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Former Congressman Jim Leach Talks About Challenges Facing President-Elect Donald Trump

United States Office of Humanities
Fmr. Congressman Jim Leach

Jim Leach served Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years. He is now a senior scholar at the University of Iowa after serving on faculty at Harvard and Princeton and after serving as chair at the National Endowment for the Humanities. During this River to River interview, he talks with host Ben Kieffer about his view on global challenges facing the next president.

“Well, there are a lot of uncertainties, and that isn’t just about the President-elect, it’s about the world. One of the reasons he was elected is because the world is in a frantic pace of change, and that’s discombobulating for citizens of America,” he says.It means that people are questioning establishment. That happened in this election; it’s happening in other countries. Change always advantages some and disadvantages others.”

On Rex Tillerson being named U.S. Secretary of State

“I do not think its inappropriate to have a business man who is mature and understands world trade [serving as secretary of state]. That is, as a premise, okay. What is awkward is where there are conflicts of interest. What is further awkward is if that conflict of interest involves attitudes that the American people do not share.

I don’t think he should be simply dismissed. I think he deserves to be heard, and then make a judgment at that time.”

On Trump's stance on economic sanctions against Russia

"Well, I am concerned. It’s not the end of the world, but the United States and Western Europe have very few tools with which to respond. 

We don’t have forces positioned there. We have all sorts of reasoning that you should not use military in that circumstance. Using an economic sanction was expressing deep concern about Crimea, and also about whether Crimea is a stepping stone. Is Crimea about Ukraine next? The Baltics after? These are very serious questions. The rational for putting on sanctions, I think, is probably quite correct. 

Do we have half a million troops stationed outside the Baltic states? We don’t. And that’s why many Europeans are recommending that we should use economic sanctions. I don’t think the United States should give up options."

On Trump's call with the Taiwanese president

"If Taiwan declares independence, the Chinese will attack.

It’s written out in very basic language that Taiwan is a very integral part of China. And that has been the policy of the last eight administrations. I once carried a letter to the president of Taiwan from President Bush that said 'knock off the Independence racket.' The United States of America has a very powerful force in the region called the Seventh Fleet. The Chinese have missiles that will knock out anything between Taiwan and China. In the case of an alteration, U.S. forces would be highly jeopardized."

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River