HH: It is the last radio hour of the week on the first day of September, 2017. That means I am joined by Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College for the Hillsdale Dialogue, a weekly ritual that dates back many years. Now all of my conversations with Dr. Arnn and his colleagues are collected at www.hughforhillsdale.com. They cover everything from Homer to Homer Simpson. And they also cover what’s happening in our lives. And in a week like this one where we could go, Harvey loomed, but had not struck. And a week later, Harvey has devastated so much. I just thought we would talk about how the Constitution intended the states to help each other under a situation like this. Dr. Arnn, good morning, and by the way, congratulations on your convocation for freshmen.
LA: Yeah, we’ve begun the year, and it was good. And we’ve been torturing the freshmen all week long, and now they’ve started classes, so it’s going to get worse.
HH: One of the parents in the audience was tweeting at me that you told them stay sharp, because there are a lot of people who want your chairs. That’s a little different from the ordinary opening message.
LA: Well, we have 24 more students more than the goal. And I did point out to them that we can spare a few. (laughing)
HH: (laughing) Look to your left, look to your right, one of you won’t be here in October. Is that the kind of speech you gave?
LA: Yeah, well, it, yes. (laughing)
HH: Okay, let’s start with what is bothering me about Harvey before I talk about what I love about Harvey. What’s bothering me is the magnetic force of Donald Trump turns everything into a Donald Trump story. This is not a Donald Trump story. This is a story of about eight million people in Houston who are doing a hell of a good job taking care of themselves and their state with the help from the Governor and the President, and every one of the agencies. But my goodness, everybody wants to turn it into a Donald Trump story.
LA: Yeah, well, Trump’s all over it, you know, so it’s probably a good Donald Trump story. But you know, there’s a really great article by a friend of mine from England, Rupert Darwall. And he wrote about disasters in general, and come to find out in the West, and in the developed countries, and especially the United States of America, the body counts are low when things like this happen. And in undeveloped places, they’re higher. And the reason is the infrastructure is very different. And you know, things are not solid, and things collapse. And so the first thing to notice is it’s a great achievement of the United States to have built solid cities for people to live in so they don’t just simply collapse, even under the weight of a thing like this.
HH: I also have a theory which I’ll test out on you, and I put it out on the web. When Katrina hit in 2005, social media was in its infancy. And our communications systems were compromised, and the local government was extraordinarily inefficient, and the governor of the state was paralyzed. In 2017, social media made communication of need and urgency very, very easy. The New York Times ran an extraordinary story showing how many people just appealed for help and rescue, and they got it. And that Governor Abbott is really quite a remarkable fellow, and the mayor of the city, Democrat, is doing a good job. And the rule of law has been remarkable. And I want to ask someone at some point whether or not the fact that it’s a concealed carry state might contribute to that. But it’s just a completely different situation a dozen years later.
LA: Yeah, well, I think Harvey has been told don’t mess with Texas.
LA: (laughing) The famous thing they like to say. But yeah, you know, Houston is a huge city, by the way. It’s one of the biggest cities in the country. And you know, that’s like, you know, what, so Detroit is a million, and I don’t know how many Houston is, but it’s got to be north of 5…
HH: 8 million.
LA: 8 million, yeah.
HH: 8 million.
LA: And that’s just an incredible, the scale of the problem is incredible. And it is mostly law-abiding, and people, you know, helping each other like the call for boats in the middle of the week. I really liked that one, because that reminds me of Dunkirk.
LA: And they got them. You know, lots of boats went down there. So that’s, you know, that’s a great thing.
HH: And the call, believe it or not, the call for monster trucks, I was remarking on this last hour, I’ve never quite understood why anyone wants a monster truck. But it turns out they’re useful in a flood.
LA: Yeah, that’s it. (laughing)
HH: (laughing) Very, very useful in a flood.
LA: You know, be prepared. What it is, is old Boy Scouts who buy monster trucks.
