Leahy: We welcome to our microphones in studio, our very favorite thought criminal, Michael Rectenwald! Welcome, Michael.
Rectenwald: Hey, thanks for having me, Michael. It’s great to be here.
Leahy: You are a recovering academic. You actually had a problem in academia because you thought academia was about freedom of speech and freedom of thought and intellectual integrity. You were on the faculty at New York University. (Chuckles)
Rectenwald: Yes, that’s right. And then I actually used my academic freedom, which was my first big mistake.
Leahy: I know. Big mistake. They need to tell you, that once you get your PhD, no academic freedom allowed. You have a book signing today. I want to encourage everyone in our listening audience to go to this book signing.
It’s at 12:30 p.m. It’s at Elders Bookstore. Where is Elders Bookstore you might ask? It’s at 101 White Bridge Pike, right across from Tech College. 12:30 p.m.
Now if you’d like to reserve a signed copy, call 615-352-1562. Michael, you’ve written the Thought Criminal, which is a great book. And the other books.
Crom, you don’t know the names of these books, let me tell you. One is called Springtime for Snowflakes. (Laughter) The other is Google Archipelago, Beyond Woke, and Thought Criminal. What’s it like being a thought criminal Michael?
Rectenwald: It’s dangerous. It’s very dangerous. And one feels as if one is being chased. And especially on the Internet, where thoughts are not very insidiously policed.
Leahy: Tell us some of your dangerous thoughts here.
Rectenwald: I have this idea that there’s actually two sexes.
Rectenwald: Yes. And I can’t believe it. I just can’t banish the thought that there are two sexes and not like 72.
Leahy: Michael, you are obviously a thought criminal.
Carmichael: Did you say or do something in particular that caused New York University to…
Rectenwald: Yes. I started a Twitter account called the AntiPCNYUProf. And I started tweeting about things like Halloween costumes and how you couldn’t wear a costume because it would trigger somebody.
The way they were throwing speakers off of campuses for having other than leftist views. They instituted a biased reporting hotline where the students could report their professors for microaggression or other offenses.
Leahy: Not only are you a thought criminal, but Michael you are also a microaggressor.
Rectenwald: I am.
Leahy: Crom, how can we have him in our studio?
Carmichael: But I’m interested about because you obviously you are a teacher. You are a professor because you cared about our youth.
Carmichael: If people like you are not allowed to be teachers and professors, if they’re not, how can our youth development intellectually?
Rectenwald: It’s an outrage. What we’re dealing with right now… And you get into this in your book?
Carmichael: Because this is why Michael, this book is so important.
Rectenwald: It really is. It’s not competence that’s being judged based on your confidence. You’re judged based on your identity and your politics.
That’s it. We don’t have competent professors. We have all kinds of affirmative action hires and advancements and promotions.
Carmichael: But what does it mean for the kids and the students?
Rectenwald: What it means is they’re not getting educated. I was just talking to my publisher last night and I said, you know, students don’t even know what the parts of speech are. They don’t know anything about writing or how to think.
Leahy: They haven’t been taught the basics. How to read, how to write, how to do mathematics, how to think logically.
Carmichael: That was the word for me. It sounds like that if you tried to teach a class on logic, on how to come to a conclusion, how to assimilate the information, to come to a correct conclusion, that would be politically incorrect.
Rectenwald: As a matter of fact, that could be an offense. Logic is masculinist and white supremacy.
Leahy: Of course logic is masculinity.
Carmichael: It’s just fascinating.
Leahy: And masculinity is one of the 72 genders and apparently the least favored.
Rectenwald: Oh, absolutely the least favorite. It’s at the bottom of the hierarchy. The social justice hierarchy takes the putative hierarchy and flips it upside down.
Leahy: You’ve got this book Thought Criminal. You are obviously a dangerous thought criminal. We are really going on the edge by allowing you in the studio today.
Leahy: We are brave here Crom. We are being very brave.
Carmichael: Well, we’ve known that.
Leahy: Yeah, of course. But do you have any solutions for this general problem of lack of intellectual honesty at the university level and, of course, other elements of education in America?
Rectenwald: The American university system is rotten to the core.
