Ben Weingarten

Reader. Writer. Thinker. Commentator. Truth Seeker.

Category: Podcast (Page 2 of 9)

Andrew Klavan on the Criticality of Conservative Competition in Culture, Regressive Progressivism, Political Correctness, Free Speech

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My Guest

Andrew Klavan (@andrewklavan) is a screenwriter, bestselling crime and suspense novelist, contributor to publications such as City Journal and PJ Media and proprietor of “The Andrew Klavan Show,” a video podcast on The Daily Wire.

Klavan is witty, he’s got a sense of humor and a keen understanding of the importance of narrative and storytelling to culture.

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How to Listen to the Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten Podcast

Welcome to Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten, a podcast featuring compelling long-form conversations with exceptional thinkers and doers on the most important ideas and issues of our time, and all time.

Our discussions focus on topics ranging from national security and foreign affairs, to economics and politics and philosophy and culture with a classical Liberal bent and a grounding in history — challenging the prevailing progressive orthodoxy with a contrarian counter-narrative based in individual liberty, limited government, free enterprise and a strong, national interest-oriented and prudently used defense.

There are several ways you can consume the podcast, summarized below for your listening pleasure:

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My Interview with Leon Kass on Leading a Worthy Life in the Modern Age

For Encounter Books I recently had the opportunity to interview the eminent Professor Leon Kass on his latest book Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times.

During the interview [audiotranscript], Professor Kass and I discussed among other things how one defines a “worthy life,” finding meaning in this modern libertine (though often not libertarian) age, the decline but potential for rebirth of core values and principles of Western civilization, squaring scientific progress with ethics, rekindling a love of excellence and much more.

My Interview with Lord Conrad Black on Trump and Populism

Check out my Encounter Books Podcast interview with the always provocative Lord Conrad Black on the history of American populism and President Donald Trump’s place in it, an assessment of Trump’s populist political agenda, the poisonous legacy of Watergate, The Resistance, the 2018 midterm elections and much more.

I thought the below exchange towards the end of our conversation was particularly compelling:

Ben Weingarten: The ultimate goal of the litany of charges against the President, as we all know, but which is left unsaid frequently, is to, as you said, undermine his legitimacy, and ultimately, from the Democratic perspective, to try to remove him from office — to create, kind of build the case, real or imagined, and then be able to apply high crimes and misdemeanors, and seek to impeach him. All of the signs look fairly ominous for what will happen at the very least in the House, in the midterm elections, for the Republican Party. What do you anticipate happening if Republicans do, in fact, lose the House?

Lord Conrad Black: Well, I agree. I think they’re trying to either remove him…First of all, sort of taint him and plant this generalized view that there’s something illegitimate about him, and therefore, he shouldn’t receive the respect normally offered to a [president]…Secondly, if they can’t push him out altogether, to distract him so much that he can’t perform properly, so they can then accuse him of being a do-nothing president and a mere controversialist, and have him as a sort of…immobilized president sitting in the White House, awaiting the end of his term.

On your specific question, if the Democrats got control of the House of Representatives, certainly there would be a much greater danger that they would try and put an impeachment bill through. I doubt that…On anything we can see at this point, there would be no really serious reason to do it, other than their own partisanship. And there are some sane people in that party and in their House of Representatives delegation. I think Trump would have to do something that the media could successfully represent as really seriously outrageous before they could get a positive vote. I don’t think they…unless Trump actually committed a crime, which he’s not going to do, has not done and will not do, but unless he did that, they would have less chance of actually getting a vote to remove him in the Senate, a two-thirds vote, than the Republicans had when they tried it with Clinton.

So I think the price we paid essentially for the terrible overreaction to Watergate, accompanied by the fact that Mr. Nixon didn’t handle the investigation properly — I don’t think there is any evidence even now that Nixon himself committed illegalities in Watergate, but some people in his entourage did — but the price we paid for that is the routinization of the criminalization of policy differences. “I don’t agree with this person. We’re imaginative and adaptive Americans. Let’s see if we can avoid this policy option we don’t like, and as a bonus, get rid of this President we don’t like ’cause he’s in the other party” — like accusing him of crimes, as if it was just a confidence vote in a parliamentary system like Britain or Canada. And that is not what the authors of the Constitution intended.

