Staff Columnist

Two years tied tightly to Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

On the eve of the Republican National Convention in July 2016, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst was asked about Donald Trump’s lack of foreign policy chops. She professed being “comfortable with our nominee,” after meeting him one-on-one in private.

But, senator, the guy says he learns about military matters from “the shows” on cable news.

“I think he’s a little deeper than he lets people on,” Ernst, an Iowa Republican, said.

Two years later, Ernst still is banking on the hope of President Trump’s private depth.

“I hope that President Trump, today, delivered a strong message behind closed doors that Russia will continue to be punished for their illegal annexation of Ukraine in 2014, their abhorrent support for the murderous Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and their aggressive actions in U.S. domestic policy,” Ernst said, hopefully, in a statement after Trump’s disastrous news conference with Vladimir Putin.

She rightly thinks Russia is a threat, and interfered in our 2016 election. Public Trump, not so much. Private Trump can’t comment, mainly because he’s imaginary.

It’s been exactly two years since top Iowa Republicans tied themselves and our state’s future tightly to the Trump Train. So tightly, there’s apparently no room for second thoughts.

“We need strong national security, and somebody who understands we need to protect our nation. And who is that?” Ernst asked a big crowd at a Trump rally in Cedar Rapids in July 2016, amid chants of “USA! USA!”

In light of this week’s events, senator, could you repeat the question?

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“Help is on the way!” shouted former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad that same night. He’s now Trump’s ambassador to China, our prime adversary in a widening trade war.

Instead of help, Trump’s trade belligerence is spawning tariffs, socking it to Iowa farmers. Trade pacts once seen as critical to sustaining and opening markets for Iowa crops and manufactured goods have been scrapped or are threatened. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is undercutting critical demand for ethanol and biofuels.

Iowa’s agricultural economy, already challenged, now stands at a precipice.

“There is no doubt in my mind that when Donald Trump is in the White House, Iowa is going to be in his head, it’s going to be in his heart, and we win when that happens. We win!” said Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann at that Cedar Rapids rally.

I guess we really can get tired of all the winning.

On the same stage, Trump adviser Stephen Miller spoke. The future architect of Trump’s cruel immigration crackdown railed on newcomers in a state short of workers. He lashed out at trade pacts Iowa leaders strongly supported. Minutes after Branstad bragged of a $1 billion wind energy project, Miller extolled the virtues of coal. And yet, our leaders embraced this anti-Iowa agenda, with fist-pumping fervor.

“The good news is change is coming. Change is coming for all of you,” Miller said.

To borrow a bumper-sticker taunt from the Obama years, “How’s all that hope and change working out for you,” Iowa?

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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