Leahy: Rotten to the core.
Rectenwald: So what I suggest is competition from the outside, competing parallel structures and institutions to take them head on with competition.
Leahy: Competition and education. What an unusual idea.
Carmichael: I agree with what you’re saying. In theory, when one side has all the money and all the resources and all the power, I believe in competition but in order to have true competition, you have to have a level playing field.
If I were a football team and I got the top 30 draft picks every year, I probably could overcome bad coaching, so I could probably overcome a poor product. So my question is, how should people that gain power in government use that power?
Rectenwald: Excellent point.
Carmichael: To bring about a truly competitive environment.
Rectenwald: First of all, all state colleges and universities should be reviewed in terms of their hiring practices and other promotions so that you would have an oversight board over these colleges and universities to make sure that they’re actually hiring people on the basis of competence.
Leahy: We’re talking about state colleges and universities.
Leahy: You’ve worked at a private college, but have you worked at state colleges also?
Rectenwald: Yes, I did in North Carolina.
Leahy: Which one?
Rectenwald: It was called North Carolina Central University.
Leahy: Was there a different experience working at a public college versus a private?
Rectenwald: Well, yeah, the public one was underfunded and basically corrupt. The private one was overfunded and corrupt.
Leahy: Oh so the choice then is, underfunded and corrupt versus overfunded and corrupt. Which is more dangerous?
Leahy: We are joined now on our newsmaker line by Jeffrey Nelson, the executive director and CEO of the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. Welcome, Jeff. Thanks for joining us.
Nelson: Thanks for having me. Michael. It’s great to be with you good and the people of Nashville.
Leahy: How could I not have met you? Because you are the founder of this cultural center, Russell Kirk, one of the greatest thinkers in the 20th century in America, cofounder of the National Review, and has written so much, so significantly, tell us who Russell Kirk was and tell us about your personal connection to Russell Kirk.
Nelson: Thanks, Michael. You set it up just wonderfully. Dr. Kirk is one of the founders of the conservative movement in America. And I’ll even push it a little farther. Your audience might like to know that every time they say the word conservative or refer to themselves as Conservatives, they’re drawing on Russell Kirk because it was Russell Kirk who gave us the very name.
Conservatives gave us the identity and the self-identity and the sense of tradition within America, that we can, in fact, be Conservatives and Americans because, in the 1950s, liberals told us there was no such thing as a conservative tradition in America.
It was all liberalism and that to be conservative, to have a conservative thought, was essentially, as one critic put it, to have a series of irritable mental gestures. It’s no respectable body of people.
Leahy: I love one of the books that he wrote, The Roots of American Order. I talk about the idea of ordered liberty. I wrote about a book in 2012 called The Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement. And a lot of that was rooted in this concept of ordered liberty. Tell us a little bit about that.
Nelson: Well, it’s so important that those flows from the idea of Conservatives, because in the early 50s, people who would call themselves Conservatives call themselves individualists, mainly individualism was the alternative to collectivism, Soviet collectivism.
So they thought that was the way. But Dr. Kirk tells us now there’s a deeper project here. We are Conservatives. Hence, he wrote The Conservative Mind, which is the seminal book that changed everything in America and made us all Conservatives.
And the project of conservatism and to be an American conservative is to conserve the tradition of ordered liberty that is embedded and enshrined in the American Constitution.
And that the great achievement of American civilization was to draw from the inheritance of the west from the civilizations that came before us.
Our American founders looked to Jerusalem and the tradition of Revelation and God in Athens and for the tradition of reason in Rome and for law and London, for this whole concept of representative government.
And America took from all these civilizations something from each of them and fashioned it into this concept that you just identified as ordered liberty reconciling the claims of both order and liberty.
Liberty alone wasn’t enough. Liberty alone sometimes can spin and often does spin out of control. It needs boundaries, it needs laws, and it needs tradition to hold it together.
So this concept of ordered liberty and putting that forward for not only American citizens but for the whole world as a beacon is the greatest achievement of American American civilization. And it must be upheld and defended and conserved and renewed and enlivened at all costs in every generation.
