By Hillsdale College October 29, 2018
HUGH HEWITT: Morning glory, America, and bonjour, hi, Canada, from the ReliefFactor.com studios. I am Hugh Hewitt. I have a special guest today. He is usually my guest on Fridays in the last radio hour of the week with the Hillsdale Dialogue. But, today, I'm starting the week with the Hillsdale Dialogue and Dr. Larry Arnn, because we are eight days from a crucial election. And we are on the other side of a terrible massacre in Pittsburgh, and of a deranged bomber in Florida, and an incendiary rhetoric across the spectrum. And I thought some history would be useful here. Dr. Larry Arnn, good morning and thank you for doing a double dip this week.
LARRY ARNN: Good morning. How are you, Hugh?
HEWITT: I'm good. I want to begin by asking you to put what the Know Nothing movement in context is, because last night I saw a lot of people online saying that Donald Trump is leading the modern Know Nothings, which is simply not historically correct. And I knew I could turn to you for some explanation of what the Know Nothings were.
ARNN: Well—nineteenth-century political movement. Jews and Catholics—they were especially focused on them. And, you know, I don't know why anybody would be against Jews, but Catholics? No, that's a joke. Anyway—
HEWITT: That's a joke. That's a joke.
ARNN: Yes. We have to deprive ourselves of our sense of humor in these days, but a lot of them voted for Lincoln. Lincoln denounced them.
And what they thought was that it was a Protestant country, a white country, and that it would be better if it remained so. And, you know, they were spread around the country quite widely. They never had a huge percentage of the vote.
In fact, there isn't anybody quite like that important enough to make a difference today that I know of—but they were important because politics were very narrowly drawn for 15 or 20 years, divided on the slavery question. But then ancillary matters that could get 4% or 5% or 2% or 3% of the vote could change things a lot. So they were important in American politics.
HEWITT: And they were not a passing phase. They've never really gone away—the idea of nativism and that white Protestants own the country. But neither have they ever been very powerful. And I do not believe they make up much—even an infinitesimal percentage—of the Trump coalition.
I asked Secretary Clinton this when she was on the show last year: Do you believe there is more than a half million white nationalists in the United States? And she agreed with me that there isn’t. And we're a nation of 330 million people. I just don't believe it is that many people, though. One of them can do horrific slaughter, as was done Saturday in Pittsburgh. We ought not to overestimate because, by doing so, we encourage the overestimation of their hatred.
ARNN: That's right. And, you know, not only do I not believe that there are very many people like that, I don't believe there are very many people who believe that there are very many people like that. In fact, many of the people who say that there are a lot of people like that, I don't believe that they believe it. I think it's a political tool.
HEWITT: Yes. And explain why—by the way, I think it's going to burn their hand for picking up this tool. And, specifically, I talked this morning about—the network to which I contribute, MSNBC, is running chyrons—the lower thirds—the words at the bottom of the screen. I want to read to you a couple of them: “Trump's role in stoking violence among Americans.” “How Trump sets the tone for anti-Semites.”
You see, they have picked up this white-hot slander. And I don't think it injures the president. I think it burns the people who employ it. What do you think?
ARNN: Well, there's a really great Holman Jenkins column in The Wall Street Journal. I read it this morning. It might have been from last week. And he makes the point that everybody, except for a tiny sliver of the population, all of whom are probably watching MSNBC, who know?—think that there's just way too much of this stuff, that this politically correct talk, this—Megyn Kelly, whom I have never liked, by the way—but she got fired. And, if she'd just left off one expression, what she said was entirely unobjectionable. And somebody at Netflix too, right?
And so, there are hordes that go after—but hordes, how big are the hordes, right? As you say, in a country of 300 million-plus, how big are these hordes? And the answer is, not very big. I mean, if you just walk about in society and look, you will see the evidence of the fact that the society is organized around the principle of human equality.
And what human equality means is, is a person treated like a person? Treat the thing, the person, like a person? So, you just see in society today, and it wasn't always true with black people, by the way, which is a blight on our history. But it is true today. Just look and see.
