Codswallop 201

Number 7 in a series

Maybe I should change the title of this series. By now the codswallop has reached postgraduate level. For continuity I will stick with 201. Here is something about Hillsdale College from Wikipedia:

Hillsdale College is a private college in Hillsdale, Michigan. Founded in 1844 by devout abolitionists known as Free Will Baptists, it has a liberal arts curriculum that is based on the Western heritage as a product of both the Greco-Roman culture and the Judeo-Christian tradition. Hillsdale requires every student, regardless of major, to complete a core curriculum that includes courses on the Great Books, U.S. Constitution, biology, chemistry, and physics.

Since the late 20th century, the college has been one of several in the U.S. that declines to accept federal financial support, instead depending entirely on private donations.

That sounds fair enough as far as it goes. Most recently under the leadership of Larry P. Arnn the public face of the college has come to embrace the seamiest side of American politics, going the full monty for right wing American ideology and particularly for the Donald Trump. This is apparent from the selection of speakers the college hosts and from the editorial content of their newsletter Imprimis. Here is a recent presentation:

Russian Collusion?

Mollie Hemingway
Senior Editor, The Federalist

Mollie Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor. She received her B.A. from the University of Colorado at Denver. She has been a Philips Foundation Journalism Fellow, a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, and a Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College. She has written for numerous publications, including The Wall Street JournalThe Washington Post, and Christianity Today, and is the author of Trump vs. the Media.

he following is adapted from a speech delivered on September 7, 2017, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.

We keep being told that President Trump is not normal. This much has been blindingly obvious. He had never run for office or otherwise served in a public capacity. He has been accused, not without reason, of breaking all manner of political norms. America’s most nontraditional president was never going to conduct business as usual from the West Wing. Less than a year into his first term, he has already caused much anguish in Washington. This should be no surprise—while running for office Trump repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp” and shake things up. Americans knew who they were voting for, and history will judge the results.

That said, Trump’s nascent presidency has coincided with perhaps the greatest violation of political norms this country has ever seen—a violation that has nothing to do with Trump’s behavior. Since the election last November, there has been a sustained, coordinated attack on Trump’s legitimacy as president following his victory in a free and fair election. This has the potential to cause far more lasting damage to America than Trump’s controversial style.

Democratic operatives and their media allies attempted to explain Trump’s victory with a claim they had failed to make stick during the general election: Trump had nefarious ties to Russia. This was a fertile area for allegations, if for no other reason than that Trump had been reluctant to express criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. By contrast, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly condemned Russia’s 2011 elections, saying they were “neither free nor fair” and expressing “serious concerns” about them. She publicly called for a full investigation while meeting with top Russian officials. This made Putin livid. “Mr. Putin said that hundreds of millions of dollars in ‘foreign money’ was being used to influence Russian politics, and that Mrs. Clinton had personally spurred protesters to action,” The New York Times reported.

You wanna embrace the golden calf?
Ankle, and thigh, and upper half?
Here it is!
I mean, here it is!

We can only guess Millie Hemingway was awash in the Kool-Aid at the time. To be fair, the speech was presented in September 2017, barely seven months into the Trump presidency. However, this was long after the crimes of the Trump administration had become manifest, including the revelation President Trump’s national security advisor had been working back deals with the Russian government and had lied about it when questioned by the FBI. This was also months after President Trump fired FBI director James Comey when the Director refused to back off on the investigation of fired Director Michael Flynn. In the intervening months much additional has emerged, detailing the corruption of Donald Trump and also his administration. You might think Hillsdale, and by association Larry Arnn, would have moderated its support in light of the knowledge. You would be wrong. I was alerted to this Imprimis item by the following sponsored post on my Facebook feed.

What is impossible to escape is the once-reputable Hillsdale College has become a sounding board for the most corrupt administration in our history. We can wonder how future studies at Hillsdale will treat this period of the school’s history.

Codswallop 201

Number 6 in a series

I am signed up to receive mailings from Hillsdale College, especially Larry Arnn, current college president. Hillsdale has a long tradition, but for the present day any distinction between the college and a right-wing boot camp is difficult to discern. Their newsletter Imprimis is a go-to page for defense of the Trump presidency.

Imprimis recaps talks by guest speakers, a recent being John Marini, described on the site as a “professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno. He earned his B.A. at San Jose State University and his Ph.D. in government at the Claremont Graduate School.” His talk, delivered at the college on 11 September 2018, exemplifies Hillsdale’s penchant for propagandizing. It is a thinly veiled defense of a corrupt administration—that is if by “thinly veiled” you mean “full frontal.” Here are some excerpts. But first the headline:

Politics by Other Means: The Use and Abuse of Scandal

Truth be known, this is what caught my eye when it popped up in my email. For the past two years and more the combination of “politics” and “scandal” has equated to “Donald Trump.” You have to wait until the end before this becomes hammer obvious, but follow the link above and read the entire piece.

Nearly every political administration has potential scandal lying just below the surface. There are always those in government who seek to profit privately from public service, and there are always those who will abuse their power. All governments provide the occasion for scoundrels of both kinds. But the scandals they precipitate rarely erupt into full-blown crises of the political order. What differentiates the scandals that do?

Professor Marini is molding the mindset of the reader. There are scandals, and there are scandals, but watch out when scandal is wielded toward political ends. We are beginning to think there is a scandal that is like any other scandal, but this scandal is being amplified for political purposes.

Many great scandals arise not as a means of exposing corruption, but as a means of attacking political foes while obscuring the political differences that are at issue.

We suspect Professor Marini is going to show us an example.

The key to understanding how this works is to see that most political scandals, sooner or later, are transformed into legal dramas. As legal dramas, scandals become understood in non-partisan terms. The way in which they are resolved can have decisive political impacts, but those in charge of resolving them are the “neutral” prosecutors, judges, and bureaucrats who make up the permanent (and unelected) government, not the people’s elected representatives. To resort to scandal in this way is thus a tacit admission that the scandalmongers no longer believe they are able to win politically. To paraphrase Clausewitz, scandal provides the occasion for politics by other means.

We are being reminded that if you see somebody making issue of a scandal, it could be for political purpose and not for reasons of morality and good government.

He cannot go forward without touching on the scandals of Richard Nixon.

Richard Nixon won a landslide electoral victory in 1972 and was removed from office less than two years later. The Watergate scandal then became the model for subsequent political scandals, down to the current day. How and why did Watergate come about and what did it mean?

I was there. Richard Nixon won by a landslide. Even I voted for him, but for nefarious reasons. By summer of 1972 it was obvious to me that Nixon would not serve out his term, and I cast my vote as part of a devious scheme to embarrass the Republican Party. There’s more.

Professor Marini touches too heavily on Nixon’s 1972 landslide. The electoral vote was one of the most lopsided ever, 520 to 17 over George McGovern, but that is moderated (slightly) by the popular tally of 46,740,323 to 28,901,598. A trouncing, nonetheless. But that should have given Nixon a mandate. Professor Marini hints at that. Perhaps Nixon believed it, as well. Professor Marini digs down into the history leading up to this moment. He talks of the great shift driven by the election of 1964:

This dramatic centralization of power created a political reaction in the electorate that began pushing back against the Great Society policies of the time.