Leahy: Jeff Nelson, your career mirrors Russell Kirk to a degree. You were his literary assistant. You married one of his daughters.
Nelson: I did. I married the boss’s daughter. That’s an old thing, I guess so. I have a wonderful wife and three children, and I had the great privilege to work here and with Dr. Kirk.
He made a fatal mistake once of sending me down to Hillsdale College, where his freshman daughter was to pick her up after her first semester and bring her back up here.
Leahy: Jeff, it wasn’t a mistake. It was part of his ordered plan for liberty. (Chuckles)
Nelson: He did set in motion a number of things that wouldn’t have otherwise happened, including the privilege after his pass, because Dr. Kirk was such a unique individual. As you said, he was tied into the very foundations of American conservatism and close to National Review and Bill Buckley.
And so during the Cold War and the Communist era and even afterwards, people all over the world searching for freedom and for this American experience of ordered liberty we’re reading him at National Review.
Reading his books, reading his columns, and they would show up in America. They were looking for places to go and emigrate. And many times they came up to this village of Mecosta, Michigan, emigrated, and he would take them in.
He took in Poles. He took in a number of refugees from all sorts of places. From Cambodia, from Eastern Europe. It was just incredible the number of people that would show up and the Kirk’s with their hospitality would take them in, get their children in school.
They took it on unwed mothers. And for their pro life cause they had all these young conservative thinkers and scholars coming here and writers and journalists.
And so there’s this incredible variety and interesting community here that Dr. Kirk fashioned. And it was institutionalized after his death as the Russell Kirk Center to keep that work going and to keep students coming to this historic place.
Because as Conservatives, we have not been very good at preserving our foundational institutions and the legacy of our founders. The left, any activists, you know, they have a Museum or some kind of a house they preserved or something. But on the right, on the conservative side, in terms of our founders, there are very few.
Ronald Reagan, obviously, as a President, there’s been some houses in his library and his ranch and now his boyhood at home. But Buckley’s home was bulldozed.
Leahy: Bill Buckley’s home in Sharon, Connecticut was bulldozed? Are you kidding me?
Nelson: Yes. No, it was developed.
Leahy: Oh, my goodness.
Nelson: This is the one place that’s left in the conservative movement.
Leahy: It’s in Mecosta, Michigan which is right near Grand Rapids.
Nelson: Yes, north of Grand Rapids. And it’s a center. It’s a village. It’s a library of 15,000 books. It’s homes where students and faculty and journalists stay and study and reside and come up for seminars and the lively Institute and center for construction.
Leahy: So I got two questions for you. Number one, how do you finance this and how can people help you?
Nelson: We finance it through private donations. We don’t take government money and so we are dependent upon the generosity of those who want students to have access to understanding the deeper currents of the American conservative tradition.
We don’t do policy here, but we’re deep educators. We’re conservators as you alluded to, conserving a tradition of roots of American order. And also they explain what that means today and keep it fresh.
We depend on those patrons who understand that in this day and age, given the state of the university students who don’t have access to that kind of education only get caricatures of conservatism, they come to the Russell Kirk Center and they get it right.
Michael, there are three things that are going on at the same time and they’re all related. One is CNN Plus is imploding even though owes a great and mighty Chris Wallace left Fox News and went to CNN. Because CNN believed that Chris Wallace was popular. And he never has been popular.
He’s always been kind of a daddy’s boy. And he’s made a lot of money because he was Mike Wallace’s son. But CNN is now imploding. And what’s interesting is when he left, he was there 18 years, paid millions of dollars for at least each of the last 10 years.
And when he left, he was very ungracious. He did an interview in The Western Journal and he sneered at the network, at Fox network and his viewers saying about his long tenure at Fox, ‘But I can certainly understand where somebody would say, gee, Chris, you’re a slow learner.’
He was really talking about how he is now free to think and to act. But CNN Plus, which is why he left, is imploding. And by the way, that’s because people who watch CNN don’t pay for news.
They won’t pay for it. They just like to be propagandized. Which ties into Mark Zuckerberg. After Molly Hemingway’s book Rigged came out and the documentary was aired within 24 hours, Mark Zuckerberg said he’s not going to participate in the midterm elections in the way that he did in the last election.
