Hutchinson weighs in on Biden, Trump in Texas forum

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 1,461 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said President Joe Biden has governed divisively to satisfy liberal members of his base but also criticized opponents who are questioning of Biden’s intellectual capacity.

Hutchinson told David Drucker of the Washington Examiner, “I have been with President Biden on a number of occasions, and he seemed sharp. He seemed to know the issues. He seemed to engage in a conversation with us. And I think it’s an error for anyone to diminish our president in such harsh ways intellectually on that, particularly whenever our friends and allies and enemies hear that. It weakens our presidency, so I don’t like that.”

Hutchinson made his remarks in a sit-down on stage interview Friday (Sept. 23) at the Texas Tribune Festival, a three-day event in Austin, Texas, sponsored by Texas Tribune, a nonprofit news outlet. Other speakers at the festival include Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

Hutchinson said Biden is governing from the left after campaigning almost as a centrist candidate. He said his polices have shown he is being controlled by that part of his party.

He lamented that the party that doesn’t control the White House opposes presidents not over policy or principle, “but they’re disagreeing in some instances because you just don’t want the leader of our country to get a win, and that’s not good for America.”

Hutchinson also criticized a speech by Biden on Sept. 1 in Philadelphia where Biden called many Republicans a threat to democracy.

“It’s like the 30% of the Republican voters that didn’t vote for me for re-election,” he said. “I mean, I govern them. I mean, they’re part of the electorate, and they’re not excluded from participation, and I want to learn from them. And in most things, we’re going to agree. So, no, I disagreed with that speech. It was not helpful.”

Hutchinson offered mixed reviews for Biden’s recent foreign policy activities. He said Biden had united Europe in support of Ukraine, but he’s acted slowly and created his strategy in a piecemeal fashion.

“I don’t think he’s adopted a winning strategy there,” he said. “I think it’s still a defensive strategy, but we’re moving that direction. It’s just slower than what I think we need and what Ukraine needs.”

He said he was surprised Biden twice openly has said the United States would defend Taiwan if it were attacked by China, which is a departure from the government’s traditional posture of “strategic ambiguity.”

“That should be on the table, but I would expect that to be kept in reserve and would be a little more subtle about that,” he said.

The governor has been an outspoken critic of President Trump since the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Asked if he would support Trump if he were the party’s presidential nominee, he said, “I would think that our party and our country needs somebody different.”

Asked if he considered himself a “never-Trump Republican,” he said, “I was a chairman of the Trump campaign for re-election because I believed he was the best choice for our country, but Jan. 6 changed that, and not just Jan. 6. It’s what led up to that in the failure to peacefully transfer power and to recognize how important that is in our democracy. That crossed a line for me, and I don’t think that confidence has been restored by everything that’s happened since then, even. And so, yeah, we need a different direction.”

Hutchinson said that what happened Jan. 6, 2020, was an “anomaly.”

“In the end, the members of Congress know what it means to transfer power, and that happened, and it will happen again,” he said. “If we can tighten up the rules to give people confidence in it, so be it, but I’d like to think that what happened on Jan. 6 will never be repeated, and everybody should be purposeful in that goal.”

The pragmatic governor said the Republican Party can broaden its base by solving problems, discussing kitchen table issues, and not discussing the 2020 election. He said culture war issues often shouldn’t be addressed by big government. He called for limited, restrained government instead.

“The world of politics is a world of grayness,” he said. “I come from the Christian faith, and things are black and white, but when you get in the political arena and you apply principles to life and you have a diverse population, you know, it’s challenging. … But we are not debating enough how to constrain government, and to debate when should you use governmental power.”

He said the party’s cultural positions such as its pro-life position on abortion may not play well in Colorado or California, but the party’s traditional libertarian streak on economic issues can.

“We as Republicans need to be more restrained in how we’re approaching these issues,” he said. “I think we have to address the cultural issues that are a concern to so many, but let’s do it consistent with our families, our communities, our faith-based organizations, our churches and our synagogues. That’s where you make a difference in your society, and it always isn’t a government solution, and I think we’ve getting away from that some.”

He noted that he vetoed a bill that prohibited hormonal treatment for transgender children, which the Legislature quickly overrode. He said he would have signed the bill if it simply prohibited gender reassignment surgery for minors.

“I think we have to hesitate whenever the science is still being studied on that issue,” he said. “So I vetoed that. I got overridden on it, and you pay a little bit of price for that, but I’m just trying to practice a restraint of government on those matters when we can.

“I’m pro-life. I signed pro-life legislation, which is using the power of the government for requiring a baby, a child to be carried to term. That’s the power of the state, but I also support the exceptions of rape and incest because that’s where I don’t think the power of the state should be used whenever the pregnancy becomes the result of a criminal act.”

Asked if he could get nominated today by the Republican Party despite not being an outspoken culture warrior, Hutchinson said in 2018 he won 70% of the vote in the primary while running against a Trump-supporting candidate, Jan Morgan.

“To me, it’s a lesson that you can’t give in to the loudest voices in the room,” he said. “You have to stand for your principles.”