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Dr. Matthew Spalding of Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center on the American Health Care Act Ongoing Deliberations

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HH: It’s the last radio hour of the week. That means it is time for the Hillsdale Dialogue. All things Hillsdale are collected all the way back to 2013 at www.hughforhillsdale.com. All things at Hillsdale are collected at www.hillsdale.edu. And today, Dr. Arnn is sleeping in. He is not with us. But we are in great luck, because Dr. Matthew Spalding, the director of the Kirby Center, the Allen P. Kirby Center, the Allen P. Kirby, Jr., Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship is a project of Hillsdale College. The purpose of the Kirby Center is to teach the Constitution and to bring the debate right into the belly of the beast in Washington, D.C. You should go and find it at www.kirbycenter.hillsdale.edu. Matthew Spalding, welcome, good morning, thanks for being with us in Dr. Arnn’s space.

MS: Good morning, Hugh. How are you?

HH: I am terrific.

MS: Well, it’s spring break out on campus, so I don’t even think he’s there.

HH: He’s not. He’s sleeping it off.

MS: You know, this is his week off from teaching, and he’s probably out running around doing some other stuff.

HH: I think he’s watching TV, reruns of Game of Thrones.

MS: I don’t know about that, but…

HH: But I am glad to have you, because for a particular reason, and I want people to understand first your background. Will you walk, Matt Spalding, people through your career in Washington before you came to lead the Kirby Center?

MS: Well, after I did my PhD work, and I actually started my career here in Washington. I was an intern in Ronald Reagan’s White House at the very beginning. I started out from there, worked in the Presidential Advance in the Press Office and the political office for a while, got my PhD out with the Claremont guys, who I know you’re familiar with out in California.

HH: You bet, with Dr. Jaffa.

MS: Sure. I studied with Harry Jaffa, Charles Kessler. That’s where I met Larry Arnn. He was out at Claremont at the time. And then I was at the Heritage Foundation, vice president of the Heritage Foundation for a long time working with Ed Meese in particular, and built a center there to do Constitutional studies. And I, my wife went to Hillsdale. I’d been teaching for Hillsdale for years. And finally, about four years ago or so, Dr. Arnn convinced me to literally jump ship. I actually crossed the street, because we’re right here in Washington, D.C. near the Senate buildings on Massachusetts Avenue, and I came over and now I’m with Hillsdale, and we’re building a program here to try as best we can to expand the teaching mission of the college, to radiate the teaching mission of the college about Constitutionalism and the crisis we face in modern government, and to help people think about complicated questions like the one we face today, which I think is a, talk about a great example. You know, I study history, and you think about the 19th Century, all these great compromises, all these big, complicated pieces of legislation with a lot of moving parts. How do you think that through from a statesman’s point of view, from a prudential point of view? Gosh, we’re in the midst of that now between this and the budget, and this new administration and what’s going on. This is a time rife for this, a need for this kind of serious thinking about what’s the prudent thing to do, given that you now have the powers to do things.

HH: If people go over to www.kirbycenter.hillsdale.edu, they will see a picture of you, Matt, at a podium. And sitting next to you are Senator Mike Lee, Senator Jeff Flake and Chairman of House Financial Services Committee, Jeb Hensarling under the title, Reclaiming Article I. And what goes on at Kirby is not just raising up students to levels of competence and capability that they can be effective in Washington, D.C, you help these lawmakers focus on the big stuff. And this American Health Care Act is the biggest of big stuff. But one thing you left out, you have some experience with moving part negotiations the Welfare Reform Act of ’96.

MS: Some. So that was, so the Welfare of ’96, then, was a big thing when I was at Heritage Foundation trying to get all that figured out, and negotiating all those pieces. And I think what you learned in that process, and I think what we’re learning today is it’s a messy, imperfect process, and you’ve got to figure out how you use pieces, make some compromises along the way, but that the key thing is to keep in mind what is your main objective, where are you going, what are the big things you’re getting out of this, and put these things in perspective. There are a lot of moving pieces here. You’ve been doing some great stuff on them. I’m reading the commentary. How do these things balance out in in the end that raise this larger question about, in the larger scheme of things, in terms of where we’re going? Does this kind of reform actually work?

