By Hillsdale College September 27, 2019
Impeachment, UK Supreme Court, and Introduction to the Iliad
HUGH HEWITT: Morning glory, America. Bonjour, hi, Canada. It’s Hugh Hewitt. That music means it’s time for The Hillsdale Dialogue. Once a week, we go very high, or very far back, or, in this case, to very fundamental things—with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, or Dean Matthew Spalding, who is head of the new Graduate School of Government at the Kirby Center in Washington, DC—as he was here last week. But, this week, we were going to go back to Homer.
But, in the last 72 hours, the fundamental things that are afoot that Dr. Arnn has been talking about have broken out, both in the United Kingdom and in the United States, in ways I just did not see coming. Dr. Larry Arnn, good morning. Thank you for joining us. I actually think we are at a crossroads.
LARRY ARNN: Yeah. Well, we may have made the mistake of thinking that one can ever see things coming these days. And that’s—it is a bit—here in this—how long has this been going on? Ten days or a week? It looked like a storm in a teacup. But it’s a big storm for a teacup storm. It’s amazing to me.
HEWITT: And I want to begin in Great Britain, and then come to the United States. We’re supposed to do an introduction to Homer at the end of this, and I will, if it’s the natural flow. But I want people to understand, if they’re tuning in for the first time in Bloomington or in Fort Myers, Dr. Arnn is a Churchill scholar. Dr. Arnn is the president of Hillsdale College. We have been doing these since 2013. They’re all at HughforHillsdale.com.
And he knows his British Parliament history. In fact, he sent me a long email about a man I had never, ever heard of before—Lord Justice Hewart, no relation, though I wish I was. Tell us a little bit about him, as a setup for what we talk about as the power grab by the British Supreme Court this week.
ARNN: Well, he’s a guy who—he was born in 1870, died in 1943. And he was the chief justice for a while, and as a senior cabinet member on the law. He was attorney general, too. And what’s interesting—a lot of things interesting about him, but one of them is, in 1929, he published a soliloquy of the “ardent bureaucrat, the amateur of the new despotism.” And it’s just a prediction of the administrative state.
It says that the “only persons fit to govern are experts.” He sounds like me, by the way. “The experts in the art of government are the permanent officials, who, exhibiting an ancient and too much neglected virtue, think themselves worthy of great things.” And then it says—I’ve got to find this point—the two main obstacles to the rule of experts is “the Sovereignty of Parliament, and the other is the Rule of Law.”
HEWITT: They’re big obstacles.
ARNN: Big obstacles, right. And he says that they will overcome these things extensively through the law courts. Then, eventually, if the experts can get rid of the Lord Chancellor—now, the Lord Chancellor used to preside over the House of Lords and was the senior law lord. And let me break up here for just a—so the point is how do the courts work in Britain?
The short answer is nobody knows anymore. But the way they used to work was, there was a complicated system down below that was different for England, Scotland, and Wales. But it all issued up, finally, to the House of Lords, where there were law lords. They sat in a certain place, and they were called the woolsack. That’s what the cushions were made out of.
And they were lifetime appointments. And they were specialists. And they were high judges. And so, you got there by being a member of the aristocracy, although, often, somebody was appointed to a period, so he could be one of the law lords. And so that’s the way it ran. And then, in 2005, Tony Blair fixed it all—so to speak.
ARNN: And he did. I mean, Tony Blair—this shows where they’d come. Because this is all ancient. And it’s interesting when you read articles about that, you’ll see that they still use much of the old terminology. But Tony Blair asked for the resignation of every member of the House of Lords and said he was going to change it. And how he’s going to change it, we’ll figure that out later. And they, in some ways, rationalized the court. So now, there’s a—what’s it called?
I’ve got to go look up the name. It’s the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. And it’s the ultimate appeal court. There are also ultimate appeal courts for Scotland, this one, and in England and Wales. And you’ll remember—so first of all, Boris Johnson prorogues Parliament. He puts it off.
