Ambassador Peter Hoekstra—A Trump Lackey Fouls Up in the Netherlands January 16, 2018
“Will the last House GOPer leaving Capitol Hill please turn out the lights?” The number of House GOPers fleeing D.C. by deciding not to run again in midterm Campaign 2018 keeps on growing. As of 1/10/2018, 32 “Team Red” House members have called it quits. These include GOP witch hunter Darrell Issa (R-CA) as well as fellow Southern California Republican Rep. Ed Royce. To take back the House, Democrats need to flip 24 GOP seats. In 2016, 23 GOPers won re-election in districts Hillary carried, including Issa and Royce. Five Republicans in those Hillary seats are already “hanging it up.” Many of these “Red” incumbents are reading the political tea leaves, and they don’t look good. Their standard bearer Donald has dumpster ratings in the 30’s range. The average loss for the Chief-Executive’s party in midterm elections since 1962 when the Oval Office occupant has ratings under 50% is 40 seats. In the last century, the average loss for a president’s party in the first midterm is 23 seats. Democrats, furious over Hillary’s loss to Trump and total Republican national control, are far more enthusiastic over showing up in 2018 to give the GOP a “shellacking.” In a series of special elections in 2017, “Blue” candidates consistently overperformed Hillary’s showings even in very “Red” districts. Democrats, with soaring turnout and with votes from highly educated normally GOP suburbanites, won high- profile races for governor in “swing/purplish” VA and for Senator in “ultra-Red” AL (See CNN, “The Point,” Cillizza, 1/10/2018, Kos, Singer, 1/12/08). Voters currently prefer Democratic candidates for Congress by a wide 11.6% margin (seefivethirtyeight.com).
Democrats as well as many moderate independents are disgusted with Donald’s domestic policies, including trying to wreck Obamacare and his tax cut for the top 1%. They are also upset with how Trump is destroying America’s image abroad. His 1/11/2018 racist and vulgar comments about Haitian and African immigrants to a group of Senators trying to work on immigration reform are beyond despicable (NY Times, Sullivan, 11/12/18 ). None of this aids the GOP’s 2018 prospects. Trump’s domestic appointments are pathetic. They are far from the “best people” Trump bragged about hiring on the campaign trail. Even a Trump ambassador, a person who is supposed to project a positive U.S. image abroad, has recently failed “bigly.” Exhibit A—former MI GOP Congressman Peter Hoekstra, (HOOK-stra). Hookstra is Trump’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, home of bustling economic and multi-cultural Amsterdam and The Hague, where most foreign embassies are located (Daum, “Berlin-Washington, 1800-2000 Capital Cities,” books.google.com, 2005).
In a 12/ 22/2017 interview on the Dutch news program “Nieuswsuur,” Ambassador Hoekstra was asked by a reporter about a claim he had made in 2015. The program cut to a video clip of Hoekstra at this 2015 conference hosted by the right-wing David Horowitz Freedom Center. In this clip, Hoekstra declared, “The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned. And, yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.” “No-go” zones refer to areas where non-Islamic residents and law enforcement fear to enter, a term often employed by right-wingers. Hoekstra denied making that statement. He called the claim that he said that “fake news.” When pressed again about these comments, Ambassador Hoekstra denied using the term “fake news” that he had uttered moments before. Ambassador Hoekstra told reporter Wouter Zwart, “I didn’t call that fake news. I didn’t use the words today. I don’t think I did (Washington Post, Erickson, 12/22/17).” IMHO, there are two ways to interpret this comment. Either Ambassador Hoekstra has dementia, highly unlikely, or he is lying, the most reasonable interpretation. This “no-go zones/ Netherlands in chaos” statement by Hoekstra should come as no surprise. Hoekstra has given several talks at the anti-Islamic American Freedom Alliance, a group which hosted Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders. In 2015, Hoekstra blamed a “secret jihad” for the “chaos” in the Netherlands (Erickson, Wash. Post).” The Dutch did not give Hoekstra rave reviews for his 12/22/2017 interview. One headline blared, “The new Trump Ambassador to the Netherlands, Pete Hoekstra, lies about his own lies (Erickson, Wash. Post, 12/22/17).”
And there is more. On 1/10/2018, during his first news conference with Dutch media at The Hague, reporters repeatedly asked Ambassador Hoekstra to offer proof of his claim that politicians and cars had been burned and that there are “no-go zones” in the Netherlands. The conference was an awkward one and Ambassador Hoekstra struggled. Ambassador Hoekstra was unable or unwilling to offer any proof. He only promised that he would be “revisiting the issue.” Hoekstra kept refusing to answer questions about his controversial statement or related follow-ups. One reporter told Hoekstra, “This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions.” Another reporter, Roel Geeraedts, referenced a quote from John Adams, the first U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, who wished that only “honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” Geeraedts stated that if Ambassador Hoekstra was “truly an honest and wise man, could you please take back the remark about burned politicians or name the politician who was burned in the Netherlands?” Silence followed and was broken when Hoekstra replied, “thank you.” After the conference, reporter Geeraedts said, “We were all astonished that he didn’t want to take back the comment. It was simply untrue, so why not take it back (“Politico,” Nelson, 1/11/18, CNN, Mackintosh, 1/11/18)?” Frankly, no Dutch reporter or anyone else should have been surprised by Ambassador Hoekstra’s behavior and positions. He is Trump’s “perfect” overseas “ugly American”representative.
