Democratic Debates


HUGH HEWITT: Morning glory, America, it's Hugh Hewitt. That music means it is the last radio hour of my week. That means it is spent with Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College or one of his colleagues on the Hillsdale Dialogue. All things Hillsdale available at hillsdale.edu. And of course, if you love online education, hillsdale.edu is for you. If you love podcasts, hughforhillsdale.com has collected all of our conversations in this hour dating back to 2013. You can binge listen and just begin with Herodotus and end up with last night's debate. Dr. Arnn, good morning, sir.

LARRY ARNN: Good morning. How are you?

HEWITT: I was better until— you are actually becoming my Moriarty. Yesterday, I was at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York, an ancient institution by American standards that has been around since, I think, 1876, where people gathered to converse and hear lectures. And I gave a speech which was well-received. In fact, I got a standing ovation. And I felt pretty good about myself until a gentleman approached me and said, you were pretty good, but Dr. Larry Arnn is coming next month to talk about Churchill and I'm really looking forward to that. Could you not just leave Chautauqua alone?

ARNN: Yeah, but I've never been there in my life. You've probably been there like 100 times.

HEWITT: Never been there before until yesterday, and you stepped on it.

ARNN: Yeah, OK. Well, you've been to Aspen, though, I'll bet.

HEWITT: Yes, I have.

ARNN: Of course you have. See? I've never been there. So, I'm cleaner than you are.

HEWITT: I was booed, though, at Aspen and assaulted at the airport by the local Liberals for coming to Aspen. But you will be very well received at Chautauqua, and you're going to talk about Churchill, I gather.

ARNN: Yeah. Yeah. And so I'm honored to be asked, although I'm not dead certain what it is.

HEWITT: Well, I'll tell you right now, it's an amphitheater that can fit 5,000 people— I had about 3,000— outside covered.

ARNN: Wow.

HEWITT: It is a place where people gathered from the 1870s forward to spend their summer lakeside at Lake Chautauqua and hear lectures and improve themselves. It's really the birthplace of the self-improvement movement in America.

ARNN: I'll be darned. And they're Chautauquas, so I know it's distinguished because there's Chautauquas all over the place, right? But this is the one.

HEWITT: This was the mothership, the original Chautauqua, and so the other ones are children of the mothership that replicated their approach to— it's actually not that different from online learning at Hillsdale or from the seminars where you gather people into Hillsdale or at the Kirby Center. Folks actually have a desire to know things and to learn, and learning is the purpose of Chautauqua like it is Hillsdale. Did we learn anything last night, Dr. Arnn, about America, the Democratic Party, the election of 2020?

ARNN: Well, I did not.

HEWITT: I tweeted a lot about it. But let me give you— this is my favorite moment. So we'll start at the bottom and work up. This is Joe Biden's Johnny Appleseed moment, where he promises to sow electric car charging stations everywhere, cut number 32.

RACHEL MADDOW: Or from Congress.

JOE BIDEN: The answer is yes, number one. In our administration, we built the largest wind farm in the world, the largest solar energy facility in the world. We drove down the competitive price of both of those renewable sources. I would immediately insist that we, in fact, build 500,000 recharging stations throughout the United States of America, working with governors, mayors, and others, so that we can go to a full electric vehicle future by the year 2020.

HEWITT: All right, Larry Arnn, I would immediately insist that we build 500,000 electric charging stations. The whole country right now has 57,000 said things. Do you think he has any idea of the permitting required to increase by a factor of 10 the number of charging stations?

ARNN: Well, I think his rhetoric is a little weak there because what he should have said was 500,000 or more because when somebody says 600,000, he can then say 700.

HEWITT: But that's what it is. And I just had John Delaney on. Did you watch Wednesday night?

ARNN: Well, let's say I've been reading about these things.

