Are we possibly headed to a complete electoral and political meltdown in November, complete with riots in the streets and threats of secession by some states? Last week something called the Transition Integrity Project (TIP) made huge news with a 22-page report on a simulation exercise of scenarios of what might happen in the event we have a contested election in November. A bipartisan groups of political luminaries, including former RNC chair Michael Steele, former Michigan Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm, and all-around liberal potentate John Podesta, conducted the simulation, and it set off a media frenzy over the prospects of either Trump or Biden contesting the election result right up to inauguration day, with potential riots in the streets, and “Seven Days in May”-sounding concern over what the military might do!

Nils Gilman

Amidst all the handwringing and near-hysteria about a report projecting possible hysteria, few news stories (or podcasts for that matter), bothered to talk in depth with the two leaders of TIP, Rosa Brooks of Georgetown University Law Center, and Nils Gilman, vice president of programs at the Berggruen Institute in California. As it happens, I know Nils Gilman! He’s a very smart lefty, though he might quibble some with my description of him as such, and I like him personally, though we obviously disagree about a great many (though not all) things. So I decided to ring him up and talk through the TIP report and several related matters, and the result is this fast-paced hour-long show that barely scratches the surface of the many issues that deserve exploration. (So we may need to do a sequel! Let me know what you think.)

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This especially fast-paced edition of the Three Whisky Happy Hour with “Lucretia,” Power Line’s International Woman of Mystery, gets off track right at the start, when an incidental mention of the famous 1978 Bakke case turned into an extended revisionist “what if?” thought experiment. From there we turn our attention to logging the accelerating BGR (short for “Biden Gaffe Rate”), which reached two-a-day by the end of this week. How high will the rate go if Biden actually emerges from his basement between now and November and actually campaigns?

From there we read some tea leaves around the question of whether the country has reached a turning point in reaction to the rioting and leftist agitation. A number of events this week suggest we have.

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America’s newspaper of record—which is the Babylon Bee of course—is out with the headline, “Biden Campaign Says He Is So Close to a VP Pick He Can Smell Her.” The Bee really needs to stop scooping the New York Times. In any case, in this episode of the weekend happy hour Lucretia and I survey the box canyon Biden has got himself into by pledging to pick a woman running mate who essentially has to be a woman of color. And we give our predictions of who it will be when (and if) Biden clears his head.

Then we move on to the wider issues behind Trump’s tweet about possibly postponing the election. We get into some details about voting, mail-in and provisional ballots, ballot counting, precinct management, and other aspects of the matter that have drawn surprisingly little attention from the non-stop media panic about the election, and believe me, you’ll be wanting a double-shot of whisky after you hear us.

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I’m starting to come to the view that having K-12 education and colleges and universities shrink because of COVID-19 might be one of the bits of good news arising out of the pandemic. Our universities are the principal source of the noxious ideas that are plaguing the country right now, and decades of conservative attempts to reverse this slide or reform campuses have proven largely unavailing.

Arthur Milikh

An article by Arthur Milikh in National Affairs recently caught my eye: “Preventing Suicide by Higher Education,” in which he argues that conservatives should move to outright opposition to our universities, before they take the country down any further, and so I knew I had to have him on our podcast to kick around his ideas. He also has an excellent article on “‘Hate Speech’ and the New Tyranny Over the Mind,” which we also discuss in our conversation here.

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Lucretia and I are already departing from our nascent Islay-Highland-Irish whisky flight format because we have a guest bartender and malt master on with us for this weekend’s episode—John Yoo! John not only knows the deep history of fine Japanese whiskies, but also the Constitution and presidential power. He has a terrific new book coming out on Tuesday, Defender in Chief: Donald Trump’s Fight for Presidential Power.

The book explores how John came to change his mind about Trump, seeing in Trump’s conduct in office a clear pattern of defending the proper constitutional prerogatives of the presidency, and helping to restore the separation of powers to their intended dimensions. Along the way Lucretia baits John about whether the Supreme Court was a good idea in the first place, and Steve likes John’s “hypothetical”idea for having Trump designate all of his hotels and properties as national monuments.