HH: Now in the last hour, John Dickerson put forth the argument, and I agree with him, this is high stakes. It’s very much a disaster for Donald Trump if this does not pass…

MS: Absolutely.

HH: …very much a disaster.

MS: If this thing does not, you start looking at how this plan works out, right? If you don’t get this, you get no tax reform, for one thing. But also, there are just a lot of moving pieces in terms of putting their agenda forward. This is the first big thing they’re trying to do. If they get it wrong, I think this actually potentially threatened. Their majorities in Congress, I know that there are some that are nervous about that. The majorities are not as big as you would think in the House. This is key to advancing the President’s agenda and getting all these things to come together, absolutely. But the larger thing to keep in mind here is that look, for Republicans have run on this how many election cycles to repeal Obamacare? This is a major commitment. This is part of Mr. Trump’s campaign. They need to carry this out. But it turns out, and I think one of the big lessons in all this is you know, in the last eight years, we’ve got to think about how the modern administrative state has you know, kind of become a cancer in the body politic, how it really gets into all the little nooks and crannies. It’s extremely complicated, and so now we’re seeing a Congress who’s not used to governing, who’s not used to passing legislation with a majority and a president that would sign it, learning again how to legislation in an extremely complicated atmosphere, trying to keep track of all the little pieces and all the big pieces, and trying to go someplace with it.

HH: Let me play for you a little Paul Ryan, get your comment on it, cut number 9:

PR: I am the Speaker of the House. I’m not the majority leader of the Senate. So my job is to move bills through the House. Let me describe to you in one word what all this about, and what is happening – legislating. This is legislating. This is going through the regular order process. Here in the House, we’re going through four committees. We constantly get feedback. We constantly get suggestions from members. And we’re working at bridging those gaps to get, to make improvements in the bill so that members, so that we have a bill that can pass. And we feel like we’re making great strides and great progress on getting a bill that can pass, because it incorporates the kind of feedback from members of all walks of life in our conference. I have not heard from those senators. The senators who have been critical of the House bill, none of them have called me. So I’m not sure what exactly their concerns are. All I would say is senators are not helpless with respect to the House. The House passes its bill. It sends it to the Senate. And then they get to take it from there. Senators, if they have a concern or an issue are free to amend that bill when it goes over there. That’s part of the legislative process. So I can’t speak to why if a senator doesn’t want to pass a bill here or what, but they’ll have every opportunity to make a change to this legislation, because that’s how legislation is written. House passes a bill, House amends a bill, sends it to the Senate. The Senate brings up a bill, and then the Senate can amend a bill, and then we go to conference. That’s the legislative process.

HH: Now it seems to me, Matt Spalding, that’s true.

MS: Right.

HH: But it does undervalue getting closer to the mark in phase one. You want to get as close as possible in order to diminish the number of people that you have to satisfy in the Senate. Do you agree with me on that?

MS: Yeah. So let me back up for a second. You know, let’s look at it from a larger perspective. What the Speaker said is absolutely correct. This is about legislating. He described how the process normally works. But we’ve got a couple of factors here going on that we have to take in consideration, not the least of which is that once it gets over to the Senate, something else happens, and you don’t, do not have a filibuster-proof majority. And that’s just a fact, that they either need to address directly, which is to say send something over there to the Senate and then let them figure out how to deal with it, or you go from the beginning, having taken that in consideration, and you’re already legislating in the House with that in mind. From a structural point of view, I think that this really shows a major dilemma that we have in legislating big items right now that come down to this problem with rules. You also have these, you know, so they’re forced to go into reconciliation, which is this process which deals with budget issues. That in turn restricts what they can and cannot pass this first time around. And then because of that, you have this additional problem, which his they can only get so much through reconciliation, although I think, and I think you’ve suggested this as well, there potentially is more room there if they’re pressing a little bit more.

