Cliff Bates

Our parochial news media seem only interested in reporting on the state of things here in the U.S. and in their favorite European vacation spots like France and Italy, but of course the COVID-19 pandemic extends into Eastern Europe as well, where most countries are also on some degree of quarantine or lockdown. I decided to check in with Clifford Angell Bates, a friend based in Warsaw who teaches political philosophy at the University of Warsaw. He is the author of Aristotle’s Best Regime: Kingship, Democracy, and the Rule of Law (LSU Press, 2003), as well as numerous articles and book reviews. Prof. Bates is currently working on a book on the crisis of modern sovereignty and how the crisis emerges from the Hobbesian foundation of modern theory of sovereignty.

Beyond describing the street scene and atmosphere in Warsaw, we also range widely across several other topics, including intellectual life in Polish universities, the character of Polish “populism,” Polish attitudes toward the European Union, and how Trump is regarded. Plus some good anti-Russian jokes, which Poles have in adundance. And as you can see from the nearby photo, Cliff is a man who enjoys a good cigar.

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Sarah Hunt

There’s gonzo, and then there’s Sarah Hunt. Hunt is the humorist/policy activist who came up with the moniker “Green Nude Eel” in response to the preposterous extravagances of the utopian environmental left and in particular a certain freshperson congresscritter whose name shall not be uttered here. But Hunt, the founder of the Joseph Rainey Center, a boutique Washington think tank, is an environmentalist herself, but one so idiosyncratic that it might be better to think of her as idiosocratic instead. Certainly we have fun with our frequent re-enactments of The Symposium.

Certainly we have a great time kicking around everything from energy and environment to—what else?—the coronavirus crisis (don’t miss her article in The Federalist about how her neurosurgeon sister is making masks at home between hospital rounds), to the endless comedy of Washington DC, including the answer to the great question, what do lobbyists and sex offenders have in common? You’ll have to listen to the find out the answer, which also comes along with some food and drink recommendations for your extended quarantine.

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Brian Sullivan

This bonus episode features the insights and observations of Brian Sullivan, a serial entrepreneur in the domain of health care and medical device innovation. He is the founder and CEO of Celcuity, a biomedical research firm currently working on highly specialized cancer research. Brian, a long time friend of Power Line in Minnesota, has been sending along his unique thoughts on the coronavirus epidemic, especially some caveats about the reported data and what we should be looking for in terms of data quality, completeness, and what really matters most—the number of fatalities and the overall morbidity rate. We thought it would be worth hearing directly from Brian about all of this, and in this conversation he offers some facts and figures about Japan and South Korea that have been been widely reported or appreciated.

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It may be too strong to say that China and the United States are engaged in “germ warfare,” but the Chinese propaganda effort, aided by our own irrepressible fifth column in the media that seems to want to take China’s side against the U.S., reveals that the COVID-19 episode may prove an inflection point—a crisis for the Chinese regime akin to the Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union—that results in some fundamental re-orderings of our globalized world in fairly short order.

The Chinese government hasn’t exactly distinguished itself from the very start, a point made by our guest for this special mid-week episode, the Hoover Institution’s Michael Auslin. Michael has a long must-read article up this morning at RealClearPoltitcs entitled “Beijing Fears COVID-19Is Turning Point for China, Globalization,” and we review its main arguments in this conversation, but also go beyond it to ask some fundamental questions about whether China can become more transparent and truly liberalize in any meaningful way. You’ll just have to listen for our answer.

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Mark Mills

I’m posting this week’s episode a couple days ahead of our usual weekend schedule to keep up with the fast-moving news cycle of the most important story of the week—no, not necessarily the coronavirus, but rather the oil price war that broke out last weekend between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The timing may not be purely coincidental, as I discuss with my guest this week, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Mark Mills. Mark is my go-to person for all things pertaining to energy and our ongoing digital revolution.

Bottom line: Oil isn’t going away any time soon, and the independent oil sector in the U.S. holds the high cards in this battle over the long run—but the next year or so could be very rough. Toward the end of our conversation also offers his typically unique thoughts about what we’re going to learn from the COVID 19 experience.

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How in the heck did Joe Biden’s mummified campaign come back to life? Or is it just back to zombie status—still dead, but up and moving and menacing the living? That’s the main subject of this week’s fast-paced, high energy episode featuring Power Line’s own John Hinderaker and listener favorite “Lucretia.” (Our conclusion is that Democrats decided they are more the party of creeping socialism than Bernie socialism, in which case it is better to have an actual creep as the nominee.) We also break down Sen. Chuck Schumer’s startling threat to the Supreme Court, which is even worse than it sounded when put in a larger context, and we also kick around the coronavirus and its potential political effects. We manage to sneak in some of our favorite Joe Bidenisms along the way, and a few “lyin’ dog-faced pony soldier” insults.