And they always do that, by the way, when they’re getting ready for an election. And that’s usually six weeks. And this was twelve weeks, I think, he prorogued it for. And so, that’s unlawful. And they sue in Scotland, and the opponents of Johnson win in Scotland. And they sue in England, and they lose in England. And the opinion in England, is—and the English High Court is very, very clear. I like it.
And what it says is prorogations in Parliament have always been used for direct political advantage.
ARNN: And so now—and here’s the point I guess, the nub of all of this, is this: The British constitution is not like ours. The British are—and people say that the difference is it evolved over a long time, which is certainly true. But it’s also true that it comes from a different place. Because our constitution, our form—to understand that—the point is the highest authority the United States is the people of the United States, as they’re organized under the Constitution.
And so they wanted a new constitution in America because the old constitution had been passed by the Confederation Congress. And that meant that Congress had made the Constitution. And that meant that, logically, the Congress could change it. And so, our supremacy of the Constitution comes from that fact, which the Founders very much wanted. They couldn’t do that in England in 1789, because England was not popularly ruled.
It’s only partly popularly ruled. And those weren’t the principles. So what happened instead in England was, through a long process of deposing and beheading kings and warring factions, step-by-step, it went from the power of the Crown to the power of the Crown and Parliament, ultimately, really, to the power of the Parliament, and, ultimately, really, the House of Commons. And so these law lords over in the House of Lords were an important survivor of all of that. Because you want your judges to serve long-term and be neutral, and not subject to the whims of politics.
However, these great acts that formed the British constitution are all acts of Parliament. And that means, in principle, Parliament can change them. Parliament could repeal the Magna Carta. And it was the king and his barons who met together and passed that thing.
And so, that means that there is no appeal outside, ultimately, in principle, the Crown—the queen, the sovereign—operating through Parliament. And so now Tony Blair comes along and creates this new thing called the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom—which is patterned after our Supreme Court, I guess. And this lady—Brenda Hale is her name, who’s the head of it. The president of it, she’s called now.
She rules that Boris Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament is illegitimate, and the grounds are that it diminishes the parliamentary scrutiny of the executive. That’s the chief one. And so, now, here’s Boris’s position, right? If you’ve got a narrow majority—so the British people passed Brexit, 52-48.
And that’s reasonably close, but also the most votes for leaving the European Union than have ever been cast for anything in the history of Britain. So all the parties publicly pledged to implement the vote of the people. And the Tory Party, which had called for the referendum, was in power. And they elected Theresa May, who had been against leaving the European Union. She said she would implement it. She did that ham-fistedly.
Along the way, she called an election. She hardly mentioned Brexit during the election. Her majority was narrowed to the place where she had to have coalition partners to rule. And they stumble around, right? And then, in open disgust, the Conservative Party—and that means the majority of the Conservative members of Parliament, the Tories in Parliament—but also they have a system for polling the districts now. And in both places, Boris Johnson won hands down.
And he won in part because everybody longs for clarity.
HEWITT: Well, clarity—and I want this to be clear as we go into the break, the Magna Carta is 1215. Parliament has been around since the 1300s. This is the first time in the history of the sceptered isle that a court has told the prime minister that he cannot prorogue Parliament. It’s genuinely a first thing. And I’ll be back to talk about it with Dr. Larry Arnn right after this. Stay tuned.
Welcome back, America. I am Hugh Hewitt. Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College is my guest. It is The Hillsdale Dialogue. All things Hillsdale, collected at Hillsdale.edu.
One of Dr. Arnn’s favorite sayings is, “fundamental things are afoot.” As we went to break, Dr. Arnn had pointed out that a new institution, the British Supreme Court, the United Kingdom Supreme Court—which is 15 years old—has directed the Parliament and the prime minister—the Parliament being well over 800 years old and the institution of prime minister being 500 years old—for the first time has directed the prime minister what he must do and not do vis-a-vis Parliament.
This is a significant thing, Dr. Arnn. And Dominic Cummings, who is the rather robustly, vigorously articulate senior advisor to Boris Johnson, has warned members of Parliament that anger is building in the country about them. And I believe the Supreme Court’s ruling there is going to add to that anger. What do you think?
