Steve figured a nine time zone distance might provide a margin of safety from Lucretia’s rear-end kicking over Steve’s article “What the Hell Happened to Bill Kristol?“, which Lucretia finds sorely wanting. And his attempts to mollify Lucretia with tales of how great Hungary’s conservatives are was mostly unavailing, even if true.

Anyway, in this slightly abbreviated episode (because Steve had to rush off to begin a typical Central European Saturday night of drinks and dinner over a four hour period), we quickly strafe the Biden Administration for its shredding of Trump’s foreign policy achievements, with the partial exception of the Afghan pullout, which we support because of the comprehensive failure of our politico-military establishment ever to come up with a serious plan to win.

Once upon a time, “CRT” stood for “cathode ray tube,” sometimes known as “television,” but also oscilloscopes, computer screens, some x-rays, and certain other technical devices designed for testing and calibration. Cathode ray tubes went the way of the Dodo bird quite some time ago, and nowadays CRT means something else: Critical Race Theory.

There is one way in which today’s CRT resembles the old tech CRTs—they both depend on a vacuum. Critical Race Theory depends on the vacuum of nihilism at the end of the day, as a close look at the most academic variants show. By listener demand, Steve and Lucretia explore the origins of CRT in law schools 40 years ago, try to separate the sense (a little) from the nonsense (a lot, most of it pernicious).

Who knew that that hottest new thing in the early 21st century would be an old thing—the nation state? Nationalism acquired a foul odor in the 20th century, but ever since Brexit and Trump upset the cosmopolites from Berkeley to Brussels, the idea of nationalism has crept back into favor, at least with many conservatives.

I’ve written my own short overview of the issue a couple years ago now, but was delighted to spend some time talking with Samuel Goldman of George Washington University about his new book, After Nationalism: Being American in an Age of Division. Sam offers three portals into thinking about the character of American nationalism, and ends up settling on roughly the same answer I do—that a sensible American nationalism is best anchored in the creedal principles of the country, including especially the Constitution and all that has gone into our constitutional traditions. Needless to say, this legacy is under massive attack today.

After a week off for travel and for Steve to recover from the pummeling he took at the hands of “Lucretia” in our last episode two weeks ago, the 3WHH is back with some fresh malts and fresh looks at the news of the week. We start with what appears to be the White House cat fight between First Doctor Jill Biden and Veep Kaaaaammmaaala Harris, and then proceed to examine the special House January 6 committee and contrast the salutary role Dick Cheney filled in the Iran-Contra congressional committee “investigation” in 1987 and the role Liz Cheney—the only Republican who will be on the committee—looks to play in this “investigation.” One question we’re sure the committee won’t “investigate”—who shot Ashli Babbitt? We’re at day 177, and there are some new theories leaking out.

From there we read the easily readable tea leaves of the announcement that the trustees of the University of North Carolina crumpled under pressure and awarded Nicole Hannah-Jones full tenure after all in the UNC “journalism” school. If the Republican-appointed trustees in a conservative state can’t stand up to the academic left, it suggests there really is no hope of fixing or reforming our rotten universities.

If you only go by the major media or your local college sociology department, you’d think rural America is a hopeless domain of drug and alcohol addiction, downward mobility, and dysfunction. Far from it, at least in rural Maine, where author Gigi Georges decided to spend several years getting to know and tracking several young women as they made their way through the challenges of their small, working class communities.

“Downeast” refers to the remote northeastern corner of Maine that is overlooked by tourists, summer sailors, and fall leaf-peepers, and the story Georges tells is one of resiliency rather than the cliche of a downward spiral that is most often summoned to mind for the rural midwest and elsewhere. Downeast is thus a success story of sorts, showing that vital community support networks, both formal and informal, depend ultimately on the shared rootedness of the place, which can’t be replicated or preserved by what she calls “codified institutions.” As such her stories of the five main subjects and their community is a Tocquevillian treatment.