HH: If they actually, we’ll come back after the break and continue talking with Matt Spalding about that, because there’s a lot more room. I’ve laid it out at the Washington Post. And we just have to get, and I think the Kirby Center is vital to this. Get them to start thinking out of the box, because they’re thinking like a minority, Matt Spalding.

MS: That’s, in short, that’s the problem. They’re not thinking like a majority that controls both houses, trying to figure out how to get things through and get to the President’s desk.

HH: We’ll be right back with Matt Spalding. He is the director of the Kirby Center in Washington, D.C. You know, I see here that Syria is firing at Israeli jets. That’s never a good sign. Breaking news always, of course.

— – – – — – –

HH: Matt, when you see it get this far this fast, there’s something called a manager’s amendment. Do you have any experience with manager’s amendments?

MS: Not, the point is, to put it in very general terms here, right? The House has a lot of power over its own structure and how they actually do things, which means if they wanted to figure out how to make this thing better and make some adjustments, and figure out how they can use reconciliation to do more things using the taxing power, they could, you know, do manager’s amendments. The person who’s managing the legislation can introduce those. The Rules Committee can draw this out. There are plenty of ways of doing this. I mean, without getting into the details, which I think probably perhaps elude both of us to some extent, because it’s complicated both in terms of how the House and Senate works. There are plenty of ways to do these things. My concern here is that what’s the objective? Where are they going? Do they have a sense of that? And I fear that this thing is just kind of going to move along, and there’s really no driving sense they need to fix some things to one, get it passed. I’m not sure it’s not threatened right now and needs to be fixed. But also, they need to get some movement on this to show that there’s some fundamental things happening, and what they’re trying to do. I think there’s some hard, prudential questions which I don’t, are not completely clear to me, right? I mean, the Medicaid piece is clearly the most important. But there’s a lot of regulatory stuff in here that I’m nervous about, that doesn’t fundamentally get changed. You cut the taxes and the money to it, but a lot of that’s still there, which means you depend on phase two, which is what Mr. Price can do from the administration without Congress. And then there a lot of things here that don’t actually happen in the legislation. Since it’s reconciliation, you don’t have anything in here about, say, tort reform. Perhaps that can be done through the taxing power with a better sense of how much authority you have.

HH: Well you see, and that’s one of the things I proposed in the piece in the Post yesterday, is if you tax every policy that issues in any state that does not cap pain and suffering damages, you will add to the cost of health care, but you will also incentivize this states to get serious about tort reform. So it’s a little bit of one step backwards to go five steps forward. Do you think Republicans are willing to think in those terms, Matt Spalding?

MS: I don’t know that they think out of the box in that way. They might, given that you’ve written it, I suppose. But look, there’s, what I fear is that now that this thing is up and moving, and they’re getting shot at from all sides – left, right, center, you name it, there’s going to be, the focus is going to be on how do we get something through, not necessarily how do we think creatively about achieving those objectives? Now the possibility here is that those two things come together, and there’s an interest in doing both of those. And in order to get it through, they’ve got to get to some of those things.

HH: Now that brings us to Donald Trump, who has been, by all accounts, going full LBJ, I call it.

MS: Right.

HH: He’s summoning members down for pizza and bowling. He is talking to them on the phone. He’s, you know, he’s schmoozing. He’s a developer, and you and I both know developers are, they’re focused on the permit, right? They’re focused on the end game. I expect he’s doing very well on this.

MS: He might be, but see, this raises the question. What’s the end game, right? If the end game is getting something through so that we can move on with tax reform, that’s one thing. But look, does this piece of legislation fundamentally change the direction of health care in a way that we can honestly say as conservatives that this is a positive step forward? The pieces are there. Some people are great that are in it. But it needs some more. I don’t think it does that, yet, as a principle matter. It’s not clear to me whether this whole package moves, fundamentally moves us away from Obamacare in a radical way that transforms the direction of it.