ARNN: Yeah. Well, first of all, the reason something has to happen is this: To have a popularly based government, you have to have two things: You have to have accountability to the people, and you have to have ability to act. That’s why the executive is so sealed off in America, so that only one guy’s got that power, and the power is constrained in various ways. But when something is going on, he can act. He can do things. So now, the situation in Britain is they have decided to recover their sovereignty.
And the people who supported leaving the European Union, that’s the terms in which they put it. In other words, this is a government that is not accountable to us. And so they voted—by a majority—in a process that’s been used many times in Britain, although it’s not the standard way—the referendum. They voted to leave. Now that’s a complicated thing. And you need executive action to leave. Here’s Boris Johnson’s situation right now. He doesn’t have a majority in Parliament.
He is forbidden now to prorogue Parliament. All the parties are conspiring not to bring any fundamental thing up that would divide the parties, because nobody would have a majority and that would automatically trigger an election. Now, that means they are not legislating in the legislature. If you like to watch YouTube, there’s a couple of ten-minute YouTubes from this week of Boris Johnson hammering everybody but Jeremy Corbyn, that leader of the Labor, especially.
And he keeps saying, Call a vote of no confidence. I dare you. And at one point, he looks and he says, Labor. And then he says, Scottish Nationalists, are you ready? Let’s have an election.
ARNN: Because an election would clarify the situation. So that means, first of all, the legislative operations of the British government are frozen. But also, the electoral operations of the British government are frozen—at least for a time. Oh, until David Cameron passed a dumb law called the Duration of Parliament Act or something.
HEWITT: Fixed-Term. The Fixed-Term.
ARNN: That was it. Fixed-Term Parliament. The prime minister could just call an election. It was one of his powers. It made him formidable. So now, the last thing is, there’s an executive thing that needs to be done. They need to negotiate with Europe, and they need to go over there with a strong hand.
And I personally think that Boris Johnson was magnificent this week when he talks about the fact that he’s actually been able to get closer to a deal amidst all of this, and that, if they would just give him a little time and some support, he could get it done.
HEWITT: They don’t want a deal, though, do they, Larry Arnn? They don’t want a deal.
ARNN: Well, he said this week—and I don’t know the truth of it—but he said, amidst a bunch of people shouting at him—he said during the debate that stopped me from doing various things, they said they wouldn’t want a no-deal Brexit But they’re saying out in the country that they don’t want to go at all. And see, just remember what that is. That’s breach, right? That’s a significant thing.
So, in this way, it’s just like here. Right? Everybody’s talking about the Constitution. And everybody’s claiming that they uphold it. And that’s, of course, confusing to people, confusing to me. And I’m supposed to know something about it. However, the people do know this: They voted for this, and look what a mess.
HEWITT: And they are not being listened to. When we come back, what did they vote for in 2016, Donald Trump? Kimberley Strassel has a new book out, Resistance (At All Costs), about the permanent damage to our institutions. I’ll talk that out with Larry Arnn, when we return.
Welcome back, America. I’m Hugh Hewitt. My guest is Dr. Larry Arnn, President at Hillsdale College. Last week, Dr. Matthew Spalding, dean of Hillsdale’s graduate program in Washington, DC, was my guest. And now, it’s all going to be tied together. Earlier in the program, I quoted Dr. Arnn quoting The New Despotism, which was written by Lord Hewart in 1929, about administrative regulators.
And their design is to “get legislation passed in skeleton form” so that they can “fill up the gaps with their own rules, orders, and regulations” and, so that they can “make it difficult or impossible for Parliament”—or our Congress—“to check those rules, orders, and regulations,” to secure those rules, orders, and regulations on the same authority, with the same standing as statutes, to review their own decisions and to make them final, to have coercive and conclusive proof of their legality, to modify the ability of legislatures to change laws, and to prevent any sort of appeal to a court of law.