HEWITT: OK. Wednesday night, John Delaney was distinguished for two things. One, he threw a flag on Medicare for All and said, that doesn't make a lick of sense. And then he said, no one talks to me about Mueller. And that upset Rachel a little bit, Rachel Maddow, because she only talks about Mueller some nights. And so he just got done, I asked him, what would Medicare for All cost? Do you have any idea what Medicare for All would cost in the mouth of a Democratic honest congressman?

ARNN: No. What he'd say?

HEWITT: Yes. He said $33 trillion.

ARNN: OK, that's a significant amount of money.

HEWITT: That's 150% of the national debt.

ARNN: Yeah, that's right. And it's, what, 220% of the national income per year? So it's like adding onto your debt a mortgage double your income. And, what, because it's the latest thing? Well, remember, that's AOC's the Green New Deal. Her argument is brilliant because she says, we're going to pay for all these things we're going to do the same way we paid for World War II. And I think that's consistent because I think she has no idea—

HEWITT: Well, here's the other thing. People don't stop to realize our border is overwhelmed right now, with 130,000 people last month. And it's overwhelmed the system. It's short-circuited everything. There isn't enough space. The government can't handle 130,000 people in a month. How in the world are they going to handle Medicare for 330 million people if they can't handle 130,000 people in a month just to house them, much less provide them cancer surgery and ophthalmology and whatever else you need when you get sick?

ARNN: So the answer is give it to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

They can take care of it. So I've enjoyed thinking a lot about the first Socialist administration in Britain, and those are, by the way, a radically superior group of people than people in politics today. Among the labor leaders were war heroes and tremendous people, and they had the highest hopes in the world. And then six years later, they are exhausted and the country is a mess. And it's still got rationing, and the Germans have been rid of rationing for a year.

I mean, food rationing, right? Not just gasoline, things like that. Of course that was rationed. But how much you could eat was still being rationed. And why? Because if the government is going to take over the administration of the economy, which it is only half done now— about half the economy is affected powerfully by the government one way or another— then how can it manage?

I mean, there's a basic thing, a sort of fundamental explanation of free market economics— and my economists will tell you at Hillsdale College— and that is if you decentralize decision-making— and all that means is something simple. That means that I know what I need better than anyone else, and I don't know anything better than anyone else except that. And so I should be able to demand what I want, and then that requires me then to work. And so all of that, that's the basic set of transactions in an economy. And all of that is unsupervised, and it really works.

HEWITT: It does work.

ARNN: Yeah. Well, it works like revolutionary in how great it works.

HEWITT: And unappreciated. In fact, I want to play for you another clip. This is Bernie Sanders, one of many assaults on the constitutional order last night invented out of whole cloth, cut number 28.

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, my plan is somebody who believes for a start that a woman's right to control her own body is a constitutional right, that government and politicians should not infringe on that right. We will do everything we can to defend our Roe versus Wade. Second of all, let me make a promise here. You ask about litmus tests. My litmus test is I will never nominate any justice to the Supreme Court unless that justice is 100% clear he or she will defend Roe v. Wade.

Third of all, I do not believe in packing the court. We've got a terrible 5-4 majority conservative court right now. But I do believe that constitutionally we have the power to rotate judges to other courts, and that brings in new blood into the Supreme Court.

HEWITT: All right, Dr. Arnn, I've been teaching constitutional law for 25 years. There is no such power. But what does it say about someone when they invent such a power?

ARNN: All right, well, he invented two powers there, right? The Constitution doesn't mention the expression "women's bodies."

HEWITT: Yes, he did. He reaffirmed the invention of that one.

ARNN: That's right. But see, the fundamental, it's amazing. Fundamentals, right? This is the time that we're at. It's very fundamental. Everything's up in play. The independent judiciary requires that you not be able to demote or dismiss the judges.

HEWITT: That's it.

ARNN: So that's political control of the courts he's calling for.