HH: More on that when we return. Dr. Matthew Spalding, director of Hillsdale College Kirby Center is my guest.

— – – — —

HH: I divert for just a second, Matt, to this headline – U.S. Prepared to Take Military Action Against North Korea if Necessary. How bracing do you find that?

MS: I find that extremely bracing. I find it refreshing that someone is willing to acknowledge that we have a problem with diplomacy with North Korea. But in terms of what our options are, and how to proceed, and what’s going to happen here, this is extremely bracing. But it points to us, points back yet again and reminds us about this, you know, in the budget proposal and what we’re looking at, how do we strengthen our defenses? How do we maintain our national security? And how the Trump administration goes forward in putting together a strong national security team? We’ve got, we’re behind in a lot of these things. We’re behind in the world. We’re in a weakened position, I think, across the board, and in Asia, of all places. And I think the administration is going to have some, you know, questions where do they start? Where do they choose to emphasize their strength? Or are they in a position to do so? I think there are some real practical questions with this. But I find it extremely bracing.

HH: Yeah, the South Korean foreign minister, Yun Byung-Se actually agreed. We have various policy methods available, he said, but he went on to say that, you know, if it got to blows, we would go to blows. This is the first time this has actually been talked about in public since 1993-94 when we went to the bring with North Korea before they were nuclear. Now they are, of course, nuclear.

MS: Right.

HH: That means Seoul goes up. Well, it means a lot of different things. It’s just one of those stories that is so overwhelming, people don’t get their arms around it, the other one being the AHCA. Now let’s talk briefly about the budget. I don’t spend a lot of time on the budget, Matt Spalding, because it’s a directional document. It isn’t actually a budget. But the direction of the budget was also bracing, and by the way, if they erase NPR, NEH, NEA, I’m very happy, Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

MS: Absolutely, me, too.

HH: When they existed, I wrote in defense of it in 1990, but there’s this thing called the internet, which has just basically removed all except maybe PBS and Big Bird, the policy reason for all of this stuff. The content of a world of diversity is available at everyone’s fingertips.

MS: Look, let me, again, pull back. This is what we do at Hillsdale. Pull back and look at it from a big perspective. I agree with what you just absolutely said, what you just said. But first of all, what the President submits is a directional document. The Congress will be now the one that actually puts this together. But think about where he is going, where the Trump administration is going. Put this together with the health care reforms, and you know, the prudence of this, the bigger picture is where the movement is. Donald Trump inevitably is going to confront the administrative state, the vast bureaucratic state that we have all around us. This is the crisis of our times. The question with the health care legislation is to what extent does this thing, despite its imperfections, and despite the fact that this is not as much as we might want, does this fundamentally move in a direction that challenges the administrative state? Or as Steve Bannon as said, deconstructing the administrative state? Clearly, where he’s moving in the budget is doing that. I mean, the budget itself in terms of cutting agencies, but also think about that executive order he sent out to his heads of departments in terms of giving them instructions, right? He wants to consolidate. He wants to cut. He wants to eliminate. This is going to run up against the kind of the liberal progressive way of governing, this new order that we have around us, this new way of ruling. That’s going to be the movement in this administration. It already is almost by default, and I think we need to look at that and judge it accordingly. My question is, the concern here is, is Congress, is Article I, the legislative branch, the one who will need to do a lot of the heavy lifting if this is going to happen, right? They’re going to have to pass the budget through normal process. This is all the things they talk about, and what Speaker Ryan has talked about a lot. Can they do that? Can they move that forward?