In other words, a state within a state. I’ve always resisted deep state language. But Kim Strassel, Larry Arnn, has a new book out called Resistance (At All Costs). And she charts, from 2015 forward, how a handful of people, including the very sinister Christopher Steele, including Peter Strzok, and Andy McCabe, and James Comey, including Adam Schiff, including John Brennan—she just lays it out. There has been a cabal organized against Donald Trump that people like to mock the idea of.
And they used that mockery to defend what is hiding in plain sight. They’ve been about taking him down from day one. And, this past week, they launched the latest offensive—which Jim Garrity says is the Battle of the Somme, in political terms.
ARNN: Yeah. Well, it’s a many-headed beast, too, right? At the beginning, you were quoting Lord Hewart, and people should think about the distinction for a moment. There’s a strain of thought about democratic politics—Winston Churchill, and Abe Lincoln, and George Washington, all of them are advocates of it—that in order to have accountability or consent of the governed, the law itself must be understandable. It can’t be voluminous, Madison writes, or changeable, even if it’s made by the right processes.
Because the people—the north—and my favorite example, is the Homestead Act of 1862, signed by Abraham Lincoln—gave away 10% of the land area of the United States in 1,400 words. And anybody can read that thing. It’s actually very lovely. And it’s like a sort of slightly long newspaper article. And so, if laws are like that, we can all know what they say. And when you go before the law, you can have a fair understanding of exactly what it requires of you, just as somebody prosecuting you can.
So these new processes, they’re expert in their nature. And that means it’s endlessly complicated. And then, that means that once in a while—and this is Woodrow Wilson’s exact, by the way, plan for electoral politics. People, once in a while, you come forward and ask them a big question. But the initiative is in the planning in expert agencies. And then they get to say yes or no.
But, of course, if you don’t like the answer, you can do it again in six months. So this system amounts to a breakdown in the accountability of government to the law. And the objections to the European Union that led to the Brexit vote were that it’s not accountable to us. But now, look what’s happening in London, in Westminster. They can’t act. They all swore to, and they are stymied.
And what’s interesting about this is (1) if you know political history, then you always pray that the thing will clarify. So if you’re—you and I are old-fashioned people. We think that the people should rule, and that—as Churchill said—we believe in the distinction. There are governments that own peoples, and there are peoples that own governments. You want to live in the latter.
And so we think that, and that means that, in a crisis like this, where accountability breaks down, and everything is frozen, you need somebody to talk plainly. And that’s why Boris Johnson is an important man. His function is not to decide all of this. His function is to clarify all this. And it’s interesting. He knows that because of the way he speaks. But also, he’s the one who urgently wants to go to the people.
And so I personally dread 2020 because I’ve got a college to run, and things to teach, and all that. And I have to come on your show and talk about the crisis. But, of course, 2020 is a good thing because we’re going to get to say—and it is going to be, I would predict, a fundamental election, and the issues will be clear. And think what you want about Donald Trump. He does set up a confrontation.
And he sets it up. The only thing he’s really done to set it up is that he resists. Their resistance is absolute. His is, too. It’s a fight. And so we’re going to get to see that fight.
HEWITT: You know, what is fascinating out of Strassel’s book, is she outlines something you and I have often said. Whereas President Obama was a norm-destroyer when it came to constitutional order, Donald Trump is a respecter of the rules of the Constitution, even as he smashes every rule of etiquette. But he does not transgress the boundaries of the law. He submits himself to the courts.
He pushes the rule of the law. But he is a very constitutionalist president, whereas President Obama was a completely extra-constitutionalist. And you said just now—I want to write it down—we get to talk about the crisis. And you said it in passing. I don’t know that the public quite understands. We are in not a constitutional crisis but a crisis of whether or not—I think you’ve said this before—the people will govern the government or the government will govern the people.
ARNN: Right. And that sounds like an extreme thing to say. Winston Churchill said it all the time. Now, maybe he was extreme. But that principle is the reason he recognized Adolf Hitler for what he was. And I’m not saying that any of these people in the Resistance in this country or in the Remain in Britain are like Adolf Hitler. But they are like this. They think that there are things within political bounds, and they define them. And, if you step outside those bounds, then hell will come upon you.
