Unfortunately we weren’t able to fix up the usual online recording session for this week’s Three Whisky Happy Hour, and attempted to assemble in person ahead of the Claremont Institute’s annual dinner at Huntington Beach, this year with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (who was terrific, by the way). But we were outside, with not enough time to get organized—and without any whisky!—and the result was a bit of a train wreck. But at least it’s short! (As I used to say when I still showed up for road races in my dotage, “I may be old and fat, but I’m slow! My strategy is to start of slow, and tail off from there.” Well we kind of live up to that here.)

Our irregular sidekick Richard Samuelson joined us, and then halfway through Jeremy Carl wandered by, so we made him sit down and join us with no preparation. We tried to cover Last Week in Wokeness and a few other things, but I’m not sure we really got anywhere.  But we got so many emails from disappointed listeners than we decided to throw this episode up (literally) and let you decide.

What do baseball and politics have in common? I have no idea, but Henry Olsen does. Actually, the kinds of data measurements we use in baseball can be applied to politics as well, and few do it better than Henry. So in this “classic format” episode, we talk about why President Biden is just biding his time in office, having squandered his election by mis-reading the public mood, and how this may very well tip the off-year gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey to Republicans, as it did in 1993 and 2009, when, in what has become a recurring pattern, Democrats overreach.

Then we talk about baseball—in particular the decline of starting pitchers and .300 hitters, and the rise of the so-called “bullpen game.” Give me those old 20-game winners like Jim Palmer and .325 hitters like Rod Carew and Pete Rose, please.  But you’d expect this from a reactionary like me.

Lucretia, looking typically unconvinced by one of Steve’s arguments.

This week’s episode, recorded with a live audience on Zoom, was off the hook a little more than usual, as Lucretia was in a grumpy mood (despite Steve changing up his whisky selection in a futile attempt at appeasement), and audience questions and comments came flying in fast and furious. Yet somehow we managed to cover a lot of territory, from an after-action report on this year’s Indigenous Peoples Day Columbus Day holiday, to some new perspectives in the “voting irregularities” of the 2020 election, to the glories of Popeye’s fried chicken, which apparently triggers the snowflakes at Yale Law School.

This week’s episode is sans-guests and sans-metaphysics, as Lucretia and Steve kick around the news of the week, which is a mix of the usual ominous portents from Washington, along with some evidence that Democrats are in free-fall with the public.

First up is a look at the egregious Department of Justice letter identifying parents protesting at local school board meetings as a threat to the regime (in an ironic way, the DoJ is right!), wondering just what the federal question under the law is, and noting how this step certifies the open contempt Washington has for local self-government (thank you for your candor Terry McAuliffe!). Then we look at the Ezra Klein NY Times article about Democratic data-maven David Shor, who is trying to warn Democrats that the public is swifty turning against them. Steve offers some historical perspective to show how insane Democrats are in thinking they can govern the country as though they had the same kind of huge and durable majorities that FDR and LBJ had once upon a time.

We’re a day late with this week’s episode because Lucretia and Steve had the opportunity to catch up live with the Pacific Research Institute’s education expert extraordinaire Lance Izumi in San Francisco, to talk about what’s going on in the world of K-12. Lance is the author of the forthcoming book entitled The Homeschool Boom, but also helpfully fills us in on the backstory of how Japanese whisky originated and came to take its place as a rival to the finest Scottish whisky. And we also get some confessions about his unlimited collection of minor league baseball team uniforms (yes, including even the Toledo Mud Hens). This is only fitting for the person whose unofficial PRI title is the Gilbert & Sullivan Fellow in Sartorial Splendor. (Look up his Facebook page photos if you doubt us.)

Among the news items we review about why home schooling is going to continue growing rapidly is Gov. Newsom’s mandate that all school children will need to be vaccinated to attend public and private schools. There are reports that inquiries to home schooling websites from California parents have soared in the three days since this announcement, and 160,000 students have already de-enrolled from the public schools in California since COVID began. We also contemplate how Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe let the progressive mask slip when he blurted out that parents shouldn’t have any influence on what is taught in public schools. Nothing shouts contempt for self-government in the most important matters than telling parents, “shut up.”

With all the controversy over General Mark  Milley’s direct contacts with senior Chinese military leaders, his apparently extensive contacts with journalists, and the confusion or contradictions over what advice he and others gave to President Biden about our endgame in Afghanistan, I decided to reach out to Mackubin T. Owens, decorated Vietnam War vet, long time friend of Power Line, professor at the Naval War College, and author of numerous articles on books on civilian-military relations.

Among his books that bear on this subject include US Civil-Military Relations After 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil Military Bargain, and What Military Officers Need to Know about Civil-Military Relations (with co-author Christopher Robertson). Also not to be missed is his 2015 article in Strategic Studies Quarterly, “Military Officers: Political without Partisanship.” And above all, see his brand new article in Strategic Studies Quarterly, “Maximum Toxicity: Civil-Military Relations in the Trump Era.”

We’re a day late because of travel problems, and Steve is working on a backup computer because he left his laptop behind at his office on Friday, but this allowed us finally to book historian Richard Samuelson to join the happy hour to talk about . . . history. Specifically, what the hell has happened to history? It’s not just that the academic field has gone left like everything else; it has become narrow, mediocre, and . . . boring. Richard breaks it all down for us, with some cheers and side rants from Steve and Lucretia.

From there we do a deep dive into the Arizona election audit, and kick around the two big stories of the end of the week: the revelation, in the New York Times of all unexpected places, that the FBI had an informant inside the Proud Boys on January 6, and the revelation that the Biden Administration admitted 12,000 Haitians from under the Del Rio Bridge scene. It is extremely unlikely than any of this number were properly processed.