HH: Now I’ve got to ask you, Matt Spalding, the Congress suffers from the Beltway bubbleitis. Now I like to point out that Madison and Hamilton were never Hill staffers. But when it comes to legislation, if you’re not a Hill staffer, nobody listens to you. I run into this all the time. They just simply, they indulge in the classic you don’t know what you’re talking about, this is very complicated stuff, and I always reply Hamilton and Madison weren’t Hill staffers. None of this is that complicated. You guys are building a guild. Can you break through the vast guild that is permanent D.C. to get ideas on the table?

MS: That’s exactly the challenge. I think what the Trump administration, the virtue of the Trump administration is they have broken through politically, but now Congress needs to do the same thing. We need to make Congress great again. And what Congress needs to realize is they have vast, extensive amounts of power. Think about our conversation just a few moments ago about the complications of reconciliation and what you can do with your parliamentarian in terms of tax policy. This is true. This is, part of the problem is that Congress has so hamstrung itself over decades now, that they don’t really legislate much anymore. They don’t actually do budgets. They need to relearn that process. They need to relearn it fast if they’re going to do this, because that’s where their power lies. The power of the purse of Congress is extensive, and they need to re-strengthen those muscles and look past the narrow details of the rules. That’s why things like reconciliation are important. How do you get past them, is the question. The filibuster is the same. How do you figure out how to deal with that fact, or are you at some point going to challenge it? American politics and the representative process in terms of the executive and the Congress is how do you play out the views of the American people? And the fact of the matter is the American people increasingly, which is why you have Donald Trump in the presidency, increasingly want to see some changes of direction. The fact that the process questions, these internal Hill complications, are preventing Congress, the most powerful legislative body in the world, at this point, from carrying out and being able to openly debate and deliberate about the will of the American people, which is to fundamentally change key aspects of the direction of our government, to make it less bureaucratic, to make it less driven by kind of elite, internal Washington, D.C. thinking, to open it up and have new debates about things like health care. If we can’t figure that out, and we get caught up, because these inside the Beltway rules, and we miss the larger objective, I think this will be a massive failure. The reason this has to pass now, something needs to pass, is because of all the other things that are backed up behind it. And this will probably be our only shot…

HH: That’s correct.

MS: …as going after Obamacare. And so whatever they pass, whatever they pass now, if there’s not enough in it to change the direction of Obamacare, you will now establish a Republican and Democratic consensus for government-controlled health care. And the next guy will come along and make it a little, reform a little around the edges, and we move forward. Is government a one-way ratchet? Or is it not? They need to think about this. This is a fundamental crisis in the Constitutional direction of our country.

HH: And they have to be the Thor’s hammer. They really cannot, now there are ways to make the transition easy. There is a money fix to the Medicaid transition to a capped and devolved program.

MS: And those precisely, those are your prudential points, right? Yeah, there are things around the edges where you can make things easier. That has to do with some money. It might end up costing you more than you want to spend right now. But the question is you have to be ruthless in terms of going after your direction, which is in the case of Medicaid, fundamentally changing it as an entitlement. But in terms of these regulatory questions, right, what is the threat here? The threat here is the modern administrative state which is regulating our lives and everything we do.

HH: And that gets to, you know, I do believe in the taxing power. If you tax every policy that issues from a state that has not capped pain and suffering damages, that’s tort reform. You will have incentivized it.

MS: You incentivize it, correct.

HH: If you tax every policy from every state that piles on essential benefits, you have incentivized slimming down the essential benefits list. There are lots of ways, but they’ve got to get there and hammer away. I’m not sure they were looking for a hard win. I think they were looking for an easy win and discovered that that’s a hard win.

MS: Well, the problem goes back to this strategy, which I understand. In a perfect world, this might make sense where you pass some things through reconciliation, you do a bunch of regulatory things through the administration, and then you come back with a third pot, and you do some of the big things. But I think they’re only going to have one shot here, and it’s got to have enough elements in it that we can honestly say that this has fundamentally, you know, Obamacare does not exist as it previously existed. Some pieces are there that we’re willing to accept as a prudential matter. Some things have been changed that work. But it’s not there in a way that another administration in the future it can merely be turned on again. And they need to pull enough of those things together in this first package if this is actually going to work. If at the end of the day we’ve passed something that is questionable, that does not have any of those key elements there, then I think there’s a real serious prudential question as to whether this was a good thing to do. The dilemma, the political dilemma, is that they’ve now gotten to this spot, and they’ve got to get something through.

