With the media hyping and perhaps overhyping the coronavirus epidemic that has broken out in China, I decided to check in with someone on the scene: Spencer Case. Spencer is a young philosopher currently on a postdoc fellowship at Wuhan University, observing the eerie scene from his 17th floor apartment building. He was out to a busy local market yesterday, where he snapped the picture below, noting that people seemed to be buying produce and concluding that everyone must have ample stocks of rice and beans on hand. But the streets are empty and the town is rife with rumors.

Spencer brings an unusual background to this story as well as academic philosophy. He served in the army and did tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan before entering the Ph.D program in philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which is where I met him during my time there several years back. He’s also a serious swing dancer. He writes frequently for Quillette and belongs to Heterodox Academy. Our conversation here ranges beyond just the corona virus to talk about his experience in the Middle East and his work on “moral realism” in philosophy. (You can check out one of his papers on the self-defeat of normative error theorists here.)

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This special edition of the Power Line Show offers a panel discussion on impeachment held this week at Berkeley Law School, which Steve moderated. Its purpose was not to rehash or thrash out the specific issues of the Trump impeachment as much as to illuminate what the founders had in mind when they wrote impeachment into the Constitution, and what we have learned from the two rare instances of presidential impeachment in our history. There are a lot of gray areas in the issue. The three panelists are:

Gary J. Schmitt, resident scholar in strategic studies and American institutions at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies national security and longer-term strategic issues affecting America’s security at home and abroad. In addition, Dr. Schmitt writes on issues pertaining to American political institutions, the Constitution, and civic life. He is co-author, with Joseph Bessette, of an excellent paper on what the founders regarded as a “high crime and misdemeanor,” which you can find here.

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Peter Myers

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is always a good occasion to ponder his legacy, which shifts with the lengthening of history and the dramatic changes in the racial politics of our moment. And who better to comment than “Lucretia,” Power Line’s international woman of mystery, along with special guest Peter C. Myers, who is professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire.

We do our best to cheer Peter up over the Packers loss to the 49ers yesterday, chiefly by drawing on his deep knowledge of civil rights and race relations. He is the author of Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism—simply one of the finest books around on Douglass’s thought—as well as some terrific essays on Martin Luther King Jr, including one we talk about in our conversation here, “The Limits and Dangers of Civil Disobedience: The Case of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” and a related essay, “From Natural Rights to Human Rights—and Beyond.” (Also, for listeners interested in political philosophy, don’t miss Peter’s earlier book, Our Only Star and Compass: Locke and the Struggle for Political Rationality.)

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This week’s guest is Stephen F. Knott of the Naval War College, discussing his terrific new book, The Lost Soul of the American Presidency: The Decline into Demagoguery and the Prospects for Renewaljust out from University Press of Kansas. Knott, one of the nation’s pre-eminent scholars of Alexander Hamilton, thinks the American presidency has slipped from the modest republican design of the Founders almost from the very beginning, starting with Thomas Jefferson. (“I have a full-blown case of Jefferson Derangement Syndrome,” Knott admits early in our conversation.)

The point is, presidents and presidential candidates have been promising the moon, the stars, and the planets for a very long time—it didn’t start with Obama and Trump!—and has contributed significantly to our polarized politics and dysfunctional government. The prospects for restoring the republican simplicity of the office are not very good, but Steve and Steve do their best to try out a couple of thoughts—including the thought experiment of why it would have been better for the country if the Clinton impeachment 20 years ago had succeeded in removing Clinton from office. But it was not to be!

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Harold Rood

The fuss over President Trump’s decision to kill Iranian General Qasem Soleimani is causing the usual hair-on-fire reaction among the media and foreign policy elites. Everyone is playing the parlor game of wondering how Iran might respond, and how we might respond to Iran’s well-develop capacity for “asymmetric warfare.” Steve Hayward gets to wondering what the late professor of international relations Harold W. Rood (d. 2011) might think of the scene. Prof. Rood disdained all of the usual cliches of strategic matters in favor of a simple question: “If there’s going to be a war, who is going to win?”

Since the Iran has been in a state of war against the United States for 40 years now, it is a question that ought to be asked more often, though it is considered wholly retrograde to do so. Perhaps President Trump—no grand strategist—his nonetheless crystalized this question for the first time since the Iranian revolution.

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Our final episode of 2019 brings together the entire Power Line gang—John, Paul, Scott, and Steve, along with “Ammo Grrll” Susan Vass—for a look at the current scene and a look ahead to next year. Consisting of excerpts from a recent Power Line VIP member live video chat, John Hinderaker hosts as we review the farce of impeachment, the state of the Democratic nomination contest (including how big a buffoon Joe Biden is), what blue states might actually be in play for Trump (including even Minnesota?!?!), along with a detour into the confused Israeli political scene, and culminating in a constructive proposal from Susan for replacing “The View” on ABC with a show a sane person might actually want to watch. Happy new year, and best wishes from the Power Line crew.