HEWITT: And when we come back, I want people to think about that during the break. Dr. Larry Arnn's going to expand on what they are really talking about is the authoritarianism of which they accuse Donald Trump on a daily basis. Stay tuned. It is the Hillsdale Dialogue on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. All things Hillsdale are at hillsdale.edu, all their amazing online courses if you have a youngster who wants to become educated and is willing to work and get the application at hillsdale.edu. You can also find all of our conversations about matters, beginning with Herodotus and Homer and extending all the way to last night's debate, at hughforhillsdale.com.

Now, Dr. Arnn, I am impressed with Pete Buttigieg. I don't think you speak eight languages by accident. I don't think you get a First at Oxford because I don't hand them out very often, and you're personally aware of that. But last night, he said one really dumb thing that I want to play for you, cut number 16.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART: If you'd be so kind— raise your hand if you think it should be a civil offense rather than a crime to cross the border without documentation. Can we keep the hands up so we can see them?

PETE BUTTIGIEG: And let's remember, that's not just a theoretical exercise. That criminalization, that is the basis for family separation. You do away with that, it's no longer possible. Of course, it wouldn't be possible anyway in my presidency because it is dead wrong. We got to talk about one other thing because the Republican Party likes to cloak itself in their language of religion.

Now, our party doesn't talk about that as much, largely for a very good reason, which was we are committed to the separation of church and state, and we stand for people of any religion and people of no religion. But we should call out hypocrisy when we see it. And for a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that it is OK, to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.

HEWITT: All right, Dr. Arnn, what did you hear there?

ARNN: Well, what one sees is the disappearance of the United States of America. If you don't have a right to control your border, it means you don't have a right to control the territory on which your country is formed. And in that case, the citizen body doesn't mean anything because it'll just shift all the time, and that means then that the people will not be able to control the government. It destroys consent of the governed.

And especially because after we've abolished the border, the government of the United States will still be powerful and it will still be in partisan hands, and then it can do what it has done for decades now, which is for partisan reasons failed to control the border, some in, others not. In other words, the government is deciding who the citizens are.

HEWITT: And not the citizens deciding who shall run their government.

ARNN: That's right. And it's a shame. I mean, I think the president did something pretty good when he put the heat on Mexico to put a stop to this stuff because we're a kind people, and that means that if somebody shows up with some kids, whether their kids or not, we don't want those kids to be hurt.

HEWITT: Well, now you're touching on what I was driving at first. We are a kind people, and Republicans are generous. This audience has given tens of millions of dollars to the Salvation Army and food for the poor and Prison Fellowship to alleviate suffering. And for the mayor to say that Republicans believe God would smile on children in cages is grotesque.

ARNN: Yeah. And they didn't say that. Nobody said that. And just another thing, right, children are hostages in this thing. They become a powerful political tool, and that's too bad. I mean, you'd have to know more than I know to know why all of a sudden there's a massive immigration of children, and that's the issue. But it's bound to have something to do with the fact that it's an announced policy that if you've got kids, you can get asylum.

HEWITT: Well, Alex Azar, the Secretary of HHS, very brilliant guy, told me that 11,000 unaccompanied minors were among the 130,000 last month. 11,000 children made that journey. And I was reminded of when the Brits emptied the cities of their children, right? But they sent them on unguarded convoys to estates in the countryside and once tragically on a boat. But we'll talk about that when we come back. It's a phenomenal thing. 11,000 parents dispatched their children unaccompanied north. That's just wild. Stay tuned, America. It's the Hillsdale Dialogue.

33 minutes after the hour, America. It's Hugh Hewitt. It is the Hillsdale Dialogue this week with Dr. Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College. All of our conversations with Dr. Arnn or one of his colleagues or one of the members of the faculty of the Hillsdale community or anything having to do with Hillsdale is available at hillsdale.edu. All of our conversations for your podcast-binging pleasure available at hughforhillsdale.com.

You can sign up for the free monthly speech digest, which is the Imprimisat hillsdale.edu. And it is free, and it is old-fashioned. It arrives in the mail. And you will like that. You can actually read something. Larry Arnn, I want to play for you what everyone says is the most important five minutes of campaign 2020 to date and then dissect with you why it is and why it ought not to be. It's Kamala Harris dismembering Joe Biden, cut number 21.

