Politics » Politics Feature

Exit Interview: Lamar Alexander on Trump, Biden, Pardons

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Readers of this column will have noticed that for each of the two preceding weeks, it has contained content related to Tennessee's retiring United States Senator Lamar Alexander.

First, there were some general observations about the senator's career, then there were some trenchant statements by the senator borrowed from (and attributed to) his recent interview with the Tennessee Journal newsletter. And then Senator Alexander delivered on a long-standing promise to make himself available to the Flyer for our own version of an exit interview.

Lamar Alexander - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Lamar Alexander

A fuller version of that interview will be published online at memphisflyer.com. So as not to overdo matters, we excerpt here only Alexander's answers to our request that he describe Donald Trump and Joe Biden and that he comment on a recent installment of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC recalling his early accession to the Tennessee governorship in 1978 to forestall the inevitability of predecessor Ray Blanton making illegal pardons (this in light of rumored pardons to come involving outgoing President Trump).

On Trump: "The one thing that we can see he certainly is, is an effective communicator; Ronald Reagan was called a great communicator for his day, but in a completely different way. President Trump has mastered the internet democracy in a way no other public figure has. Nobody else comes close to exciting 72 million people on Twitter to pay attention to what he says several times a day. So he's certainly a great communicator. He's self-confident. He's gregarious when you're around him. He's ambitious.

"I've seen him in private where he works very well on issues like the great American Outdoors Act, which would not have happened without some key decisions that he made, or efforts to lower insurance rates for people who don't have Obamacare subsidies. He's like a lot of people who've been in business and not in politics. He's thin-skinned, and he's not accustomed to criticism.

"He has a style and behavior that's different than any of the presidents we've recently had, which sometimes obscure his considerable accomplishments like lower taxes, conservative judges, fewer regulations, and probably the most remarkable of all, presiding over a government that produced a 95 percent effective COVID vaccine in eight or nine months, instead of eight or nine years."

Editor's note: The COVID vaccines currently being touted as effective were not created by the United States government, or even in the United States.

On Biden: "Joe is gregarious, decent, friendly. He's well-known and well-liked in the United States Senate. He has the advantage of knowing leaders all over the world. He was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee for a long time. He has been vice president. So he should come to the presidency about as well prepared as anybody could. His biggest challenge is going to be the left wing of his own party. Because when they head off into socialism and defunding police, they lose more than half the country. And if he resists that, he'll be able to gain some significant Republican support, I think, and be an effective president."

On the Blanton and (possible) Trump pardons: "No, I don't. What was happening in the Blanton years was evidence that people were paying cash for pardons for clemency. I haven't heard any kind of allegation that anyone's paying [Trump] in order for a pardon or clemency. And it's certainly not unusual for a president or a governor to issue pardons or clemencies at the end of a term. Most presidents and most governors issue pardons during their time, and especially at the end of their issue. In Tennessee in 1978, it was cash for clemency, not just clemency."

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