While working as the director of communications for the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, Michael Anton had a rule: He wouldn’t leave the office until he had returned every call he had received that day.
He quickly abandoned that rule when he joined the Trump administration in February 2017 as the Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Communications for the National Security Council. He was getting between 200 and 300 calls a day.
“There was less media during the Bush administration, the internet was not really a thing,” Anton said. “It was just a much slower, calmer, less complex environment.”
Anton, who delivered a campus lecture on the current political landscape Tuesday evening, joined the staff at the Allan P. Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C. earlier this year as a lecturer in politics and research fellow. He is currently teaching a course on national security for students on the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program, a course he calls a mix of theory and practice. He spends the rest of his time writing or lecturing.
“The first class has been great,” said Matthew Spalding, Associate Vice President & Dean of Educational Programs at the Kirby Center. “The students really like him.”
Anton said that although there are no definite plans for him to teach another class next year, he enjoys teaching.
“Hillsdale students know stuff already,” Anton said. “They’re coming to the table already with a body of knowledge.”
Spalding said Anton is a good fit for the Kirby Center in part because he has both intellectual background and practical experience.
Anton is known for his “The Flight 93 Election” article, published in September 2016 under the pseudonym “Publius Decius Mus,” which urged Republicans to treat the 2016 presidential election with the same sacrificial fervor of the passengers of 9/11’s Flight 93. He graduated from University of California at Davis and has master’s degrees from both St. John’s College and Claremont Graduate University.
It was while working on his doctorate at Claremont University that Anton met Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, who was president of Claremont University at the time.
“I got to know his family well,” Anton said, adding that he even used to babysit for Arnn and his wife.
Arnn encouraged Anton to leave his doctorate program early to work as a speechwriter in the California’s governor’s office. From there, Anton also worked as chief speechwriter and press secretary for New York City’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani. He joined the White House staff in 2001 as the director of communications for the National Security Council. In 2003, he changed positions to become the special assistant to the president and senior director for foreign policy speechwriting. He left the administration staff in 2005 and entered the corporate world.
Anton joined the Trump administration in 2017. Although he was on the National Security Council for both the Bush and Trump administrations, he said there are noticeable differences. He described the communication aspect of the Trump administration as more chaotic, especially with the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
“It felt like we barely got started and then we had to start over,” Anton said. “So we didn’t really get the machine running properly until some time in the spring probably.”
Anton said he also has seen a difference in the media.
“The media liked Obama and wanted to cover him favorably, and it hates Trump and wants to cover him negatively,” Anton said in Tuesday’s lecture. “So in addition to the fact that the Trump administration is larger and more complex, you also have to layer on top of that the constant hostility.”
Anton discussed some of that hostility on Monday night in a talk about the recent election and current political state. He talked about what the conservative movement can do to strengthen its political power. He also warned against becoming complacent and accepting what democratic politicians advocate for.
“We should take seriously what the left says,” Anton said in his lecture. “And they say they want to restrict speech.”
Anton said the conservative and Republican movement would have to bring together two of its factions in particular: the RINOs, “Republicans In Name Only,” and the TIGRs, “Trump Is Great Republicans,” terms he borrowed from political analyst Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Putting these two groups together would give the Republican party a win, according to Anton.
Anton also pointed out the importance of being aware of the demographics of an area, attributing the recent election outcomes to changing demographics.
Senior Garrison Grisedale, who attended the lecture, said he agrees with Anton. Though Anton sprinkled war rhetoric throughout his speech — even calling large tech companies such as Google the “enemy,” at one point — Grisedale said he didn’t find it to be off-putting.
“He painted it as a high-stakes conflict,” Grisedale said. “I think this is higher stakes than people think.”