HH: But I’m an optimist about this, because I also think if they don’t get it through, the House flips. And I had John Boehner sit in my studio in the summer of 2006 right before he went to play golf down in Orange County’s famed Shady Canyon, and assured me not to worry, the House majority was absolutely bullet-proof. You know, we had redistricting, it didn’t matter that the war was going badly, could not lose it. We got hammered. And I believe if they don’t pass Obamacare, the same sort of thing can happen, which means that Donald Trump would then be facing for the second half of his first term Democratic hearings, Democratic gavels, Democratic votes on articles of impeachment. He has to get this deal, Matt Spalding.

MS: Absolutely. That’s the dilemma they are right, or where they’re at right now. And I think from our point of view, in terms of what this package actually looks like, we need to be able to get enough in it so that we can honestly say this has got some real muscles in it to change the direction of the thing. That’s why I think you’re getting criticisms from conservatives and others as well, but especially that conservative complaint, right? The promise here was to repeal Obamacare. Can you go back to zero and square one after eight years and the complications of it? I don’t think you can. But in how you’re doing it, how you’re handling the regulatory aspects, especially, but also Medicaid expansion, are you handling those things in a way that we can honestly say from a prudential point of view this moves us fundamentally in the right direction? This sets up, it sets it up such that you merely can’t turn it back on again.

HH: Yeah, you have to attack the essential benefits reg.

MS: Right.

HH: And you have to, they’re going to repeal the taxes, and that’s good. They’re going to repeal the 50 employee ceiling that artificially holds down employment. They’re doing the easy stuff, but they have to attack the essential benefits, which was the federalization of health care policy.

MS: Absolutely, but this other regulatory piece, I have to tell you, Hugh, makes me very nervous. A lot of the things that reconciliation doesn’t, won’t touch a lot of those regulatory matters, and good, maybe could the administration in the midst of this issue executive orders or make some instructions very clear that those regulations are going away? That would help a lot of pressure here.

HH: You know, I actually believe, Matt, every single regulatory matter, I could find a tax code provision to treat by a negative incentive. I really do believe that. We’ll talk more about that after the break. Don’t go anywhere, America.

— – — —

HH: You are at the Kirby Center studio, are you not?

MS: I am. I am.

HH: You sound like it. It sounds wonderful. Matt, I wanted to shift a little bit to the staffing of the administration.

MS: Yeah.

HH: …because I think Kirby has a lot to do here. They are empty in a lot of places. They have empty offices. They lack staff hands. They lack people ready to go. Is Kirby ready to step into the breach and provide them young Hillsdale-trained youngsters? I’m talking about…

MS: Yeah.

HH: …the GS-10’s, 11’s, 12’s to come in and put together the briefing binders.

MS: No, absolutely. Absolutely, and we’ve been sending people over there. We’ve already got people in the administration helping them out in terms of, you know, speechwriting and legal things in the Attorney General’s office. Absolutely, and we will keep that, keep providing the kind of people. I think that their big challenge right now is at places like, what State and Defense, neither one of them has the number two.

HH: Number two or number three, number four, number five.

MS: Yeah, that’s…

HH: I don’t think that Secretary Mattis likes Republicans. I honestly think…

MS: It doesn’t look like…

HH: You know, I love Secretary, General, now-Secretary Mattis, but I think he’s a Democrat or an independent, and he will not nominate Republicans.