Our conversation about this charming and beautifully written book ranges widely from the stories of the five girls to the role and resiliency of the lobster fishing industry, and we have some callbacks to some classic works that bear on the wider subject, such as Robert Nisbet’s Quest for Community, and Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities.

This week’s Power Line Classic format show features Prof. Charles R. Kesler, editor of the Claremont Review of Books, talking about his brand new book, Crisis of the Two Constitutions: The Rise, Decline, and Recovery of American Greatness.

Crisis collects several of Kesler’s old and new essays and details how we got to and what is at stake in our increasingly divided America. In addition to explaining the three waves of liberal-progressive thought over the last century, Kesler also covers the significance of Trump’s emergence, and what it portends for the future. He also responds to the attack Boston College Professor Shep Melnick made on the book, so there’s an element of Fight Club in this episode, too.

 

We get letters. And one from a regular listener baited us with the proposition that since FDR’s New Deal—decried here on a recent episode—is now nearly 90 years old, the duty of Burkean conservatives is now to preserve the New Deal rather than pine romantically for the good old days of Calvin Coolidge. To which Steve responded, well, I guess we should do a seminar-style episode about Edmund Burke, the putative founder of modern conservatism.

And guess what “Lucretia” thinks of Burke? “Not much” would be an understatement. But Steve thinks there’s a lot of commendable things to Burke, and that he’s worth reading. The ensuing argument bids to turn this episode into the “Three Whisky Grumpy Hour,” as it maps neatly on the long-running divide between peaty and sweet single malt whiskies.

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:

As regular listeners know, we never tire of beating up on Progressivism—both the old kind and today’s high-octane version—and we especially like to beat up on Woodrow Wilson. Most of what we know about Wilson’s perfidy comes from the ur-text of Wilson criticism, Ronald J. Pestritto’s Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism from 2005.

R.J. (as he is known to his friends), is out this week with a terrific new book that builds on and vastly extends his previous work, America Transformed: The Rise and Legacy of American Progressivism, just out this week from our friends at Encounter Books. This book deserves to take its place as the pre-eminent work that surveys the whole scene, bringing in new themes of the role of the “Social Gospel,” imperialism, the lasting effect of Wilsonian internationalism on American foreign policy, and many other worthy threads. In particular, the closing chapters of the book look at the ways in which radical progressive ideology informs the “administrative state” running amok in Washington.

The modern conservative movement born in the 1950s had two main objects: It was anti-Communist, and anti-New Deal. Lately, however, some conservatives have warmed up to both FDR and the New Deal, which has to have Robert Taft rolling over in his grave—and maybe William F. Buckley, Jr. too. Conrad Black, an esteemed man of the right, has long championed FDR as a “champion of freedom” (the subtitle of his ginormous—and excellent—biography of FDR), but others on the Trumpian right have lately been thinking that perhaps FDR and the New Deal might be useable for conservative purposes today.

“Lucretia” and I aren’t so sure, and so in a return to our seminar format, we walk through one of Roosevelt’s most revealing speeches—the “Commonwealth Club Address” of September 1932, which we think reveals FDR to be a very clever and insidious preserver of Woodrow Wilson’s Progressivism, but the more artful FDR appears to be preserving the American Founding while re-interpreting it along Wilsonian lines. It was one of the great Brinks jobs in American politics, whose effects are still very very much with us today. (Footnote: For all of his admiration for FDR, Conrad Black gets the Commonwealth Club speech right in his FDR biography, and it is significant that most of the sympathetic liberal FDR biographers skip over this important speech entirely, because they don’t take ideas seriously.)

This week Lucretia and I decide to take a break from our recent seminar format—in other words, no schoolwork this week—and just review some of the week’s news instead. Or perhaps we should say non-news, since most of the “news” items we review turn into examples of what’s wrong with journalism today. Call it “The Age of Al Hunt,” in homage to Evelyn Waugh’s device about “the Age of Hooper” in Brideshead Revisited, in which the increasing “sophistication” of journalists in the ordinary sense masks a near complete ignorance of history beyond the last election, a total lack of philosophical depth, an absence of literary imagination, and a scarcity of wit.