He talks of “centralization of power,” but the civil rights legislation passed under President Johnson was what stuck in the craw of American conservatives. Following the 1972 election it was, according to Marini, a political power play that brought down the president.

As we all know, Nixon’s intentions for his second term came to naught. American politics after Watergate were shaped by those who had engineered his downfall.

Political operatives engineered Nixon’s downfall. Really? I watched. It was Richard Nixon who engineered Richard Nixon’s downfall. I have the tapes. But for Marini, there is no end to defense of Richard Nixon:

It wasn’t until many years after Watergate that we learned the identity of the source of the leaks that led to Nixon’s removal. Deep Throat, the source for the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at The Washington Post, turned out to be Mark Felt, a high-level FBI official who had access to all of the classified information pertaining to the investigation. Felt leaked that information selectively over the course of a year or more, helping to shape public opinion in ways the prosecution could not. Although Woodward and Bernstein were lauded as investigative reporters, they merely served as a conduit by which the bureaucracy undermined the authority of the elected chief executive. Geoff Shepard, a young member of Nixon’s defense team who has continued investigating Watergate using the Freedom of Information Act, has recently established as well that the prosecutors and judges involved in Watergate violated the procedural requirements that ensure impartiality, acting instead as partisans opposed to Nixon.

“[P]artisans opposed to Nixon?” Insert “the rule of law opposed to Nixon.”

After a great deal more, we ultimately get to what Marini has in mind.

We see today, in the two-year Mueller investigation and its aftermath, yet another attempt to destroy an anti-establishment president using a legal rather than political process of adjudication. The most notable difference between this scandal and Watergate is that President Trump has so far succeeded—largely through his relentless characterization of most of those in the media as dishonest partisans rather than objective reporters—in preventing the scandals surrounding him from being defined, by his enemies, in legal rather than political terms.

The guardians of the status quo in the permanent government and the media have defined past political scandals so successfully that a full and proper understanding of Watergate, for instance, is likely impossible now. It remains to be seen whether, in the end, they will succeed again today—whether the legend will again become fact, and they will print the legend.

Believe it if you will, professor, but from all appearances what you are serving up is codswallop, version 201.

Codswallop 201

Number 5 in a series

I forget how I hooked onto this Hillsdale College business, but I’m now receiving periodic emails and also stuff arriving by post. They have a publication called Imprimis, , the latest edition of which was in my box yesterday. Here is some pertinent text:

America’s Cold Civil War

Charles R. Kesler
Editor, Claremont Review of Books

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered at Hillsdale College on September 27, 2018, during a two-week teaching residency as a Eugene C. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Journalism.

Six years ago I wrote a book about Barack Obama in which I predicted that modern American liberalism, under pressures both fiscal and philosophical, would either go out of business or be forced to radicalize. If it chose the latter, I predicted, it could radicalize along two lines: towards socialism or towards an increasingly post-modern form of leadership. Today it is doing both. As we saw in Bernie Sanders’ campaign, the youngest generation of liberals is embracing socialism openly—something that would have been unheard of during the Cold War. At the same time, identity politics is on the ascendant, with its quasi-Nietzschean faith in race, sex, and power as the keys to being and meaning. In the #MeToo movement, for example—as we saw recently in Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle—the credo is, “Believe the woman.” In other words, truth will emerge not from an adversarial process weighing evidence and testimony before the bar of reason, but from yielding to the will of the more politically correct. “Her truth” is stronger than any objective or disinterested truth.

That’s a warm-up. You can read the entire article on the linked page. Here is what this issue has to say about the author, Charles R. Kesler.

Charles R. Kesler is the Dengler-Dykema Distinguished Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and editor of the Claremont Review of Books. He earned his bachelor’s degree in social studies and his A.M. and Ph.D. in government from Harvard University. A senior fellow at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and a recipient of the 2018 Bradley Prize, he is the editor of several books, including Keeping the Tablets: Modern American Conservative Thought(with William F. Buckley Jr.), and the author of I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Future of Liberalism.

The point I’m making is this author and this organization are down on liberalism, and they are up on American conservative values. Yeah, I know. That used to stand for a lot. Nowadays people will wonder what they are going to get when they buy into the modern conservative brand. A look back is telling. The February issue highlighted conservative speaker Joseph E. diGenova.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on January 25, 2018, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C., as part of the AWC Family Foundation Lecture Series. 

Over the past year, facts have emerged that suggest there was a plot by high-ranking FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials in the Obama administration, acting under color of law, to exonerate Hillary Clinton of federal crimes and then, if she lost the election, to frame Donald Trump and his campaign for colluding with Russia to steal the presidency. This conduct was not based on mere bias, as has been widely claimed, but rather on deeply felt animus toward Trump and his agenda.

In the course of this plot, FBI Director James Comey, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI Deputy Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok, Strzok’s paramour and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, FBI General Counsel James Baker, and DOJ senior official Bruce Ohr—perhaps among others—compromised federal law enforcement to such an extent that the American public is losing trust. A recent CBS News poll finds 48 percent of Americans believe that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia collusion probe is “politically motivated,” a stunning conclusion. And 63 percent of polled voters in a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll believe that the FBI withheld vital information from Congress about the Clinton and Russia collusion investigations.

This is American conservatism today, and Hillsdale College is front and center with pushing the brand. Having no deep insight into college life at dear old Hillsdale, I am left to conclude that any distinction between that institution and a right wing training camp will be hard to discern.

Wishing to throw some cold water on their party, I will take some space here to remind them and others of what it is they are fronting:

I’m thinking the likes of DiGenova is the tip of an iceberg. The baggage recently taken on by American conservatism is beginning to weigh heavy, and a certain stench is becoming apparent. Hillsdale could help itself by bailing at the nearest opportunity, but that is not about to happen. The rot is firmly set and will not wash out.

Odd Ball Conservatives Say the Darndest Things

Number 10 in a Series

As mentioned before, I’m signed up for a number of conservative newsletters. One is from Hillsdale College, an institution with considerable history and located in Michigan. Another is from the Media Research Center. Ask me whether the two are somehow connected. It’s not necessary to look far for the answer. MRC frequently references Hillsdale in their several times weekly email. Here is something recently:

Below is a special message from our advertiser, Hillsdale College. The financial support provided by these occasional messages allows us to provide, at no cost to you, these vital updates. Please note that the following message reflects the opinions and representations of our advertiser alone, and not necessarily the opinion or editorial positions of the Media Research Center.

[Followed by]

Fellow American,

Journalists, professors, and politicians on the Left want you to feel guilty about our nation’s heritage. They would rather erase the liberty that so many brave men and women fought and died to preserve—and even apologize for it!

There is more, of course, but this is a good indicator of America’s conservative mindset. “Journalists, professors, and politicians on the Left want you to feel guilty about our nation’s heritage.”