And then, if you think it's always been a racist country, go study the 1858 election for the Senate in Illinois where Abraham Lincoln won the popular vote on the claim that the black woman may not be our equal in all respects, but in her right to eat the bread that she earns with the sweat of her own face, she is the equal of every person on Earth.
HEWITT: And I want our new audience—we have added two affiliates today, Dr. Larry Arnn, who have not heard you before and therefore will take some getting used to. We have to inoculate them against Larry Arnn—News Radio 1410, WDOV in Dover, Delaware, and News Radio 1450, WILM in Wilmington, Delaware. Delaware was one of the states that Lincoln had to worry about keeping in the union, right?
Delaware was a slave-holding state at the time of the Civil War. And Lincoln had to work very hard. As he said, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.” He needed these states, and so he acted as a political person with regards to everyone in there.
But those sorts of politics—that sort of nuance is lost in cable land. I mean, it just—it's all “you’re evil” or “you're not evil.” And, by the way, it's not just on the left. It's on the right as well. And I think it's destroying politics.
ARNN: Well, I don't—I think that's right. And, you know, there was a lot of extremism in America in the 1850s, goodness’ sakes. You know, there were plots to kill Lincoln, and one of them succeeded, finally. But it's also true that those debates between Lincoln and Douglas are very worth reading. And then, if you read them fairly, in my argument—if you read them fairly, you will see that the inspiring man won, and the man who spoke for the meaning of America won.
And it's just a remarkable event in human history because they would get 20,000 people out in the sun, sitting for four hours to watch those debates. And that means that, in America, there is this basic way that we get along as Americans, and it's the principle that everyone who demeans himself as a good citizen, to quote George Washington, has the rights of a citizen, and that means that the bias, if there's a bias, is when you encounter somebody on the street, treat him like a human being.
HEWITT: The man who spoke for the meaning of America won. I think that is so—would you explain what that means?
ARNN: Well, you know, all political history, by the way, has tragedy in it. There's even an argument that it always ends in tragedy. But our tragedy—there are very many—remembering that it's the most glorious political story, at least in modern times, and the tragedy is that, for the first time, we founded a country according to the principle that all men are created equal. And, by all men, they meant women too. And then we had slavery among us.
It had been here for a long time, brought here under British rule. And so what are we to do about that? And, in the Founding, there is a consensus that that's a really bad thing. Something's got to be done about that eventually. And, in more than 60% of the Union, it was quickly abolished.
But, then, new ideas took root, and this is where the tragedy is, in my opinion. These new ideas said, “No, we're evolutionary figures. And we evolved to be different kinds of things.” And, by the way, if you look at the thought of modern Liberalism—radical, modern, left-wing Liberalism—you will see lots of thinking just like this. It's why we talk about genes all the time now. It's like somehow your genes control your behavior, which means the human soul is not free.
Anyway, that gets going. And, by 1820, that's a major force in America. And then what are you going to do about it, right? In the end, what we did about it was we fought our worst war over the question “Is the human being a product of his heritage, or is it a free soul created by God?”
HEWITT: And we will come back to discuss more of that in a moment. Dr. Larry Arnn, my guest, president of Hillsdale College. All things Hillsdale at Hillsdale.edu.
Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt. It's called the ancient evil for a reason. Anti-Semitism has been around as long as the Jews have been around, and as everyone knows, the Jews have been here since we began writing books. And Walker Percy used to say, “I will stop believing in God when someone explains the Jews to me.”
I am joined by Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, of course, a great supporter of Israel, as I am, and mourning those who died in Pittsburgh. Larry Arnn, though, it never takes long for opportunists to seize on any tragedy.
And, last night, Kevin McCarthy, our friend, the House GOP leader, was attacked by people on the left because he had tweeted out before the Pittsburgh massacre that George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer were trying to buy the election, which, in fact, they are trying to do. And that's fine. That's their constitutional right.
But he was accused of anti-Semitism for noting that—I guess because those three men are Jewish. And you know Kevin McCarthy, I know Kevin McCarthy. Our ambassador to Germany, Rick Grenell, came on earlier. He knows Kevin McCarthy. What do you make of the charge of anti-Semitism with regards to our friend Kevin McCarthy?
