The Ukraine crisis isn’t going away, and with recriminations on all sides making the rounds here at home, it seemed propitious to check in with Michael Anton, who, among other things, served on the National Security Council in two administrations. To say Michael is not happy with the state of play here at home is an understatement, and Lucretia and I fully join in.

It doesn’t take long for us to wander on to other territory, settling on the terminal confusion and weakness of the Republican Party establishment. But what else is new?

We’re not done thrashing the Afghanistan disgrace, so we coaxed Michael Anton (the Power Line podcast’s most frequent guest it turns out) to join us for a few quaffs. We use three of his recent articles to launch our discussion, starting with “Afghanistan: Doomed from the Start.” But we use a section from the middle of this essay, on the blunders of our advisers in the Middle East who don’t understand our own Constitution but presumed to advise Iraq and Afghanistan about how to write theirs, to pivot to the crisis here at home.

Along the way, though, Michael has been having some very polite arguments with some of the leading “Paleoconservatives,” who for various reasons didn’t like President Trump’s 1776 Commission that was set up in explicit opposition to the pernicious 1619 Project. From there we have a vigorous argument amongst ourselves about how to think about—and more importantly argue in public about—the place of equality in America, deriving from the famous phrase “All men are created equal.” (The two Anton articles that bear on this are “Could the Founders Have Done Better?“, and “Getting Right with the Founders.”)

Pour a double for this weeks 3WHH, as Lucretia and Steve host Michael Anton to talk about his extraordinary new article, “The Art of Spiritual War, Or, How to (Posthumously) Conquer the World from Your Desk.” The author of the famous (or infamous) “Flight 93 Election” article in 2016 covers an amazing amount of ground in a short space, which includes rehabilitating Machiavelli in a certain way, and then asking the big question: What would Machiavelli, rightly understood, do today?

Michael thinks there are some parallels to be drawn between Machiavelli’s time—rampant with corruption and failed institutions—and our own. Beginning with the premise that things today are even worse than they look, Anton thinks mere reform won’t do—that a real break with the wokerati and our endless constitutional decay requires Machiavellian boldness. As Anton counsels at the end:

Today is the 4th anniversary of the appearance of one of the most memorable political essays in American history, “The Flight 93 Election,” written by the pseudonymous author “Decius.” It began with this memorable attention-grabber:

2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Well, it’s crunch time now: we’re into the final lap of the election and things are going to be intense for the next 8 weeks or so. But first, some personal business: one of our intrepid cast is sending his youngest child off to college. Is his purpose in life now over? We discuss. Then Mr. Flight 93 himself, Michael Anton joins to discuss his new book, The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return and to warn everyone that if Joe Biden wins, the country will turn into California (but without the weather, the beaches, and the surfing). For those of us who live in the Golden State, it’s a weird way to sell a book (it’s not that bad here), but hey, Michael’s gotta eat too. Then, something of a departure for America’s Most Beloved Podcast® — a sports segment! And if we’re going to do a sports segment, then we’re going to get one of the best in the business to help us. That would be the great Sally Jenkins — columnist for The Washington Post. We talk about college football, political activism in sports, and what’s it’s like to enter the family business when your dad was one of the all time legends. Finally, Nancy Pelosi gets a blowout and it blows up. Perfect.

Music from this week’s show: I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair by Ella Fitzgerald

Michael Anton, a scholar and former staffer for the National Security Council, discusses the notion of a “liberal international order” and its place in the present-day war of ideas. Audio taken from The New Criterion’s “Sovereignty or Submission” conference in Washington, D.C.

An adapted form of this address appeared in the January 2020 issue of The New Criterion as “The enemy is an idea.”

In this podcast, Ryan Williams, our President at Claremont and Publisher of The Claremont Review of Books, is joined by Michael Anton. We thank Mr. Anton for joining us and for his unique insights.


Michael Anton at Machiavelli’s tomb.

This special bonus double-episode tests the proposition that a good podcast format is a conversation among friends at a bar—because that’s exactly what the first segment of this show offers.

Since this is the first episode of the American Mind Podcast, we thought we would go back to basics. What is the fundamental problem politics must solve? What does that mean for governments in general? What about for America?

Helping us work through those questions is Mike Anton. He is a Senior Fellow at the Claremont Institute and Lecturer at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington DC. He has written for Pete Wilson, Rudy Giuliani, George W. Bush, and most recently he served in Donald Trump‘s National Security Council as Deputy Assistant for Strategic Communications. But many of you know him from an essay he wrote for the Claremont Review of Books titled “The Flight 93 Election.” That essay became the basis for his new book, After the Flight 93 Election: The Vote that Saved America and What We Still Have to Lose. What is his answer to the fundamental problem of politics? And how does that answer lead to his criticism that conservatives are too focused on the accumulation of wealth? Mike Anton explores these questions and many more in the inaugural edition of The American Mind Podcast.

Michael Anton’s controversial 2016 essay “The Flight 93 Election” was compared to Tom Paine’s Common Sense as a tract that grabbed the public imagination. Michael is back now with a new book, After the Flight 93 Election: The Vote That Saved America and What We Still Have to Lose. Steve Hayward talked with Michael Sunday afternoon, bringing us up to date on the Flight 93 thesis two years into the Trump presidency, with observations on where conservatism needs to go next, the growing threat from a militant left, and what kind of person is necessary to succeed Trump in the fullness of time. Bonus question: Is America going the way of ancient Rome? You’ll have to listen to the end to find out.

The first brief bumper tune today is the appropriately named (for today’s topic) “Prep for Flight” by David Newman (it’s from a film soundtrack—bonus points for knowing without looking it up), and we exit with “People Everywhere Just Want to Be Free” from the Rascals, which also fits our main theme in this episode.

Steve Hayward and John Hinderaker interviewed Michael Anton, former senior staffer at Trump’s National Security Council and author of the controversial “Flight 93 Election” article from September 2016, at the Ricochet Podcast Summit in Washington. Anton revisited the infamous article, shared his insights about Trump’s political character, and also regaled the live audience with a great tale of what it’s like to be a chef for a White House state dinner.

With the election over, we can get back to important things. Like the Beach Boys. Except, like everything else, the left has politicized the Beach Boys too. In this episode of the Power Line Show, Steve Hayward talks with writer and native Californian Michael Anton about the Beach Boys, the decline of California into a center-left state, and even Machiavelli.