Category: Interview

Oren Cass on “Overheated” Climate Change Coverage

Oren Cass addressed Buckley Fellows in a lecture on Monday, April 23rd to discuss his work on overdramatized analyses of climate change. A fellow spoke with him before the talk, and his thoughts are printed below. 

Oren Cass is a Senior Fellow with the Manhattan Institute, where his focus includes energy, the environment, and poverty, as well as corresponding policy issues. He previously served as domestic policy director for the Romney campaign from 2011-2012. He often briefs Congress on his conservative policy approaches for issues such as environmental regulation, trade, poverty, and climate change, and his work has been widely published among prominent media outlets. He received a B.A. in Political Economy from Williams College and a J.D. from Harvard University. 

By: Matthew Fantozzi

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Oren Cass to ask him some questions about his views on climate change.  Prior to my interview with Mr. Cass and his lecture that followed, I would have said that I had a good idea of what climate change was and how it would affect the globe, and I definitely would have said it was a serious issue we need to address as quickly and forcefully as possible.  With that said, I was excited to learn more about Mr. Cass’ views and to hear about how he arrived at his conclusions.

Mr. Cass’ general view on climate change can be summarized as the following: it is happening and humans are causing it, but it is not as serious or urgent an issue as most people believe.  Mr. Cass’ position is that the slight warming of the globe over a long period of time will be something humans can easily deal with, and he believes that the issue has been blown drastically out of proportion.

For my first question, I asked him why he thinks the issue has been so blown out of proportion and why the idea of global warming as an existential threat has caught on so thoroughly. Mr. Cass thinks the main problem is that people often forget how adaptive humans are, and how fast technology changes. When looking at the issue with the mindset that our society will not change as the climate does, the projected effects can indeed look quite scary.  The key, he says, is to trust humans and the technology we will discover to effectively combat climate change.  He believes this is very plausible given that climate change is a very slow-moving problem, giving us plenty of time to learn about and deal with it.  As for the reason it is viewed as such an immediate, severe threat, Cass believes it is simply marketable.  Articles about the disasters climate change will bring get a lot of clicks on the internet, so media outlets are encouraged to run more of them and the problem snowballs from there.  Articles that talk about climate change as nothing more than an interesting problem we should begin learning about now to effectively combat in the future do not tend to be as popular.  He spoke about this from experience, being someone who has himself written many articles arguing for this more reasonable approach.

My next question asked how we should deal with this type of long-term, potentially major issue, and which long-term issues Cass finds more worrisome, given that climate change does not fall into this category. He breaks down the process of evaluating and addressing major issues into two main components.  First, we as a society must learn as much as possible about the potential issue and what effects it may have in the future. After this is done, we must work to create a society that is resilient to the effects we foresee, as opposed to trying to eliminate the causes of those effects. With specific respect to climate change, for example, we should be looking to create a society that can, in the future, accept and manage slightly hotter temperatures and a slight rise in sea level.  As for the second part of the question, he told me that he believes any risk or problem that moves quickly is significantly more worrying than climate change. Perhaps something like nuclear war or a pandemic that could cause significant damage over the course of weeks or months would pose a greater immediate threat.  One of the upsides of climate change, he says, is that it moves incredibly slowly, giving us time to prepare and adjust.

My last question for Mr. Cass asked, even if the effects of climate change will not be that drastic, whether there is harm in everyone beginning to do their part now to reduce it.  His main problem with this is that he believes everyone making their own small contributions has no measurable effect. According to Cass, the only way to make a difference, even domestically, would be with drastic government policies that would significantly alter daily life.  Such policies could come in the form of sweeping restrictions on cars and air travel.  More than that, he says, it is important to understand that climate change is not a domestic problem, but a global one. This century, between 70 and 80 percent of emissions are projected to come from the developing world. That is where we would have to focus efforts in order to make a meaningful impact on climate change, and that does not seem fair to him.  It is unreasonable to prevent leaders from developing their countries and improving the lives of their citizens because of an ambiguous problem we might have to deal with in the future.

There is an established narrative about climate change and its seriousness on campus, and it turned out I knew very little beyond that coming into this interview. According to Cass, there is ample room for criticism of this account. Climate change is definitely a problem and an interesting one, but it is important to not simply accept the mainstream view on this subject without critical thinking.  It is important to listen to people like Orren Cass because it is impossible to address any problem completely without a full understanding of the issue, including the views of experts on all sides of it.

Matthew Fantozzi is a sophomore in Pierson College.