HH: That’s it. Now I had the mayor of League City on last hour, wonderful fellow, Nick Long. And Nick Long is on the city council. And this is America. This is, I think I may book him on my MSNBC show tomorrow, because it was so America, one of five city councilmen, been up around the clock. The city has about 100,000 people in it. He said the United Methodist Church threw its doors open. It filled up. Every other church in town threw their doors open. It filled up. Then they opened up the high school. It filled up. They’ve got 30,000 homes in League City, 6,000 of which had 18 inches of water in it. Half of those 6,000 had 4 feet of water in it. They’ve run out of everything, but people keep coming up with food. They’ve run out of water, and people keep responding. And the trash collection begins tomorrow. Neighbors are helping neighbors. It really is kind of a remarkable microcosm of America.
LA: Yeah, that’s right. And it’s spontaneous, and orderly, and it means it’s a country, right, fellow citizens. And just think, you know, the structure of our society, which has become a model for the world, and it is spreading all over the world, although alas, the freedoms of America not so fast, but still, the idea that people can hold property and have resources in their own hands, that decentralizes property, and that means that there can be such a response. And you know, 30 years ago in China, when it was backward, nobody was allowed to own anything, and everybody lived on subsistence. And so how could they help each other, right? They did try, I imagine, but we have ability to do that, you know, and people can give. We’re the most charitable nation on Earth. I mean, the philanthropy numbers in America are staggering compared to the rest of the world. And so what is that? That’s because we hold to the doctrine that everybody holds a station of citizen, and can have resources and is obliged by honor to use those resources for the good of his community.
HH: Now I’m going to come to the blitz after the break, but I want to talk about Tocqueville for a moment. You do teach Tocqueville at Hillsdale, do you not?
LA: Oh, yeah.
HH: Okay. He remarked upon the incredible spirit of volunteerism and how Americans organize clubs. No matter where they go, they’ll get a club going in about five minutes. And this is basically the spontaneous organization of millions of clubs in Houston to help each other.
LA: Yeah, and that’s a very profound point. It’s in the section of Democracy in America called Townships. And it’s one of the most dramatic paragraphs ever written about America. And it goes like this. It says in Europe, they look, when they see a public official, they think of a force. But in America, when they look at a public official, they think of a right. And in other words, we think the government works for us. And then he goes on to a surprising thing. He says, and the consequence of this, he says, is that when a citizen sees a need, he organizes a committee and appoints himself the head of it to solve the problem. And this may be less efficient than doing it in a uniform way. But the quantity of help that becomes available is much greater.
HH: And it’s not a cliché. He was making observations. For the benefit of the Steelers fans, and I would point out the Indiana University fans who were crushed by Ohio State last night and may be despondent, would you tell people what Tocqueville did?
LA: Well, he was a French aristocrat, and he came to the United States and toured around in the 1830s and wrote a series of letters and articles that he turned into a book called Democracy in America. And it is a tremendous book. It’s one of the most important commentaries on America. I personally think there are some problems with it, but also some profound insights. And my favorite one is the one you just named.
HH: Well, it resonates with me, because it’s always been, people think it’s a cliché about barn raising, but it isn’t a cliché. It’s actually how things got done. And when your grandfather’s a fireman in Ashtabula for 60 years, you hear about how people always help in the aftermath of a burndown, always, 100% show up and help the family destroyed. Now this is a devastation that is so vast, it’s going to be hard to organize. But I guarantee you that the little old ladies who are in the wheelchairs, and the old people which arthritis and walkers, have got the neighbors taking care of them next door looking in on them. I guarantee you that’s going on, Larry Arnn.
LA: Oh, yeah. Well, that, you know, there was this really great story yesterday about a woman sitting in a retirement home, an old woman, sitting down in a chair up to her waist in water.
LA: And that got on the media, and somebody was there in a heartbeat.
HH: In a heartbeat. And that is what, I think social media in the 12 years since Katrina, social media has exploded to allow us to identify and improvise, and to do so in an extraordinarily rapid fashion. When we come back, though, I want to talk with Dr. Larry Arnn, official Churchill biographer, about the Blitz and how people responded to it, and what we learned from it and democracies in crisis. Stay where you are.