ARNN: Well, both of us have known Kevin McCarthy for many decades. But what I didn't know, and I'll bet Kevin McCarthy didn't know, is that those three guys are all Jews.
HEWITT: I'll bet you he didn't. I'll bet you he didn't.
ARNN: I didn't know George Soros was a Jew. And everybody knows about him, right? He's this big Liberal guy who gives all this money.
ARNN: But the truth is, if you were going to insult them because they were Jews, you would need to be explicit about it, because most people wouldn't get the joke.
HEWITT: That's it. But, of course, they don't want you to get that. They don't want you to understand Kevin McCarthy. They want to smear Kevin McCarthy.
And the smear of anti-Semitism is a deep one. I mean, along with being anti-black and racist of any sort, anti-Semitism is the ancient evil. It's been denounced specifically by my Catholic Church as being mortal sin. It's unacceptable. My children are themselves part Jewish. My wife's great-grandfather started the synagogue in Indianapolis. I can't abide it. But it is used as a cudgel. Does it work, Larry Arnn?
ARNN: Well, you know, I want to say something about the depth of it. Think about the Jews. I giggled when you said that Walker Percy quote, which I had not heard before.
HEWITT: Isn't that wonderful? Yeah.
ARNN: But the Jews are unique in history. And they're unique because they're the first ancient people whose God did not disappear when the polity was defeated. And they kept their God. They're exiles, and this God claims to be the one God and the creator of all. And then this God claims to have a concern for everybody on earth. Indeed, the covenant with Abraham is a covenant, and this shall be a blessing to all the peoples on the face of the earth.
Now, you won't find anything like that in the ancient religions of which Judaism is one, right? 3,000 B.C. or before. And so that's the first thing. But the second thing is, because they didn't disband when their country was overcome—the Promised Land was overcome—then what they have been is an exiled people for a long, long time, incredibly stubborn in keeping their identity.
And so that places them in lots of other countries. And that means the oldest opportunity for resentment of strangers in our midst is of the Jews. And it's just another great fact about the United States of America that George Washington, in 1798, wrote to the Hebrew congregation in Newport Island, that it is “now no more that we speak of religious toleration as if it were by the indulgence of some that others enjoy their inherent natural rights.”
And that is probably the first letter written by a chief executive of any country, except ancient Israel, to some Jews, addressing them as equal citizens. That's the American heritage. And there's no reason to believe that Kevin McCarthy does not feel the weight and greatness of that just like everybody who knows the story and is an American does.
HEWITT: Exactly. And on left and right, except for these crazed neo-Nazis, who are an evil, and we'll talk about that evil when we come back. And then head over to Hillsdale.edu for everything Hillsdale has to offer, including a completely free subscription to Imprimis. And my friends in Delaware, you've got to go get Imprimis. Hillsdale.edu. Stay tuned.
Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt. I hope our video feed is on, because then you'd see me talking energetically to Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College. We have to get Larry to make a basement tape with me when he's next inside the beltway. Dr. Larry Arnn is the president of Hillsdale College—Hillsdale.edu.
We skipped our Friday Hillsdale Dialogue so we could begin this week of the election sprint, all the way through next Tuesday, by focusing on the stakes. And I think probably Larry Arnn said it first in early 2015: Fundamental things are afoot. It’s sort of a famous phrase that Larry is now stuck with because I repeat it all the time. Do you believe in this election, Dr. Arnn, that fundamental things are still afoot?
ARNN: Oh, yeah. You know, the reason is the nature of the controversies we have today. In the Kavanaugh hearings, which were at once shocking and characteristic, just think how many law professors and law students—people supposed to be learning or trained in rules of evidence and how you make a judgment about guilt or innocence—denounced Brett Kavanaugh just upon the allegation.
And, you know, there's a big petition that a whole bunch of law professors signed. And it doesn't say “If he did it”; they said he's out. In other words, there's like a mob running, and it's odd because it's led by a bunch of highly educated people who are essentially out of sorts with the nature and meaning of the United States.