The Heritage Foundation’s Mike Gonzalez on American Identity

On Thursday, February 1st, Mr. Mike Gonzalez addressed Buckley Fellows and guests on the topic, “American Balkanization: A Failed 40-Year Experiment. We Need to Return to E Pluribus Unum.” The lecture focused on assimilation, multiculturalism, identity politics, diversity, and the US Census. One Fellow spoke with Mr. Gonzalez before talk, and his thoughts are printed below. 

Mr. Gonzalez is a senior fellow at the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation. After spending 20 years as a journalist, reporting internationally from Europe, Asia, and Latin America for much of this period, Mr. Gonzalez served as a speechwriter in the Securities and Exchange Commission and in the State Department’s European Bureau under President George W. Bush.

By: Kobe Rizk

In the face of increased prevalence of so-called “buzzwords” like “identity politics” and “lived experience,” the William F. Buckley Program had the chance to hear from a speaker who specializes in this atomization of American culture and politics, and has consistently worked across the spectrum to fix it.

Mr. Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Washington D.C. basked Heritage Foundation, gave a talk to Buckley fellows last week titled “American Balkanization: A Failed 40-Year Experiment. We Need to Return to E Pluribus Unum.” In the talk he outlined several ways in which the government has attempted to categorize races and ethnicity in America, and why exactly such a system of organizing data is harmful and even misleading.

In an interview before his talk, Gonzalez noted that “the things that our government has done” have created identity politics, which he asserted “has become a real problem in our county.”

“We have come to the point on the right and the left where we realized that with the best of intentions, we have done something that has divided the country,” Gonzalez said.

During his talk, Mr. Gonzalez also outlined how immigration has changed during the past century and the way in which all levels of government have reacted differently to immigrants in recent years. Stating that today’s governments tend to put immigrants into “silos” rather than pushing for an American assimilation, Gonzalez says we’ve sacrificed the overall unity of American identity.

One recent way this has been done, according to Mr. Gonzalez, is the Obama administration’s initiative to create a new ethnic category on the United States Census referred to as Middle East & North Africa (MENA), which he says combines drastically different races and cultures into a single category in a way that is unproductive and even harmful.

This is a formula “that further balkanizes the nation,” Gonzalez said in reference to this Obama initiative, further stating that “this is not something that America should be.” But Gonzalez notes that the Trump administration’s view on proposed changes have been largely positive.

“This [MENA] option isn’t going to be on the 2020 census,” said Gonzalez, a victory which he noted was in large part to the work of him and his team on spreading the message about how this change would have been harmful to the work of the Census Bureau while propagating false beliefs about race and ethnic identity.

When asked if America talks about race too much, Gonzalez noted that “America is by no means that most racist country in the world,” and that “America is the only country that fought a civil war about slavery.” He also advised that “we have to discuss these things, it’s no good to keep them hidden, neither should we obsess about them and think they’re determinate.”

Thinking about the future of this American atomization and how it will look under the new President, Gonzales said that “Trump is a disruptor, his M.O. is disrupting, which means he can change things for the better.”

“This president is about change and he wants to change the way things have been done for the past few decades” said Gonzalez. His talk concluded with a question and answer session about the future of American racial and ethnic identity and how his work at the Heritage Foundation is aiming to fix the myriad problems he has identified and form a more unified America moving into the future.

The Buckley Program hosts weekly events with respected and expert speakers like Mr. Gonzalez. These include lectures, dinner seminars, and firing line debates.


Kobe Rizk is a first year in Ezra Stiles College and serves as the Publicity Director for the Buckley Program.

The Heritage Foundation’s Dr. Lee Edwards on the History of the Conservative Movement

On Thursday December 7th, Dr. Lee Edwards spoke with Buckley Fellows over dinner in New Haven. One Fellow spoke with Dr. Edwards before the dinner seminar, and her thoughts are printed below. 

Dr. Edwards, distinguished fellow in conservative thought at The Heritage Foundation, is a leading historian of American conservatism and the author or editor of 25 books. Dr. Edwards also is adjunct professor of politics at the Catholic University of America and chairman of a foundation that dedicated the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2007.

By: Aryssa Damron

With all the political discord on the right tonight, Dr. Lee Edwards thought it was high-time to write a book showing that this was not always the case. In his new book, Just Right: A Life in Pursuit of Liberty, Edwards traces his political life from Barry Goldwater to Donald Trump and gives us hope for the future of the movement based on how it has grown in the past.  Edwards says his life has shown him that persistence is important in every aspect of his life and has helped him and the movement achieve all it has so far. Continue reading “The Heritage Foundation’s Dr. Lee Edwards on the History of the Conservative Movement”

Georgetown Law Professor Randy Barnett on the Constitution and Originalism

On November 4th, 2017, Randy Barnett spoke at the Buckley Program’s conference on The Constitution and the Courts.