Mr. Nixon was a patriotic man who, in fact, was convinced himself that he did not commit crimes; and if he was judged fairly, would be judged not to have committed crimes. But as a patriot, since impeachment had not been mentioned in the presidential context for over a century, for a president, he just didn’t want to put the country to such a demeaning process. And Bill Clinton had no such reservations, but he did achieve something by showing that it wasn’t a process that would necessarily be very successful. They had not even got that far with Reagan and the Iran-Contra nonsense.

But what should happen at some point soon is both parties, and the powers that be politically in the country generally, should realize that impeachment of a president is something that should be regarded as an absolutely extreme measure, as it was intended to be, in the case of utterly profoundly unconstitutional conduct. It was really designed to prevent a domestic George III coming in. Not that he was that bad a king either, but…he wasn’t. He wasn’t that good either. And he was mad half the time, but he was not a madman…I mean, a mad despot, an autocrat, as he was accused of being. But again, that’s beside the point.

But if the United States — and Alan Dershowitz speaks very well about this, he’s a liberal Democrat who supported Clinton — if the U.S. is going to criminalize in an accelerated and unjust way, or purport to criminalize the conduct of people who are just doing what they said they would do when they ran for election, and then psychiatrize them too, and claim that they’re mentally unbalanced and so forth, you’re going to get chaos in the country. The whole system will break down.

What should happen as a result of all this talk is, have an all-party, nonpartisan resolution and agreement, not legislation, but just a state of mind that is agreed upon, that discussion of the impeachment or removal from office of a president should only be entertained in the event of high crimes and misdemeanors on which there’s real evidence, and not in a routine and frivolous and dangerously irresponsible way, which is what we’ve got now.

[Additionally] I don’t think the Democrats will win the House. I think what will happen is that the President will carefully assemble his healthcare reform that the Republican Party is pretty much agreed upon, and an immigration reform that it’s pretty much agreed upon, put those out very firmly to the voters, stand on his high economic growth and continuing excellent economic numbers, and order the release by the Justice Department, relatively close to the midterm elections, of everything to do with the collusion investigation, to reveal in its ghastly infirmity the absolute vacuity of that argument, the falsity, the malice and the defamatory destructiveness of the entire argument that he or anyone closely associated with him ever colluded with a foreign power to rig an American election. Just administer a bone-crushing defeat to the Democrats, and their echo chamber in the national media. And do it right…just coming into the midterm election campaign. And I think he will gain seats in both the House and the Senate.

Listen to the London Center ‘Grand Strategy Podcast’ on National Security and Foreign Affairs

Believing firmly that there is a lack of rich audio content on national security and foreign affairs, London Center for Policy Research President Herb London and I decided to launch the “London Center Grand Strategy Podcast.”

Each biweekly podcast features vigorous discussion on vital issues of American national interest, covering critical events around the globe with an eye towards threats and opportunities, and a grounding in history and political philosophy.

In our latest episode, Episode 3, which you can find at top of this post, we discuss the appointment of John Bolton as national security advisor, what Kim Jong-un really means by “denuclearization,” comprehensive efforts to counter China, the importance of information warfare, the expulsion of Russian agents from the West and much more.

If you like what you hear, please consider subscribing on iTunes (you can also subscribe at Google Play and Stitcher or grab the RSS at Libsyn).

If you really like what you hear, please give us a five-star rating and kindly write us a review.

Our first two episodes are below:

My Interview with British MEP Daniel Hannan on Populism, Brexit and the EU and the Long Financial Crisis Hangover

In connection with the release of Encounter Books’ Vox Populi: The Perils and Promises of Populism, I interviewed one of its exceptional contributors, the always-eloquent and erudite British MEP Daniel Hannan.

During our discussion we touch on among other things:

  • The anti-progressive character of modern populism
  • The failure of the elite political establishment
  • Brexit and the future of the EU
  • The death of classical liberalism in Europe
  • The underappreciated impact on the financial crisis on the Western body politic
  • The imperative to defend free market capitalism

You can listen to our interview in full here, and read a transcript of our discussion here.