MS: Yeah, I just, but this is absolutely necessary to make the place work. I mean, at some point, you can’t go forward. You need, physically need bodies and folks to do things, and carry out your instructions. So you know, they need to get moving on those things and figure some things out and have the people. I think, you know, so we had this great, you know, revolution, if you will, coming in, in terms of the Trump campaign and what it meant to do and how it wanted to change direction. But doggone it, this is a problem of the bureaucratic state and the government in general. It’s big.

HH: Yeah, I remember when…

MS: There’s a lot of things to do. You’ve got to have people.

HH: …the first thing you do is get the radio station and the television station when there’s a coup, but then you’ve got to hold them, right? And that requires troops.

MS: That’s right. That’s right, and so you know, at Hillsdale, we’re producing young people, and some of them have gotten forward and advancing, but you know, they’re going to need a lot of people if this revolution, if this change, this transformation is going to go places, you’re going to need, this is going to be four, eight, twelve, sixteen years. This is a long process. If you want to turn this ship around, we need a lot of people for a long time. You remember one of the great challenges of the Reagan administration were, one of their weaknesses is they got in there, they had a bunch of conservatives, but they ran out of troops pretty quickly.

HH: Yeah, they did. Let me ask you, Matt, to do a little commercial for the Kirby Center. A lot of people hear about Hillsdale College every week on this show, www.hughforhillsdale.com, www.hillsdale.edu. And I broadcast from the Kirby Center before. But what is the Kirby Center’s mission, and how does it relate to a student going to Hillsdale?

MS: Well, from a student’s perspective, it’s very straightforward. Students come here and study for the semester. I teach classes here. We have students interning on the Hill in different places. We’re trying to get some students over interning at the White House, as an example. So the student comes here and is actively involved in the Kirby Center.

HH: You have a dorm?

MS: We have a building. I don’t know if I would call it a dorm, but it’s a D.C. apartment building that we use for our students, yes.

HH: And so I think it is the most fully-integrated in terms of comprehensive and systematic exposure to the federal government. It’s another reason to go to Hillsdale, is that Matt holds up the lantern of the north when it comes down to be the lantern of the swamp. And they don’t let people get sucked in. But boy, your alum is connected up.

MS: Very much so. And, but the key thing her is that the students come here, and it’s good. You see how the sausage is made. One of the reasons how you learn to be prudent, if you recall from Aristotle’s Ethics, right? You can’t study it in the abstract. You study people who are known to be prudent. And that really requires you see how politics actually occurs. So the fact that you have students who are here who will study these ideas, and had great formations, but are doing it in the midst of taking classes. So I teach classes on examples of statesmanship and Madison and Henry Clay and Reagan and Churchill. That’s how you make the kinds of people we’re going to need to make all this play out.

HH: And do you think the new generation of legislators are learning legislators? A lot of legislators in the old days used to come, and then it was all about the perks. Do you see more and more people coming in ready to learn?

MS: I do. I’m actually quite optimistic in that sense. I think the question is two-fold. Think about how many people are new in Congress and have not operated under a majority before. I think a majority of the Republicans in Congress have never been in the majority. They’ve go to learn that. And the second thing is they need to learn it pretty quickly. We don’t have time. Some of these things, this legislation being a perfect example, this needs to move, and it needs to be moving pretty rapidly to keep on track. We’re in a crisis here. The administrative state is overwhelming us, and we need to figure out how to get the key things locked in to change its direction. And if it doesn’t happen in this administration with this Congress, this is a huge opportunity. I don’t see it happening in our lifetimes for sure, and it might have changed direction. I’m optimistic, but they’ve got to really get in, and dig in.

HH: We are in a month-long period.

MS: Yes.

HH: …where it really is the telling of the truth.

MS: The crucial moment in our history, and we will look back and see it as such.

HH: I agree. Matt Spalding, Dr. Matt Spalding of the Kirby Center at Hillsdale College, thanks for a bracing hour. Everything Hillsdale available at www.hillsdale.edu. All of our conversations, www.hughforhillsdale.com.

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Friends and Allies of Rome