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The estimable New York Post reports on a clear example of “expert” junk science that purports to prove that “men should limit alcohol to just one drink per day.” This is clearly the first step to full communism, plus an obvious ham-handed attempt to shut down our brand new Three Whisky Happy hour. Lucretia and I counter with the supreme wisdom of Lady Thatcher, who once wrote a friend, “Scotch is one British institution which will never let you down.” (In other words, just like Rick Astley.)

Anyway, “Lucretia” (Power Line’s International Woman of Mystery) and I are not deterred by this fake news and used it as an excuse to run long with this episode and refill our glasses often with a flight of Highland and Japanese malts, pondering whether keeping our public schools locked down this fall might actually backfire on the left; the broader significance of the drive to reverse a previous diversity-promotion tactic—blind auditions for symphony orchestras—because they aren’t producing the “right kind” of diversity; and a lightning round where we beat up on the Lincoln Project, whether violent protestors should be sent to Gitmo, and why the media is ignoring the epidemic of suspicious church fires in Europe.

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For our 200th podcast, we assembled all four Power Line Beatles, John, Paul, George and Ringo Steve and Scott, to kick around various current topics, including Steve’s own experience with cancel culture, the state of the presidential race, whether the United States might actually break up after this election regardless of who wins, and above all some reflections on 18 years of Power Line, where we have (according to our site meter) posted over 57,000 items.

This special episode is a crossover event, edited down from a live VIP chat session held late in the week, in which we took audience questions. So once you’d paid your Ricochet monthly dues, you should consider becoming a Power Line VIP subscriber, too. You not only get ad-free access to the site, but invitations to participate in special events and occasional premium content.

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Steve and “Lucretia” are back with another “Three Whisky Happy Hour” to end the week, dishing out a sweet Irish whisky to go with our idea for the attack ad we hope the Trump campaign will run against the Democrats, a mild American bourbon whisky for the uneven Harper’s magazine statement opposing “cancel culture;” and a bracing peaty/smoky Scotch whisky to ponder the question of whether universities have passed the point of no return, such that conservatives ought to give up trying to reform them and now seek simply to destroy them instead, as Arthur Milikh argued a few months ago in National Affairs. We take up these subjects, and our whiskys, in the proper way, which is neat. Cheers!

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Gov. Kristi Noem

The centerpiece of this week’s show is an in-depth interview John Hinderaker conducted this week with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who has charted her own course in managing the COVID-19 pandemic in her state, refusing to shut down the state’s economy, and getting out ahead of the virus with a common sense approach. Gov. Noem is getting high marks for her steady and independent leadership, gaining her a place on the “great mention” list of potential presidential candidates in the future. She says she has no such plans at the moment, but you never know!

Steve Hayward sets up the interview with some background conversation with John about the history and political changes in South Dakota and other plains states over the last few decades. In short, this is not George McGovern’s upper midwest any more. And then Steve talks a bit with Kathryn Hinderaker (who is somehow related to John!) about her observations about the darkening campus scene, about which she has lots of experience as a recent graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

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By popular demand we’re bringing “Lucretia,” Power Line’s International Woman of Mystery, back to the show, and we’ve decided to start our own “Three Whisky Happy Hour,” because why should Greg Corombos and Jim Geraghty have all the fun (and the booze) with their Three Martini Lunch. As Lucretia is a champion whisky drinker, we decided to offer up American bourbon, Scotch (the more bracing Islay and Highland single malts), and Irish (sweeter) whisky varieties to match up with the crazy, outrageous, and sweet stories of the moment—in today’s case, more egregious cancelings, the Redskins’ capitulation, and the overdue arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell, and what we think the sequel is likely to be besides six more months of Jeffrey Epstein memes.

This inaugural episode ends with some cooking and drinking tips for the July 4 holiday, including the best way to annoy your nearest climate change fanatic. (Hint: It involves grilling.)