So what he is seeing from that documentary is that they have the goods on him. So the question is going to be whether or not he is treated appropriately under the law.
If the next administration is a Republican administration because there are laws about campaign spending and the book Rigged makes a very good case that he broke those laws.
Now let’s move to what Elon Musk is doing in his attempted takeover of Twitter. Twitter stock has fallen from 80 to 30 over the last 18 months. It’s very clear that the board of directors and the executives at Twitter do not believe that their shareholders are that important to them.
Well, now they have a very stark choice. They can either see their stock go back to approximately 30 and maybe even lower, or they can take Musk’s offer of $54.20 a share and do what is right by the shareholders.
So the question is whether or not the board of directors are going to do what’s right by the Democrat Party and the left, or whether or not it’s going to do what’s right by the shareholders. But what’s also fascinating is that there are reports that the DOJ and the SEC are now attacking Tesla.
And let me just say that the DOJ and the SEC are people. They’re not just institutions. So the institution of the DOJ and the institution of the SEC does not attack Tesla. It will be the individuals inside those institutions.
And then the question is if they are using their positions of power for political purposes and the next President is not of their thinking, it’s a question of whether or not those people because what they are doing is seditious what they’re doing is using the power of government to try to silence the potential opposition of other people.
It should be obvious to any thinking person that the left believes that it is now in control of the government and that it must maintain its control of the government or for them, there is a great risk, and for all of those associated with the left.
So the next 30 days are going to be absolutely critical and then the midterms of course. But with Zuckerberg not agreeing to help the Democrat Party with what you and I think is cheating in the last election, with him saying he’s not going to do that again, I’m not sure that they can replace him at this late date with somebody who is willing to take the risk of going to prison for 20 years.
Which if they do that again could very well happen. So we will see. But these three things all happening at the same time are both ominous on one hand and very hopeful on another.
Leahy: All-star panelist Roger Simon with us. Roger, I want to elaborate on appointment made towards the end of that last segment.
And it’s about the Secretary of State, Tre Hargett’s statement issued by his his office yesterday afternoon about an hour after we reported that the three-year residency bill to be on a primary ballot in the U.S. House of Representatives had become law.
I’m going to read exactly what their statement was. And, Tre Hargett, I hope you’re listening because I am stating here right now that you have incorrectly made a statement after this law, and I’m challenging you, Tre Hargett, to come in to this program and defend your statement, which I am saying is factually incorrect.
Here we go. The first is a two-sentence statement. “The bill was not signed into law before the April 7th filing deadline.” That’s a true statement. “April 7th is the filing deadline.” This is not a true statement.
And this came from Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office. The requirement does not apply retroactively to candidates who met the qualification deadline at noon on April 7th. This is where the Secretary of State’s office, I think, knowingly made an incorrect statement because April 7th is not the qualification deadline.
The qualification deadline is April 21st, according to the statute. April 7th is the deadline for candidates who seek to be qualified to apply for their petitions. And the Secretary of State has two steps in the process.
First, the Secretary of State has to review all the signatures on the petition. They usually take 48 hours or so, and then they determine if those actually meet those petition filing standards.
Simon: I want to add to this that this has been known for some time, even to us newcomers in Tennessee, via your show and other things. We’ve known this. So therefore, why was it not known by the Secretary of State’s office?
Leahy: I think it was known.
Simon: Exactly. Obviously, it was known. Then the next question Sherlock would ask is, why this word salad?
Leahy: The word salad is basically so that, we talked about this before, so that Associated Press would take the statement and go with a headline claiming that the Secretary of State, with that statement, was saying that Morgan Ortagus is on the ballot.
Simon: Then the next thing that would happen is this would be accepted as the truth, and everybody would roll over.
Leahy: Yes. Now, we asked the Secretary of State some pointed questions. On February 18th, we asked the Secretary of State’s office, if the legislation currently pending before the General Assembly, passed and affected a candidate’s eligibility for the August primaries, what could the latest date for finalizing the ballot be?
Translation: What’s the qualifying deadline? Here was their answer on February 22nd. “If the legislation passes, whether it will affect the candidates for the August 4th, 2022 primary election depends on the enacting date chosen by the General Assembly. The April 21st, 2022 date to finalize the ballot will not be affected.”