Steve’s happy place!

Steve returns as host this week, and after some of the ritual lover’s quarrel over whisky (including a celebration of Steve’s happy place—see nearby pic), Steve and Lucretia get down to the main business, which is slagging the left, and taking on the problem of “scientific expertise” in modern government.

Lucretia assumes hosting duties for this week’s potpourri of a show because Steve is recovering from major surgery, which he relates at the show opening today. (It includes a theological dimension!) But while Steve is improving, the recall effort against California Gov. Gavin Newsom appears not to be. Steve explains the reasons why the polls show a strong turnaround in Newsom’s favor over the last week to 10 days, and why Larry Elder’s campaign has not been as effective as it could be.

From there Steve and Lucretia share their own reminiscences of the morning of 20 years ago—Steve from just three blocks away from the White House, and Lucretia over in Europe—and then answer the question: are we better off than we were 20 years ago? The answers are less than reassuring. President Biden’s absence from a public speaking role today underscores the problem that is getting more difficult for the White House to conceal with every passing day: the man isn’t up to the job. And that’s even more worrying that the larger geopolitical scene of the moment, which is distinctly more ominous than it was 20 years ago.

Next Tuesday, Encounter Books will publish Glenn Ellmers’ magisterial intellectual biography The Soul of Politics: Harry Jaffa and the Fight for America, and Glenn joins us this week to walk through some of the highlights in the book in what is turning out to be a month-long “Jaffapalooza.”

Naturally, we draw Glenn into our running argument about the problems of communicating the proper understanding of the principle of equality in an age of raging “equity,” which is not the same thing. But from there we move on to surveying the capacious mind of Jaffa, including his excellent but overlooked work on Shakespeare, and how, over course of 40 years, he changed his mind about Lincoln and the American Founding.

Glenn had access to a large number of Jaffa’s early letters and papers that no one has seen before, such as his extensive correspondence with Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey (among others) over the years.

This week’s episode is a Biden-free zone, so if you’re looking to avoid the Biden-Afghan collapse story, this is the show for you.

Instead we decided to circle back return to an argument Steve was losing badly at the end of last week’s episode with Michael Anton, and go into greater depth on the meaning of equality in American political thought. To recap, Steve argued that the critics of “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence—from Tocqueville to today’s “paleoconservatives”—have a point, at least historically considered, and that the simple and laudatory instinct of Americans that “you are not the boss of me” is insufficient and prone to the defects of cognitive dissonance.

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.”)

We weren’t able to do an episode for our regular Saturday time slot last weekend because Steve was on the road, so we’re doing this mid-week show with a special return guest, philosopher Spencer Case, who in a previous life served in the U.S. Army in deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. While supportive of our military mission, he had misgivings about how it was all going during his Afghan deployment in 2009 and 2010.

Then Steve and Lucretia discuss at length whether conservatives should turn against the military, or at the very least the politicized and bureaucratized military leadership. They spend a lot of time discussing a savage article by an anonymous serving general officer posted by Glenn Reynolds on Instapundit, which says, among other bracing things, “Unreformed, the Department of Defense is an inscrutable labyrinth which invites fraud, waste, and abuse.” To which Steve proposes: maybe we should cut the Pentagon budget in half. The left has always hated the military, while the right always defended it and wanted to spend more, even with its waste and extravagance. But perhaps that support was a contingent relic of the Cold War? What does it mean for the American military if both the left and the right dislike it?

Lucretia takes over hosting duties for this episode (which seems only truth-in-advertising, since most listeners think she is charge every week), as we contemplate the question: wouldn’t it be nice if we actually had two political parties? We use as our text for the subject one of Harry Jaffa’s earliest essays, “The Nature and Origin of the American Party System,” where he explains why at its core party competition at crucial moments presents a fundamental choice between conflicting understandings of the nation’s core principles.

As Jaffa puts it in a bracing paragraph early in the essay:

As everyone knows, California is having another fun-filled recall election next month, and some recent polls show that Governor Gavin Gruesom is in trouble and may well lose. The way California’s recall works is that if a majority votes to recall the governor, the second step on the ballot is to choose a successor, and right now the list of people who have qualified for the replacement field is nearing 50.

Ted Gaines

When it comes to COVID, Power Line’s go-to source for making sense of the subject is Kevin Roche, who brings his years of experience in the health care field to his very useful website, healthy-skeptic.com. Scott Johnson follows Kevin’s work closely on Power Line (here, here, and here, for example), but we decided it was time  to hear from Kevin directly in podcast form.

Among his other pithy phrases are, “Coronamania thrives in darkness,” a nice twist on the pretension of the Washington Post, and also, “you can’t spell ‘pandemic’ without panic.”

We’re back! After a hiatus for a week while Steve was overseas, we return to the bar with some new whiskies and a sequel to our last episode that talked about the hysterical attacks on our friends at the Claremont Institute. Little did we know the liberal hysteria was just getting started!

Damon Linker, the columnist at The Week and a previous guest on this podcast, thinks our Claremont friends are going all-in for dictatorship. This seems a bit overwrought, but it provides a good occasion for a genuine example of “Caesarism” in the form of Franklin Roosevelt and especially his imperious and authoritarian First Inaugural Address. Most people recall only one famous line from the speech—”We have nothing to fear but fear itself” (did FDR’s speechwriters actually get this from a newspaper ad? We review the evidence). Much less recalled are FDR’s multiple references to how the American people needed and wanted “discipline,” and that he was more than ready to be the disciplinarian, especially if Congress didn’t step up and grant him the extraordinary powers he wanted.

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.