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Agriculture Secretary Vows to Do ‘Everything’ to Confirm Clovis Amid Criticism

Sam Clovis speaks in Johnston, Iowa, on April 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue defended Sam Clovis, who has been nominated as undersecretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics, vowing to do “everything” he can to get Clovis confirmed despite the White House adviser’s controversial blog posts and past statements.

In a 2012 blog post, Clovis, national co-chairman of President Trump’s campaign, criticized President Obama’s “Dreams of My Father” autobiography.

“At worst, it is a total fabrication that is focused on shaping a narrative based on racial oppression and awakening that probably is only manifested through his play acting. We know so little about his early life, over which, to be fair, he had little control. However, beginning with his teen years, we find a person who indulged in self-destructive behavior,” he wrote.

In another blog post from 2012, Clovis referred to former Attorney General Eric Holder as a “racist bigot.”

“He is a racist bigot who cannot see beyond his own hateful, willful and despicable world view. As such, his administration of his duties hurts all Americans and makes us all much less safe. He is supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer in the United States, defending the Constitution and all the laws of the land, but he is selective in what he does or has his people do and appears to have no intention of supporting the Constitution,” he wrote.

Clovis took issue with use of the term “climate change” during a radio interview in 2013, saying it “implies” that progressives “are going to figure out a way” to somehow create the “ideal climate” and “perfect weather.”

“I’m so skeptical on all of this because the science is – people – a lot of people out there including our friend, know your buddy, Al Gore keeps saying this is settled science. I’m not sure this is settled science. I’m not sure that we’re really looking at anything understanding – what we have to examine is how the language changes and when you start to go away from ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change’ this goes right into the heart of progressive thinking,” he said.

Clovis also called former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) mentally ill for arguing that the Tea Party movement does not believe in government.

“I think he’s mentally ill. Anybody that thinks that, how uninformed is that? This is the leader of the United States Senate. How uninformed is he? Oh my word,” he said.

Perdue said he’s “not familiar” with all of Clovis’ previous comments but that “dredging up” the past is an “attempt by the opposition in delaying and smearing any candidate that the Trump administration puts in.”

“I’m not familiar with [the posts] but it’s amazing how much the media, in my case, goes back years and any type of allegation that’s ever been there, that’s what the opposition does, they have to dredge up like dredging a river from the river bottom and dredge up these stories. Sam Clovis is a very smart individual. He’s very committed to the success of agriculture. He is knowledgeable in many areas and I fully support his nomination,” Perdue said Monday on a conference call with reporters during his “Back to Our Roots” tour across five states.

“I’ll do everything I can within the confirmation process to assure the Senate that I’ve got absolute confidence in him. The president has confidence in his abilities and I think he will manage the research and education mission area of USDA in fine fashion, knowing where we want to head with sound science,” he added. “Not science based from an ideological perspective, but science based on objective data the way scientific discoveries always go on – and I trust Sam to do that in fine fashion.”

A reporter asked Perdue if Trump should have picked Clovis, a non-scientist, for a scientific research position at USDA.

“Would the administration be better served if he was in a different job?” Perdue was asked.

“A scientist is not necessarily a technical type of person. This is a management of our research and education portfolio within the USDA and I think again any academician understands the scientific methods, as he does, and his interest is more in the economic aspect, which is certainly part of agriculture success as well. So I don’t necessarily buy the condition that you have to be one to manage that field and guide and direct our research capabilities,” Perdue responded.

“This person that’s undersecretary of REE [research, education and economics] is not going to be doing basic or applied research – that’s not what the job calls for,” he added. “Frankly, it manages our grant proposals and our relationships with our land grant universities as well as our agricultural research services to make sure that our American producers are receiving the best-applied research they can through an extension service delivering them the best product they can. I think that’s one of the successes we’ve had and I think we’ll continue to see continued success with Sam Clovis as the undersecretary for REE.”