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Dr. Arnn, one of my favorite groups is Team Rubicon. Back when they were a young, fledgling organization, I helped them out quite a lot. Now, they have huge partners like Underarmour, etc., and they’re made up of veterans of the American military that go wherever they are needed to do hard labor. And Niddie Miyo of the U.S. Navy, a member of Team Rubicon, wrote, “Appearances are often misleading. After a few hours of sweat and tears, we realize we share the same heart for the communities we serve and for our teammates. I believe Team Rubicon continues to thrive due to its dedication to its mission statement, its honorable members and the resilient people affected by disasters. In the end, we are all one family of veterans and responders.” And I think Team Rubicon is so effective, because they’ve all been to war. These are people who have been to war, come back, demobilize, but want to have the community of brotherhood and sisterhood that emerges in wartime service. And I’m wondering if that didn’t profoundly impact Britain’s ability to wage war when bombs were literally ripping up the cities.
LA: So I was, yes, so I’ve been thinking about this kind of thing this week, because my, our younger son graduated from boot camp this week down in South Carolina, and I went down there and watched it.
HH: Oh, congratulations. That’s very inspiring, isn’t it?
LA: Never saw that before. Oh, man, and you know, when they bellow out the soldiers’ creed, you know, my little boy, you know, is doing that now, and you know, I will hold myself ready. It’s not quite exact. Hold myself ready to deploy and engage the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. So you know, that’s not, they’re not going to kill anybody from afar, these guys. So yeah, that bonds them together. And there was a time, you know, and this was true in Britain, too, at the time. Until about 40 years ago, basically if you saw an adult male, he had been in the military.
LA: And now, few have been. And that’s one of the changes in the volunteer army. And you know, also in the change in the nature of warfare, and not so many masses of men as there used to be anymore. So that’s a change in the society, and I’m glad about this organization, because it is true that people who are trained to act together under difficult circumstances, they remember how to do that. I even actually sort of have for years had the idea that we should do what Switzerland does, and that is that we should make everybody, I don’t think we should make everybody serve in a year, but I think we might make everybody go to boot camp.
HH: Well you know, General McChrystal believes deeply in universal service. He has a broader view of it than boot camp. But I’m kind of inclined in your direction. Boot camp with the discipline that it requires, or OCS with the discipline that it requires, does put into a lot of lives. And Tom Ricks, a great writer, wrote Making The Corps probably 20 years ago about how you can take 50 different young people from around the country, different circumstances, different backgrounds, tear them down, build them back up and make them into Marines. It’s really an extraordinary book called Making the Corps. I still recommend it to people. And so at the end of this, the deployment occurs, and of course, the pedigree in your family goes way back. I believe Penny’s grandfather, Penny’s father was on the shore of Dunkirk. Am I right about that?
LA: That’s right, yeah.
HH: And I like to point out the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt’s great-great grandfather was the only Jewish Union general at Shiloh. Now he almost lost that battle, but that’s another story. And so military families are different, but when you go to Houston, that spark is in everybody. I mean, these are not military people who are floating around the bayous with the monster trucks and their boats. They’re citizens.
LA: Yeah, and to say a word about the Blitz in 1940, especially in 1940, that, it was pattern bombing, and that means that it would go down a row and devastate a neighborhood, you know, usually, often cutting across streets, right? And then it would pick up a bit, and then somewhere nearby, another row. And so there’s a concentrated people who were deprived of their homes. And so everybody would turn out and fight the fires, and you know, the number of people in the Home Guard who had uniforms of a kind was very large. And so yeah, the whole society was on a war footing, and they helped. And they had insurance schemes that were passed through the Parliament, Churchill proposed them, to help take care so they could get their house back.
HH: We’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn. More on Harvey.
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HH: Dr. Arnn, a couple of comments about the media. They are missing this story, in large part. They cover a bunch of other things. The investigation by Bob Mueller is leaking like a sieve, and they want Jared Kushner’s financial empire to fall apart, and I think people just turn off the channel if they’re not covering Hurricane Harvey, because Americans like courage. And they respond to it. But one of the things they did wrong was they attempted to drive a wedge between Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the President by saying they were disagreeing over North Korea. And Jim Mattis got asked about that yesterday, and he said I didn’t contradict anything the President said. We’re not talking to the North Koreans right now. A reporter said well, it was widely interpreted as a contradiction. And Mattis said it was widely misinterpreted, then. I can’t help people who misinterpret things. I’ll do my best to call it like I see it, but right now, if I say six and the President says half a dozen, they’re going to say I disagree with him. He also gave an interview about why he agreed to serve, and he said that’s what patriots do when the President leans on you. And then he gave this speech in Jordan earlier in the week which I’d like you to listen to in light of what you just told me about your son and service.