Exit bumper music this week is a longer excerpt of our opening bumper music that people occasional ask me about, which is “Buster,” by moe.

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What do you do if you are a center-left thinker confronting the train wreck of the Democratic nomination contest just now, with the strong possibility that socialist Bernie Sanders will be the nominee? Might we actually have an election where some liberals will leave the country if they win? This week’s episode takes up the scene with Damon Linker, senior correspondent for The Week, and assistant professor of the liberal arts at Ursinus College.

Our conversation ranges widely from the state of the Democratic nomination contest and some of the central issues involved, to current book projects and currents in political philosophy today, and finally to a brief look at what ails the academic publishing marketplace today.

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This week’s episode, featuring listener favorite Lucretia, Power Line’s International Woman of Mystery, was taped while the Nevada caucuses were in process, but now we know that Bernie Sanders has crushed it. He’s the Coronavirus of the Democratic Party—a long latency period that has now broken out into an unstoppable epidemic. It’s over: the only question now is who Sanders will pick as his running mate. Watch the next debate, to see who attacks Sanders and who goes easy on him hoping to be his Veep pick.

Steve and Lucretia set aside their shameless flirting long enough to ponder the prospects that Bernie Sanders might be within two stents length of the White House, which Steve astoundingly finds un-troubling for some strange and recondite reasons. He’s not even that worried if Bernie wins! You’ll have to listen to see how Lucretia checks him on this madness.

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This week we violate the legendary first rule of Fight Club with Tevi Troy, author of the wonderfully gossipy new book Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump. Troy, a veteran of the George W. Bush White House and author of several previous books about overlooked aspects of the presidency, takes us on a tour of some of the legendary feuds and personality and power clashes in the West Wing. Our conversation offers up some of our favorite dishes on people ranging from Henry Kissinger, Richard Darman, and George Ball, to some of the subterfuges people use to conduct their fights (especially leaking). If you like White House gossip and mean-spirited backstabbing, this is the special episode for you!

Exit music this week is fitting for the subject matter, “Pick Up the Pieces” by the Average White Band. Plus, in response to some reader questions from new listeners, at the end of this episode I explain the origin and meaning our our sign-off phrase, “Milk the soft power dividend!”

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Stanley Kurtz

It is not news that the humanities and social sciences have been degraded by the sustained assault from the left for several decades now, but Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center provides illuminating new details and perspectives in his recent report for the National Association of Scholars entitled The Lost History of Western Civilization.

The broad outlines of this story are generally known, but Stanley explains how the campus left doesn’t merely want to broaden the curriculum to take in true “multicultural” perspectives, but in fact is motivated by fundamental hostility to Western Civilization. This is why the left wants to suppress the old “great books,” though I think what this really represents is actually a deep intellectual inferiority complex—the left knows its jargon-filled nostrums can’t really hold up to Shakespeare, for example—combined with a will to power that is chiefly an expression of a desire for retribution for past injustices, real or imagined. This is no longer education. It is political activism cloaked in academic robes.

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Brad Thompson

Prof. C. Bradley Thompson of Clemson University has written a superb new book, the first of two volumes, about the American Founding, America’s Revolutionary Mind: A Moral History of the American Revolution and the Declaration That Defined It. In my opinion this book deserves to take its place alongside Bernard Bailyn’s Ideological Origins of the American Revolution and Gordon Wood’s Creation of the American Republic as one of the indispensable books for any reader looking for a serious intellectual history of our nation’s beginnings. Although it is a solid scholarly book, it is without the specialized jargon and forbidding prose that often make academic books unreadable for non-specialists. And Thompson brings out some sources of the Founding that have been glided over too lightly or ignored by other scholars and historians.

In addition to this book and its planned sequel on the Constitution, Brad runs the Clemson Center for the Study of Capitalism, which in addition to having good things to say about capitalism also offers a Great Books program, which you can read about here,  and also in this terrific City Journal profile. Parents of high school students often ask me where they might send their kids to college to get a good education in the humanities instead of the politically correct drivel that has ruined the humanities at most colleges today, and Brad’s program makes Clemson a place to add to your list of prospective colleges to consider. (I also hear Clemson has a good football team, but that’s just a wild rumor I think.)

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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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