President Trump may be Tormentor in Chief to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, but by the lights of neoconservative Beltway mag Weekly Standard, it is actually Colorado’s Cory Gardner who is running the ground game against the rogue regime and its unpredictable strongman.
Indeed, writes the Standard’s Jenna Lifhits, “Gardner has the administration’s ear on Korea policy.”
In an extensive profile this week of the first-term Republican U.S. senator, whom she dubs “the Man from Yuma,” Lifhits depicts Gardner as the patient and plotting prime mover driving the increasingly hawkish U.S. response to North Korea’s nuclear buildup:
He is the point man for Asia policy in the Senate as the chairman of the East Asia and Pacific subcommittee, and he is leading a revival of Republican leadership on the region. That this is occurring as Kim Jong-un rushes to expand his nuclear capabilities is no coincidence. The Man from Yuma believes in tackling tough problems head-on.
Lifhits notes Gardner. “…applauds the Trump administration for ramping up pressure on both the North and its main trading partner, China, and for pushing for new sanctions at the U.N.” Yet, he tells the reporter:
“The administration can do more. I’m not satisfied with where they’re at right now … We could be carrying out tougher sanctions. We could be carrying out tougher enforcement. We could be forcing China, with every tool and power that we have, to toe the line when it comes to global sanctions.”
Adds the equally hawkish Standard (owned by our parent company, Clarity Media Group):
Of the potential for war with the Hermit Kingdom, national security adviser H.R. McMaster noted in December, “it’s increasing every day.” “We’re in a race,” he said, “to be able to solve this problem.”
And Gardner seems to want more resolve and more action:
He wants the Trump administration to push harder against countries that trade with the North. In July, he introduced the North Korean Enablers Accountability Act, which would require the president to block any entity or financial institution that engages in significant trade with North Korea from the U.S. financial system.
“The doctrine is maximum pressure, not maximum cajoling,” he says. “If there are 5,000 businesses in China doing business with North Korea, we need to block them. …”
The wide-ranging article also touches on the origins of Gardner’s interest in Korean and Asian affairs as well as his engagement with domestic, horse-race politics when he dons his other hat as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
And it contrasts Gardner’s upbeat, unflappable, take-the-high-road tenor — refusing to take the bait even when North Korean proxy media called him a “man mixed in with human dirt” who has “lost basic judgment and body hair” last year — with the approach of his party’s shoot-from-the-lip standard bearer:
The Colorado senator is less happy with the president’s bombastic taunting of Kim Jong-un. … he took to Twitter on January 2 after Kim warned that he had a nuclear button on his desk and the entire United States in range of his nuclear weapons. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him,” the president wrote, “that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
“I wouldn’t have said it that way,” Gardner admits … But, he goes on, “I’m not worried about trying to figure out the relationship between the president and Twitter, I am worried about what Kim Jong-un is trying to do to the world.”