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There are several new wrinkles in the saga of the New York Times‘s egregious and ideological “1619 Project,” which can only mean one thing: time for another episode with “Lucretia,” Power Line’s International Woman of Mystery, and scourge of all things politically correct.

New developments in the story include a stinging letter to the editor of the New York Times magazine from five eminent American historians who are chiefly of a liberal bent themselves, such as Sean Wilentz, James Oakes, and Gordon Wood. For the record, I’m not a huge fan of Gordon Wood (explaining why in this long essay from a while ago) or Wilentz, but it is significant that these historians have decided to take such a public stand. I can only imagine that many historians and political scientists of a liberal bent likely agree with them, but like dissenters from the climate “consensus,” they are afraid to say so publicly for fear of being branded as a privileged white racist. The response of the Times editor is pretty weak, but provides occasion for us to correct the slanders directed at Lincoln from this woeful enterprise.

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Nils Gilman

Is it possible for conservatives and left-of-center thinkers to have a civil and substantive conversation in the Era of Trump? Steve Hayward decided to find out, and the result is this completely gonzo episode.

Steve sat down for a long and appropriately boozy dinner recently with Nils Gilman of the Berggruen Institute, and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute, for a grand tour through some of the big themes and controversies of the moment, including capitalism, “neoliberalism,” the “plutocratic insurgency” (Nils’s phrase), inequality, bank bailouts, Trump, the idea of progress itself, and ending with a first cut at a debate over the 1619 Project.

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This episode is either an excursion into intergenerational conflict, or the pilot for a 21st century version of The Odd Couple, where Oscar and Felix are a Millennial and an aging Baby Boomer. This week’s episode is actually a crossover show with The Young Americans, hosted by Millennial sports and wonk prodigy Jack Butler of the American Enterprise Institute. Jack recently read Steve Hayward’s two-volume Age of Reagan books, and wanted to pose several challenges to Steve about what—and whether—Millennials might learn from Reagan in the Age of Trump. Steve, an ex-jock, wanted to talk to Jack about his impressive distance running prowess, as well as the etymology of a lot of current slang that the young people are using (like “OK, Boomer!”).

It’s a wide-ranging conversation, covering athletics, youth slang, boomer pretensions, education, Straussian esotericism, but mostly the great questions about Ronald Reagan. But just like The Odd Couple, we never do settle the question of whether a Millennial and an aging Baby Boomer can co-exist without killing each other.

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A few days late because of the holiday week, “Lucretia,” Power Line’s international woman of mystery, joins Steve Hayward once again to resume their series critiquing the “1619 Project,” this time taking up the examples of Alexander Stephens, Booker T. Washington, and W.E. B DuBois, among other thinkers, as well as noting the peculiar objections to the 1619 Project coming from . . . the World Socialists?!? This is going to take a while to unravel. We also have a few topical rants at the beginning about the truly important subjects—chicken sandwiches, cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and french fries.

Exit bumper music this week is Louis Armstrong’s rendition of “Go Down, Moses,” which rather fits the theme of this series.

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Jack quite violently violates the show’s ban on guests over 30 to discuss with Reagan expert Steve Hayward whether people who were born after the Reagan presidency ended should care about it.

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More than 50 years after Lyndon Johnson launched the “Great Society” and its “war on poverty” that its architects said would eliminate all poverty in America in ten years, we still have poverty and a legacy of failed experiments in social engineering (Model Cities, anyone?) Author Amity Shlaes is out this week with her latest book, Great Society: A New History, that gives us a fine-grained look into numerous aspects of the Great Society era that most other historians have overlooked.

Amity is the author of several previous books that broke new ground in our understanding of key events in American history, especially her book on the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man, and also a fine recent biography of Calvin Coolidge. In her new book, you’ll learn about a lot more than just what Johnson and his madcap social planners did, including the role of private industry for both good and ill during these days. And the real villain of the story is not who you might expect! You’ll just have to listen to find out. Also, if you listen to Steve’s conclusion at the end, you’ll also be treated to an excerpt of maybe Johnson’s greatest phone call ever, where we overhear him . . . ordering pants!

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This week Steve Hayward hosts Henry Olsen going through the inside baseball of the unfolding Democratic presidential primary season, but also the inside baseball about . . . baseball! Did you know that the Houston Astros colluded with the Russians and Ukrainians to steal the 2017 World Series! So runs the allegation, with hearings no doubt to follow. In any case, Steve actually stumps Henry by recalling the slowest relief pitcher ever, Don “Full Pack” Stanhouse. (And when it comes to reforming baseball to make it great again, Henry has a simple proposal: make the fielding gloves smaller. You’ll just have to listen to learn his reasons why—I’m not giving it away here.)

But the main event of this episode is the Democratic field, with new entrants Deval Patrick and Michael Bloomberg. Henry says to keep an eye on Patrick. We also preview the upcoming British election, which Henry will attend and report on for the Washington Post. The election is setting up as a proxy for Brexit, and Henry expect the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson to do very well. But we’re still almost a month off from the election, so stay tuned.

