Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II: The Partnership that Changed the World

February 19, 2019
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Recorded on September 26, 2018.

Did President Reagan and Pope John Paul II have a secret alliance or simply an aligned foreign policy strategy that helped to end the Cold War? Former attorney general to President Reagan, Edwin Meese III, answers these questions and more in this episode of Uncommon Knowledge.

Edwin Meese III discusses Reagan’s unique background and suitability for handling the Cold War as president because of his experience with communism attempting to infiltrate Hollywood’s unions while he was an actor. He understood Stalinism’s propaganda spread and had already spent several years defeating communism in Hollywood, long before it was asked of him as President.

Religion in particular was an anathema to Stalinism and President Reagan’s personal protestant faith and his mutual admiration and respect for Pope John Paul II enabled the two world leaders to form a cooperative geopolitical relationship. According to Meese, President Reagan and Pope John Paul II had similar goals in ending the oppressive influence of the Soviet regime in Eastern Europe, Poland in particular as it was Pope John Paull II’s native country. The two leaders were able to coordinate their efforts to put increasing political, economic, and information pressure on the Soviet Union and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, which in the end helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Meese stresses the importance of understanding history for younger generations, particularly the history of the Cold War and the oppressive influence of communism during that time. It was important to end the oppressive regime’s hold behind the Iron Curtain and free the captive nations.

Are There Limits on Emergency Powers? With John Yoo and Richard Epstein

January 25, 2019
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Recorded on January 17, 2019.

Can a sitting president be indicted? What emergency powers does President Trump have to build a border wall and stop the government shutdown? Richard Epstein and John Yoo sit down with Peter Robinson to answer these legal questions and more regarding the constitutional powers of the presidency, the state of the Supreme Court, the Mueller investigation, and the legality (or lack thereof) of indicting a sitting president.

As the country continues to deal with a partial government shutdown, Epstein and Yoo address the shutdown, the likelihood of its coming to a timely end, and what kind of bipartisan compromise could end it. Yoo suggests that one potential outcome would be that Democrats require the legalized status of DREAMers in exchange for border-wall funding. Epstein argues that President Trump will have to cave if services like TSA screening begin to shut down from lack of funding. They both agree that the longer the shutdown goes on, the more likely citizens are to get increasingly frustrated with both parties, regardless of the moral stances the party leaders are taking.

For what and when can a president declare a national emergency? Epstein and Yoo dive into the history of national emergencies and presidential emergency powers. They discuss which presidents have declared national emergencies in the past and for what reasons, who has the standing to stop a national emergency, and the fact that no court has ever reversed a national emergency. (In 1952, during the Korean War, President Truman issued Executive Order 10340, which ordered US steel mills to operate despite a nationwide strike because Truman wanted to keep materiel flowing to the front. The court concluded that seizing the mills was a legislative act that could only be authorized by Congress.)

Epstein and Yoo discuss William Barr, President Trump’s newly appointed attorney general, and his congressional-hearing questions about the Mueller investigation. They discuss Barr’s legal background, his personal relationship with Mueller, and the likelihood that he would fire Mueller if asked to. Yoo argues that the best course of action for the Mueller investigation is to allow Mueller to clear Trump of any wrongdoing, which would put a stop to any Democrats’ arguments to the contrary.

 

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Winston Churchill: Walking with Destiny

January 15, 2019
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Recorded on December 7, 2018

How did Winston Churchill defend the British Empire throughout his life? Andrew Roberts, the Roger and Martha Mertz Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, brings keen insights into the life of Winston Churchill with the book Churchill: Walking with Destiny.

Roberts was given exclusive access to extensive new material: transcripts of war cabinet meetings, diaries, letters, and unpublished memoirs from Churchill's contemporaries. The royal family permitted Roberts to read the detailed notes taken by King George VI in his diary after his weekly meetings with Churchill during World War II. 

