But what he means by leisure is not play and not idleness. He means training yourself to think about the highest and best things, which is very hard work.
HH: It is, and it takes time, and it takes preparation. Dr. Arnn, all that occurs at Hillsdale College, www.hillsdale.edu. For this and all of our dialogues, go to www.hughforhillsdale.com. Thank you, Dr. Arnn.
End of interview.