U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said Wednesday that he’s not concerned by the president’s tweet sizing up America’s “nuclear button” and that he thinks the Trump’s “strong stance” on North Korea is working.
Davis, a Taylorville Republican whose 13th Congressional District includes parts of Bloomington-Normal, joined GLT’s Sound Ideas for a 25-minute interview on a wide range of topics, including the recently passed tax bill and the Republican 2018 agenda.
Here’s an excerpt from Davis’ interview with GLT’s Ryan Denham, focusing on Trump’s year-old presidency. Comments have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
GLT: We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary since President Trump was inaugurated. How do you think he’s done?
RD: I can tell you, I don’t think a lot of the successes that President Trump and his administration have had have been widely reported. A lot of that is probably self-inflicted through his Twitter account determining what the news cycle is going to talk about.
ISIS is basically eviscerated in Syria and Iraq. That was not the case when the administration took over. I gotta give the president and his national security team and our military a lot of credit for giving the generals on the ground and the officers and boots on the ground the flexibility they need to actually get ISIS on the run, rather than allowing them to operate as a pseudo-nation state.
We saw historic VA reforms. These are reforms we started in the last administration that this administration joined us in championing, and making sure our veterans get the health care they need and deserve.
And then this tax bill. These are huge issues that have not been done since 1986 when it comes to tax reform. I had a mullet and mustache back then. A lot of things have changed since 1986, and our tax code has only grown to 70,000 pages, and we fixed that.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get the bipartisan support in that tax bill that I thought we should’ve. In 1986 when Ronald Reagan did it, he had a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate. Unfortunately the Democrats decided to play politics with this tax bill. And I think we could’ve done a lot more if we had them on board. Like fixing the long-term solvency of our Highway Trust Fund. That’s an issue that ought to bind Republicans and Democrats together, and it could’ve been done in this bill if they would’ve decided to come and try to have a say as to what was in it.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Were you troubled by President Trump’s tweet (on Tuesday), comparing the size of America’s “nuclear button” to that of North Korea’s?
We should take North Korea very seriously. We have a crazed dictator in North Korea that he and his predecessor made deals with the Clinton administration, the Bush administration, and the Obama administration to take American dollars to not develop a nuclear program. Well, we saw the end result of that. He still has the nuclear program and he still took the American dollars.
I personally like the strong stance that Ambassador Nikki Haley and the Trump administration have taken at the United Nations. I think that strong stance has paid dividends with respect to China and Russia who are North Korea’s largest trading partners and actually implementing economic sanctions against North Korea. That’s helped lead to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un wanting to talk to South Korea now about border crossings and other issues.
The president is always going to be different. He’s the first president in our lifetime who has come directly from the private sector. No government, no military experience. There was not a bigger distinction between presidential candidates in our lifetime (in the 2016 election). And the American people chose someone from the private sector. They wanted different. Well, they got different.
I don’t always agree with the president’s tweeting habits. But he knows that every time he tweets everybody in the media is going to be distracted and focus only on…
But isn’t there a way to come from the private sector and not come off as crazed as he appeared yesterday?
I don’t necessarily look at that as crazed. That’s a personal editorializing assessment from you and many in the media who may not like him. The fact is, this is a president who I’ve seen as much more willing to work with us one-on-one and in groups to address major issues. I did not have that, and many Democrats didn’t have that, with (President Barack Obama). Frankly, that’s one of my biggest disappointments as a congressman that I didn’t get a chance to work as closely with my president from my home state the four years I was there. That interaction did not take place.
This president, I haven’t always been supportive of him, and I’ll never support anyone 100 percent of the time. But there are so many people who are enraged by the fact that President Trump does things differently that instead of rooting for the success of America, and looking at the successes we’ve had, they want to focus on Twitter habits. At some point, when is a tweet a tweet?
That probably stops when you’re the president, right?
Obviously it doesn’t. Because he has a different habit than anyone who has ever worked before him.
… Don’t think for a second that this president doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing when he’s throwing those tweets out at 6 in the morning or 10 o’clock at night. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows exactly the reaction it’s going to get on stations like this and media outlets around the globe. And frankly, I think sometimes he probably laughs at that and gets the result that he and his administration may have intended.
But there’s going to be point we hit social media fatigue. The more these tweets get covered, the more you’re going to see them come out. The less they get covered, the less likely they are to come out.
You said President Trump is not somebody you’re going to support 100 percent of the time. There’s a website called FiveThirtyEight, run by Nate Silver, best known for his election polling analysis. FiveThirtyEight assigns a score for how often members of Congress have voted with President Trump’s political agenda. They peg you at voting in line with President Trump’s position 96.6 percent of the time. As someone who faces a potentially tough re-election campaign, are you concerned that you haven’t put enough distance between yourself and President Trump?
God no. Why wouldn’t I support the Republican administration on many issues that are important to all of us? We’ve had historic regulatory rollbacks. We’ve had historic tax cuts. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be on the side of infrastructure investment when the administration is calling for it.
The fact that you have someone who makes their living coming up with statistical analyses that in many cases have no basis in fact and, frankly, when you look at the majority of what happens in Congress, the majority of bills that we pass, they’re done in an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis. But they don’t get the media coverage. And I’m sure they don’t get the coverage on these scoring opportunities either.
This is just like caring about what certain groups score me on that try to raise money to keep their own lights and paying high salaries to their employees. These are on both sides of the aisle.
When I got to Congress, I was asked to sign a lot of pledges from these groups. And I decided I’m not signing a single pledge to do anything. Because I’m not going to give my voting card and have it beholden to anybody not from this district, who does not look at my record as a whole. I’m only going to be beholden to the pledge I made to voters who sent me to Washington—and that is to look at each piece of legislation, vote for it on its merits, and if there’s something in there that I don’t like, but I think it’s 80 percent OK, I’m going to back to the drawing board the next day.
Just like with this individual tax rates being permanent. I’m going to fix what I don’t like. That’s what being a legislator is about.
Hear more from Davis’ 25-minute interview next week on GLT’s Sound Ideas.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.