“Nice Try, Mr. President”

Indulge a little bit of nostalgia for a moment. I realized that this upcoming week will mark the 40th anniversary of when I began graduate school at Claremont. And one of the first new students I met who also began that semester was John Eastman, who I marked out the first week in class as a lively mind. A couple years later we became housemates, renting a bungalow from the legendary management guru Peter Drucker. We sometimes were deliberately late with our rent so we could deliver it in person, hoping to chat with that great and fascinating man.

One of the most vivid seminars (among many) was with William B. Allen, then teaching at Harvey Mudd College and in the graduate program. A spring semester class concentrated on a slow reading of Plato’s Laws, Plato’s Phaedrus, and then a careful reading of George Washington’s writings, which most historians neglect. There were only three of us in that seminar—me, Eastman, and the late Mary Bellamy, who had been a research assistant to Adm. James Stockdale at the Hoover Institution before she came to grad school. A good bunch.

To say it was a remarkable seminar would be a huge understatement. I’m going to try to see if I still have any notes somewhere (difficult since I have everything packed up and stored while I’m renovating my house, and I have over the years looked through my copious notes of another Bill Allen seminar on Aristotle, Augustine, Dante, and Machiavelli), though it was not easy to take notes on the conversations Bill midwived in the seminar room, mostly because the three of us were simply awestruck every week. It is no exaggeration to say that we often found ourselves speechless in class with the startling revelations he presented to us from the texts, and leaving at the end of class humbled at how much harder we had to think.

A couple days ago we linked to Bill’s commentary on the ongoing Eastman controversy, and today I see he has posted a five-minute commentary on Biden’s Philadelphia speech. If you take this in carefully—and it may require more than one viewing—you’ll see how his calm analysis is totally devastating, but without a note of overt rancor. It only conveys a small hint of what Bill was like in the classroom:

P.S. Three years back we did an episode of the Power Line podcast featuring Bill in conversation with me and Eastman, which you can go back and take in here.

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