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Daniel Mahoney of Assumption College has a short and compelling essay up today at Real Clear Politics on “What Does Our Nation Mean to Us? Rejecting the Culture of Hate.” I decided to post our regular weekly podcast a couple days ahead of schedule to match up with Dan’s article because it meshes perfectly with the conclusion of our wide-ranging conversation about the roots of our present discontents.

With everyone comparing the dismal events of this year with our previous annus horribilis of 1968, I wanted to walk through the other great eruption in May 1968 in France. A lot of Americans don’t know much about that episode, and its powerful and lasting impact on French intellectual and political life. Few Americans know more about French politics and intellectual life than Mahoney, and along the way we survey some leading French thinkers then and now, some well-known like Raymond Aron and Pierre Manent, and some less well known, like Claude Lefort.

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When I heard the news that the nihilist mob plans to take down the statue of Theodore Roosevelt astride his horse in front the Natural History Museum in New York City, I knew I had to ring up Jean Yarbrough, the Gary Pendy Sr. Professor of Social Sciences at Bowdoin College, and author of the best book on TR’s political thought and legacy, Theodore Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition.

As one of the creators of the Progressive movement a century ago, TR’s record and legacy is a mixed bag, with a lot to criticize. Prof. Yarbrough walks us through how to think about TR, balancing his admirable traits alongside his more doubtful ideas. If TR is going to be toppled, let’s do it the right way.

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On Wednesday, “The Beatles” (John, Paul, George and Ringo Scott, and Steve) got together for a live online VIP chat session, covering everything from the riot scene, the fall election, statue-tipping, The NASCARash, and other sports. A lot of VIP members who couldn’t make the show asked if we’d make available a recording, and we decided to make a highlight reel into a podcast and offer it to the public. If you’re a VIP member, we thank you, and if you’re not, here’s a sample of the live, interactive meetup you can participate in for just a few dollars a month.

I edited the show down by more than a third, cutting out not merely redundancies, but an interminable reminiscence of the Minnesota Twins move from DC to Minnesota back in the ancient of times. Some other episode perhaps.

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This week’s guest is Michael Shellenberger, the founder and president of Environmental Progress, and author of an important new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. Most books about the environment typically feature breathless panic about how the world is coming to an end. Michael’s book is a rare outlier that debunks the extremism of most such apocalyptic claims, which too often are the predicate for not just bad policy, but counter-productive policy when it comes to environmental improvement in poor nations.

Michael began his intellectual and political odyssey on the left, and has by degrees migrated to the center, along the way coming to support nuclear power as the most important current alternative energy source for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. But the book goes well beyond the issue of climate change to lay out a vision of what Michael calls “environmental humanism”—a conception of environmental protection that puts humans beings at the center of the story, a welcome contrast to the often explicit misanthropy of many modern environmentalists.

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Joel Kotkin is one of America’s premier analysts of urbanism, urban economics, demographic change, and social trends. His brand new book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class, turns upside down the conventional liberal narrative about why the middle and working classes are under pressure. It’s not capitalism and markets, but their perversions, especially in the hands of the tech oligarchs of Silicon Valley and through the overregulation of basic occupations and industries that prevent aspiring people from attaining a middle class standard of living, especially on the left-leaning coastal regions of the country.

It does not take much imagination to make out the connections between the maladies Kotkin explains here and the riots and protests from the left of the last two weeks, but he thinks the real rebellion that we need is from the middle and working classes against this stifling neo-feudalism—a rebellion from the middle, so to speak, that will need to be both cultural and political.

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When our cities start to come apart and people say it seems like 1968 all over again, that can only mean one thing: time to get in touch with Fred Siegel. Among Fred’s many fine books is The Future Once Happened Here: New York, LA, DC, and the Fate of America’s Big Cities, which explained the high cost of incompetent liberal rule of our major cities in the 1960s and 1970s, which included soaring crime rates, physical decay, and economic decline. Reversing urban decline was one of the great achievements of the last 25 years, but it appears we may be about to throw it all away, and start a new cycle of leftist urban rule and decay.

