By 5/29/16 5:02 PM
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters as he arrives to appear with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a fundraising event in Lawrenceville, N.J. on May 19, 2016.(Mike Segar/Reuters)
Larry Arnn thinks Donald Trump can beat Hillary Clinton.
That matters because Arnn is easily among the handful of most influential conservative intellectuals in the country. Arnn is the president of Hillsdale College, "the Lantern of the North" I call it, having swiped that designation from Elgin Cathedral, which lies in ruins in the north of Scotland. (It was first burned — and much ofElgin with it — in 1390, by the Wolf of Badenoch. "This was the name given to Alexander Stewart, the younger son of Robert II." "The Bishop of Moray, Bishop Alexander Bur," Undiscovered Scotland tells us, "had caused [the Wolf] to to be excommunicated for marital infidelity, and this was his way of getting even.")
No one has burnt Hillsdale College to the ground, though some fiery words were aimed at Arnn for his decision to join me in Switzerland throughout the long and bitter GOP primary campaign. Like me he has never been #NeverTrump and in fact dispatched a large team of his Hillsdale students to plumb Donald Trump's writings and speeches to see if constitutional apostasy was anywhere to be found.
The student search parties came up empty. Of course Trump departs from Free Trade orthodoxy, which has been a fixture of the GOP since Reagan's rise, and Trump is less adventurous when it comes to the use of American military power, but that can be squared with Cap Weinberger-like restraint.
Arnn, part of the official Churchill biographical team for years with Sir Martin Gilbert and a life long student of Lincoln, is very slow to exile anyone from the conservative movement in America if that individual hasn't sinned against constitutional norms.
And Trump hasn't. Yet. He may be "Jacksonian" in temperament as Walter Russell Mead has written, but he hasn't articulated anything other than fealty to the Framers' forms.
Many fear Trump cannot be trusted in this regard. "Power shows the man," Arnn replies, quoting his beloved Aristotle.
Arnn is often at Hillsdale's D.C. stronghold, its "Kirby Center" on Capitol Hill. He has many students and friends among the Capitol's powerful. Among them are three of conservatism's brightest stars: Sens. Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Mike Lee. If Arnn is not against Trump, many conservatives ask of the #NeverTrump band, why are you so adamantly so?
The answer is simply "Fear of what Trump might do with the vast powers of be White House." To which Arnn replies that surely Hillary Clinton would put those powers at the service of an ever expanding regulatory state. A very, very strong point that.
Many hope that Trump will take concrete steps to allay the fear that animates #NeverTrump. Those steps are obvious and many.
If Trump were to name Cotton his veep, and say former Sen. Jon Kyl his secretary of defense and Joe Lieberman to State while anointing very publicly Lee or Paul Clement to be Justice Scalia's replacement — not one of a list of 11, but THE certain nominee — Arnn would find himself surrounded by scores of similarly situated "influencers," and Cleveland would become a genuine celebration, not a signing of an elaborate truce.
Now Arnn's is somewhat lonely ground to occupy, but Hillsdale has often been a lonely place, especially when apparently every single one of its male students left to join Mr. Lincoln's Army a long time ago. It's a serious place, and it's president is a serious man. Trump should listen to him. And the #NeverTrump forces should as well.
Hugh Hewitt is a nationally syndicated talk radio host, law professor at Chapman University's Fowler School of Law, and author, most recently of The Queen: The Epic Ambition of Hillary and the Coming of a Second "Clinton Era." He posts daily at HughHewitt.com and is on Twitter @hughhewitt.