Professor F.H. Buckley is a Foundation Professor at George Mason University School of Law, where he has taught since 1989. Francis “Frank” H. Buckley has written on issues including constitutional government, the rule of law, laughter and contract theory. He is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator and other magazines and newspapers.
His most recent books are The Way Back: Restoring the Promise of America (Encounter Books, April 2016); The Once and Future King (Encounter Books, 2015); The American Illness (ed., Yale 2013); Fair Governance (Oxford 2009); Just Exchange (Routledge 2005); The Morality of Laughter (Michigan 2003); and The Fall and Rise of Freedom of Contract (ed. Duke 1999). His The Republic of Virtue: How We Tried to Ban Corruption, Failed, and What we Can Do About It will be published in November 2017 by Encounter Books. His current project is a book on the themes of the 2016 election.
Buckley lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife, Esther. His daughter, Sarah, is a resident at the University of Washington Medical Center.
Dwight L. Schwab, Jr. – National Political and Foreign Affairs newsblaze.com Columnist – Welcome professor. I understand you have a new book on the horizon. Tell us about that.
Professor F. H. Buckley – The last one came out last year. I have another one coming out in November on the subject of corruption. It is entitled “The Republic of Virtue.” It’s an homage to Hillary Clinton. (Laughter).
Schwab – Your muse. (More laughter)
Buckley – All you have to do is follow Hillary around and take notes.
Schwab – She certainly hasn’t been helping her cause lately with this book tour.
Buckley – Oh, it’s just a slow motion train wreck and the best gift the Republican Party could get.
Schwab – I hope they’re able to utilize it. They haven’t been able to do much with their Republican majority thus far.
Buckley – They don’t have a killer instinct and they can’t get their act together.
Schwab – Do you think that is because of lack of leadership?
Buckley – Well, it’s a number of things. It’s a leadership divorced from the concerns of ordinary Americans. Partially it’s a function of American politics where you are elected by your local constituency and you don’t care about the rest of the country.
Schwab – Do you see a shake-up of the GOP leadership, meaning Mitch and Paul? I find it hard to believe the photo ops of Trump with Schumer and Pelosi isn’t more than merely sitting down with the opposition. Knowing Trump as I have gotten to see him over the past nine months, you have to think he has some politically devious idea up his sleeve.
Buckley – Trump has been accused of disloyalty and ignoring the Republican leadership. He gave them all the time in the world to get their act together and they couldn’t. If you can’t deal with one person, you try to deal with another. It’s not as if Trump and Ryan have the same ideas about governing. Ryan is a right wing ideologue and at home with the right wing think tanks in Washington, DC.
Trump, on the other hand, is very connected to ordinary Americans. It is therefore not extraordinary to reach out to the Democrats who may have some ideas similar to those of Trump. Secondly, it is really important to send the message to Ryan that he is not the only game in town.
Schwab – I find it hard to believe that Trump’s true intent is to make a deal with the Democrats. The Dems have struck out with their media allies pushing the Russian collusion story and it appears they would like nothing more than to divide Trump’s base now from the man himself.
Getting the photo op opportunity of their party leaders with him must bring them (the Democrats) utter delight.
The DACA situation and repeal of Obamacare are the rock hard principles of his base. I find it hard to believe he is making a deal with the devil to spite his party’s leadership. It would only hurt him. What are Trump’s true intentions?
Buckley – I don’t recall at any point he said DACA has got to go. What he said during the campaign was it was unconstitutional and an illegal assertion of executive power. He said, if you want to do it right, it has to be done by Congress.
With the amount of people involved, he didn’t say I am completely opposed to this idea. This is a situation for bargaining. We may get something good out of DACA.
Schwab – I hope you’re right. The common man, the schlep or deplorable … . Whoops, I said it. (Laughter) He does not want his or her tax dollars being siphoned away to illegal immigrants. The “is” in this case, as Bill Clinton would say, is the common American.
Buckley – I am glad you bring up Bill Clinton. At one point in his presidency, Dick Morris was brought in to triangulate his policies with the opposition. The reason Clinton was successful was that he was a dealmaker himself.
With people like Morris, he was able to reach out to Republicans. It makes sense for Trump to reach out. Trump is not a right wing ideologue. This is not some pure Libertarian. His election was a repudiation of the mostly right wing Libertarians.
The right wing wanted to get rid of Social Security. He wasn’t going to go there. The right wing said let’s just junk Obamacare. He said no, let’s repeal and replace it. He was not a perfect right wing candidate. As for cutting deals, let’s see what it is.
Schwab – I agree. Looking into your crystal ball down the road to the midterm elections, so many more Democratic senators are up for re-election. The hysterical media is portraying the 2018 elections as the Republican’s Armageddon. It is the tradition that the party out of power makes gains in those off-years. What is your view?
Buckley – 2018 is going to be a very good year for the Republican Party. This is going to be something new as opposed to the traditional Republican Party. I call it the ‘Republican Worker’s Party.’
It has been a triangulation for some time. We’re not talking about initiatives coming from a Republican Congress. This is not coming from extreme right-wingers like Ryan. They have always been ‘never-Trumpers.’
They were right to despise Trump. He wanted to destroy their party. There was a real recognition that Trump wanted something different. Trump wanted to rescue what was living from Conservatism and kill what was the heartlessness of the party.
Schwab – I have been a registered Republican my entire adult life. In many ways, I feel the Republican Party has left me. We got them a majority in the House and Senate, and now we have the presidency. Yet they appear to be spineless in the face of a demoralized opposition with no message. If Trump continues to grow his base, where do you see the Republican Party headed?
I recently wrote a column about Republican senators up for re-election that he has supposedly targeted for defeat in the primaries that are opposed to his policies, such as Senator Flake in Arizona. He apparently has his old friend Steve Bannon leading the charge. Do you see this as being successful and the Republicans needing a new name?
Buckley – I think there is a category problem talking about the Republican Party. There is a presidential party. You know where I am coming from.
Schwab – Yes, I see where this is going. (Laughter)
Buckley – There is a congressional party, or should I say congressional parties. There is a presidential party that is socially conservative in terms of religion and nationalism. But economically it is very middle of the road. That is where the American people are. He is doing wonderfully with the base that elected him. I have no doubt he will be re-elected in 2020.
As for the congressional issue, Trump is not going to change so what will happen to them? One possibility is they will fall into line and you will have a united Republican Party. It would be more hospitable to economic issues.
Start with the idea of nationalism. If Trump is a nationalist, Ryan is anything but that. He is a Universalist. The guy is for open borders. That is not a nationalist. Bill Kristol said at one point, if our own people are so lazy and corrupt, let’s bring in a bunch of people and place them. That is the voice of the anti-nationalist. This is not a patriot.
If you are a nationalist, what does it say about your economic policies? You can’t be a simple right wing Libertarian. You can’t be a person who doesn’t care about fellow Americans. If you do care, that means a kind of generous welfare state, which we already have.
Trump just wants it to work a little better. You have to junk most of what you get out of CATO and the American Enterprise Institute. That also includes the Speaker’s office and the House of Representatives.
(End of Part One – read part two)