Hunt is Exhibit One this week, with a lugubrious article on how “Democrats are worried” about President Biden, not because of the substance of what he’s doing, but because those evil Republicans are able to frustrate his big, bold agenda. Like I say, they call this “journalism.”

Fred Barnes recently announced his retirement after more than 50 years as a working journalist, having served as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Star, The New Republic, the Weekly Standard, and the Washington Examiner. He contributed to countless other publications such as The American Spectator and Reader’s Digest, but many people will remember him for his frequent turns on The McLaughlin Group, or perhaps his big screen cameo in Dave.

Our wide-ranging conversation runs through his start in journalism in South Carolina back in the 1960s,  his ascent in Washington in the 1970s and 80s, covering Ronald Reagan, his thoughts on Trump, and how journalism has changed (mostly for the worse) during his long career. The secret to Fred’s journalism was that he never wanted to be an opinion columnist, but preferred reporting, which required talking with sources and finding facts—imagine that! The closest thing we have to an old-school style successor for Fred is Byron York I think.

All it took was a NY Times op-ed article on the (misunderstood) legacy of Justice John Marshall Harlan’s famous dissent in the 1896 Plessy (“separate but equal”) case to set off a classic “Lucretia” rant:

I find the NYT piece more damaging to the cause of equality before the law even than critical race theory.  I think [the author] perpetuates that subterfuge that makes it possible for milquetoast lefties to ignore the radicalism of the militant left. . .   In other words, Canellos pretending that any of the principled rationale from Harlan’s Plessy  dissent actually found its way into the Brown decision—or subsequent civil rights cases—is positively ludicrous.  Brown, as well as most everything up to and including the modern DIE industry, is a complete embrace of Plessy’s central rationale—that the only important consideration is the stigma caused by separateness.

With this episode of the Power Line Show, I’m returning to what I call “Power Line Classic” format, featuring interviews and conversations with interests thinkers, writers, and doers. I took a hiatus from this format last year while I was working on my book, and using the Three Whisky Happy Hour format as a substitute because “Lucretia” does all the work (except for selecting my whisky), but don’t dismay—the 3WHH format will continue every week as before, so now you’ll get two Power Line shows to choose from every week.

To mark the end of hiatus I am delighted to have back on Robert Bryce, who is one of only a small handful of writers who understands the world of energy and can write about it lucidly. He recently produced a terrific study on the rural backlash against wind energy for the Center of the American Experiment entitled “Not In Our Back Yard: Rural America Is Fighting Back Against Large-Scale Renewable Energy Projects.”

This “mission to Moscow” is not to be confused with the infamous Joseph Davies 1941 book, Mission to Moscow, which Steve calls a “novel” at the opening of this episode, because its pro-Stalinist viewpoint was fiction indeed. Our use of “mission to Moscow” serves a dual-use purpose today: while it isn’t clear whether there was Russian involvement in the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline, we lean on Lucretia’s cyber-expertise to unpack the scene, as well as speculate about some deterrent measures that might be considered. Steve likes reviving the use of letters of marque and reprisal, which are explicitly authorized in the Constitution. Lucretia says everyone should change their passwords—now!

From there Steve shares a few more observations on his recent visit to New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho, a small town that in some respects resembles the other Moscow more than it ought to.

This week we decided to play “clean up on Supreme Court aisle [footnote] four,” and explain further why we think 1938’s Carolene Products decision was actually the most significant of the New Deal era decisions that distorted the Constitution and our subsequent politics. Many of the perversions of modern civil rights politics actually descend from this case that was about adulterated milk, of all silly things. How did we get so far off track? Lucretia, naturally, takes a more radical view of the problem.

But not before she assails Steve for his choice of opening bumper music, which was yet another argument Steve lost. From there we introduce a new magic number to track alongside the count for “Who Shot Ashli Babbit” (now 121 days), some thoughts on the California recall, how Arizona Senator Kirsten Sinema seems to be less than a total Flake, and some head scratching about wide-angle lens photography at the White House.