Really? The writer provides no citations. We have to guess at instances of those on the left wanting us to feel guilty, which guessing can produce unintended consequences. It could be we guess at a republic that started life with a constitution accommodating slavery. Fact is, the first draft of the Constitution, before others got around to making changes, did not provide protections against an intrusive government. Freedom of speech, right to a fair trial, protection of private property from government seizure, all were allowed under the Constitution as unamended.

Even the first ten amendments to the Constitution did not eliminate laws supporting slavery. Two more amendments were added before number 13 addressed protection against this insult to humanity—72 years after the Bill of Rights. Is this what the good people at Hillsdale College have in mind when they charge those on the left of being ashamed of our inheritance?

There is more. The ad from Hillsdale gives room to consider America’s left wants us to feel guilty about:

  • Genocide against indigenous people
  • A hundred years of denial of civil rights to Americans following the elimination of legally sanctioned slavery.

Left to their own imaginations, fans of MRC, and likewise Hillsdale College, may not need specific examples. They need only something to reinforce an inner voice that tells them something is deathly wrong with the political opposition. The consequences include a poisonous fruit.

We now have an elected president who feeds off this inner voice, speaking to his listeners’ darkest nature, eliciting a response counter to any and all that would make this country proud:

Heckler yells ‘scumbag’ to media at Trump rally

At a campaign-style rally, President Donald Trump egged the crowd on to heckle the media. CNN’s Jim Acosta describes his experience.

A free and protected press (now encompassing multi-dimensional media), is targeted by a sitting president, and attacks against verifiable truth are moving the boundaries. Is this the kind of thing Hillsdale urges on its students? That they do not distance themselves from this obscenity speaks volumes.

Codswallop 201

Number 4 in a series

Yesterday I posted number 3 in this series about Hillsdale College. Hillsdale came to my attention some time ago, and I now receive periodical email from Larry P. Arnn, current president of Hillsdale. I also receive monthly issues of Imprimis, a Hillsdale newsletter. The matter yesterday concerned an item in the most recent issue with the headline The Politicization of the FBI. It was taken from a speech by Washington lawyer Joseph E. diGenova, and any distinction from a crude piece of propaganda is difficult to discern. Come Monday morning, and apparently we are not finished with Mr. diGenova.

CNN is now reporting that President Donald J. Trump has hired diGenova to join his legal team as he deals with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller‘s probe into criminal matters relating to the President and those around him:

(CNN) — President Donald Trump will hire an attorney to join his personal legal team who has alleged the President is being framed by a group of FBI and Justice Department officials, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

The longtime Washington attorney, Joseph diGenova, is expected to join the President’s legal team at a time when Trump is taking a more aggressive approach to publicly dealing with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, lobbing a series of attacks against Mueller on Twitter over the weekend.

The CNN news item included a clip of diGenova appearing on Fox News in January, laying out the case for FBI malfeasance (my wording). The Fox News clip shows diGenova telling us this:

There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton, and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely-created crime.Everything that we have seen, from the texts and from all the facts developing shows that the FBI and senior DOJ officials conspired to violate the law and to deny Donald Trump his civil rights.

That’s heavy stuff, and it would be damning against the DOJ, including the FBI, were it even half true. I find it interesting that the banner scrolling across on Fox News reads “Is Mueller’s probe unraveling?” This being Fox News, I have little doubt there is wishful thinking on this channel’s part as they strive diligently to defend the modern piece of political art that is Donald Trump.

Summing up for Hillsdale College, this time-honored institution continues to thump for an absurd conservative idealism, and truth, least of all academics, is not a prime concern. More will be coming from Arnn and from Hillsdale, so the show won’t be over anytime soon. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Codswallop 201

Number 3 in a series

Apparently I am not finished with Hillsdale College. It’s been so long since I started following this topic that I now forget what first caught my attention. Anyhow, they offered for free a very short on-line course, and the topic was the United States Constitution. As mentioned previously, I took the course, and I came away with the impression that what is advertised as a small institution of higher learning is, in fact, a propaganda mill for conservative causes. That impression has been reinforced.

I get regular emails from Larry P. Arnn, twelfth and current president of Hillsdale College. The Wikipedia entry contains a defining point:

In 2013, Arnn was criticized for his remarks about ethnic minorities when he testified before the Michigan State Legislature. In testimony against the Common Core curriculum standards, in which Arnn expressed concern about government interference with educational institutions, he recalled that shortly after he assumed the presidency at Hillsdale he received a letter from the state Department of Education that said his college “violated the standards for diversity,” adding, “because we didn’t have enough dark ones, I guess, is what they meant.” After being criticized for calling minorities “dark ones”, he explained that he was referring to “dark faces”, saying: “The State of Michigan sent a group of people down to my campus, with clipboards … to look at the colors of people’s faces and write down what they saw. We don’t keep records of that information. What were they looking for besides dark ones?”[11] Michigan House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel condemned Arnn for his comments, which he called “offensive” and “inflammatory and bigoted”, and asked for an apology.[12] The College issued a statement apologizing for Arnn’s remark, while reiterating Arnn’s concern about “state sponsored racism” in the form of affirmative action policies.

I also receive by postal mail regular copies of Imprimis, which seems to be a monthly Hillsdale newsletter, the title translating to “in the first place.” Most recent was the February 2018 issue, Volume 47, Number 2. There is an indication this operation has been around for nearly half a century.

The headline on the very front, that caught my attention, reads:

The Politicization of the FBI

Jesus help me, but I immediately recognized what this was all about. The issue is on-line, but to save you the bother of following the link, I am posting the text of the article by Joseph E. diGenova:

Joseph E. diGenova
Former U.S. Attorney

Joseph E. diGenova is a founding partner of diGenova & Toensing, LLP. He received his B.A. from the University of Cincinnati and his J.D. from Georgetown University. He has served as United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Independent Counsel of the United States, Special Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, and Counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (the Church Committee).

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on January 25, 2018, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C., as part of the AWC Family Foundation Lecture Series. 

Over the past year, facts have emerged that suggest there was a plot by high-ranking FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials in the Obama administration, acting under color of law, to exonerate Hillary Clinton of federal crimes and then, if she lost the election, to frame Donald Trump and his campaign for colluding with Russia to steal the presidency. This conduct was not based on mere bias, as has been widely claimed, but rather on deeply felt animus toward Trump and his agenda.

In the course of this plot, FBI Director James Comey, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI Deputy Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok, Strzok’s paramour and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, FBI General Counsel James Baker, and DOJ senior official Bruce Ohr—perhaps among others—compromised federal law enforcement to such an extent that the American public is losing trust. A recent CBS News poll finds 48 percent of Americans believe that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia collusion probe is “politically motivated,” a stunning conclusion. And 63 percent of polled voters in a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll believe that the FBI withheld vital information from Congress about the Clinton and Russia collusion investigations.

I spent my early legal career as a federal prosecutor. I later supervised hundreds of prosecutors and prosecutions as a U.S. Attorney and as an Independent Counsel. I have never witnessed investigations so fraught with failure to fulfill the basic elements of a criminal probe as those conducted under James Comey. Not since former Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray deep-sixed evidence during Watergate has the head of the FBI been so discredited as Comey is now.