HEWITT: Well, let's pause on that for a moment. We do have a separation at the edge. And we have a great condescension in the media, and I call it the Manhattan-Beltway media elite. They are unaware of it, Larry, because they swim in it all the time—that almost 100% of what they say—from both the right and the left—sounds indifferent to what 90% of Americans think and do every day, which is ignore politics.
ARNN: Yeah. That's right. And, you know, but for you, I would be more like them.
HEWITT: But, anyway, it takes us back to Tocqueville. And I do want to go there. When Tocqueville toured the country, he was struck at how many associations Americans had to do all sorts of different things, not all of them or even most of them political. They would get together for reasons other than political. But the news, and especially cable, is driving us to be political all the time. And that's not good.
ARNN: I'm teaching for the second time these totalitarian novels, and what they all have in common—and this runs from Aristotle and Xenophon's account of tyranny through George Orwell and Aldous Huxley and Arthur Koestler—modern totalitarian novels—is that people are compelled to live in a continuous agitation about narrow questions of political policy.
And, you know, politics is an extremely interesting thing. You get to learn about Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence and Winston Churchill and the Nazis, right? Public policy, which is half of the economy now in the United States, is essentially boring as regard to details. And it can only be important if you've been connected up to large things.
Well, that's not what goes on on cable news all day long. It's little stuff all the time, and you're supposed to live your life in awareness of that all day long. It means that you don't have perspective. It's the reason why our College is famous, right? And it's incredible to me how misunderstood it is by its friends as well as its enemies, very often. So, midterm crisis at Hillsdale College means the following: last week was midterms.
HEWITT: Your friend Speaker Paul Ryan was on Face the Nation yesterday with John Dickerson. And he said, I think, a very profound thing. And he's a very smart and thoughtful fellow, and here's what Speaker Ryan said to John Dickerson, cut number 17:
JOHN DICKERSON: Why do you think there is not much talk about bipartisanship in the coverage?
PAUL RYAN: You know, I don't think it sells for you guys, for the media. You take a look at the bills we pass out of the House—about 1,000 bills. It's been one of the most productive sessions of Congress in a generation. And, of those roughly 1,000 bills, over 80% of them are bipartisan bills.
So we've tackled the opioids. We've tackled human trafficking. We've rebuilt the military. All of those are bipartisan, but they don't get reported. It doesn't sell. So I honestly think, John, it's the hits the clicks and it's the ratings chase that's on display in America today that says, when they're fighting each other, that's when you cover it.
DICKERSON: So, if we accept some portion of responsibility for that—you've seen President Trump's rallies. Do those rallies accentuate the things that unite us, the bipartisan achievements, or do they do something very successful in politics, wildly successful, which is sow division in the country? Do you see that happening at his rallies?
RYAN: Sometimes, yeah.
DICKERSON: Sometimes meaning—
RYAN: Well, not always, but sometimes. I worry about tribal identity politics becoming the new norm of how politics is waged. As Conservatives, we always thought this was sort of a left-wing, Alinsky thing. Unfortunately, the right practices identity politics now as well.
It's the day and age. It's technology and everything else. Identity politics, which is now being practiced on both sides of the aisle, is, unfortunately, working. And I think we, as leaders—we've got to figure out—how do we make inclusive, aspirational politics strategically valuable again?”
HEWITT: Now, what do you think of that, Dr. Larry Arnn?
ARNN: That was good. I might have said about those Trump rallies—I don't watch them, I confess, but I read them from time to time, and about them. And, you know, the ones I watch—they're usually pretty good. I mean, even very good.
But isn't Trump’s point—the point toward which he’s fighting—that what we Americans have in common is our citizenship, and that divides us in the following way: We Americans agree that a human being has rights, and our country is founded to defend those rights. And to be a citizen of America is the practices and beliefs that stem from that. And it's got nothing to do with color.
Now, I think that's what Donald Trump has to say to the world, and says it a lot, and has been saying it—I looked it up before the election—back for decades. If, then, you say that your enemies are acting bad—and, you know, he says that hard, right? One of the reasons the political debate is so intense is that now it's a real fight, and Trump does fight like with like in the sense that he denounces people—really clearly, but I don't think in a racist way.