Hoo boy, is this episode off the hook! First, “Lucretia” staged a coup, usurping Steve’s host role, and punishing him for his bad puns, but we finally get to the main event, which is a long conversation with the great Charles Lipson about his recent article, “Packing the Court, Then and Now.”

We take a while to get to the subject, however, in favor of a long prologue about high school whisky exploits, “Bootleggers and Baptists,” and other frivolities. But eventually we get down to the serious lessons for today from FDR’s “failed” court-packing scheme of 1937. Lipson contests the conventional historical account, arguing that FDR successfully intimidated the Court into blessing his New Deal predations against limited government. Steve and Lucretia concur, but argue that the whole story is actually much worse than Charles makes it out.

This special 250th episode of the Power Line podcast offers a twist on our Three Whisky Happy Hour format, as Lucretia and I put aside our Glen Livet in favor of talking with Glenn Ellmers. Glenn is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, research fellow at Hillsdale College, author of a forthcoming biography of Harry Jaffa entitled The Soul of Politics, and author of several recent articles at The American Mind on the state of the conservative movement today that are raising eyebrows and blood-pressure counts.

The most controversial recent piece is “‘Conservatism’ Is No Longer Enough.” It throws down a basic challenge about whether there is much left to “conserve” in American institutions and culture right now without a serious counter-revolutionary effort. It drew the attention of Tucker Carlson earlier this week: you can see a short preview for the episode here. Our conversation ranges  widely over what prudence demands, and whether conservatives ought to support an Article V constitutional convention to discuss formal secession or other changes to restore constitutional government. Conservatives have always feared an Article V effort might lead to a “runaway convention,” but at this point a runaway convention might be the best case scenario.

Good grief! “Lucretia” and I take a week off, and everything goes to hell. Minneapolis starts rioting again, and Democrats in Washington start their own riot over court-packing. Meanwhile, the officer who mistook her service revolver for a taser and shot Daunte Wright was publicly identified within 48 hours (Kim Potter), lost her job, and now faces criminal charges, while we have passed Day 100 since Ashli Babbit was shot in the U.S. Capitol on January 6 without learning the identity of the person who fired on her. Although the DC Coroner ruled that Babbit’s cause of death was a homicide, the Justice Department says no charges will be filed, and our supine media seems to have forgotten their own question about “the public’s right to know.” Strange times.

Anyway, we look at the riot question through the lens of Edward Banfield’s classic chapter in The Unheavenly City, “Rioting Mainly for Fun and Profit,” and end this episode with the suggestion that classic rock may yet save us all.

Winston Churchill wrote that “No two cities have counted more with mankind than Athens and Jerusalem. Their messages in religion, philosophy, and art have been the main guiding lights of modern faith and culture.” For Easter and Passover Steve and Lucretia decided to take up the Jerusalem side of this theme with the help of a forgotten figure who was a major influence on the young Churchill—the American politician Bourke Cochran. In particular, in a 1910 speech Cochran, a Catholic, gave a marvelous synoptic account of how Christianity planted the seed of modern democratic equality.

From there we wander off into territory best described in Mark Twain’s famous line, “Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.” In this case, Steve takes note of several recent articles about Michel Foucault, the ur-philosopher of the post-modern left, and wonders whether we might have misread him, or whether there might be some mischief to be made by noting some aspects of Foucault that the left ignores or overlooks. (This is the case made by partially by Blake Smith at im1776.) Plus, is Foucault perhaps the left’s biggest mistake?  It will likely not surprise listeners to learn that Lucretia is . . . not persuaded.

Finally, we review some new whiskies, update our magic number for “Who Shot Ashli Babbit” and look back at the unjust persecution of Scooter Libby as an example of how long the truth can be suppressed, ponder the apparently infinite stupidity of Boston University honors graduate AOC, and then wonder about what President Biden’s misbehaving dog says about him.