Newspaper Article Archive of
Q&A: Ambassadors and Foreign Affairs
Sen. Chuck Grassley
Q: Do you expect Governor Branstad to be confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to China?
A: Yes. Governor Branstad had a very good confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I was proud to introduce him to members of the committee and share my support for his nomination. Governor Branstad not only has forged a 30-year strategic friendship with the Chinese president; he also has served as an ambassador for Iowa for more than 22 years as our state’s chief executive, promoting our state’s economy and opening markets for our farm commodities, financial services and manufacturing to the world marketplace. He will bring Midwestern humility and level-headed leadership to this important and prestigious position for the United States and the American people. I have no doubt he will help build lasting connections with the Chinese people and stand strong for our American values, such as freedom of the press and religious liberty, and work to strengthen peace, stability and prosperity between our two nations. I expect the full Senate to approve Governor Branstad with strong bipartisan support. He will serve as the 12th U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China since diplomatic ties were normalized in 1979. A bit of historical trivia reveals that Governor Branstad will not be the first diplomat from Iowa to serve as an envoy between the United States and China. President William McKinley appointed former Iowa Congressman Edwin Conger to serve as ministerial ambassador to the Great Qing Empire in 1898.
Q: What role does Congress have in foreign affairs?
A: The Constitution provides limited, yet significant authority to Congress to influence foreign affairs. First, Congress has exclusive power of the purse to appropriate money that federal agencies use to implement U.S. foreign policy. For example, Congress determines the budget for the Pentagon and Department of State. The agencies may spend the money only as the law requires to execute the nation’s defense and diplomacy. Alongside the rest of the executive branch -- from counter-intelligence agencies to the USDA to the Departments of Justice, Commerce and Treasury – managing foreign affairs encompasses a broad range of complex issues, from nuclear proliferation, to humanitarian and public health crisis, international trade, cyber security, currency, food security, intellectual property, human rights, immigration, international narcotics control, terrorism and human trafficking.
The U.S. Senate bears constitutional authority to ratify treaties and to confirm ambassadors and other high-ranking diplomatic appointments to serve in the State Department. More than two centuries since opening its doors, the State Department today spans the globe with nearly 200 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions working to serve America’s interests in the 21st century. As with any federal agency, I take seriously my oversight authority, particularly to hold the bureaucracy accountable for mismanagement or misconduct in its ranks. That’s also why I work to strengthen protections for whistleblowers who risk their careers and livelihoods to report wrongdoing.
Q: What are some of the ways your office interacts with the State Department and foreign embassies?
A: I work to make sure the federal government works for the American people and provides timely, effective services to the public. When it comes to the State Department, that may include unlocking bureaucratic delays, expediting stalled paperwork and helping cut red tape for Iowans living, working, traveling or studying abroad.
Some ‘traditional’ things need roots in ‘transitional’ form
Hi Neighbor By Lois Eckhardt
When we speak of something being tradition we imply that if it is done repeatedly in a certain way it may eventually become a recurring ‘habit’. When we speak of transition, it is that we either ‘want to’ or feel ‘compelled to’ make certain things happen in different ways.
And, when I suggest, here, that certain traditional things need roots in transition I am referring to some actual roots, those found in actual soil.
It is that time of the year, again--spring, of course; and, it’s strongly underway. Earlier, we were reminded of its coming as we peered wistfully from behind Plexiglas panes at our garden or flowerbeds lying enticingly beyond. When a sudden stray, misdirected, snow flake, or cold pelting rain swept past our view our thoughts were only temporarily deterred. It was time for tradition to begin exercising its strongest pull on us, and we hastened to check the tiny leggy seedlings also pressing against the windows. Perhaps, grandmas, mom, and other predecessors always did exactly as we were now forcing ourselves towards. Or, maybe it is only that we always feel a certain pull at our inner senses when the air seems ‘just right’ at this time of the year.
Whatever the reason, it’s a difficult call to resist.
I’ve planted, tended, and ‘loved’ hundreds of plants in my lifetime, but the ‘timing’ involved often seems much less important to me than the ‘feeling’ involved. I can ‘love’ an ear of corn, but I cannot enthusiastically tend a corn stalk as well as I might nuture a fuzzy emerging bean sprout (the blooms are orchid-like). And, I can get absolutely giddy over a towering okra stalk; its beautiful white and lavender hibiscus-like blooms eventually turning into gawky green spurs (tender at first, tough enough later to choke a cow); but tasty when cooked properly; and, OOOH—yes (!) yummy when pickled.
Every year I get caught up in the recurring feeling of tradition, the challenge (ever again)—for me to release all those marvelous plants from their captive shells and root-bound cups.
But, this is where transition should begin its slip into the picture.
Tradition has always had it that gardening requires laying out veggies, and flowers, in uniformly neat rows in the freshly turned soil; but, oops (!), transition asks, “Why? Why not just plant them anywhere; not only where the seed or plant might fall, if tossed, but in loosely determined places; also, not always at the usual expected time?”
What could be ‘not so right’ with a tomato and a marigold, or a pepper and a zinnia, growing side-by-side? Or, radishes companionably sharing a ‘patch’ (not a row) with late developing, plants that are unmindful of their roots being disturbed a little when the radishes leave?
I think it’s time we give tradition more of a chance of becoming transitional in performance. I think a tomato plant might do nicely in the flowerbed at my doorstep--even if it is planted a bit late. However, if it proves not so timely, green ‘is’ still a good color.
Republicans chose to pursue a divisive, special interest agenda
Rep. Mark Smith House Democrat Leader
Democrats opened the 2017 Iowa Legislature ready to work together with the Republican-led majority to make progress for all Iowans again.
But Republicans chose a different path this session. And Iowans noticed.