JM: Well done to you. It’s good to see you all out here, young men and women. For those of you haven’t met, my name’s Mattis. I work at the Department of Defense, obviously. And thanks for being out here, okay? I know at times, you wonder if any of us know, and you get promoted after a while, and you’re so remote that you get out of touch with those of you who matter. And believe me, I know you’re far from home, every one of you. I know you could all be going to college, you young people, or you could be back on the block. Just grateful, the only way this great, big experiment you and I call America is going to survive is if we’ve got tough hombres like you. And you remember, some of you are too young, Corporal Long on 9/11, we acted up against an enemy that thought if he hurt us, he can scare us. Well, we don’t fricken scare. That’s the bottom line. And we’ll go out here, we’ll fight alongside our friends and allies, and we’re going to keep right on fighting until they’re sick of us and leave us alone. And you’re buying time. You’re a great example for our country right now. It’s got some problems. You know it and I know it. It’s got problems that we don’t have in the military. And you just hold the line, my fine, young soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it, and being friendly to one another, that Americans owe to one another. We’re so doggone lucky to be Americans, and we’ve got two powers – the power of inspiration and we’ll get the power of inspiration back, and we’ve got the power of intimidation, and that’s you, if someone wants to screw with our families and our country or out allies, okay? So thanks so much for being out here. You completely took my by surprise. I’m off in La La Land, so that’s good. Keep the old guys like me guessing. The only reason I came back off, I flunked retirement, okay? The only reason I came back was to serve alongside young people like you who are so selfless and frankly so rambunctious. It’s a pleasure to be around you all. Take care of each other out here, okay? We call them in the Naval, take care of your shipmates out here, okay? Take care of each other. It can get old, it can get hot, you can get sloppy, you can get complacent. Don’t let it happen, okay?
HH: So Larry Arnn, hold the line, he tells them. What did you make of that?
LA: (laughing) Well, it’s just like the atmosphere that I saw, right?
LA: Except, and isn’t Mattis great, and great with troops, you know, which is what his key thing is. So they come marching, right? There’s a thousand of them, and every two weeks, a thousand young people graduate from basic at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. And they come marching in, and it’s really formidable, right, because there’s a lot of them. And they come out of the woods onto a big field called Hilton Field at the base, and they just keep coming. And then they, and everything is in order, right? And nine weeks ago, none of these kids knew anything about what they were doing, right? And they come out in order, and it’s just the best band you ever saw. Looks like they march like that. And then they all come exactly at the same moment to attention facing you. And I said to my wife that people around heard, because they’re all parents of those kids down there. I said if I was North Korea, I would be worried about this.
LA: And the whole, everybody in my place, we all just applauded and cheered at that moment.
HH: You know, it’s a remarkable thing what they do. And we see it on the civilian side in reaction to Harvey. But there is a corrosive, and Mattis referred to this, until we get back to respecting each other at home. And you saw the pictures of the crazy anti-Semitic marchers in Charlottesville, and then you go to Berkeley, and you’ve got these crazy Antifa people who are beating like Reginald Denny was beaten in Los Angeles in 1992, innocent bystanders into comas. And you wonder if the extremes, the 1% or the one-tenth of 1% at the edges of our 330 million people don’t absorb the attention of the media to such a degree that it perverts our understanding of the country.
LA: Yeah, and see, think about that, too. Look at, you know, we talked about Houston at the beginning of this, right? The strength of the country is in, is distributed, right? In the end, it’s in the hearts of every American. The power of America is that it is built upon a set of principles that establish all of us as the owners of everything we have in this country. And then we each get our part according to our ability to build it. And that principle of unity can make the country very strong as is demonstrated down in South Texas. And you know what’s funny? Like in this, there’s this Churchill movie coming out, and I’ve now seen it. It’s coming out in November. But the movie is un-cynical, right, because we talked about what happened in London in the Blitz, right? The point was people were mostly cheerful through that, and they were untiringly helpful. And they, and you know, people were killed on the front lines, of course, but in London, direct attack on a major city, one of the first times that ever happened in human history. And so the strength of the country, that means that those crazies in Charlottesville, and those crazies in Berkeley, are a tiny minority. And when they pose a threat of seriousness, there will be overwhelming numbers against them.