The Case of the Clinton Emails

The Hillary Clinton email scandal began in 2013 with the U.S. House of Representatives investigation into the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. It was during that investigation that accessing Secretary of State Clinton’s emails became an issue. But it wasn’t until The New York Times broke the story on March 2, 2015, that Clinton had a secret, personal server that things really took off.

Thousands of emails that the House at first requested, then subpoenaed, conveniently disappeared—remember those reports about BleachBit and the smashing of Clinton’s numerous phones with hammers? Clinton and her aides were, to say the least, not forthcoming. It was clearly time for the FBI and DOJ to act, using the legal tools at their disposal to secure the emails and other materials the House had subpoenaed. But that didn’t happen.

One tool at their disposal was the grand jury—the sine qua non of a criminal investigation. Grand juries are comprised of 16 to 23 citizens who hear a prosecutor’s case against an alleged criminal. The subject of the investigation is not present during the entire proceeding, which can last up to a year. A grand jury provides investigators with the authority to collect evidence by issuing subpoenas for documents and witnesses. FBI agents and prosecutors cannot themselves demand evidence. Only a grand jury can—or a court, in cases where a subpoena recipient refuses a grand jury’s command to provide documents or to testify.

Incredibly, FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Lynch refused to convene a grand jury during the Clinton investigation. Thus investigators had no authority to subpoena evidence or witnesses. Lacking leverage, Comey then injudiciously granted immunity to five Clinton aides in return for evidence that could have been obtained with a subpoena. Even when Clinton claimed 39 times during a July 2, 2016, interview—an interview led by disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok—that she could not recall certain facts because of a head injury, Comey refused the case agents’ request to subpoena her medical records.

Comey claims he negotiated the immunity deals because of his concern about time. Yet the investigation was opened in the summer of 2015, nearly a year before he cut these deals. Compare this to the DOJ’s handling of four-star Marine General James E. Cartwright, who pleaded guilty in October 2016 to a false statement about leaking classified information to The New York Times. In that case, the DOJ bragged about its use of subpoenas and search warrants.

Not only was there no grand jury, the FBI never issued a search warrant—something it does when there is concern a person will destroy evidence. Clinton deleted half her emails and then claimed, under penalty of perjury, that she had turned over to the government all emails that “were or potentially were” work-related. The FBI later found email chains classified as “secret” or “confidential” that she had not turned over. Still no search warrant was issued.

Comey’s dereliction did not stop at the failure to utilize essential prosecutorial tools. He violated several rules that prosecutors consider sacrosanct:

  • Comey allowed one lawyer to represent four material witnesses, an arrangement ripe for the four to coordinate testimony.
  • After needlessly giving immunity to two lawyers representing Clinton, Comey permitted both to sit in on her July 2, 2016, FBI interview—a patent conflict. He claimed he could not control who sat in on the “voluntary” interview. That’s nonsense. He could have convened a grand jury, subpoenaed Clinton, and compelled her to appear and be questioned without a lawyer or else plead the Fifth Amendment.
  • Comey authorized the destruction of laptop computers that belonged to Clinton’s aides and were under congressional subpoena.
  • Comey ignored blatant evidence of culpability. It is ridiculous to the general public and risible to those who have security clearances for Clinton to claim she thought that “(c)” placed after paragraphs in her emails meant the material was in alphabetical order rather than meaning it was classified. If she thought (c) indicated alphabetical order, where were (a) and (b) on the documents? Clinton and her supporters touted her vast experience as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, positions requiring frequent use of classified information and presumably common sense. Yet neither experience nor common sense informed her decisions when handling classified materials.
  • Comey and the FBI never questioned Clinton about her public statements, which changed over time and were blatantly false. “I did not email classified information to anyone” morphed into “I did not email anything marked ‘classified,’” which morphed into the claim that (c) did not mean what it clearly meant. False and changing statements are presented to juries routinely by prosecutors as evidence of guilt.
  • Breaking DOJ protocols, violating the chain of command, and assuming an authority he never had, Comey usurped the role of the U.S. attorney general on July 5, 2016, when he announced that the case against Clinton was closed. He justified his actions saying that he no longer trusted Attorney General Lynch after her June 27, 2016, meeting with Bill Clinton on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport. This meeting took place at the height of the so-called investigation—just days before Peter Strzok interviewed Clinton on July 2. Thanks to the efforts of Judicial Watch to secure documents through the Freedom of Information Act, we now know that Comey was already drafting a letter exonerating Clinton in May 2016—prior to interviewing more than a dozen major witnesses. We also know that the FBI’s reaction to the impropriety of the tarmac meeting was not disgust, but rather anger at the person who leaked the fact of the meeting. “We need to find that guy” and bring him before a supervisor, stated one (name redacted) FBI agent. Another argued that the source should be banned from working security details. Not one email expressed concern over the meeting. An FBI director who truly had his trust shaken would have questioned the members of Lynch’s FBI security detail for the Arizona trip about how the meeting came to be. Comey didn’t bother.

Comey described Clinton’s handling of classified information as “extremely careless,” a clumsy attempt to avoid the legal language of “gross negligence” for criminal mishandling of classified information—and we later learned that Peter Strzok, again, was responsible for editing this language in Comey’s statement. But practically speaking, the terms are synonymous. Any judge would instruct a jury to consider “gross negligence” as “extremely careless” conduct.

Comey claimed that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring the case against Clinton. I have spent many years investigating federal crimes, and I can tell you that a reasonable prosecutor would have utilized a grand jury, issued subpoenas and search warrants, and followed standard DOJ procedures for federal prosecutions. In short, Comey threw the case. He should have been fired long before he was.

In late spring 2016, just weeks prior to Comey’s July 5 press conference clearing Clinton of any crime, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe ordered FBI agents in New York to shut down their investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Their objections were overruled. Sources have told me that McCabe also shut down an additional Clinton investigation. This is the McCabe who, while he was overseeing the Clinton email investigation, had a wife running for the Virginia State Senate and receiving more than $460,000 in campaign contributions from a longtime Clinton loyalist, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Moreover, it was only after the news of Clinton’s private server became public in The New York Times that McAuliffe recruited McCabe’s wife to run for office. McCabe eventually recused himself from the Clinton probe, but that was one week before the 2016 election, after the decisions to clear Clinton and to pursue the Trump-Russia collusion investigation had already been made. So his recusal was meaningless.

In clearing legal impediments from Clinton’s path to the Democratic nomination, Comey and his senior staff thought they had helped Clinton clinch the presidency. Their actions put an end to a decades-long tradition of non-political federal law enforcement.