Roberts analyzes the life and policies of Winston Churchill and how he worked to save the British Empire and the world, with the help of the Allies, from the evils of Nazism. The Allied victory in WWII was in large part because of Churchill’s brilliant strategy as well as his conviction to never give in and to defend the British Empire at all costs.

Roberts talks about Churchill’s personality as an intensely passionate man who was known to burst into tears in the middle of Parliament. Roberts notes that Churchill’s long military career made him indispensable and the ideal wartime prime minister.

In addition to having saved the British Empire from Nazism, Churchill has much to teach us about the challenges leaders face today—and the fundamental values of courage, tenacity, leadership, and moral conviction.

Roberts said the key thing to remember about Winston Churchill is that he never gave in. This sentiment was expressed by Churchill himself in 1941 at Harrow School, where he said, “[S]urely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

A President and a Gentleman

December 18, 2018
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Recorded on December 5, 2018.

As the country mourns the passing of President George H. W. Bush, C Boyden Gray and Haley Barbour join Peter Robinson to discuss fond memories of his leadership, friendship, humility, and legacy. They discuss the 41st President’s involvement in the Clean Air Act, the reputational teeter totter the public had with him and Reagan, and his foreign policy decisions.

They talk about Kuwait and the first Persian Gulf war and speculate that if President Bush had decided to go after Saddam Hussein then the Iraq War in the 2000s could have been avoided. They argue that President Bush took foreign policy in a good direction for the United States in the wake of the Cold War. They go into detailed analysis about President Bush, the issues he faced, and how he worked for peaceful negotiations, and was grace under fire.

President George H. W. Bush was a gentleman of a past generation, says Robinson. They discuss whether or not being a gentleman is still something to aspire to in politics and in the office of the president.

Remembering President George H. W. Bush with Chase Untermeyer and Andrew Ferguson

December 17, 2018
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Recorded on December 5, 2018

On November 30, 2018, forty-first president George H. W. Bush passed away. Andrew Ferguson and Peter Robinson both served as speechwriters for Bush during his tenure in the White House as both the vice president and president. Chase Untermeyer served as the ambassador to Qatar under the forty-first president. The three men gather to remember the man they knew and the legacy he left behind.

Untermeyer, Ferguson, and Robinson reminisce about their experiences with George H. W. Bush. Robinson relates a fond memory he has of meeting with Bush, who was vice president at the time, to discuss Robinson’s career as a speechwriter or as a law student. They discuss Bush’s amazing military career as a pilot in WWII. Bush postponed his university studies at Yale after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and enlisted at age eighteen. By the age of twenty, Bush had flown fifty-eight combat missions and had been shot down once. After the war Bush finished his education and went on to become an expert in foreign policy as ambassador to the United Nations and then as director of Central Intelligence. Bush was president during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and oversaw the nonviolent transition period from the Cold War to peacetime. They remember the former president’s graciousness, kindness, humility, and desire to help others (and not hold grudges), and they discuss how those qualities translated into his life and political career.

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Thomas Sowell on the Myths of Economic Inequality

December 3, 2018
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Recorded on November 15, 2018

Thomas Sowell discusses economic inequality, racial inequality, and the myths that have continued to falsely describe the system of poverty among different racial and economic classes. He explains the economic theories behind these pervasive myths and proposes fact-based solutions for seemingly intractable situations.

Sowell discusses his early life as a high school dropout and his first full-time job as a Western Union messenger delivering telegrams. He admits to flirting with Marxism in his early twenties as he first tried to grapple with the housing inequality he saw across the neighborhoods of New York City. Marxism, he says, was the only explanation he could find at the time. He went on to serve in the Marine Corps before continuing his education in economics at Harvard and earning a master’s at Columbia and a PhD at the University of Chicago.

Sowell’s first job after his receiving his PhD in economics was working for the Department of Labor, and he says it was there that he realized Marxism was not the answer. He argues that the government has its own institutional interests in inequality that cannot be explained through Marxism. He began to be discouraged by Marxism and the government in general and began searching for better economic ideas and solutions (the free market).