Randy Barnett is a professor of legal theory at the Georgetown University Law Center and as well as Director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. He is a leading scholar in constitutional originalism, and has written twelve books, including his most recent: “Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People,” released in 2016. A graduate of Harvard Law, he worked for years as a prosecutor in the Cook County States’ Attorney’s Office in Chicago. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Constitutional Studies and the Bradley Prize, and has been a visiting professor at Penn, Northwestern, and Harvard Law School.

By: Sophia Morales

Sophia: You’re director at the Georgetown Center for the Constitution – could you start by telling me a little bit about your organization?

Randy: We’ve been at Georgetown since 2012, with the mission to examine how written constitutions can be faithfully interpreted and applied. The center is committed to the idea of originalism as the appropriate method of interpretation. That’s the approach, but there are still disagreements among originalists, and everyone working at the center is dedicated to pursuing and exploring different theoretical interpretations. One of our main goals is to bring some diversity to the law school in the form of diverse views on the constitution, which is why we have our student fellows program. We also have annual lectures, an originalist bootcamp where  law students can study originalism for a week in the summer, and a new book prize named for Justice Thomas Cooley.

Sophia: What would you consider the biggest challenge to interpreting the Constitution in the present day?

Randy: The biggest challenge is winning the debate over whether to interpret the constitution according to its original meaning or whether judges should get to update it. Originalism is actually doing well in the debate right now, but we’re trying to make the argument more widely known, to advocate it, and to develop it – which is a lot of what we focus on at the Center for the Constitution. We don’t have all the answers. For example, there’s some debate about exactly what the scope of meaning is – is it limited to the public meaning? Does it include its legal meaning? Does it include the practices at the time?

Sophia: In your opinion, what do we need to keep in mind when interpreting the Constitution?

Randy: The meaning of the constitution should remain the same until it’s properly changed by amendment. We have to remember that the Constitution is the law which governs those who govern, and those who are to be governed by it can’t change those laws any more than we can change the laws that govern us. The amendment in article five of the constitution is the way we should be able to change it – judges and congressmen can’t do so because they are the ones who are supposed to be governed by it.

Sophia: Is there any Constitutional issue in particular that you feel is especially misinterpreted on a wide scale?

Randy: There is a lot about the Constitution that is either misinterpreted or ignored. Among them are the enumerated powers of Congress which Congress has greatly exceeded. That’s the biggest one. If we could bring Congress back within its powers, the states could do a lot more, and the competition between states could protect freedom better than the courts can. Freedom is the most important thing we have to protect. It states clearly in the Declaration of Independence that the purpose of government is to secure individual liberties and the purpose of the Constitution is to hold the government to that function.

Sophia: You mentioned that appointment of justices to the supreme court is hugely important in defending originalism. Do you think that things are looking up under the current administration?

Randy: I think we dodged a huge bullet. The courts under President Obama had really moved away from originalism, and if we had 8 more years of that than ⅔ of appointments to the supreme court would be anti-originalist. President Trump has honored his commitment to appoint originalist judges, and he deserves a lot a credit for that. There’s a lot of good news right now. In the short run, we’re getting some great judges, and academics have been developing the theory of originalism to make it more resistant to criticism. There were a few people in opposition back when Bork was nominated, and now only one has testified against Gorsuch – that’s largely a result of the progress that has been made on the theory of originalism. It’s a lot harder to disparage.

Sophia Morales is a junior in Trumbull College. 

Jonathan Turley on Expanding the Supreme Court

On November 4th, 2017, Professor Turley spoke at the Buckley Program’s conference on The Constitution and the Courts.

Professor Turley joined the GW Law faculty in 1990, and in 1998, became the youngest chaired professor in the school’s history.  He has written more than three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals including those of Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, and Northwestern Universities. He is a member of the USA Today board of contributors and the recipient of the “2005 Single Issue Advocate of the Year”. More than 400 of his articles on legal and policy issues regularly appear in national newspapers. 

The Buckley Program had the chance to interview Professor Turley at the Omni Hotel in New Haven, CT. The transcript has been condensed and lightly edited from a longer interview.

By: Jake Fischer

Jake:  Could you elaborate on the basics of your plan for the expansion of the Supreme Court? Continue reading “Jonathan Turley on Expanding the Supreme Court”