The effective date was April 13th. The finalizing the ballot date is April 21st. So that is the statute. The qualifying deadline is April 21st, and the petition filing deadline – and Frank Niceley told us the same exact thing about this, and by the way, State Senator Frank Niceley told us the following: ‘Robby Starbuck and Morgan Ortagus were off the Republican primary ballot as soon as their bona fides were challenged before the Tennessee GOP by bona fide Republicans in the 5th district.
Those challenges were made well before the April 7th petition filing deadline. In addition, meeting that filing deadline does not mean you’re a qualified candidate. Let me repeat that. Meeting the filing deadline of April 7th does not mean you’re a qualified candidate.
The SEC members would need to vote to put them back on the ballot in order for them to be qualified. The Secretary of State and the governor have no control over what the SEC votes do. And by the bylaws, they have been removed from the ballot. They have an opportunity to be restored. (Simon laughs)
Simon: Bylaws are made to be broken, like most laws, unfortunately, and bylaws more easily than most. This is, I think, a teaching moment for all of us who are interested in politics, which means everybody, theoretically, because it’s going to affect you down the line.
Although in this instance, I will put a little asterisk on it. And here’s my asterisk. I don’t think the most significant thing in the world is who is going to be winning the Republican nomination for the 5th district.
I think my bet is that that person will win the election, and that person is not going to vote very differently one from the other, except for this guy Winstead, whose wife is a lobbyist for the Democrats.
Leahy: Yes. Kurt’s been on the program. We’ve talked to Kurt.
Simon: Did you ask about his wife’s lobbying activities?
Leahy: No. We’ll ask him that the next time he’s in.
Simon: That’s probably the most significant thing you can ask about.
Leahy: Got you. But you said who wins this primary is not the most significant thing to ask. What is the most significant thing to ask?
Simon: Whether the rule of law will be followed.
Leahy: There you go. Let’s talk about the rule of law. Whether or not the rule of law will be followed. To me, I look at this and the Secretary of State here, Tre Hargett, who, by the way, is hired by the Tennessee General Assembly.
Simon: Error. That is not a good thing.
Leahy: You’re not changing it. It’s in the Tennessee Constitution.
Simon: I know it is.
Leahy: You will not change it.
Simon: There are a couple of things in this constitution people should look at.
Leahy: I understand all these arguments. For instance, direct election of attorney general never going to happen here for any number of reasons. But I would agree with that. But the point is we have a Secretary of State, Tre Hargett, who, in essence, is saying …
Simon: He’s not responsible to the voters.
Leahy: No, even more. He’s saying that he apparently does not intend to enforce the law as passed by the Tennessee General Assembly. That’s what it looks like to me.
Tre Hargett, by the way, you are welcome to come in the program and defend yourself. But right now the statements from your office are confusing at best and conflicting at worst and disingenuous, perhaps, is maybe an even more accurate way to put it.
Simon: I’m not arguing with any of that. I think you’re right. But when you come back to the semi-defeatist statement that you made about not changing any of these Tennessee regulations, I think we should start thinking about that. The Secretary of State should be responsible to the voters. It’s a pretty big job.
Leahy: Folks, this promises to be a very lively segment with our good friend, all-star panelist, Clint Brewer. Clint, you are, in fact, a recovering journalist.
Brewer: I am.
Leahy: You are a public affairs specialist. And you know how people should communicate. I’m going to make a statement here about our Secretary of State, Tre Hargett.
And I’m going to say that he has really done a very poor job of communicating about whether or not he will enforce this new residency law, which became law yesterday afternoon after the governor refused to sign it or did not return it to the Senate after the 10-day period when it can go into effect without a signature.
And immediately, the Secretary of State issued a confusing statement that contradicted his own statements about the enforcement of this law that he made to us a couple of months earlier, issued it quickly.
We broke the story that it had become law about 3:00 in the afternoon, and by 4:00, they issued a statement to us about the law that we thought was contradictory and confusing. And we didn’t publish it because we asked them a follow-up question.