And that’s what—Donald Trump won. Sweep away the Electoral College. And, by the way, if he’d got a majority of the popular vote and a minority of the electors, they’d be saying the opposite.
Because the point is, these rules that have abided for a long time, which are reasonably simple—much complicated by the strains of politics these days, but at base, they’re relatively simple—these rules have abided for a long time. And the question is, are we going to obey them? And that’s what is dangerous about the situation.
HEWITT: Now, I am of the opinion, and I don’t know that you share this—I want Congress to vote articles of impeachment today. I want them to move quickly to condense what they believe and put it to a House vote. And if it is voted on, send it to the Senate, because that’s the constitutional order. And it will be rejected. Like a volley from Venus Williams, it will come right back at them because it’s absurd. The whole damn thing is absurd.
ARNN: Well, that’s why they won’t do that. Because, remember, Nancy Pelosi, when she announced, open quote, “formal,” closed quote, impeachment proceedings, all she did was walk up to a microphone and say that. She didn’t go to the House and ask for a vote, which is what is always—it’s not required, by the way. The Constitution is silent about how the House organizes its steps toward impeachment.
But in all of the cases where a president has been impeached or investigations for impeachment, the House had a vote to open the inquiry. And she’s not asking for that, right?
ARNN: All she said was—and all of those committees, which are staffed by pretty radical people—led by pretty radical people and staffed—those committees that are investigating the president toward impeachment, they’ve been doing that all along. All she did was walk up to a microphone and say that she places her authority behind that effort. And she didn’t ask for a vote of the House, because I expect she didn’t want one. Because she doesn’t want those steps that you just said.
HEWITT: She does not want clarity. Absolutely.
ARNN: She wants the investigation to go on. And see, the way of it is going to be that—this is going to go on. And it’s going to be every other week, but especially the week before the election. There are going to be bombshells of terrible things. And they’re the kind of things that—in the processes that prevail—how long did the Mueller investigation take? And that investigation was very unsatisfactory to them, to those who want the president out.
Because he does things that prosecutors are not supposed to do, like announce that he has failed to vindicate the president. But he did say in there that he didn’t find evidence that the president of the United States colluded with Russia.
HEWITT: Yeah. Volume 1, according to Strassel, was a complete vindication of Trump. Volume 2 is where Mueller does the bidding of the anti-Trump cabal. I got a note yesterday from a very smart guy. He had a typo in it, but I put it up on Twitter. It’s gotten—the ratio is 3,100 people against it, 1,700 in favor of it. And so it’s about 5,000 people favoring, 3,000 people opposing. I’ve never had any response to this.
“Hot take from a smart guy,” quote, “Just read whistleblower’s complaint. Theory, this is a cover up, not just of Biden, but the whole Clinton-Obama-Biden collusion debacle, rife with illegality. The complaint is someone in that mix trying to cover their [rear end].” Now, I don’t know if that’s true. I just posted it, and it got 6,000 yays or nays. The country is on edge, Larry Arnn.
ARNN: Oh, yeah. And nobody likes this. And it’s going to be—I was talking to our friend Charles Kesler yesterday. And we decided that our head and our gut are in different places. And I have an explanation of it. I would guess that Trump would be re-elected. But there’s hell to go through for everybody, both sides, between now and then. And you’re not going to know until the day after. Right?
And on the other hand, even if you were confident, which I am not, that I know how the election is going to go—and we’ll soon be in Switzerland about that. But, even if we were confident about that, it makes so much difference which way it goes, that a person’s got to be concerned about it—whichever side you’re on.
HEWITT: Amen. All right, we’re coming right back. Dr. Larry Arnn and I are actually going to talk about Homer to set up next week. Don’t go anywhere, America.
Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt. This is the longest tease in the history of The Hillsdale Dialogue. For more than six weeks, I’ve been saying we are about to begin again with Homer and The Iliad. And, Dr. Arnn, you corrected me. There is a translation by Joe Sachs, S-A-C-H-S. I’ve just tweeted it. But you also have an audio version you would like to recommend that we will be using beginning next week.
