I recently had the opportunity to interview U.S. Sen. Richard Burr for my public affairs program “Front Row” on UNC-TV.
In full disclosure, I have known Richard since 1992 when a mutual friend introduced us and asked me to help with paid media in the waning days of his campaign. The race was close, but incumbent Democratic Rep. Steve Neal prevailed. Undeterred, Burr got up off the mat and was elected to congress in the Gingrich wave of 1994. The rest, as they say, is history.
As one who has observed and worked with many politicians over the last 35 years, Sen. Burr stands out for numerous reasons.
Unlike many, Burr does not seek the limelight. In fact, he shuns it. He rarely if ever does the Sunday morning talk shows, and when he does he is precise and measured in his words.
In his role as the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr receives a daily intelligence briefing — similar to the one prepared for the president. And in this day and time there is very little good news in those reports. One can only surmise how sobering they are on a daily basis.
During my interview with the senator, he imparted that on every continent in the world today there is a terrorist hot spot.
He outlined the situation in North Korea, America’s options, and the very real threat that the North Korean regime poses for our allies in the region and to the homeland.
We discussed Russia and Syria at some length, and when I asked him if we we’re in a new cold war with Russia he was unequivocal in saying, “Yes.”
And when I asked Burr if Vladimir Putin and Russia were 100 percent behind the dictator of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, he again gave an unqualified answer: “100 percent.”
We also discussed Russia’s expanding footprint in the Middle East, the Syrian refugee problem, and our ability to properly “vet” or do background checks on those people who have no paper trail.
Burr made clear that as Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, he was determined to leave no stone unturned in the investigation of Russia interference in our last election and any possible ties to the Trump campaign.
Also during the interview, we discussed ISIS and al-Qaida, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the threats to the American homeland.
On domestic policy, we discussed a wide range of issues — including health care, tax reform, and the Trump agenda.
We concluded by talking about his decision not seek to seek a fourth term in the U.S. Senate. Burr is 28th in seniority in the Senate and now the second-longest serving senator in North Carolina’s history.
At the end of his term Burr will be 67, and he believes it’s time for generational change. He also wants to spend more time with his family. He proudly told us he and wife Brooke now have a grandchild. Many politicians use the family as a crutch, but in Burr’s case I believe it’s genuine. And finally, although he didn’t say it, I believe he’s tired of the daily grind of Washington and all that entails.
But for now, North Carolina is fortunate to have Richard Burr at the helm of our nation’s Senate Intelligence Committee, quietly working to keep America safe.
Marc Rotterman is a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation and the host of “Front Row with Marc Rotterman” on UNC-TV. You can watch the interview with Richard Burr at this link.