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John Tamny of Freedom Works and RealClearMarkets joins Steve Hayward this week to discuss his provocative new book, They’re Both Wrong: A Policy Guide for America’s Frustrated Independent Thinkers, just out this week from our friends at the American Institute for Economic Research. Tamny is one of the great imaginative and original contrarian thinkers of our time on matters of economics and policy, as readers of his previous books can attest. (Previous delightful reads from John include Who Needs the Fed? What Taylor Swift, Uber, and Robots Tell Us About Money, Credit, and Why We Should Abolish America’s Central Bank, and Popular Economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey, and LeBron James Can Teach You about Economics. Both highly recommended.)

In They’re Both Wrong, Tamny takes liberals to task for their economic and policy illiteracy on everything from taxes, corporate governance, climate change and other favorite obsessions of the left, but also has several chapters criticizing confusions that he thinks both liberals and conservatives share on health care, the minimum wage, education, and a guaranteed annual income. And he thinks conservatives are on the wrong track on immigration and China, among other issues. Agree or disagree, John is an ebullient and optimistic thinker, and a delight to hear.

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Dr. Sally Satel

The opioid crisis has been prominent in the news for the last several years, while more recently the controversy over vaping has erupted to new heights, with the Trump Administration proposing to ban many vaping products. There are some glaring contradictions and ironies between our attitudes and policy responses to both issues, but it takes someone of Sally Satel’s perception to notice these dimensions.

Sally Satel, a resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, practicing psychiatrist and drug treatment expert, and author of several fine books on the contemporary politics of medicine, has been studying both the opioid crisis and the vaping controversy for some time, and joins us today to walk through some of the main aspects of both issues. Interested listeners should see her recent article in The Atlantic on “The Truth About Painkiller Addiction” for more background.

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Whither American conservatism is the question on everyone’s mind these days. Recently I gave a short talk about this topic with the central thought that the American conservative movement was now entering a distinct third phase of its modern existence, though I took the opportunity to say a few words about my first mentor, the late M. Stanton Evans, and what can be learned from his disposition, which was ahead of its time in many ways.

So yes, it does meant that the guest for this week’s episode is me, for which I apologize, though I hope you will enjoy my rendition of some of Stan Evans’s greatest hits—and also his timeless insights into the nature of “The Swamp” that is Washington DC, a phrase I think he may have been one of the first to use nearly 50 years ago. At least this is a short episode!

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What do you get when you combine “Lucretia,” Power Line’s ever popular international woman of mystery, with John Yoo, whose only mystery is his fondness for McDonalds? You get an episode that talks about fake burgers, the evils of soy, the importance of cooking with fat, fast cars, and even Starsky & Hutch.

Oh, we also go into the impeachment circus currently unfolding in Washington, about which John has written recently to the jeers of lightweights everywhere. We didn’t touch much on the series Lucretia and I have been rolling out about the “1619 Project,” but I want to give one quick update: our guest from the show in Episode 146, Lucas Morel of Washington and Lee University, has published over at the American Mind his fine article on the subject, “America Was Not Founded on White Supremacy.” Give it a look. (And go back and listen in to that episode if you missed it.) Meanwhile, listen in now to find out whether the Impossible Burger should be ranked higher or lower than a Nothing Burger.

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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.

Last week I was overseas on the joint cruise of the Claremont Institute and the Pacific Research Institute, both celebrating their 40th anniversary this fall. Following a day tromping around Florence taking in the scenes of various locales for Niccolo Machiavelli, I decided to repair to the smoking lounge with Michael Anton (“Decius”), along with Ryan Williams and Matt Peterson of the Claremont Institute, for an extended cigar smoke over brandy and a chat about Machiavelli’s republicanism.

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Nationalism is the subject of the moment, and both the term and the idea come with more baggage than Paris Hilton and Khloe Kardashian after an afternoon of shopping on Rodeo Drive. I’ve had a few things to say about this controversial topic myself, but I am delighted to feature as this week’s special guest Colin Dueck of George Mason University, who is the author of a new book coming out from Oxford University Press next week: Age of Iron: On Conservatism Nationalism.

Dueck demonstrates that conservative nationalism is the oldest democratic tradition in US foreign relations. Designed to preserve self-government, conservative nationalism can be compatible with engagement overseas. But 21st century diplomatic, economic, and military frustrations led to the resurgence of a version that emphasizes US material interests. No longer should the US allow its allies to free-ride, and nor should it surrender its sovereignty to global governance institutions. Because this return is based upon forces larger than Trump, it is unlikely to disappear when he leaves office.

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Last week I caught up with Hadley Arkes, Edward N. Ney Professor of Jurisprudence and American Institutions emeritus at Amherst College and the founder and director of the James Wilson Institute on Natural Rights & the American Founding, for a wide-ranging conversation about free speech, moral relativism, abortion, and other constitutional questions. Hadley is the author of numerous indispensable books, including First Things: An Inquiry into the First Principles of Morals and Justice, and, more recently, Constitutional Illusions and Anchoring Truths: The Touchstone of the Natural Law.

Hadley is often described as a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Groucho Marx, and heck, since I can’t improve on that, I won’t even try.

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