Why has this happened? It can’t be just because of one shocking instance of police malfeasance. There must have been something latent in our political culture that has been triggered. Fred’s explanation: “The sixties never ended.” Are we fated to repeat that cycle, and now have to look forward to 10 or 20 years of unleashed leftism? We treat these and other questions, including the question of whether our universities have passed the point of no return, and what must be done to counter their increasingly malign influence on America as a whole.

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Funny how the COVID-19 crisis has nearly disappeared from the news, after having been the subject of wall-to-wall media attention for three months. Riots have a way of doing that, though the mass rioting doesn’t seem to have concentrated the mind of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio very much, fueling further rumors that he really has shot his brains with his heavy reported dope-smoking.

In this special, two-segment edition I catch up with Kelly Jane Torrance, who is nowadays an editorial board member of the great New York Post, and frequent panel guest on “Mornings with Maria” on Fox Business (tomorrow morning, June 4, in fact). Being a brand new resident of Manhattan is shock enough, but to move right before a pandemic quarantine and then rioting is asking a lot!

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“Decadence” is one of those familiar terms that is trivialized or rendered comic by overuse—perhaps you’d say from decadence itself. And while most people think decadent is mostly a synonym for “sumptuous,” it has a wider and deeper meaning, which is the subject of Ross Douthat’s new book, The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success.

Douthat, a columnist for the New York Times and author of several fine books analyzing the current American scene, looks at several markers of a decadent civilization and culture, from falling birthrates, slowing economic growth, declining innovation, sclerotic institutions, and cultural stagnation. Is there a way out of this dead-end road, or is America fated to become the modern-day Rome? Steve Hayward covers these and other aspects of the question in this entirely non-decadent conversation.

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John Ellis

John M. Ellis, distinguished professor emeritus of German literature at UC Santa Cruz, is out with a terrific new book, The Breakdown of Higher Education: How It Happened, The Damage It Does, & What Can Be Done About It. This slim book makes for depressing reading indeed, covering the landscape of our ideologically corrupt colleges and universities. What needs to happen to change things? Is the financial crisis of higher education brought on suddenly by the coronavirus a reason for hope that college leaders might cut some of the nonsense out of necessity? Are more robust campus policies to protect free expression sufficient to the scale and nature of the problem? (Likely not.)

But along the way we take a detour into some of Prof. Ellis’s earlier work, especially his important 1989 book Against Deconstruction, which delivered a significant body blow to that malignant intellectual fad. In fact I think it is no exaggeration to say that Prof. Ellis’s book, along with a handful parallel efforts, went far in derailing that noxious fad. Alas, it has been succeeded by even more perverse postmodernist hermeneutics (Just saying that almost gives you an intellectual hernia), forming much of the basis of the insidious identity politics of the present moment. Prof. Ellis offers some great war stories about fighting against the deconstructionists back in the day. And I offer a few of my own thoughts in my show summary at the end.

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Zachary Wood

This episode flips the format, with my guest interviewing me for a change. Zachary Wood is a graduate of Williams College, where he was the president of a student group called “Uncomfortable Learning,” whose mission was to invite to campus outside speakers with a heterodox perspective (which is code for “conservative” for the most part). Invitees included Charles Murray, Christina Hoff Sommers, David French, John Christy, and others. For this transgression against campus orthodoxy, Zach was dressed down by the president of William College, and further instructed that he should “be careful” about what he wrote in the student newspaper—a story he tells in this article published recently by the National Association of Scholars.

From this experience Zach has understandably become concerned about free speech generally, and freedom of the press in particular, and when Zach told me that he was interested in recording some interviews and conversations with people (starting with me) on free speech and free press issues, but didn’t yet have an online platform ready to launch, I decided to offer him an episode of the Power Line Show to start things rolling. As journalism was my first career right out of college back around the time of the Boer War, we thought it would be fun and informative to go through some long-term perspectives on modern media.

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