ARNN: Yeah. There’s a reading of it by an actor named Anthony Heald, H-E-A-L-D. And I like his reading of The Iliad so much. And I said to you in the break, it makes you giggle or listen in awe. It’s just really great. And he is a guy—he played the evil doctor in the prison where Hannibal Lecter was kept in Silence of the Lambs. But his career is mostly reading stuff. I read—I don’t know them. But he’s the voice of the Star Wars novels. Well, he reads The Iliad and The Odyssey. And it’s just a hoot. And so, if you like to listen to books, this is a great listen.
HEWITT: It begins, the Sachs begins, “Sing of wrath, goddess, the deadly wrath of Peleus’ son, Achilles, that brought sufferings by the thousands down on the Achaeans and hurled so many sturdy souls to the realm of Hades, souls of splendid warriors, while they themselves were left for dogs and all manner of carrion birds to feast on, as the will of Zeus went driving towards its goal; start your song from the moment when the two first stood face to face in open strife—Agamemnon, lord of men, and godlike Achilles.” Good start.
ARNN: Oh, yeah. Yeah, and see, here’s what it’s like. The pace of it is great. I think you’ll like it and read it immediately with enjoyment. But just remember this: It’s an epic about—it’s 15,000 lines long. It’s pretty long, a big epic poem. And it’s the greatest of them and the first of them. And it covers 52 days.
And so everything that happens, you see it from 15 different angles. And then, the list of things that happens in The Iliad is not that long. They’re there on the beach. They’re trying to take Troy. Troy’s a walled city. They can’t get in there. There’s a lot of death. They’ve been there for ten years.
And they’re kind of ready to go home. And it’s all about a woman—Herodotus talking about the cause of the war between the Greeks and the Persians, the great war, that Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Salamis, he says that the Persians didn’t like the Greeks because that was a lot of ado about a woman. [CHUCKLES] So of course, they shouldn’t have stole the guy—because Paris, the Son of the King of Troy, came a-visiting in the court of Menelaus, the brother of Agamemnon, the great King. And Menelaus is married to a really beautiful woman. And darned if Paris doesn’t steal her. And she takes off with him. And all of this comes from that. And the Persians, who—one interpretation is they don’t love beauty as much as the Greeks.
And beauty is the ultimate thing to be sought in philosophy, in classical philosophy. And so they mistrust them and they don’t like them because they just seem extreme in that way. And that’s what led to the war between the Greeks and the Persians of storied fame. And it starts back here with Homer, because, in classical Greece, everything starts with Homer.
ARNN: And Socrates can be read as being at war with Homer to replace here Achilles as the ultimate archetype—a man of wrath and courage and martial valor—to a more rounded understanding of the virtues that points up toward philosophy. And so, we’re at the—and this is from the 700s or 800s B.C. And that means four centuries, at least, before Plato and Aristotle.
ARNN: And before Herodotus. And so, what was going on in England, 400 years ago? The answer is the Stuarts were on the throne. And so, it’s back in the mists of time. And then The Iliad and The Odyssey were preserved orally—that is to say, Homer didn’t write anything down. He’s supposed to have been blind, but we don’t really know that. He’s supposed to have lived in Anatolia, which is part of present-day Turkey. It’s pretty confident about that, I read.
And he’s this legendary figure. And some time along the way, in the hundreds of years, but it isn’t known when, this was written down. And it’s a power, because, if you think about that a minute, for a thing to survive that long only being spoken and then get written down in an age when it wasn’t easy to write things down and you didn’t have printing, the power of this thing is very great.
HEWITT: Yeah, it is. And we will begin in earnest next week. Dr. Larry Arnn, thank you, my friend. All things Hillsdale collected at Hillsdale.edu. Thank you, Ben. Thank you, Adam. Thank you, Generalissimo. Thank you, General Mattis, Justice Gorsuch, Senators Cotton and Graham, and Larry Arnn. What a week on The Hugh Hewitt Show! And we’ll do better next week. Stay tuned.