KAMALA HARRIS: As the only black person on the stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race.

RACHEL MADDOW: Senator Harris. Senator Harris, if I could preface this, we will give you 30 seconds since we're going to come back to you on this again in just a moment. Go for 30 seconds.

KAMALA HARRIS: OK. So on the issue of race, I couldn't agree more that this is an issue that is still not being talked about truthfully and honestly. There is not a black man I know, be he a relative, a friend, or a co-worker, who has not been the subject of some form of profiling or discrimination. Growing up, my sister and I had to deal with the neighbor who told us her parents couldn't play with us because we were black.

And I will say also that in this campaign, we've also heard— and I'm going to now direct this at Vice President Biden— I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground. And it is personal, and actually it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.

And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly. As attorney general of California, I was very proud to put in place a requirement that all my special agents would wear body cameras and keep those cameras on.

RACHEL MADDOW: Senator Harris, thank you. Vice President Biden, you have been invoked. We are going to give you a chance to respond. Vice President Biden.  

JOE BIDEN: It's a mischaracterization of my position across the board. I did not praise racists. That is not true, number one. Number two, if we want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights and whether I did or not, I'm happy to do that. I was a public defender. I didn't become a prosecutor. I came out and I left a good law firm to become a public defender—

—When, in fact, my city was in flames because of the assassination of Dr. King, number one. Now number two, as the vice president of the United States, I worked with a man who, in fact, we worked very hard to see to it we dealt with these issues in a major, major way. The fact is that in terms of busing, you would've been able to go to school the same exact way because it was a local decision made by your city council.

That's fine. That's one of the things I argued for, that we should be breaking down these lines. So the bottom line here is, look, everything I've done in my career, I ran because of civil rights. I continue to think we have to make fundamental changes in civil rights. And those civil rights, by the way, include not just only African-Americans but the LGBT community.

KAMALA HARRIS: But, Vice President Biden, do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then? Do you agree?

JOE BIDEN: I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That's what I opposed.

KAMALA HARRIS: Well, there was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America. I was part of the second class to integrate Berkeley, California, public schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education.

JOE BIDEN: Because your city council made that decision.

KAMALA HARRIS: So that's where the federal government must step in. That's why we have the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. That's why we need to pass the Equality Act. That's why we need to pass the ERA because there are moments in history where states fail to preserve the civil rights of all people.

JOE BIDEN: I have supported the ERA from the very beginning—

CHUCK TODD: Vice President Biden, 30 seconds because I want to bring other people into this.

JOE BIDEN: I supported the ERA from the very beginning. I'm the guy that extended the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. We got to the place where we got 98 out of 98 votes in the United States Senate doing it. I've also argued very strongly that we, in fact, deal with the notion of denying people access to the ballot box. I agree that everybody, once they— anyway, my time's up. I'm sorry.

HEWITT: Dr. Arnn, there's so much on which to chew in these five minutes. I want to give you first an opportunity to just give your general reaction to that exchange, which has been replayed on my show four times and on every other media outlet across the country.

ARNN: Well, we've reached the place in America where opposing busing children long distances to integrate schools is racist. But of course, parents have a profound reason to want to do that. Their kids are going to be riding on buses for a long time, and that's time they're not working in school and that's time they're tired, right? So whether you like busing or not, it has some bad effects. The other thing is Biden is stuck with a difficulty because he seems to admit the premise of the argument that being against busing is a racist—

HEWITT: Yes! Yes!

ARNN: And so then he hangs his hat on—I'm in favor of busing if the city council orders it, but not if the federal government orders it. And that's an amazing bow to Constitutionalism in the companies that he's keeping these days. So it's hard to see how that will work for him. And I will also say it's hard to see how exactly this will work for Kamala Harris because just this picture of American society, that racial violence is common, is that true? I mean, it used to be true that the law was used to hold people in their place.