My Interview with Victor Davis Hanson on Trump, Trumpism and Russiagate

In connection with the release of Encounter Books’ Vox Populi: The Perils and Promises of Populism, I interviewed the author of one its more provocative essays, the often-contrarian and always-compelling Professor Victor Davis Hanson.

During our discussion we discuss among other things:

  • The populism of President Trump
  • The insights President Trump has into the American people that his political opponents lack
  • The significance of the 2016 presidential election in history and what it augurs for the world
  • Whether Trumpism is a full-blown political movement or an outlier in U.S. history
  • How Trump is doing when it comes to constructing the four core pillars of Trumpism
  • Russiagate and Deep State subversion
  • And much more

You can listen to our interview in full here, and read a transcript of our discussion here.

13 Interviews that Will Make You Smarter on U.S. National Security & Foreign Policy

Over the last five years I’ve had the privilege to interview some of the savviest thinkers on American national security and foreign policy.

These discussions have covered critical subjects ranging from the global jihadist movement, to Iran, Russia and China, strategic disinformation and EMPs.

Below are what I think are some of the most insightful and thought-provoking of these conversations on such live and all-too-relevant topics.

1) Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heretic

2) Andrew Bostom, Iran’s Final Solution for Israel: The Legacy of Jihad and Shi’ite Islamic Jew-Hatred in Iran

3) Victoria Coates, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for International Negotiations, NSC for the Trump Administration, David’s Sling [Transcript]

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My Interview with Joy Pullman on ‘The Education Invasion’, Common Core and the Administrative State

On behalf of Encounter Books, recently I had the chance to interview Joy Pullman on her new book, The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids

One particularly interesting portion of our conversation comes in the form of Joy’s argument about Common Core serving as in effect an extension of the administrative state:

Ben Weingarten: And you, early on in your book, describe Common Core, and a bone that you have to pick with Common Core about consent of governed issues. You write, and I quote, that “Common Core is as big a change in education as Obamacare is in health care, but unlike Obamacare it needed no votes in Congress to become national policy. It garnered practically no notice from the media before the Obama administration, in concert with largely unelected state bureaucrats and a shadow bureaucracy of private organizations, locked it in nationwide. That meant no public debate before the scheme was imposed upon a country supposedly run with the consent of the governed.” And in reading that, is it fair to think of Common Core as, in essence, an extension of the administrative state?

Joy Pullmann: Absolutely. Absolutely…You hit on one of my favorite topics — I should say, my most hated topics, therefore about which I like to rant the most. But absolutely. Common Core, I think, is basically an expression of the administrative state. And what the administrative state is is a vast, unaccountable, unelected bureaucracy that, because it isn’t accountable, Americans who pay the salaries of all these people cannot fire them, cannot tell them what to do, so on and so forth. And they unite all the faculties of the three branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial, very often. So it’s a very un-American system of government that has grown up in this country and that we are now governed by, and Common Core is a representation of that.

Ben Weingarten: How did a curriculum that was euphemistically described as state-led actually become advanced through a combination of big business and big government to essentially nationalize education in America?

Joy Pullmann: Basically through the administrative state.

Let me just hit a couple of the major milestones. In my book, I go through a history of what is called the “standards movement” in education because American education has actually been notably declining since the 1950s. And there have been lots of different measures that people have objectively shown to be the case.

And so, ever since then, Americans have been…Politicians, interest groups, and the like have been proposing ways to remedy this problem. And basically, what we keep doing is…The title of another book by American Enterprise Institute scholar, Frederick Hess, The Same Thing Over and Over. So we keep basically enacting the same principles since the 1950s, and expecting a different result. And then we’re shocked when the result of increased centralization is worse inefficiency, higher costs, and stupider children.

Anyway, if we’re gonna talk about “How did all of this happen?”…I talk in my book, there’s documentation to show that enacting Common Core was deliberately facilitated through non-elected, private, special interest groups in order to give it the appearance of being state-led because in previous attempts at nationalizing American education directly through Congress, the American people rejected it soundly. They just failed.

And so the people for whom that is a policy priority said…And I quote, and I cite these folks in my book, they said, “Well, Americans, basically they’re too dumb to know what’s good for them. They don’t like the idea of Washington running their local schools. And in fact, Americans still don’t like the idea of Washington running their local schools. National polls continue to show that.”