The Case of Trump-Russia Collusion

Rumors of collusion with Russia by Trump or the Trump campaign surfaced during the primaries in 2015, but gained in strength soon after Trump secured the Republican nomination in July 2016. Thanks to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, we now know that high-level FBI officials were involved in promoting these rumors. Among Horowitz’s discoveries were text messages between FBI Deputy Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page that suggest an illegal plan to utilize law enforcement to frame Trump. The most revealing exchange we know of took place on August 15, 2016. Concerned about the outcome of the election, Strzok wrote:

I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in [Andrew McCabe’s] office—that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.

No amount of sugar coating or post hoc explanation of this and other texts can conceal the couple’s animus against Trump and support for Clinton. Strzok’s messages illustrate his commitment to Clinton’s victory and Trump’s defeat or, if Trump won, to an “insurance policy.”

The term “insurance policy” obviously refers to the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, which to this day remains a probe with no underlying crime. This is not the talk of professional investigators, but of corrupt agents who have created two standards of justice based on their political leanings. It looks like a reprise of the schemes undertaken during an earlier era, under FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, that led to the creation of the Church Committee—a committee on which I served, and which tried to reform the FBI to prevent it from meddling in domestic politics.

At the heart of the Russia collusion scheme is the FBI’s utilization of a document paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Called the Steele Dossier because it was written by former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele, this document contains unsubstantiated information designed to taint Trump and his presidency. While Clinton partisans point out that candidate Clinton never referred to the Steele Dossier in her speeches, the fact is that she did not have to—the FBI hierarchy was doing it for her! Indeed, FBI General Counsel James Baker was recently reassigned because of his having leaked information about the Steele Dossier to the magazine Mother Jones.

Not one claim concerning Trump in the Steele Dossier has ever been verified by the FBI, according to Andrew McCabe himself in recent testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. The only confirmed fact is unsurprising: former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page traveled to Moscow on his own dime and met with various Russians—all perfectly legal.

Comey and then-CIA Director John Brennan laundered the Steele Dossier through the U.S. intelligence community to give it an aura of credibility and get it to the press. It was also used by the FBI and senior DOJ officials to secure wiretap warrants from a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Then its contents, via court-authorized FISA warrants, were used to justify the illegal unmasking of the identities of wiretapped Trump officials. The contents of these National Security Agency intercepts were put on spreadsheets and presented to members of President Obama’s National Security Council (NSC)—specifically Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes—and subsequently leaked to the press. According to former NSC staff, President Obama himself read the FISA intercepts of Trump campaign personnel. Unsurprisingly, there was no request for a leak investigation from either the FBI or the DOJ.

In sum, the FBI and DOJ employed unverified salacious allegations contained in a political opposition research document to obtain court-sanctioned wiretaps, and then leaked the contents of the wiretaps and the identities of political opponents. This was a complex criminal plot worthy of Jason Bourne.

The Pall Over the Special Counsel and the FBI

Layered over this debacle is a special counsel investigation unfettered by rules or law. Not surprisingly, James Comey triggered the special counsel’s appointment—and he did so by design. According to Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, having been fired on May 9, 2017, he leaked official documents to his friend, Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman, with the specific intent that Richman would leak them to the press. Reportage on that leak is what led Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller—a former FBI director and Comey’s good friend—as special counsel to investigate allegations of Trump-Russia collusion.

Mueller’s reputation has been damaged by a series of decisions that violate the ethical rules of appearances. For instance, he hired Democratic partisans as lawyers for the probe: Andrew Weissmann, who donated to Clinton and praised Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for disobeying Trump’s lawful Presidential Order regarding a travel ban for residents of certain nations that harbor terrorists; Jeannie Rhee, who donated to Clinton and represented Ben Rhodes in the email probe and the Clinton Foundation investigation; and Aaron Zebley, who represented Clinton IT staffer Justin Cooper in the email server probe.

Mueller also staged a pre-dawn raid with weapons drawn on the home of Paul Manafort, rousing Manafort and his wife from their bed—a tactic customarily reserved for terrorists and drug dealers. Manafort has subsequently been indicted for financial crimes that antedate his campaign work for Trump and that have nothing to do with Russia collusion.

Then there’s the fact that when Mueller removed Strzok from the investigation in July 2017, he didn’t tell anyone. The removal and its causes were uncovered by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Why was such vital information concealed from the public? It is not, as is often claimed now, that Strzok was a minor figure. All the major decisions regarding both the Clinton and the Trump-Russia collusion investigations had been made under Strzok.

Significantly, Strzok also led the interview of General Michael Flynn that ended in Flynn pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI. It is important to recall that Flynn’s FBI interview was not conducted under the authority of the special counsel, but under that of Comey and McCabe. It took place during Inauguration week in January 2017. Flynn had met with the same agents the day before regarding security clearances. McCabe called Flynn and asked if agents could come to the White House. Flynn agreed, assuming it was about personnel. It was not.

Flynn had been overheard on a FISA wiretap talking to Russia’s Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. There was nothing criminal or even unusual about the fact of such discussion. Flynn was on the Trump transition team and was a federal employee as the President-Elect’s national security advisor. It was his job to be talking to foreign leaders. Flynn was not charged with regard to anything said during his conversation with Kislyak. So why was the FBI interrogating Flynn about legal conduct? What more did the FBI need to know? I am told by sources that when Flynn’s indictment was announced, McCabe was on a video conference call—cheering!

Compare the FBI’s treatment of Flynn to its treatment of Paul Combetta, the technician who used a program called BleachBit to destroy thousands of emails on Hillary Clinton’s computer. This destruction of evidence took place after a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives issued letters directing that all emails be preserved and subpoenaing them. Combetta first lied to the FBI, claiming he did not recall deleting anything. After being rewarded with immunity, Combetta recalled destroying the emails—but he could not recall anyone directing him to do so.

The word in Washington is that Flynn pleaded guilty to take pressure off his son, who was also a subject of Mueller’s investigation. Always the soldier. But those who questioned Flynn that day did not cover themselves with law enforcement glory. Led by Strzok, they grilled Flynn about facts that they already knew and that they knew did not constitute a crime. They besmirched the reputation of federal law enforcement by their role in a scheme to destroy a duly elected president and his appointees.

A pall hangs over Mueller, and a pall hangs over the DOJ. But the darkest pall hangs over the FBI, America’s premier federal law enforcement agency, which since the demise of J. Edgar Hoover has been steadfast in steering clear of politics. Even during L. Patrick Gray’s brief tenure as acting director during Watergate, it was not the FBI but Gray personally who was implicated. The current scandal pervades the Bureau. It spans from Director Comey to Deputy Director McCabe to General Counsel Baker. It spread to counterintelligence via Peter Strzok. When line agents complained about the misconduct, McCabe retaliated by placing them under investigation for leaking information.

From the outset of this scandal, I have considered Comey a dirty cop. His unfailing commitment to himself above all else is of a pattern. Throughout his career, Comey has continually portrayed himself as Thomas Becket, fighting against institutional corruption—even where none exists. Stories abound of his routine retort to anyone who disagreed with him (not an unusual happening when lawyers gather) during his tenure as deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush. “Your moral compass is askew,” he would say. This self-righteousness led agents to refer to him as “The Cardinal.” Comey is no Thomas Becket—he is Henry II.

