Politics

Hoekstra, Trump’s Pick For Ambassador, Has Views at Odds With the Dutch

Hoekstra’s positions on abortion, gay rights, and Muslims have surprised some Netherlands observers

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., prepares to testify before a House Subcommittee in 2014. He has been nominated as President Trump's Ambassador to the Netherlands. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump nominated former Rep. Pete Hoekstra to be ambassador to the Netherlands last week, but some of his views, as well as his ties to Trump, are being poorly received in the liberal nation.

The Dutch government will need to approve Hoekstra’s nomination, and the U.S. Senate will need to confirm it before he takes office.

Hoekstra was born in Groningen, Netherlands, and he and his family left when he was three years old. He represented Michigan's Second District in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2011, when he left to challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow in 2012, losing that race by 20 points.

Stabenow offered her support for Hoekstra as ambassador on Tuesday, saying, “Politics stops at the water’s edge.”

LGBT issues: The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, which Parliament made law in 2001. A 2015 poll (PDF) found 91 percent of Dutch people think same-sex marriage should be legal throughout Europe and the same number say there is nothing wrong with a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex. 

Hoekstra was a consistent opponent of LGBT rights in Congress, earning a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign for each Congress in which he served, except for one, in which he earned a 10 percent score. He has co-sponsored several bills to restrict gay rights related to marriage and adoption.

Abortion: When Trump reinstated the “global gag” rule prohibiting abortions or any information on abortion from being given out by aid-funded organizations, the Dutch government set up an overseas abortion fund in opposition to the policy. The Netherlands has had fully legal abortion since 1984, and has successfully achieved far lower teen pregnancy and abortion rates than the U.S. using sex education and contraception. Hoekstra has consistently opposed legal abortion, earning a zero score from the pro-choice group NARAL.

Islam: Hoekstra has been an outspoken critic of Muslims in the U.S. and world. Since leaving Congress, he has been closely involved with groups like the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Jihad Watch, and the Investigative Project on Terrorism, as well as individuals like Pamela Geller, Steve Emerson and Geert Wilders, whose loose network has stirred up anti-Muslim sentiments and supported policies like Trump’s Muslim ban.

University of Amsterdam professor Martijn de Koning expressed shock at a speech Hoekstra made at a David Horowitz Freedom Center event in 2015, in which he said a “stealth jihad” had brought “chaos” to the Netherlands, with cars and “politicians that are being burned,” and “no-go zones,” where Muslims have taken over and the Dutch government has lost control.

One Dutch journalist joked that Hoekstra was such an expert on terrorism that he could see “no-go zones” that Dutch people couldn't.

How he’ll be received: Dutch Member of the European Parliament Sophie in ‘t Veld said, “We are looking forward with interest to cooperating with Mr. Hoekstra. We will certainly remind him his roots lie in a country that values tolerance, equality and inclusion. We are proud of being the first country worldwide to have legislated for same-sex marriage. We are proud to have the lowest abortion rates in the world, and it is safe and legal.”

Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant said that Trump “put a Dutchman in the Netherlands — but it is a Dutchman from the Netherlands of the ’50s.”

Additionally, any ambassador picked by Trump is likely to have a hard time in the Netherlands. Wilders, a member of Parliament, and his far-right Dutch Freedom Party experienced a wave of support for their promises to stop immigration and ban Muslims, with Wilders even courting an image as the “Dutch Trump” and appearing at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

But after Trump’s election as president, Wilders’ popularity dropped quickly and he stopped tying himself to Trump, reflecting a deep dislike for the American president among Europeans and in the Netherlands.

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