Instead of working with us, Republicans chose to pursue a divisive, special interest agenda that Iowans expect to see in Washington, DC, but not here at our State Capitol.
In response, Iowans came to the State Capitol in record numbers this year for public hearings, rallies, and to have one-on-one conversations with lawmakers. Even more Iowans turned out at forums across the state to hold Republicans accountable and make sure their voice was heard.
Unfortunately, Republicans stopped listening.
Iowans have every right to be frustrated with the broken promises Republicans made to the people of Iowa.
Republicans promised to raise family incomes by 25 percent, but lowered wages for 65,000 Iowans instead.
Republicans said public schools were a priority last fall on the campaign trail, but they shortchanged public schools again this year with the third lowest increase in Iowa history.
Republicans talked about growing our economy, but made it more difficult for Iowans to get the skills they need to land a good-paying job.
Republicans said they would be fiscally responsible, but today the state budget has a $130 million deficit and Iowans are being forced to pay for the GOP’s budget mess.
But it isn’t just their broken promises. Republicans actually stacked the deck even higher against everyday Iowans who are working hard but still not getting ahead.
Now, the mom in Decorah will have to travel over an hour to get the family planning and cancer screening services she used to get at her local clinic.
Now, the parents in Osage can’t make their own decision about a pregnancy that has gone horribly wrong.
Now, the family from Peosta who just learned yesterday that the first kid in their family to attend college at the University of Iowa in the Fall will have to pay higher tuition.
Now, the first grade teacher in Windsor Heights no longer has a say on most of the issues that directly impact her own classroom.
Now, the correctional officer at the Anamosa State Penitentiary who served two tours of duty in Iraq is fearful for his own safety in the workplace because the prison is overcrowded and understaffed.
Now, the parents in Marion have to keep fighting the managed care company to make sure their son with disabilities gets the health care he needs.
Democrats will keep fighting to raise wages for Iowans, not lower them.
Democrats will keep fighting to expand job training opportunities and make higher education affordable, not more expensive.
Democrats will keep fighting to put women on an equal playing field with men, not let politicians make medical decisions for them.
Democrats will keep fighting to help working families get ahead, not take away their rights and stack the deck against them.
Democrats will keep fighting to make public schools first again, not shift resources away from them.
When push comes to shove, I have always put my faith in the good, hard-working people of Iowa who have been, for more than 65 years, my family, my friends, and my neighbors.
To you, I say this: you do not deserve this treatment. House Democrats will not forget you.
On the Backroads
By Ron Rife
We are fully into the Merry Month of May and it really hasn’t been very Merry so far with all the rain and cold weather we’ve been getting. However, that seems to be edging off a little bit. We actually had some days over the weekend that were pretty decent, except for the wind, and the temperatures got closer to normal. I don’t know if we’ve actually gotten that far yet because I don’t know for sure what the normal high temperature is for the days at this time in May. I think it is more than 70 degrees, however.
Some time recently I started to tell you about our trip to Colorado in 1946. As I said it was a trip we took at an average speed down the highways of 35-40 m.p.h. It seems hard to believe now as we see traffic racing up and down the highways at 60 to 70, but that was the way it was 71 years ago in our old Chevy right after the war.
Once we got to North Platte we probably headed southwest fairly shortly to get to Colorado from Nebraska. Nowadays you can get on Interstate 76 just west of Big Spring heading southwest, or, if you want to reminisce about the old days there is also U.S. 138 southwest from Julesberg, or maybe it’s U. S. 385. I don’t have a map handy right now so I’ll have to look it up for next week. Anyway, we eventually got on U. S. 34 in Colorado that took us toward the town of Estes Park. I really can’t recall if we stopped in Estes Park for anything. Probably not because it was getting late in the day and this was on Standard Time. Daylight Time was not used in Colorado and most of the country during the summer at that time. So, we started up the Big Thompson River Canyon.
That was an experience. That was Dad’s first trip into the mountains and for awhile he wondered what was wrong with the old Chevy. It looked as if we were going downhill, but the car was sluggish. Then we noticed that the river beside the road was running uphill and Dad looked in the rear view mirror and everything got squared away. That gave us a true view of what the terrain looked like, not the optical illusion we were getting before.
The sun went down and it got dark and we were still looking for someplace to camp. We finally saw a guy walking along the highway and stopped and asked him about a campground and the guy told us “Up the road a couple of miles and ask for Glen.” At least that’s what Dad thought the guy said so we kept going and shortly came to a nice campground. It was pretty crowded, but we found a nice wide stretch of grass and got the tent set up, had a quick supper and turned in. The next morning one of our neighbors came over and was chatting a little bit and finally said, “You’re lucky it didn’t rain last night.” Dad thought he meant that our equipment would be all wet to pack up in the morning but he was referring to the terrain. We had set up in the smooth bottom of what would be a waterway in a rain. Luckily, it was quite a few years later that they had the big multi inch downpour in the mountains above where we were and the Big Thompson River rampaged down the hill and wiped out gobs of stuff all along its course, I think going all the way into Estes Park. As we were leaving the campground that morning I took a look back through rear window and saw the sign we had missed in the dark the night before. It read “Aspen Glen Campground.”
We drove up the Trail Ridge Road all the way across Rocky Mountain National Park that day. We topped at over 12,000 feet at Berthoud Pass. Down the other side we headed south toward Colorado Springs and found a nice campground there that night. We stayed there for 2 nights and did a lot of sightseeing in the area.
I’m going to stop there and finish next week. Now it’s time for the Thought For The Week. It is from Thomas S. Monson, whoever he is. I’m getting a lot of these from the weekly Menard’s ad and, I have to admit, most of the people being quoted I have never heard of, but they still had some good quotes. It is: “Decisions determine destiny.”