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Larry Pressler: My report from Washington this week in 4 parts

President Donald Trump shakes the hand of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, after Hatch spoke at the Capitol rotunda in Salt Lake City on Dec 4, 2017. Trump was in Salt Lake City to announce reductions to the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monu
President Donald Trump shakes the hand of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, after Hatch spoke at the Capitol rotunda in Salt Lake City on Dec 4, 2017. Trump was in Salt Lake City to announce reductions to the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

My wife Harriet and I join in sending our condolences to the family of President Thomas S. Monson. Part of my decision to join the Mormon church was based on his writings on charity and kindness. Over the years, I have observed that Mormons and indeed people of all faiths sometimes anonymously give of themselves to others. That seemed to be President Monson’s theme. We will miss him.


Congress is returning to Washington this week. Our friend, Sen. Orrin Hatch, has announced his retirement, and it is generally assumed around Washington that Mitt Romney is almost certain to succeed him. But wait. I served for 18 years on the U.S. Senate’s Republican Campaign Committee and saw over and over that preordained scenarios about the election of U.S. senators are frequently upset. When Hatch first ran for the Senate he had almost no name recognition in Utah, but he defeated Frank Moss, D-UT, anyway. In Utah today, there is probably some young man or woman — lawyer, businessperson, teacher, farmer or some citizen — who will rise up and run for the U.S. Senate unexpectedly. I have seen plenty of perfectly planned scenarios be totally reversed by Election Day.

Who would have predicted that we have a Democratic senator from Alabama today? I would welcome Romney’s election to the Senate from Utah. However, I suggest Republicans from the top down approach this with caution.

Even a perfectly greased apple cart can sometimes tip over if the driver is too overconfident to watch for bumps.


Congress is committed to dealing with the “Dreamers” Act. I am very pro-immigrant, and I believe our economy and especially the state of Utah needs more legal immigrants of all types, including high-end workers. But President Donald Trump does have a valid objection to so many relatives coming in simultaneously with each “dreamer.” Thus, citizens must listen closely to the president on this one — many of us here in Washington believe in expanded legal immigration, but we are puzzled as to why with each “student dreamer” there has to come over a dozen other relatives that enter automatically. Congress must change that, but I am afraid it will “kick the can” down the road for another year rather than deal with it in an election year.

More than anything else, we need a revised, easily understood immigration policy. To get this done, Trump must genuinely reach out and start working with the Democrats in Congress — and Democrats must reciprocate.


Trump has had a good run as a foreign policy president here in Washington these last few weeks. His administration expanded talks with North Korea. He did his first in-depth foreign policy interviews with The New York Times.

What Trump has not received is any credit or praise from the traditional news networks or the major national papers. Groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations, of which I am a member, are still holding their breath for some catastrophic event in foreign policy. However, Trump has been steadily going forward and seems to be winning some begrudging approval. Many were particularly impressed with his strong statements and tweets regarding making Pakistan a terrorist state. His constant public complaints about the government of Iran — transmitted through social media — appears to have helped trigger the beginning of widespread unrest and maybe revolt in Iran.

Trump has developed a comprehensive foreign policy for Asia. He is the first U.S. president since George H.W. Bush to have such a comprehensive, overall policy for that region. The professional diplomats and some of the traditional foreign policy writers are having such a difficult time getting adjusted to his tweets and I must agree — I too am troubled by some of his off-the-cuff remarks. However, his salty language, like Harry Truman’s, seems to be understood by all parties involved, including the “Rocket Man” of North Korea who appears to have come to the bargaining table.

In a book that I published last year, "Neighbours in Arms: An American Senator’s Quest for Disarmament in a Nuclear Subcontinent," I advocated that Pakistan be considered a terrorist state. In Trump’s review of Asian policy, the State Department distributed a dozen of my books throughout the various federal agencies. Indeed, on page 223, in my observations and prescriptions of the future, I wrote:

"Pakistan should be treated like North Korea—like a rogue state. The only reason Pakistan is not a totally failed state is that countries like China and the United States continue to prop it up with massive amounts of foreign aid. Unless Pakistan changes its ways with respect to terrorism, it should be declared a terrorist state. Several leading foreign policy experts besides me have urged as much. Indeed, the first Bush administration seriously considered doing so in 1992. Pakistan’s leaders have essentially blackmailed us into providing aid for the War on Terror with threats to cease assistance in rooting out terrorists in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, we know full well that Pakistan harbours terrorists, and many military leaders believe terrorists have infiltrated Pakistan’s ranks.”

I certainly don’t want to claim credit for the idea of making Pakistan a terrorist state, but essentially the late Sen. John Glenn and I had sponsored the Pressler-Glenn line of amendments since 1982, essentially marking Pakistan as a terrorist state.

However, Trump might have a problem. It's what I call the invisible “Octopus.” The tentacles of the “Octopus” are comprised of all the secretive law firms and lobbying firms that raise campaign money and work on behalf of arms manufacturers, equipment suppliers, bankers and others who have financial interest in Pakistan. According to my book, they will very quietly go to work behind the scenes and keep the aid flowing to Pakistan through slightly different channels.

The country of Pakistan and Pakistani business and military interests have several Washington, D.C., lobbying firms on permanent retainer. Trump will probably find that this invisible “Octopus” of lobbyists will shut down his efforts to turn off aid to Pakistan.

For example, when the Pressler/Glenn Amendment shut off military sales under our Defense Department, the “Octopus” went to the Commerce Department for licensure to export the same arms to Pakistan.

However, we must give Trump credit for trying some new things in Asia. In part, I do admire his effective use of tweets. They are a modern form of communication. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt was criticized for his fireside chats on the radio because they were seen as too common and diminishing to the presidency, so too are tweets considered below the presidency by some. I suspect every president from now on will be tweeting a lot. Trump has given us a new form of diplomatic communication.

That is his style, and he will be our president for the next two years and 10 months, at least. I must confess that I did not vote for him last time, but based on what I hear from the small number of people who actually vote in this country, I predict Trump will be overwhelmingly re-elected. Unless the Democrats get to work on real issues and not just criticism, I predict he will be spending an additional four years in the White House.

Thus, in early January 2025 we will still be receiving tweets, or some new communications technology Trump will pioneer.

Sen. Larry Pressler was a U.S. senator for 18 years and congressman for four years. He is a Rhodes Scholar, Harvard Law graduate, a Vietnam veteran and the author of "Neighbours in Arms: An American Senator’s Quest for Disarmament in a Nuclear Subcontinent."