Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt was a guest on Meet the Press Sunday.
The native of southwest Missouri’s Niangua could be a favorite among Republican Senators to represent them on the Sunday political shows. Yesterday marked at least his third appearance in 2018 on Meet the Press (NBC), while he also was a guest in March on This Week With George Stephanopoulos (ABC) and became a first-time visitor on State of the Union with Jake Tapper (CNN) in May.
Sunday Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd began the discussion by bringing up deteriorating negotiations with North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons, noting that 26 days after President Trump proclaimed there was nothing to worry about, the North referred to Americans as “gangsters”.
Blunt used a term made famous St. Louis native and baseball legend Yogi Berra, “déjà vu all over again”, to describe the situation in which Trump is the fourth President to have problems in dealing with North Korea. He said it has been standard operating procedure for three generations of North Korean leaders to back away from pledges to denuclearize.
The second term GOP Senator described President Trump’s approach to North Korea as optimistic while stating that economic sanctions against the country should stay in place. He said actions speak louder than words and only those actions would bring North Korea “to the place we’d like them to be.”
Todd asked Blunt if it was time to reinstate military exercises with South Korea after Trump had given the North prestige by agreeing to meet with its leader, Kim Jong Un. Blunt noted that in his last appearance on Meet the Press, he opposed suspension of the exercises, which Trump has since agreed to.
He said the President along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have to consider reinstating military exercises over time because North Korea would likely stall negotiations while maneuvering to get economic assistance from other countries.
When asked if President Trump should stop what Todd referred to as “happy talk” toward North Korea, Blunt said actions including multilateral sanctions against the North need to be continued.
“I think what you’ve got to look at is sanctions as opposed to his optimism about coming up with a final solution,” Blunt said. “I hope the President sticks with the sanctions and continues work with others in the neighborhood to maintain the sanctions as well. That means Japan. That means South Korea. That means China.”
Todd next quizzed Blunt on President Trump’s upcoming visit to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On June 29, Trump told reporters that he hasn’t ruled out recognizing Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, which is a breach of international law.
When Todd asked if he was concerned that Trump would hand Crimea to the Russians after giving more than expected to North Korea, Blunt said it’s important for the President to understand that the Russians and dictators like Kim Jong Un would not be charmed by anybody as they are cold-blooded and calculating.
He credited Trump for surrounding himself with a good team to advise him in Mattis, Pompeo and chief of staff John Kelly (who is reported to be leaving the White House this summer), and said he hoped the President was listening to their thoughts on foreign policy.
Todd brought up a recent trip to Russia taken by seven of Blunt’s Republican colleagues in the Senate, stating that the visit appeared to be Russia’s attempt to persuade lawmakers to end sanctions against it. Blunt responded by saying there’s nothing wrong with talking to the Russians as long as it’s understood who they are.
“These are people who a dictatorial government,” said Blunt. “They’re people who are exerting all the influence they can, everywhere they can. And they don’t have many resources, but they’re making the most of those resources.”
The graduate of Southwest Baptist and Missouri State universities said he wasn’t available to join the Russian trip with his fellow Senators because he had commitments in Missouri to be at Fourth of July parades and the reopening of the Gateway Arch Museum in St. Louis.
Supreme Court Nominees
Todd mentioned that Republican Majority Senate Leader Mitch McConnell had suggested to President Trump that Judges Thomas Hardiman and Raymond Kethledge would be the best choices to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy left after Justice Anthony Kennedy resigned last month.
McConnell had indicated the two judges he put forth would be easier to confirm than two other judges, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, thought to be more driven by their conservative beliefs. Blunt expressed no preference between the four judges most often mentioned to fill the Supreme Court opening but said the nominee would get a routine confirmation.
“I’m not sure I’m leaning anywhere on those four nominees,” said Blunt. “I think they’re good judges. I think they’d be fine justices of the Supreme Court. I do think the President has to think about who is the easiest to get confirmed here. And I expect we’ll do that on, sort of, a normal timetable of a couple of months.”
He said the nominee should follow the Ginsburg strategy (a reference to current liberal leaning Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) of not revealing how he or she would vote on issues such as abortion during confirmation hearings.
A week earlier on Meet the Press, fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the landmark Roe versus Wade decision which legalized abortion across the country had established a precedent that should be honored. Blunt declined to call for the same process, saying bad precedents had been reversed after decades and said the court should decide each case based on the facts.
Senator Blunt is a member of Senate Republican Leadership. He was chosen to be Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and also serves as a member of the Senate Republican Whip Team.
Blunt was narrowly elected to a second term in the Senate by three percentage points over Democratic challenger Jason Kander in the 2016 election in which President Trump carried Missouri by 19 points.