Hoekstra calls Dutch unique, dedicated ally

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Holland testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week on his nomination to be ambassador to the Netherlands, calling the Dutch one of America’s greatest allies.

“It’s hard to find an ally that’s been more dedicated and consistent than what the Dutch have been,” said Hoekstra, 63, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“If provided with the opportunity, it will be my job to manage that relationship and leave it stronger and better than what we have inherited.”

Hoekstra retired from Congress in 2011 after 18 years and last year co-chaired President Donald Trump's campaign in Michigan.

Under questioning, Hoekstra said his top mission as ambassador would be making sure the post in the Hague has an effective, functioning team to execute priorities including national security and economic cooperation with the Netherlands.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, pointed out that the Netherlands has some of the most “progressive” laws on rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people in the world. He asked Hoekstra to address concerns about sending an ambassador there with diverging views.

“The Dutch and the United States share a tradition of defending human rights – the value, the dignity of every individual,” Hoekstra said.

“So, while my personal views may differ from where the Dutch have moved in terms of their public policy, the bottom line is my personal respect and value that I have for their country. I will respect their decisions.”

Hoekstra is a native-born Dutchman who immigrated with his parents to the United States at age 3.

His parents were liberated by U.S. and Canadian forces during World War II, so they had “a fondness and appreciation for America,” and took a “leap of faith” to move their three children there in 1956, he said.

They settled in Holland, Michigan, where his father ran a small bakery and his mother was a homemaker.

“America was all that they had hoped for, and for all of us it has become our home,” Hoekstra said. “The opportunity to go back and represent the United States is a humbling opportunity.”

He noted that the Netherlands was the second country to recognize the United States in 1782 after it gained independence from Britain and has remained a strong military ally.

Today, the Dutch are among the top foreign investors in the United States, which has a trade surplus with the Netherlands of roughly $24 billion, he said. The Netherlands is also a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.

“This is truly a unique and unbroken relationship,” Hoekstra said.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Hoekstra was introduced by Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing, whose seat he unsuccessfully challenged in 2012. She praised Hoekstra’s nomination, saying it is “a job he was born to do.”

“There are few people more suited to serve as ambassador to the Netherlands than Pete Hoekstra,” she said.

“‘Politics stops at the water’s edge,’” Stabenow added, quoting Republican former Michigan Sen. Arthur Vandenberg. “They also stop at the shores of our Great Lakes. It’s true that Pete Hoekstra and I don’t always agree, but we feel the same way about our wonderful state of Michigan, about invasive species, which we’ve tackled together, and about our country.”

Hoekstra thanked Stabenow for her support, as well as that of Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.

“As she said, we know that politics stops at the water’s edge, whether that’s Lake Michigan or the Atlantic,” Hoekstra said. “When we disagreed, it was never on a personal basis. We always remained friends and respected each other.”

Since leaving Congress, Hoekstra has lobbied for the firms Greenberg Traurig and Dickstein Shapiro and started his own firm, Hoekstra Global Strategies.

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