HH: I could not agree more, and I do fault our media for giving them not enough attention as to who they are and how small they are. That’s what I wish they just would put it in proportion. The Team Rubicon down there working selflessly in Texas is far bigger than the combined forces of the anti-Semitic white nationalist Nazis and the radical communists, Antifa. Team Rubicon dwarfs them, but it’s not a good story. This is a better story. The President is tweeting this morning. I want to put this in front of you as breaking news. His first tweet which was 51 minutes ago was Texas is healing fast. Thanks to all the great men and women who’ve been working so hard. But still, so much to do. Will be back tomorrow. Then, six minutes later, he tweeted Wow, looks like James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton long before the investigation was over and so much more, a rigged system. And then seven minutes ago, General John Kelly is doing a great job as chief of staff. I could not be happier or more impressed. And the administration continues to, and then we’ll have another one coming up. What do you make of that?
LA: Well, he’s up and at ‘em.
HH: He’s up and at ‘em.
LA: (laughing) Yeah, he’s, see, you know, there’s so much division about the tweets and about him in general. And I have a lot more tolerance for him than even admiration for him, than many conservatives have. But the tweets, see, he just interrupted our program so we could talk about his tweets.
LA: He’s communicating, right?
HH: Yes, he breaks in. He is a burglar of the media. He breaks in every day and destroys our, and he wanted to get out, he got out a bunch of messages, three different messages. One’s about John Kelly, attaboy, one’s about James Comey, I was right to fire him, if I can translate, and one’s about Texas, I’m coming back tomorrow, you’re doing great, keep it up.
HH: And so he misspelled, by the way, healing. I misspell all of my tweets, so I don’t really get upset about this. But they will obsess about this, and I was at the Orange County Business Council yesterday with our mutual friend, Brian Calle, being interviewed in front of a couple hundred business leaders down in Orange County, California. I’m back out on the West Coast for a while. And all they want to know is what about Trump, what about Trump, what about Trump. And I tell them that they don’t really get a good picture of what’s going on, because the administration is deeply conservative and very effective.
HH: That’s the one thing that they do not seem to understand.
LA: Yeah, if you want to complain about Washington, the logjam that’s got to be broken to change the country and the direction that the campaign, the election was about, is in the Congress, right? They’ve got, and I’m not bickering at the Congress this morning. I’ll do that later. But they, you know, they have an opportunity to do some very big things. And it’s very hard to get them done. And you know, it doesn’t matter that a lot of the bills that need to pass, they passed in a heartbeat earlier when they knew they would never be signed, and now they’re hesitating. That’s embarrassing, right? But of course, it is more formidable when it’s actually going to happen. And so there’s the Cotton immigration bill. It’s just a stunning bill, and it would turn us back into what we were, which is a country with very significant immigration, and the places awarded to people who will be excellent, productive citizens. And that’s, you know, that used to happen just by because it was so hard to get here, America filled up with people who could do really hard things. And now, we should have some system more like all the countries, most countries, that say you can come here if you can take care of yourself and contribute to our society. That’s pending now. This month, they may take that up. And we need to do that.
HH: I think the Cotton bill is going to pass.
HH: Because I think Chris Coons, and I think they’re going to attach the DACA to it, because DACA is illegal. People don’t understand this. I love these DACA kids. I want them to stay. The executive order is unconstitutional. We cannot indulge an unconstitutional executive order, or that which gets rewarded gets repeated, right?
HH: So they need to marry the Cotton bill with a DACA amnesty. That’s what they need to do.
