Sam Nunn and a style of politics that could soon be extinct

WASHINGTON — An increasingly rare thing happened earlier this month on Capitol Hill.

Former Georgia U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat, took to the witness stand twice in two days to vouch for a pair of Cabinet nominees nominated by a Republican president.

A modest gesture, yes. Notable in this radioactive political environment, for sure — especially given that we’re talking about a four-term senator who once called Donald Trump “an apprentice in the nuclear arena” with a “colossal ego” and “no appetite for learning.”

Nunn in a recent interview said he stands by his past assessment of Trump when it comes to nuclear weapons, the topic to which he’s devoted his post-Senate career. And he thinks Trump’s advisers need to change his Twitter password.

But the Hillary Clinton supporter said he felt compelled to testify on behalf of Rex Tillerson and James Mattis, the president’s picks for secretary of state and defense, after they separately asked him to earlier this month.

“I didn’t have really any hesitancy,” he said. “I think the president needs the best Cabinet people he can. We have a lot less checks and balances in the foreign policy and security arena than we do on the domestic side, so I think the two appointments …  to me are the most important, particularly for a new president who has not had the experience.”


Nunn said he’s concerned that bipartisanship on Capitol Hill has gotten considerably worse since he left 20 years ago.

“I’d never passed a very significant piece of legislation without a Republican partner, and somehow we’ve got to get back to that,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you agree on everything but civility is at the heart of it.”

The limits of that civility are currently getting tested as the Senate considers Trump’s Cabinet nominees. Republicans are accusing Democrats of slow-walking the confirmation process in order to obstruct Trump’s effectiveness as president. Democrats argue Republicans are racing through the consideration process without proper vetting.

The Senate so far has approved only two of Trump’s nominees. (Mattis is one of them.) Tillerson is expected to be confirmed in the days or weeks ahead after Florida Republican Marco Rubio indicated he would support the former ExxonMobil CEO on Monday.

Nunn attributes the hyper-partisanship on Capitol Hill to a variety of factors, from constant fundraising and travel to cable television, but said he hopes the two sides can find a way to work together in the best interest of the country.

As for Trump, he said he hopes Mattis and Tillerson can help the new president when it comes to nuclear weapons.

“I do think he has a lot to learn and I hope he’s developed an appetite for learning,” he said.

Read more:

The practical reasons for olive branches to Donald Trump, from Jimmy Carter and Sam Nunn

Sam Nunn to introduce Tillerson, Mattis at Senate confirmation hearings

Sam Nunn on Donald Trump: ‘An apprentice in the nuclear arena’

Reader Comments 0

35 comments
John Johnson
John Johnson

Seems to me it has completely disappeared

Martha Heath Johnson
Martha Heath Johnson

Monte Poitevint, the Republicans have created the first step of an authoritarian regime, a dictatorship, by electing Trump! He's trying to take our first amendment rights, silence the press, and other rights! Our democracy is being threatened, and Trump followers could care less! It's too late when his type of government is an copy of Putin's!

Donna Gates Kelly
Donna Gates Kelly

Sam after trying to see you in 1991 for a Veterans issue for my husband and you did not have the decency to show for the appointment sent out one of your flunkie assistants. Who was absolutely clueless and zero help. I have not many good things to say to you. Thank goodness your not on the hill anymore.

Rod Miller
Rod Miller

The only time the Fishwrapper gets concerned about bi-partisanship is when the left is out of power

Jim Hughes
Jim Hughes

The grownups are back in charge and we are going to show you who the big dog is!

Billy Strain
Billy Strain

I'd say that's stating the obvious, Sam.

Monte Poitevint
Monte Poitevint

The Democrats want to create a totalitarian third world banana republic and refuse to compromise. The worthless GOP compromised during the Obozo era. If they do so now, they will be replaced. The Democrats and their lunatic policies are a total catastrophe.

Jeri Henson Dies
Jeri Henson Dies

Yeah, it's time to take a side--and that side is sanity and does not coincide with Trump & Co.

Gerald Murray
Gerald Murray

Sam, you are a has been and never will be again. Just go home, shut up and enjoy your retirement.

Dan Zaenglein
Dan Zaenglein

I cant read the whole thing without it skipping to an AJC ad but I would like to hear why Nunn is still a democrat.

Tracy Martin
Tracy Martin

Good riddance Nunn. You gave money to Johnny Isakson's campaign and then you spoke on behalf of Tillerson. Who needs enemies with Dems like Nunn.

Ben Dendy
Ben Dendy

Sam a lots of things have changed in 20 years. BHO has left office and leaves race relations the worse I have ever seen. He promoted BLM to the extent that's blacks are now radical in the hate of white people. Before we were doing great with our relations.

Debbie Grant Willis
Debbie Grant Willis

Small town America, Tracy. It's usually small enough, we all get along, regardless of politics, skin color, etc. as long as you pull your weight, act nice to everyone, we get along. If you have a sense of entitlement, therein lies the problem.

Tracy Martin
Tracy Martin

"Before we were doing great with our relations?!" What planet are you from?

Tracy Martin
Tracy Martin

Small town America, huh? That's a good one. I voted to raise taxes for hospitals in south Georgia. Guess who didn't. White Republicans from Johns Creek. You see I don't care where you're from or where you live in America, if there's a need, I'll always find a way to come up with a few extra pennies for a tax hike to amend the need. I don't think I'm alone either.

Debbie Britto Boyd
Debbie Britto Boyd

How is life in your little bubble? Too bad you can't acknowledge the world as many others experience it. Geeeeshhhh.

Mary Nixon
Mary Nixon

Democratic Party totally different now. Socialistic now.

Erik Moore
Erik Moore

This statement is absolutely idiotic. Corporate welfare, supported by the GOP, is our biggest form of national socialism. But you will never hear that in Fox News..... How's that refugee thing working out so far? Gimme a freaking break lady.

JF Williams
JF Williams

Not going to happen because the evolution & weakening of laws regarding money, the evolution of mass communication technology, and the weakening of laws regulating mass communication technology... ...have made it so that the most extreme of partisans can hold the most sway over a given society's social, cultural, and economic orientation. And it's only going get worse, especially when the anti-net neutrality forces get to have a larger voice with this Presidency. Sam Nunn is cool and all and maybe he was a decent legislator for his time. But guys like him were asleep at the wheel...when those sinister forces decided that money should have more influence at the table of American politics...than regular working people.

Madeline Wells Smith
Madeline Wells Smith

It seems politicians on both sides of the aisle care more about party than country. I would imagine it could be partly due to the fact that it has become very expensive to run for office beyond the local level. When you rely on Party money to help fund your reelection campaign, obedience is required.

JF Williams
JF Williams

It ain't the money inasmuch as it is the people who are donating the money. The donors of the DNC were able to stop Bernie's message from getting a fair hearing even though polling had proven that more people were actually behind the messaging of Bernie. And those donors are okay with Trump just as they would have been okay with Hillary Clinton. The donors may not like his ideology on social matters, but they will live with that as long as there is no regulation on money.

Greg P Bates
Greg P Bates

How can we expect civility with the vulgar Trump as president? Unfortunately, civility is the enemy of freedom when a totalitarian is in charge.

Anthony Byerly
Anthony Byerly

Greg P Bates ,grow the hell up!! Clinton lost Trump won!!!!!

Dan Zaenglein
Dan Zaenglein

Take a chill pill Greg,maybe you prefer the gentile Bill Clinton? ?