A great disservice has been done to the dedicated men and women of the FBI by Comey and his seventh floor henchmen. A grand jury probe is long overdue. Inspector General Horowitz is an honest man, but he cannot convene a grand jury. We need one now. We need our FBI back.

And that is a load. I hope by now you have read through the foregoing, because some Skeptical Analysis is in order. There is a bunch, and life is short. I will hit some high points, but the conclusion is that this is a shining example of political propaganda. Here are a few items.

Massive Irony

The headline writer’s sense of irony seems to have gone AWOL. Recent events demonstrate attempts by the Trump administration to work against the FBI for political gain. Since that time the FBI (and other government intelligence services) started looking into Russian government interference with the 2016 elections and Donald Trump’s connections with the Russian government, Mr. Trump and his allies have, with little success at concealing, been putting pressure on the FBI to cease and desist all such inquiries. First FBI Director James Comey was fired on 8 May, and, more recently, Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe was also fired, this time by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, transparently at the direction of President Trump. Please let not Hillsdale College speak of politicization.

The Clinton Emails

DiGenova wants to use the matter of Hillary Clinton’s emails to make a case that James Comey was corrupt in the execution of his duties. He asserts that Comey should have convened a grand jury, as he (diGenova) would have done as a prosecutor. Really? An examination of all the evidence—and there is a boat load—that has been publicized indicates that, while Clinton was derelict in her use of a private server, there was no intent to break the law, and there is in fact no evidence laws were broken. Yes, any responsible prosecutor would have kicked this case and freed up FBI resources for serious matters. From the viewpoint of any thinking person, if Clinton had been a low-level clerk and not somebody with the last name Clinton running for public office, this matter would have been cause for a letter of reprimand and possible dismissal from employment. At most. Mr. Trump has been President and in control of the Department of Justice, and to date no charges against Mrs. Clinton have been forthcoming from the DOJ.

Trump-Russia Collusion

The most interesting quote from this section is, “Thanks to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, we now know that high-level FBI officials were involved in promoting these rumors. Among Horowitz’s discoveries were text messages between FBI Deputy Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page that suggest an illegal plan to utilize law enforcement to frame Trump.” Then diGenova proceeds to quote a passage from an email between two intimate friends making a joke. He wants to take this seriously, and he hopes his readers do, ignoring the context. Hint: the context makes it clear the remarks were in jest.

DiGenova also notes the two held Mr. Trump in low regard, going so far as disparaging him. DiGenova fails to note this is not from an official government correspondence, but it is simply two friends expressing rightly-held and possibly private views, said views being held by a majority of American citizens. I need to emphasize the term rightly-held, because there is no measure by which Donald Trump comes off as a worthy person. And I do not make that remark in jest.

The second interesting quote from this section is, “At the heart of the Russia collusion scheme is the FBI’s utilization of a document paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.” Most interesting  is that diGenova points out the Clinton campaign paid for Steele’s research. He overlooks the reason the Clinton campaign paid for it. That’s because I failed to step forward and pay for it, myself. Dude, any right-thinking person would have paid to find out what The Donald was up to in that Moscow hotel and elsewhere:

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit TRUMP’s person  obsessions and sexual perversion in order to  obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’s perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew president and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on  one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. the hotel was known to be under FSB control  with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

More important, diGenova ignores that the Steele dossier was not, in fact, critical to launching the investigation. The investigation was already in the works when the FBI received this information. DiGenova’s warping of the truth at this level amounts to fabrication of facts, otherwise known as lying.

The Pall Over the Special Counsel and the FBI

Finally, this quote is worthy: “Mueller also staged a pre-dawn raid with weapons drawn on the home of Paul Manafort, rousing Manafort and his wife from their bed—a tactic customarily reserved for terrorists and drug dealers. Manafort has subsequently been indicted for financial crimes that antedate his campaign work for Trump and that have nothing to do with Russia collusion.” I can’t vouch for the “weapons drawn” part but there is nothing remarkable about the pre-dawn raid part. Paul Manafort, by all indications, is an international criminal. He is being charged with money laundering, failing to pay taxes owed to the government, and conspiracy against the United States. He stands to spend the remainder of his life in prison if found guilty of these charges. This is not a case of unpaid traffic tickets, and diGenova is being disingenuous, even highly deceptive. He is a liar.

This article, appearing in the February issue of Imprimis, derives from a talk diGenova presented for the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies, as it says up front. This was apparently in conjunction with the AWC Family Foundation Lecture Series. The apparent theme of diGenova’s talk bears scant semblance to the Andrea Waitt Carlton Family Foundation’s stated goals:

Giving primarily in four major areas: 1) environmental concerns, with emphasis on programs that strive to preserve the land and educate our children on the importance of protecting and caring for our natural heritage; 2) animal welfare, with emphasis on the protection and humane treatment of both wild and domestic animals; 3) social concerns, with emphasis on helping Native Americans help themselves; and 4) the fine arts, with emphasis on renovation or the visual and performing arts. The foundation may also fund other charitable organizations or programs as deemed appropriate by the board of directors.

This has all the marks of a political smear laid on those currently making trouble for President Donald Trump. Would that it be more effective, because, as matters unravel daily, the President is going to be needing some backup, fabricated or otherwise.

Codswallop 201

Number 2 in a series

As mentioned previously, I signed up for email updates from Hillsdale College, and I also researched this institution on the Internet. Rather than being an institution of higher learning, as its name might imply, Hillsdale has the appearance of an instrument of conservative proselytizing. Which brings me to a recent email from Hillsdale. The headline speaks:

September 2017 • Volume 46, Number 9

Russian Collusion?

So, this is going to be interesting. Is Hillsdale going to push back against reports of Russian interference in last year’s election? Also, unseemly ties between the Trump administration and the Russian government? A link goes to an item by Mollie Hemingway appearing in The Federalist. The item also notes that Hemingway is a Fox News contributor. The title is, surprise, Russian Collusion? It’s worth analyzing excerpts from the Federalist item. Here’s one (a partial paragraph):

Democratic operatives and their media allies attempted to explain Trump’s victory with a claim they had failed to make stick during the general election: Trump had nefarious ties to Russia. This was a fertile area for allegations, if for no other reason than that Trump had been reluctant to express criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Let me repeat, “Democratic operatives and their media allies…” Repeating again, “media allies.” The major news organizations are “media allies” of the Democratic Party. Since when? Since it became inconvenient to recognize the truth constantly being hosed out by mainstream news outlets. It’s worth diagnosing how “the media” became allies of the Democratic Party. Where to start? How about some examples?

  • Donald Trump got into a word fest with a news editor and wound up calling a woman reporter a “cunt.” And the media reported this.
  • Donald Trump said Mexico is not sending their best but instead is sending rapists and other bad characters. And the media reported this.
  • Donald Trump for years fostered the claim the President Obama was not eligible to be President owing to not being a natural born citizen. And the media reported this.
  • Donald Trump, in a campaign speech mocked a reporter with a physical disability. And the media reported this.
  • Donald Trump asserted that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. And the media reported this.

