Later this morning, Governor Terry Branstad will face members of a U.S. Senate committee who are reviewing his nomination to be the next U.S. Ambassador to China.
Yesterday Branstad was in Washington for his final drill with State Department staff — to simulate what kind of a reception he may get from senators today.
“Ask you the tough questions,” Branstad said during a recent Radio Iowa interview as he described the “murder board” process. “See how you handle it. Give you advice.”
Branstad has said the weekly news conferences he’d held throughout his 23-year tenure as governor have been good preparation. But for the past five months, Branstad has been careful in responding to Iowa reporters’ questions about international incidents.
“I have not been confirmed yet and I’ve been advised it’s not wise for me to comment on foreign policy at this point in time,” Branstad said in January.
But a week ago, Branstad opened up a bit with a crowd of supporters and staff gathered for a farewell reception.
“Probably the biggest challenge we have is to find a way to work with China to deal with the problems going on in North Korea right now,” Branstad said.
Bonnie Smalley was Branstad’s long-time scheduler and administrative assistant. She said Branstad’s well-equipped for this new role.
“Nobody, ever, anywhere on the face of the Earth will ever outwork him,” Smalley said. “He’s just tenacious and a hardworker; very, very smart guy; loves history; remembers everybody — when he last saw them and what they did.”
David Oman was the governor’s chief of staff in 1983 and ’84 — the first two years Branstad served as Iowa’s governor.
“Terry Branstad always works hard. He gets up every day trying to do the right thing and he’s ethical. That has not changed,” Oman said. “What has changed is he has 20-plus years of experience in the governor’s office.”
And Oman said Branstad will be able to rely on that experience as he deals with a possible showdown on the Korean peninsula along with pressures over the trading relationship between China and the United States.
Branstad’s appearance before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Iowa time today. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst — Iowa’s two U.S. senators — are going to be there at the start to introduce Branstad to the panel.