There's a form of that truth today because the inner cities are a mess, although employment is rising in them, which seems to be the answer. Oh, did you notice another thing? It's what's happening on many college campuses today, thankfully not mine. She's hurt and wounded by something that Joe Biden did 40 years ago, but here she stands a powerful woman seeking advantage. So she's the victim, and she's the bully.

HEWITT: She also said something—and she's very smart, I think she and Buttigieg won— it can't be an intellectual debate among Democrats. And I thought to the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which I explained in Chautauqua yesterday, seven of them— an hour for the first speaker, an hour and a half for the second speaker, and a half hour to the first speaker seven times. We've talked about them at length before. Those were intellectual debates of the highest order, Dr. Arnn.

And there we had anti-intellectualism just put out there. Moreover, we also had extra Constitutionalism. The Equal Rights Amendment, people saying pass it, it was limited by its own terms to a March 1979 deadline. It fell short of its 38 states. That deadline was extended to June of 1982, and it fell short. It's dead. You can't revive it. But they indulge that for the purposes of pandering. It's blatantly demagogic.

ARNN: And so remember a difference about these debates. I read in the Wall Street Journal this morning that 15 million people watched these debates, and that's a big healthy audience. Last year, the Republican debates were drawing 24 million, and that's because Trump fetches a crowd. But these debates, because it's the media, they are gatekeepers.

Whereas in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the two guys had to fetch their own crowd, and the largest crowds in American history they fetched as far as we can tell. And why? Because there was a huge issue under debate, and these two guys squared off in a turning point state. Douglas had a huge reputation when it began, and Lincoln had a huge reputation when it ended, and so that drama was produced naturally by the political system.

And this is powerfully affected by the simple fact that the networks got to fetch an audience and who gets in and these detailed rules. So your favorite, Mr. Delaney, gets 30 seconds, and somehow that's because nobody knows who he is and there's some rule about that. But, you see, there's no naturalness to it. And you're right, I think, that talent has a way of winning out anyway. And you're saying that Kamala Harris is talented, and the slur against her is that she's not. And this looks like she did pretty well last night.

HEWITT: And Buttigieg. I think that rhetoric matters and that eloquence is underrated and that Americans grudgingly hear it and respond to it and that measured rhetoric— even if it is full of straw mans as Mayor Pete was— wins. That's why the Lincoln-Douglas debates— I recommended at Chautauqua yesterday the David Stratton and Richard Dreyfuss narration that you and I spent so much time on— they're marvelous, and they were at such a high level. And many of the people they were talking to probably couldn't read, Larry Arnn.

ARNN: Well, literacy rates were high back then.

HEWITT: Were they really?

ARNN: Oh yeah. Not like today. And it's also important, what did they read? They read the King James Bible and Shakespeare's plays. And homes, if they had books, they had those two. And remember that the King James Bible and Shakespeare's plays were produced at the same time roughly in England. The translation of the King James Bible is in Elizabethan language.

And Lincoln himself, who was as poor as anybody ever grew up to be president of the United States— he's almost as poor as anybody ever grew up simply— Lincoln had a detailed knowledge of Shakespeare's plays. And the reproduction of the printing, the publishing of them, was inconsistent back in those days, and he had several copies of Macbeth. And he went to many performances of it, and he could compare the differences and say which one he thought was actually the accurate one and he had long discourses about that. Well, he was talking to a lot of people who had similar interests.

HEWITT: We'll come back and talk about that. We're going to talk about the Supreme Court as well, which did a couple of very important things yesterday, which I will discourse on with Dr. Larry Arnn when we come back.

Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt with Dr. Larry Arnn. It is the Hillsdale Dialogue.

And we have to pause at the end of this Hillsdale Dialogue— all things Hillsdale at hillsdale.edu— to praise with great praise a majority of the Supreme Court that did something extraordinary yesterday. They read the Constitution, took its plain language to mean what it meant, and rejected redistricting lawsuits now and forever, unless they have within them the constitutionally prohibited use of race.