Yes, there is no doubt. The mainstream media are allies of the Democratic Party. But there is more juice in this paragraph fragment. The Democrats, and their media allies, “attempted to explain Trump’s victory with a claim they had failed to make stick during the general election: Trump had nefarious ties to Russia.” No, they did not. Hillary Clinton scored approximately 2.8 million more votes than Donald Trump, but Trump prevailed due to a nice fall of the electoral vote. And the media reported this.

Still, the Democrats complain, and the media report, that the Russian government attempted, successfully or not, to put a finger on the scales; to tip the election toward Trump. If the Russians, by which I mean the government of Vladimir Putin, failed to influence the election, it was not for lack of trying. The awful truth is that Putin has great disdain for Hillary Clinton, and he wanted mightily for her to lose. Additionally, his government took actions that it could to accommodate Putin’s wishes. Some are worth enumerating:

Russia purchased Facebook ads aimed at influencing the election:

As Facebook is turning over information on Russian-bought ads to Congress, it’s becoming clear that the disinformation campaign was much more sophisticated than just spreading fake stories about the Clintons killing an FBI agent. Predictably, the ads drove racist and anti-immigrant talking points, as the Washington Post reports:

The divisive themes seized on by Russian operatives were similar to those that Trump and his supporters pushed on social ­media and on right-wing websites during the campaign. U.S. investigators are now trying to figure out whether Russian operators and members of Trump’s team coordinated in any way. Critics say Trump, as president, has further inflamed racial and religious divisions, citing his controversial statements after violent clashes in Charlottesville and limits imposed on Muslim immigration.

As Hemingway notes, Democrats were careless with internal security, and Russian hacks lifted embarrassing emails and delivered them ultimately to WikiLeaks.

On December 9, 2016, the CIA told U.S. legislators that the U.S. Intelligence Community concluded Russia conducted operations during the 2016 U.S. election to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency. Multiple U.S intelligence agencies concluded people with direct ties to the Kremlin gave WikiLeaks hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee.

Moving forward, here’s another excerpt from The Federalist, this time a complete paragraph:

The Russian collusion story involves a lot of details, but there are two basic tactics that Trump’s enemies have used to push the narrative: they have put seemingly innocuous contacts with Russians under a microscope, and they have selectively touted details supplied by a politicized intelligence apparatus. And this has all been amplified by a media that has lost perspective and refuses to be impartial, much less accurate.

While Hemingway could possibly put together an argument against collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, this would not be among the best. Two points stand out. The first: “details supplied by a politicized intelligence apparatus.” Hemingway is going to have to whittle this to a finer point if she wants to assert that American intelligence is politicized. She merely asserts without elaboration. Second, “amplified by a media that has lost perspective and refuses to be impartial, much less accurate.” Again, no. It has not been amplified, the media have not lost their perspective, and they do not refuse to be impartial. How can I make such a bald statement? I can do it in the same manner Hemingway makes bald statements about the matter being amplified by media that have lost their perspective and that refuse to be impartial. I state it without elaboration.

A third excerpt:

Trump’s election changed all that. Not since the heyday of McCarthyism in the 1950s have so many in Washington been accused of consorting with Russians who wish to undermine American democracy.

Hemingway is on-point here. Or close to. The McCarthy investigations were then and still are recognized as a politically driven campaign conducted by an ambitious politician and involving a large body of assertion not based on fact. Today’s look into Russian involvement in the 2016 election involves multiple branches of the American intelligence community and multiple high-ranking senators and representatives of both major parties. Hemingway pretends not to notice the difference, and I am guessing she hopes her readers fail to notice. At the risk of bing snippy, I have to think this is the kind of piece that Hillsdale would promote.

It is possibly by now that reader fatigue is setting in, so I will leave it to interested readers to peruse the Hemingway piece and bang me with any number of challenges and rebuttals. There is a lot more, so keep on reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Codswallop 201

HC_banner_11

Now that I’m retired I get to do a lot of things I like to do. One of the things I like to do is get up and watch the news on cable TV at 5 in the morning. An advantage is I get to see all that stuff that happened while I was asleep. There are others.

Saturday morning there was an ad. It’s from Hillsdale College, and they’re advertising one of their courses on-line, for free. Free is good. I decided to look into it, especially since the subject matter caught my attention. The course is Constitution 101. What, I was wondering, motivation would a small private college in Michigan have for offering a free on-line course?

The U.S. Constitution is the key to securing liberty for all Americans — yet very few know exactly what it says and what freedoms it protects. Hillsdale College is working to make 2015 the “Year of the Constitution”, dedicating this year to educating millions of Americans about this critical document. That’s why the College is offering it’s most popular course, “Constitution 101” for free, when you sign up now.

That’s what piqued my interest. “The U.S. Constitution is the key to securing liberty for all Americans.” I studied American History in college, and I learned about the Constitution. One thing I did notice about the Constitution is there is not much in there that secures liberty for all Americans. As originally written, there is bare mention of “liberty.”

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Past this point “liberty” is not mentioned again. So where does Hillsdale College get that notions of liberty are enshrined in the Constitution, a document that in its original form tipped its hat to slavery?

I decided to find out. My Google search hit first on Constitution 201, which is why you are reading about this course and not the other. I pulled up the top page and found:

Constitution 201: The Progressive Rejection of the Founding and the Rise of Bureaucratic Despotism

That’s just the headline. The first thing that struck me about this was that it smacked of Glenn Beck. I was beginning to think, “I can listen to Glenn Beck for free. Why would anybody pay to take a course when I can get the same for free by listening to Glenn Beck? Here are some lectures:

  1. The Founders’ Constitution and the Challenge of Progressivism
    Larry P. Arnn
  2. Woodrow Wilson and the Rejection of the Founders’ Principles
    Ronald J. Pestritto
  3. Woodrow Wilson and the Rejection of the Founders’ Constitution
    Ronald J. Pestritto
  4. Overview: Founders vs. Progressives
    Thomas G. West
  5. FDR’s New Bill of Rights
    William Morrisey
  6. Total Regulation: LBJ’s Great Society
    Kevin Portteus
  7. The Transformation of America’s Political Institutions
    Kevin Portteus
  8. Post-1960s Progressivism
    John Grant
  9. Case Study: Religious Liberty in the Administrative State
    Thomas G. West
  10. Restoring Constitutional Government
    Larry P. Arnn

Right away we get the idea that Hillsdale is down on progressivism. It will be interesting to see what they have to say about the matter. A review of some of the lecturers is instructive.

Larry P. Arnn:

Born in Pocahontas, Arkansas, Arnn received his B.A. (1974) in Political Science and Accounting from Arkansas State University. He earned graduate degrees in Government from Claremont Graduate School — an M.A. in 1976 and a Ph.D. in 1985. Arnn studied in England from 1977 to 1980, at the London School of Economics studying International History and then at Worcester College, Oxford University in Modern History. While in England, he worked as Director of Research for Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill.