Groningen, Netherlands-born Ambassador Peter Hoekstra (64) speaks fluent Dutch and English. He came to the U.S. with his parents when he was three. After receiving a 1975 undergraduate degree from Hope College and a 1977 Master’s in business from the University of Michigan, he joined the Herman Miller furniture company where he became a vice-president of marketing. Hoekstra won his first political race in 1992 when he upset 26-term GOP Rep. Guy Vander Jagt in the primary. Winning the GOP primary in this MI 2nd Congressional District, CD, was tantamount to winning election. The Wolverine 2nd has the largest concentration of Dutch Americans in the nation and includes the city of Muskegon as well as the town of Holland. For years, Dutch American voters have been as strongly GOP as Cuban Americans (Barone & CQ 10 Political Almanacs). In 04 and 08, W Bush and McCain received 60% and 51% of the votes in the 2nd CD, their highest percentages in MI. In 2012, Romney won 56% of the votes here. In 2016, Donald won 56% of the votes in the 2nd to Hillary’s 38%, key numbers that helped him carry MI by a .3% margin (Election results, nytimes.com, 8/01/17, google.com/spreadsheets, CQ 10, ourcampaigns.com,8/04/92).
A major part of Hoekstra’s 1992 campaign was pushing for 12-year term limits, a pledge he later broke. Hoekstra served in Congress for 18 years, from 1993-2011. He was a strong ally of former firebrand GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA). Hoekstra was a “family values” and anti-abortion politician (Barone 10). From 2004-2008, he voted with his hard-right party 96% of the time. He had an overwhelming conservative record. He was a member of the dominant conservative Republican Study Committee and a founding member of zany Cong. Michele Bachmann’s anti-government Tea Party Caucus. He voted against raising the minimum wage and the CHIP children’s health expansion bill that Obama eventually signed (Barone & CQ 10 Almanacs, AP, 7/20/10). Hoekstra supported W Bush’s Iraq War. In a 6/22/2006 Capitol press conference, Hoekstra erroneously stated that weapons of mass destruction had been located in Iraq (Fox News, Gibson & Nauert). Hoekstra, a former House Intelligence Committee chair, vocally criticized terrorist attacks that occurred under President Obama. He blamed such attacks on “philosophical differences between the administration and us,” as if terrorists pour over the latest presidential sayings (See “Politico,” 12/28/09). “Security hawk”(LOL) Hoekstra voted against a 2009 Democratic bill having more than $4 billion for “screening operations,” including $1.1 billion in funding for explosive detection systems (“Politico,” 12/28/19).
In 2010, Cong. Hoesktra did not run for re-election but ran in the GOP primary for Gov. of MI. In a fundraising letter, he wrote that MI “needed a Governor who would stand up to the Obama/Pelosi efforts to weaken our security (Kos, S. Singiser, 12/29/09).” In addition to Democrats condemning Hoekstra’s statement, GOPer Rick Snyder, who defeated him in that race and won the governorship, also criticized this comment (Detroit News, 12/29/09, Hornbeck).
In 2012, Hoekstra ran against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. During the 2/2012 Super Bowl, Hoekstra ran an ad that featured an Asian woman bicycling through a rice paddy and thanking “Sen. Debbie Spend-It-Now” in broken English for sending U.S. jobs to China. The spot caused an uproar. Both Democrats and GOPers attacked Hoekstra for playing on racial stereotypes. The actress in the ad apologized and Hoekstra never recovered. Stabenow clobbered Hoekstra beating him 58.8%-38% (Barone 14, MI Senate U.S. Election 2012).
Hoekstra’s running that campaign ad is certainly not a negative for Donald with his racist—yes, I’m now saying that-- attitudes. After Trump appointed and the GOP-Senate confirmed Hoekstra, the Dutch newspaper “de Volkskrant” aptly observed that Trump “put a Dutchman in the Netherlands—but it is a Dutchman from the Netherlands of the ’50s (Wash. Post, Erickson, 12/22/17).” A liberal Dutch politician, Sophie in’t Veld stated, “We will certainly remind him (Hoekstra) his roots lie in a country that values tolerance, equality, and inclusion…(Wash. Post, Erickson).”
On 1/12/2018, after the outcry in the Netherlands and in the U.S., Ambassador Hoekstra apologized for the “no-go zones and chaos” remarks that he had made in 2015 at the Horowitz Freedom Center. He told “De Telegraaf,” one of the largest Dutch newspapers, that he was “shocked that I said that and that it was a wrong statement.” Sure, he was “shocked, shocked,” shocked that he was caught making an untrue Trump-like remark. Hoekstra added that he couldn’t recall what his remarks were based upon (Wash. Post, Rosenberg & Nadhir, 1/12/18). He claimed he “mixed up countries.” What a mealy-mouthed apology, made on the day after Donald’s racist/vulgar Haiti and Africa comments to a group of U.S. Senators. And is Hoekstra apologizing only for that comment, not other similar ones he had made?
Don’t expect Ambassador Hoekstra to change his attitude about the “chaotic” Netherlands. Trump supporter Hoekstra will not resign his post over his repeated controversial comments or over Trump’s “deplorable” Haiti/Africa statements. Hoekstra does not have the character of career diplomat John Feeley, our Ambassador to Panama, who resigned after hearing what Trump had said (telegraph.co.uk/news, 1/12/18, Kos, Hayden, 1/12/18). We non-ambassadors have one way to stop Trump. In midterm election 11/2018, we must vote in droves for “Team Blue.” We can then make sure that there are many House and Senate GOP “resignations.” A majority Democratic House and possibly a “Blue” Senate will start checking hateful Demagogue Donald.