This was a long time coming, and the Chief Justice finally got it. And I know there are a lot of Conservatives out there, Dr. Arnn, who just love to hate on the Chief Justice. But he wrote this in a clear steady hand, and he said, this is committed to the Congress of the United States and the state legislators, with the idea that the latter will have the larger role and the former a smaller role and we will have no role. Hurray!

ARNN: Yeah, that's right. That is a very good thing. A little incomprehensible when you think about that census question case, in which he decided the case. The news this morning, the pundits at least are saying, is that he's the new Justice Kennedy. He's the swing vote. And Justice Thomas wrote the main dissent in that census question, and it's powerful and speaks of great mistake.

But this gerrymandering case, I mean, the reason I rejoice at the decision is we get to still have politics, and politics is the method by which people govern the country. Gerrymandering, the expression, comes from Elbridge Gerry, who was one of the founders of the country, and he thought that up when he looked at— I think it was in the state of Maryland looks like a salamander. No, he drew it, and then because of his name, they called it gerrymander. Yeah.

Well, first of all, that has been corrected. Sometimes voters in states get mad about that, and they adopt methods to control it. And California has a law now that helps to limit that, and so people can fix that if they want to. And above all, if you centralize control over elections, then you'll freeze everything in place the way it is now and the people will get less say.

HEWITT: And elites, elites will govern. In this studio where I sit, Justice Stephen Breyer came and admitted to me on air— and there's a transcript— that his greatest regret in his time in the Supreme Court— this was a few years ago, so maybe there's another one since— is the failure to succeed in grasping the redistricting power to the Court.

Now Justice Kennedy never quite got to saying no, but he never got to saying yes. He just waffled. And by the way, I reject the Kennedy and Roberts analogy completely because he gets the big ones right and Kennedy got the big ones wrong, and so that's where the big difference is that Roberts always gets the big ones right. And they want that power for a reason, Larry Arnn. They wanted it for a reason.

ARNN: Yeah. It's a set of ideas, right?

HEWITT: Yes, it's the vanity of the Progressives.

ARNN: That's right. In other words, just think, the fundamental adjustment is this— most of them think of themselves as interpreters of the Constitution. And that means they say what its meaning is finally, and that is not their job. The Constitution is a written document, and anyone can read it. And all members of the federal government, right down to a private soldier in the United States Army, swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, so all of the branches are required to uphold.

And that means if the president thinks the Court is wrong as regards to the executive branch alone— Abraham Lincoln shows us that in the Dred Scott case— then the president will act according to his conscience and then the problem will be sorted out by the people of the United States, who are the actual interpreters of the Constitution, at elections.

HEWITT: And may I just give you a quick note on the census question. The Chief Justice in essence said, I don't believe Wilbur Ross's testimony, and you need a reason. Well, last night, they called for Medicare for All, illegal and legal immigrants, which will have astonishing impact on the budget and the CBO has to score it.

All they need do is go back and say, we want questions about immigration status because Medicare for All is on the ballot, and therefore, we need to know where are the immigrants, how many of them are there, and how many of them are legal, and how big will the expansion be. Transparency would have won the day, and that's what Roberts was saying. A minute to you, Larry Arnn, isn't it always better to be transparent?

ARNN: Well, Thomas's dissent, which I've been reading this morning— see, I get up and prepare for Hugh Hewitt— Thomas's dissent says that we don't look behind the— because he didn't say it's a bad answer, he said, I doubt the sincerity of the answer because in these weird circumstances where somebody Wilbur Ross was communicating with died and the heirs got his computer. And the point is, if they're going to mess with it, you see, then there's the danger that it's too late to put the question in the citizenship test because they've got to print them soon. And remember, that question has always been there except for lately.

HEWITT: And I believe Attorney General William Barr, the bagpipe player, honey badger, he will present the memo and get the question back before the Court. Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College, always a pleasure. Hillsdale.edu, America. I'll talk to you on Monday.