And also:

In 2013 Larry Arnn was criticized for his remarks about ethnic minorities when he testified before the Michigan State Legislature. In testimony against the Common Core curriculum standards, in which Arnn expressed concern about government interference with educational institutions, he recalled that shortly after he assumed the presidency at Hillsdale he received a letter from the state Department of Education that said his college “violated the standards for diversity,” adding, “because we didn’t have enough dark ones, I guess, is what they meant.” After being criticized for calling minorities “dark ones”, he explained that he was referring to “dark faces”, saying: “The State of Michigan sent a group of people down to my campus, with clipboards … to look at the colors of people’s faces and write down what they saw. We don’t keep records of that information. What were they looking for besides dark ones?”[9] Michigan House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel condemned Arnn for his comments, which he called “offensive” and “inflammatory and bigoted”, and asked for an apology. The College issued a statement apologizing for Arnn’s remark, while reiterating Arnn’s concern about “state sponsored racism” in the form of affirmative action policies.

So, Larry Arnn is not your grandfather’s liberal college professor.

Ronald J. Pestritto:

Glenn Beck, Progressives and Me

The TV host has a point when he says a limitless view of state power is un-American.

On television, on radio, in books, and in a widely viewed speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year, Glenn Beck has pronounced “progressivism” as the “disease” that afflicts America. His progressive opponents, meanwhile, seem obsessed with attacking him for this obsession—the Center for American Progress has even launched a series of papers to “set the record straight.”

This battle reveals a deeper dispute about American history. Mr. Beck and others—such as Jonah Goldberg in his 2008 book, “Liberal Fascism”—tie today’s progressives (the new word for liberals) to the progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century. They contend that the original progressives—including leaders such as Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt—rejected America’s founding principles. Mr. Beck also claims that today’s leftist policies are the culmination of a journey begun by progressives over a century ago.

I was wondering how long it would take for Glenn Beck to pop up.

Thomas G. West:

Thomas G. West is Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College, beginning in the Fall of 2011.[1] West previously taught at the University of Dallas from 1974 to 2011.

He is also a Director and Senior Fellow of the Claremont Institute, which has supported and publicized his research. Born in 1945, Dr. West received his B.A. from Cornell University in 1967 and his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University in 1974. He served in Vietnam as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1969-70. He was Bradley Resident Scholar at the Heritage Foundation in 1988-89, and Salvatori Visiting Scholar at Claremont McKenna College from 1990-92. He has translated, with Grace Starry West, Plato’s Charmides, Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, and Crito, as well as Aristophanes’ Clouds. He has also published Vindicating the Founders, an analysis and defense of American political thought in the Founding era.

Those are the lecturers who stand out. A look at the overview for lecture 1 provides some insight into the direction Hillsdale will be taking us:

The principles of the American Founding, embodied in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the Constitution, came under assault by Progressives of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Progressivism rejects the Founders’ ideas of natural rights, limited government, the  separation of powers, representation, and federalism.  Progressive government, exemplified by the modern administrative state, has fundamentally transformed key aspects of the American way of life.

I took a look at the first lecture. It’s a video, so I don’t have text from it. However, here’s the opening screen shot:

Constitution201-01

There’s a quiz. Here is one of the questions:

  1. The Declaration of Independence refers to the “Laws of Nature and of ___________”:
    Man
    The Church
    Science
    Nature’s God

If you’re having trouble with this question, I’ll give you a hint: It’s the last one.

It gets me to wondering: Is any semblance between this and a rigorous, for credit, college course on the United States Constitution purely illusionary? What is a Hillsdale graduate going to say when asked about his college transcript at a job interview? “I have the basic courses in English Composition, General Science, College Algebra and Political Indoctrination.”

Anti-progressives—call them conservatives—may say that what American students are getting now at public colleges is political indoctrination with a liberal’s eye for history and government. Somewhere I missed all that when I attended the University of Texas at Austin. I took the required courses in American Government and American History. That was over 50 years ago, and I no longer recall the names of my professors. However, a few points remain.

My government class was in Waggener Hall, and the professor was an elderly gentleman. At one point the term socialism came up. He asked for a definition. I offered that it was a society in which people were “wards of the state.” That drew gasps from some of my fellow students and a chuckle from the professor. Actually, my characterization was based on a popular catch phrase of the time and was not strictly correct. Socialism is not the same as social welfare. Strictly defined, socialism is a society in which the government controls (owns) the means of production. Some of those today calling President Obama a socialist will need to look around at how much of the means of production is owned by the government.

In American History the professor was quite young—mid-thirties at the most. He stressed his point that slavery was not the root cause of the Civil War. He laid the tension between North and South to a divergence between the Northern and Southern economies and the respective economic and political powers of the two regions. The North’s greater population gave it a greater vote in Congress, and with that vote came the ability of the North (with little need for slavery) to abolish the institution.

The stereo-type radical liberal professor I never encountered in my academic career. This was the real South, fresh out of racial segregation. The University’s faculty club, the Forty Acre’s Club, was whites only and was being picketed by students. The Supreme Court had only recently ruled the University of Texas School of Law must accept blacks. I lived in the Campus Guild, a student co-op house. We accepted black students. I reviewed at least one application who stated he (it was men only) would not live with a “nigger.” The faculty was wall to wall anti-racist. That was as radically liberal as it got in those days.

After getting my degree I went to work at the University. It was in the Astronomy Department, and the faculty was densely populated with liberals. The department head was liberal to the core and one of the younger professors was near radical. The engineering staff, where I worked, tended to be conservative. I was an exception. They weren’t racist, but some of the stain was only just leaving a few. Two, including my boss, were staunch gun advocates. The discussion came up during the five years I was there. That included the day Charles Whitman killed a number of people, shooting from the clock tower next door to our building.

Does the University currently hold an anti-conservative bias? If it’s there it’s hard to find. An encounter eleven years ago with a UT Austin philosophy professor showed a high tolerance for radical right wing thought.

I will debate the notion of liberal tyranny in American academia in another post. For the moment the conservative push behind Hillsdale’s curriculum is defeated by its own hand. I need only point out a single element. Note the reference to natural law.

Natural law is supposed to be a commonsense recognition of what is right and what is wrong. Political proponents of natural law in this country have appropriated the term and given it religious implications:

“We cannot survive as a republic if we do not become, once again, a God-centered nation that understands that our laws do not come from man, they come from God,” he said on the show “Life Today.”

Despite what Mike Huckabee says and despite what Hillsdale College wants to teach us, people write the laws, and people enforce the laws. A consequence of this special invocation of natural law is the laws that come from God will be the laws that come from those who speak for God. The rule of law will become the rule of the pulpit. Certain provisions of the Bill of Rights will be contravened. The distinction between the United States of America and an Islamic state will become hard to find.

There is enough interest in this topic for a couple of lines of action. My efforts, so far, to obtain a cheap history text will be pursued. I need to discuss any so-called liberal tyranny in the class rooms on the basis of what is being taught rather than on 50-year-old experiences. Additionally I will sign up for Hillsdale College’s free Constitution 101 course. Watch for a review in the near future.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.