“So, since Americans are so parochial and not really informed of their best interest to have an education czar running their local schools from Washington, we’re going to do it on their behalf and in their name through a coalition of private interest groups.”

And that’s exactly how Common Core went into place.

There’s three organizations that came together to create Common Core, and they are creatures of the administrative state. They are technically nonprofit organizations, but in the book, I go through their tax returns. They receive a very large amount of money from federal and state taxpayers through both dues and government contracts. They’re quasi-government — they’re basically government sponges. And so these organizations, which have no legal authority — nobody elected them — no Constitution, no law says that they are in charge of education policy anywhere, nevertheless, they took it upon themselves to get together and create Common Core.

And they did this with funding from the Gates Foundation, which, I’ve just been re-running the numbers again, updating them since the book came out, and I think in the book we have a quarter of a billion dollars that Gates spent on enacting and pushing Common Core, and that has increased to a third of a billion dollars, more than $300 million.

So with that money, these three organizations got together, again, a bunch of unelected people to basically write Common Core. They farmed out little pieces of it to committees. They had a long, complicated, drawn-out process.

But the important thing to me, like you mentioned earlier, is the consent part of it. Because this was done in private organizations instead of a state house, instead of Congress, the American people have no right of transparency. Even though we paid for Common Core to be created in part, and even though we have to live under its regime in our public schools, we still don’t know who paid for what, who wrote what words of Common Core, what their credentials are, who vetted it. All of this is opaque. It’s not subject to Freedom of Information, Sunshine Law sorts of requirements.

This is actually really common in public policy nowadays, as you mentioned, because government has gotten so big that it’s very, very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to watchdog it. You would have to have investigative reporters who cared more about uncovering what government is doing in the name and with the money of the people, than they do about running flippy stories about the Kardashian family or whatever.

Anyway, so they created it, and then they went directly to the Obama administration which Congress had, in all its wisdom, given basically a strings-free pot of money for the education department. And Gates Foundation officials had phone calls, regular check-up phone calls with Obama administration officials, and they put into place this scheme by which they would bribe all the states into it. It was called Race to the Top.

So the Obama administration, during the panic years of 2008 and 2009, when we were having an economic crisis, went to the states and said, “Hey, you might be able to win a couple of hundred thousand, maybe a million dollars from the federal government for education projects, as long as you do all these things to make us happy for a shot at it.” Mind you, a couple hundred thousand dollars or a million dollars sounds like a lot to you and me, we could be set for life if we had that money, but in terms of education funding, it’s a drop in the bucket.

So states were coming to the federal government, hat in hand, to get less than one percent of their annual education funding for a one-time-only program that committed them to much more spending than they got out of it. And only a handful of states ended up being winners anyway.

One of the criteria for just applying for this program included adopting standards that are common to a majority of states, standards being mandates for what tests and curriculum have to contain. And of course the only thing that fit that definition was Common Core. And in fact, Common Core itself was in the original draft regulations that the Obama administration wanted to put out, but at the last minute they changed it to a definition that only fit Common Core, without mentioning it because they were afraid of the political backlash.

Obviously it’s long and complicated, and there’s lots of other things, but those are basically the milestones. The milestones are created under the auspices of private organizations that nobody can see what they’re doing, even though taxpayers pay for their activities. And then second, the Obama administration comes to states, holds a carrot in front of their little noses and says, “Come get it, little donkeys,” and they all came running.

The kicker to me is that the state signed contracts with the federal government, promising that they would do a complete overhaul of all their curriculum and testing, and this was all before even a draft of Common Core was available. They had no idea what they were going to have kids learning in schools. They had no idea what the tests would look like. And they still said, “Sure, sounds good to me. We believe that whatever you promise is gonna come through.” To me that’s unconscionable. It’s completely an abdication of the responsibility of public officials.

You can read the transcript in full here.

My Interview with Keith Hanson on President Trump’s 2017 UNGA Speech

I dissect President Trump’s 2017 UNGA speech and discuss the ironic backlash to the Kirkpatrickian philosophy of “principled realism” that backed it during the below interview with Keith Hanson on WNTK beginning at 2:53:

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