Robinson and Sowell discuss Sowell’s written works, his ideas of racial and economic inequality, the state of the United States today, and much more.

A New Afghanistan with H.R. McMaster and Janan Mosazai

November 14, 2018
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Recorded on October 23, 2018

Former National Security Advisor H.R, McMaster and former Afghan Ambassador to China Janan Mosazai analyze the state of affairs in Afghanistan today. They discuss the role that terrorist groups Al Qaeda and the Taliban have had in the formation of the country, the United States’ military action in the country, and where Afghanistan is headed.

John O’Sullivan: Brexit’s Past and Future Paths

October 29, 2018
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Recorded on September 26, 2018.

As the Brexit deadline of March 2019 draws near, John O’Sullivan discusses the status of Brexit today and the history of Britain’s decision to enter the European Union in 1973. He explains how Britain’s entry into the European Union first came about under Margaret Thatcher. He argues that British citizens had objections to joining the European Union back in 1973 and those objections never went away. Over the past forty-five years, the British have become increasingly more skeptical and frustrated with the European Union and resent the degree of its interference in the government’s decision making.

O’Sullivan and Robinson talk about the upcoming March 2019 deadline set by Theresa May for Brexit to officially occur. They talk about the state of the government as it stands, its preparedness for Brexit, and the opposition to Brexit by some parts of the government and the younger citizens.

How the World Recovered: The 2008 Financial Crisis Ten Years Later

October 17, 2018
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Recorded on September 28, 2018

Ten years ago, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression hit the United States and spread to other countries, including the United Kingdom. Here to discuss what happened then and where the world is now are former Federal Reserve governor Kevin Warsh and former chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne.

Kevin Warsh and George Osborne discuss the 2008 financial crisis, how they dealt with it at the time, what they would have done differently, and whether the economy is headed toward another downturn. Warsh discusses how the United States failed to realize how bad the crisis was until it was already too late. The crisis had a huge impact on Europe and the United States and set off a global panic. However, within two years the economy was already growing by 2 percent and the quantitative easing used by the Fed was no longer needed as the world changed.

Warsh and Osborne analyze the state of the US and UK economies today and the trade war with China. They argue that there are two ways to approach China: either try to contain it or co-opt it. Innovation and growth in the United States are necessary to prevent China from gaining more purchasing power and greater influence on the international market.  Osborne analyzes the effects Brexit could have on the single market and trade with the UK’s geographically closest trading partner, France, and airs his concerns about what Brexit means for the UK’s future. He argues that Margaret Thatcher, who helped create the single market in the EU, would never have voted to leave it.

While a future financial crisis is always possible, Warsh and Osborne end on optimistic notes: that there is still room for growth in the two countries’ economies and that a better financial future for many Americans and British is still possible through good economic policies, including lower taxes and less regulation.

George Gilder: Forget Cloud Computing, Blockchain is the Future

September 24, 2018
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Recorded on August 28, 2018

Is blockchain the technology of the future? George Gilder, author of Life After Google, argues that bitcoin and blockchain technology is revolutionizing the Internet. He sits down with Peter Robinson to discuss technology, cloud computing, big data, and the growing role of blockchain in innovating new technologies.

Gilder argues that cloud computing, while it was the hot new technology ten years ago, has reached its limits as the physical limitations of big data storage centers maxes out. Improvements in parsing big data are incremental at this point, and it’s time for the next big technology to take its place. Gilder points to blockchain as the technology of the future, with its ability to prevent corruption and manipulation of transaction data and the infinite uses it could have in third world countries.

Gilder also discusses the history of technology, artificial intelligence, and the revolutionary bitcoin. He argues that artificial intelligence can never replace human intelligence and creativity and that in principle, it is impossible for machines to take over.