The Associated Press took it immediately and ran with it and I think inaccurately stated the position of the law, what the law meant.
Here’s what the Secretary of State’s office told us an hour after we reported the law was in effect. Remember what the law says. “In order to qualify as a candidate in a primary election for the United States Senate or from a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a person shall meet the residency requirements for state senators and representatives contained in the Tennessee Constitution.”
That’s three years prior to qualifying for the primary ballot. This act takes effect upon becoming law. The public welfare requirement. So it became law yesterday, April 13th, and it went into effect.
And here was the statement. It was a pre-planned statement, obviously, because it was given to us. We didn’t publish it immediately because it was confusing and conflicting. The AP took it and published it right away, almost instantaneously, and gave an interpretation to it that claimed that it meant Morgan Ortagus would be back on the ballot.
They missed a lot, as did the Secretary of State. Let me just read this to you. “The bill was not signed into law before the April 7th filing deadline.
The requirement does not apply retroactively to candidates who met the qualification deadline at noon on April 7th.” So that’s what they communicated.
The AP took that to interpret Morgan Ortagus is on the ballot. That was very, very confusing, because we went back and said, well, look, the Republican Party bylaws, and your previous statements say April 7th is the petition filing deadline. It’s not the qualifying deadline.
The qualifying deadline is April 21st. Two candidates have been challenged, and have been removed from the Tennessee Republican Party ballot, Morgan Ortagus and Robby Starbuck. Given those facts with your interpretation of the law that you gave out an hour after the laws passed, stand.
And they responded in a way that didn’t answer that question. Here’s what they said: “We may have misunderstood your question. We thought your question was regarding if someone filed the petition in March and met qualifications when they filed, but before the qualifying deadline, the law changed. In that case, the person would not have been able to run despite meeting the petition requirements at the time of filing.
By statute, the party has until April 21st to inform the division of election who will be on the primary ballot,” conceding the point that the qualifying deadline is April 21st, not April 7th. Your thoughts about this communication mangling by the Secretary of State?
Brewer: Yes, I agree with you. It could have been clearer. I’m going to say that they’re in as confusing a position as the rest of us. Heretofore, to qualify to run for Congress, you had two barriers: One, you had to put in a qualifying petition, which is a fairly nominal number of signatures from people in the district that have to be verified as actual registered voters in the district.
Then you had to clear the party. The party had to let you on the ballot if it’s partisan. So there are two things. Now, in the middle of it, we’ve got a residency requirement, which to my knowledge, I think the only entity that figures that out now is the party apparatus, the executive committee, Secretary of State’s office.
I could be wrong. But in the petition filing, there is no paperwork requirement yet. Maybe there will be. There’s no submission that you have to make of documents or anything that actually could tell the Secretary of State’s office if you meet the new residency requirements.
Leahy: Yes. Within that. Yes.
Brewer: So where does the verification of residency reside in this new process? The law does not spell that out.
Leahy: It does not.
Brewer: The law does not say that the Secretary of State will do it. The law does not say that the executive committee will do it. So who does it? Is it only a question if someone challenges it? Otherwise, are both parties happy to just not ask the question?
Leahy: Let’s just go back a little bit on this. First, this April 7th petition filing deadline says you’ve got to file in order to be qualified, subsequently …
Brewer: You have to have a timely filed petition …
Leahy: Which has 25 signatures of people in the district.
Brewer: … by noon on the date.
Leahy: April 7th. Now, those petitions are actually reviewed by the Secretary of State’s office …
Brewer: Of course.
Leahy: … over like a 48-hour period. If they themselves then, after April 7th, issue a statement about which of those petitions allow somebody to go forward with the qualifying process …
Brewer: And to my knowledge, is there a deadline for doing that?
Leahy: For their response as to have you met the first standard to qualify, there’s not a deadline. I think by practice they usually get a response. Actually, there may be some still being reviewed by the Secretary of State’s office. They did respond.
Brewer: But it’s not in the statute.
Leahy: I don’t think it’s in the statute. But what is clearly in statute, by statute, the parties have until April 21st to inform the Secretary of State who’s on the ballot.
Brewer: That is the final hurdle to get on the ballot.