HEWITT: And he does not call for violence. What he calls for is victory. He really wants to win the Senate. He really wanted to win Brett Kavanaugh. He really wanted the tax cuts. He really wants to win. Like he said, you'll get sick of winning.
But he doesn't call for violence. And the intimation that he does—the idea that chants are somehow car chases, or hurling insults are like hurling rocks—that is a vanity of the left and a media conceit that contributes to their narrative.
ARNN: That's right. That's right. I mean, one of Lincoln's great early speeches was against mob rule—the Young Men's Lyceum address. And he just made the point that there'd been some lynchings, and they weren't all of black people, although there were some. So, he makes the point that, if you stream out into the street and act like that and do violence on somebody without due process of law, then freedom itself is endangered. And, you know, they don't play on the news the crazy things that so many say. And famous ones from presidential candidates are Hillary and her deplorables and Barack Obama and their guns and their God and whatever else it is that we're—
HEWITT: Let me let me play for you George Stephanopoulos. And remember that this was the communications director at the time that President Clinton blamed Rush Limbaugh for the Oklahoma City bombing. All right, just remember this is the same fellow. And I like George. But this is what he said yesterday, cut number 10:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: On Monday, the first potential letter bomb found at the home of George Soros. The billionaire activist has been a frequent target of President Trump. By week's end, more than a dozen more intercepted, apparently constructed in this van plastered with partisan stickers by this man, a long-time criminal and staunch supporter of President Trump.
On Wednesday, an armed man tried to enter the predominately black First Baptist Church in Jefferson Town, Kentucky. Unable to break in, he walked to a Kroger's down the street and shot two black victims to death, passing right by a white man in the parking lot, saying whites don't kill whites.
Then came Saturday, the Sabbath worship at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh shattered by semiautomatic gunfire and the chilling scream, “all Jews must die.” This morning, our hearts ache for the victims as we absorb the shock.
But how surprised should we be? This is at least the fourth mass killing in America using an AR-15 since the Las Vegas massacre just over a year ago, the third mass shooting in a house of worship in the last three years. Across social media, hate speech and anti-Semitism are rampant and on the rise, all against the backdrop of the ugliest political climate in modern times—at the center, an unapologetically incendiary president untrammeled by traditional norms of civility.
HEWITT: All right. Now, stop right there. So you see what he did there, Larry Arnn, and I think that's appalling. I have a column in The Washington Post today that that is appalling. It is the old playbook from the Oklahoma City massacre aftermath, where the Democrats blame Republicans for violence. And it is repulsive and disgusting.
ARNN: And constant. I mean, this is an old feature of politics in very divided times, and it's a great idea to steer clear of it as much as one can. So, who set fire to the Reichstag in Germany in 1936—was it after Hitler had become the chancellor? Maybe it was earlier than that. And the next thing you know, they're passing the anti-Jewish legislation.
You know, your movements are controlled, and you've got to wear a yellow star on your thing. And the point is, probably the Nazis did that. And, you know, to Hitler himself and his friends—and when there's deep division, then there's a great opportunity to accuse your enemies of violence.
And you know, Stephanopoulos's argument was not very good. When he got to the end, he said Donald Trump is at the center of this only in the sense that he's the one who got elected President of the United States. But the campaign in which he ran, Lord, what was said about him? Wasn't he called a Nazi over and over? Isn't he today constantly called that? He's only in the center in the sense that he won the election.
And so that doesn't make him more culpable—less, one hopes. And remember, the theme—we always forget this, right? —the theme of Trump's first inaugural address is in our common citizenship, we will find our love for each other. Now, if that theme is bad, then Trump is bad, but so is Thomas Jefferson, and so is Abraham Lincoln.
HEWITT: Well said. I'll be right back. One more segment with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College coming up after the break. Hillsdale.edu.
Welcome back, Americans. It’s Hugh Hewitt. We are eight days from the election. And Dr. Larry Arnn is my guest, as he will be again on Friday. He's president of Hillsdale College.
All things Hillsdale are collected at Hillsdale.edu. All of my previous Hillsdale Dialogues are found at HughforHillsdale.com. You can sign up for the monthly speech digest Imprimis completely free at Hillsdale.edu and watch the great courses on the Constitution and Western Civilization.