LA: And that’s the strategy, is Tom’s strategy, anyway, Senator Cotton’s strategy anyway, and see, and remember, if you have an immigration system that once somebody comes in, then all their families, which is you know, like in HMS Pinafore, the Gilbert and Sullivan play, all their sisters and their cousins and their aunts, then you know, you’re, every time you admit one, you’re admitting 200.
HH: 200. And when we come back after break, we’ll talk about that. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be back with Dr. Larry Arnn. Stay tuned.
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HH: Dr. Arnn, during the break, I was reading about what our Mormon friends are doing, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are always sort of disaster-oriented. And they have been sending vast quantities from the Church’s Bishop Central Storehouse and Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City. They are assisting the Red Cross, the Convoy of Hope. They are partnering with the Adventist Community Services. Their temple in Houston is completely flooded, and yet they continue to pour out. And that’s not just the Mormons. It’s every religious community is doing this. I don’t think we even pause to reflect upon the nature of the citizenry in the United States very often, but this is one of those moments when we ought to. It’s still doggone strong and good.
LA: Yeah, well, you know, the Mormon Church is an interesting thing, because it’s, as I understand it, I know a lot of Mormons. Mike Lee from Utah is a friend of mine, the Senator. They don’t have clergy. They just all do it, you know. It’s done by the flock, whatever they do. You know, they have services on their, once a week just like everybody else does. Anyway, they’re, so they’re a very self-reliant bunch of people. But a point to make, everybody should understand this, the only country on Earth that has prevalent charity from ordinary people is the United States of America.
HH: Would you expand on that?
LA: Well, you know, just look up United States philanthropy, Google it, and look up European and look up Asian, right? And so in our country, we think that we are the ones in charge and responsible. And so something bad happens in Houston, and our hearts go out to them, and then it follows that we will help. And it, just in general, you know, it just, even in England, right, the amount of giving to strangers for good causes is not anything like in this country. And I think…
HH: And it’s got to go back to the fact it was a frontier country. It’s got to go back to Tocqueville.
LA: Well, it’s got to go back to, because see, Tocqueville’s not just talking about a condition. He’s also, you know how we live, he’s also talking about the principles that justify it, see, because what happened in America is not just that we moved across the ocean. It’s what we encountered and what we brought with us. And what we encountered was a frontier. But what we brought with us was every attribute of civilization except aristocracy. And so that was all wiped out, right? And so now we’re all just here, and then we have this principle of equality. And that means our leaders are beholden to us and chosen by us. And if you just read that soldiers’ creed that my boy and 999 others bellowed out with real gusto, you know, the last lines are I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I am an American soldier. You see? And they, over and over, they said that, right? It just takes nine weeks, you know. These young people were civilians nine weeks ago. That’s a dignity. Now, they are soldiers, see? Everybody in America, everybody’s a soldier. And that’s because of freedom and equality.
HH: It would be, it is an interesting thing to think about, combining your idea about boot camp for everyone with General McChrystal’s idea that you don’t have to be a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine to serve. But boot camp sure would be good for everybody, wouldn’t it?
LA: Well, in Switzerland, you know, that’s, one of the reasons that Switzerland has never been overcome is because it’s neutral. And the other reason is it’s a mountain fortress, and everybody’s armed.
HH: Yeah, everybody.
LA: So you’ve got to keep a military rifle in your home. Everybody serves, right? And they don’t, they don’t actually spend a lot of time at it. But they’re all trained, and there are refreshers along the way. That’s what I think. And I think that we should have something like that. And if you just think at what, it’s a huge commitment if we do it, because the military, you know, the army is, looks to me like Fort Jackson trains more soldiers than anybody else in the United States Army, right? And I think that they’re training about 50,000 a year, right? And 50,000’s a lot.
LA: But you know, it would be a multiple of that if everybody did it. And think how many drill sergeants you’d need, you know?
HH: And we would be, we would replace a lot which has been lost in the formation of young people. It’s something to think about and talk about. I’ll get General McChrystal on. He believes in national service passionately, but I, and I don’t think we need a draft, but I wouldn’t mind nine weeks for every young man and woman. And the Israelis find that it is useful for them as well. Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College, congratulations on the opening of another year and on the commissioning of an American soldier in your family, my congratulations and thanks to your son, pass those along and I will talk to you again next week.
End of interview.