Dr. Arnn, we're eight days out. Martha McSally is ahead in Arizona, where she's running for Senate against a radical leftist, Kyrsten Sinema. Dean Heller is ahead in Nevada. He wasn't supposed to have a prayer. Marsha Blackburn has run away with it in Tennessee, though she'll run through the wire. Congressman Kevin Cramer is going to beat Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.
Attorney General of Missouri, Josh Hawley, is going to beat Claire McCaskill in Missouri. Mike Braun is going to beat Joe Donnelly, who voted against Kavanaugh, in Indiana. Rick Scott is tied. That is a dogfight down in Florida. Matt Rosendale in Montana is closing in on Jon Tester, who voted against Kavanaugh.
John James, in your own state—the amazing West Point graduate, Apache-attack-helicopter-flying, African-American MBA from Detroit—is gaining on Debbie Stabenow. And Bob Hugin in New Jersey is gaining on the simply-unacceptable-as-a-moral-issue Bob Menendez. That is sort of like a sweeping rejection of the Democratic argument, that all these Republicans are surging.
ARNN: So, first of all, the headwind for the party, if the Republicans control the House and the Senate and the presidency. The typical number of seats lost in such a campaign is 25. Twenty-five would flip the House. According to Gallup, in a year in which the president is unpopular—and Trump is unpopular—he's at about 50%. And nobody gets much better than that these days, right? But then the average would be 37%. Nobody's predicting that right now.
Now, the election may well break one way or the other. They often do, but, for the last two weeks, as you point out, the Republicans have been strengthening. And isn't that odd? I think that's one of the reasons why there's furious reactions from the far left—from their point of view, this man was unacceptable, and everybody should see it by now. But, you know, Rick Scott's very close in Florida, and the news this morning is Trump is on his way back down there again.
ARNN: And that means Rick Scott wants him to come. So yeah, I think that it is a dogfight, this election. I don't think we know how it's going to go. And I think it matters very much, which is a question you were asking, because Paul Ryan pointed out that 80% of the bills they passed—and they passed a lot of them—were bipartisan bills.
Well, thank God for that. It's the same phenomenon as the fact that most Supreme Court cases are decided by overwhelming majorities, most of them nine to nothing, I think, right? And, on all of the difficult cases and all of the cases that raise questions of what the direction of the country is, we are deeply divided. And the House will be used as a weapon to fight the administration if the Democrats take it. And then, if you want that, then that's what you should vote for.
HEWITT: To close on this, what you just said—the media is deeply invested in the idea that President Trump is bad and should be rejected. Therefore, if he isn't repudiated—his party isn't repudiated—in either house—but certainly if it isn't repudiated in both of them—the media will be face-to-face with the fact that they are not representative of the country they think they are representative of. And they are not leading the population in the way they think they are entitled to lead. And I think that the bottom line is that people feel toppled from their perches of power.
ARNN: Yeah. And that's been a problem with Trump for a long time. But that's not a particular Trump problem. Just remember, since the 1960s and not before, by the way—since the birth of centralized bureaucratic administrative rule, a different kind of rule from constitutional, the path to political prosperity has to be the candidate of change and to run against the establishment in Washington.
And they have become increasingly unpopular with time, and they've reached a peak now, right? And we don't just say the Congress is unpopular; the bureaucracy is unpopular, and the executive branch is unpopular, and the media is unpopular. Everything in Washington, D.C. is unpopular.
And what Trump did was manage to marshal that into a presidential campaign. And, if you look at the campaigns of the Republicans who succeeded Reagan, they all ran as enemies of the establishment, although the two named Bush were the only ones who won after Reagan until Trump. They both made the administrative state larger and more powerful in various ways. It's a very difficult trend to resist.
And so, this fight is, as you like to quote me saying, fundamental. The question is, how are we going to be governed as a people? And I prefer the constitutional way, which, by the way, will be imperfect and present many problems, rather than this way that promises to fix every problem by making rules at the center.
HEWITT: Well said, Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College. Thank you. Hillsdale.edu.