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Corker: 'Radical Changes' Needed at White House

  • VOA News

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to the Chamber of Commerce in Knoxville, Tenn., Aug. 16, 2017.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker has called for "radical changes" in the White House, saying President Donald Trump "has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful."

Corker was addressing the recent death at a protest rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday and Trump's response to clashes between white nationalists and those who oppose them. He also criticized Trump's "hot rhetoric" toward North Korea and the plethora of criticisms Trump has unleashed on Twitter.

At a Rotary Club gathering in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Corker said, "We're at a point where there needs to be radical changes at the White House."

He said Trump needs to help build bridges, not fan the flames of conflict.

"We should hope that he ... does what is necessary to demonstrate stability, to demonstrate competence, and demonstrate he understands the character of our nation and works daily to bring out the best from the people of our nation," Corker said. "Helping to inspire divisions because it generates support from your base" is not a formula for success, he added.

Corker is the latest of a handful of Republicans who have directly criticized Trump for his public statements.

FILE - Workers begin removing a Confederate statue in Gainesivlle, Fla., Aug. 14, 2017. The statue is being returned to the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected the bronze statue in 1904.
FILE - Workers begin removing a Confederate statue in Gainesivlle, Fla., Aug. 14, 2017. The statue is being returned to the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected the bronze statue in 1904.

Trump: 'Sad' to see Statues Removed

Earlier Thursday, the president spoke out against the removal of statues honoring Confederate generals and soldiers who fought on the losing side of the country's 19th century Civil War.

In a string of Twitter comments, Trump said it was "sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments."

Trump offered his thoughts on the Confederate memorials in the aftermath of last weekend's deadly street mayhem in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists were protesting the city's plan to remove a towering statue there honoring Lee, who led Confederate troops during the conflict that extended from 1861 to 1865.

Trump has drawn criticism from across the U.S. political spectrum for saying that hate groups and counterprotesters shared blame for the violence that left one woman dead and 19 injured when a Nazi sympathizer drove his car at high speed into a group of counterprotesters. White nationalists, the racist Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis shouted chants against racial minorities and Jews at the rally.

Trump's chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon, in an interview this week dismissed the importance of the far-right in the U.S. political scene, even though he headed a publication advancing support for "America first" views before joining Trump's White House.

"Ethno-nationalism — it's losers," he said this week. "It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more. These guys are a collection of clowns."

FILE - White House strategist Stephen Bannon speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, Feb. 23, 2017.
FILE - White House strategist Stephen Bannon speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, Feb. 23, 2017.

Bannon: Winning political strategy

Despite his dismissal of these groups, Bannon suggested that Trump's focus on the Confederate statues is a winning political strategy, even if Democrats accuse the president of aiding racist groups.

"The Democrats," he said, "the longer they talk about identity politics, I got 'em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats."

The Civil War is a seminal event in American history, fought largely over southern landowners' demands to own slaves and the secession of 11 states from the national government before Union troops prevailed in fighting that killed 620,000 people in combat and from starvation and disease.

The War Between the States has shaped relations between whites and blacks in the country ever since. A handful of cities have removed some of the 718 statues honoring the Confederacy's warriors, while others are considering taking them down.

FILE - A statue of Alexander Hamilton Stephens is on display in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 24, 2015. The hall includes statues of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and a number of other Confederate leaders.
FILE - A statue of Alexander Hamilton Stephens is on display in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 24, 2015. The hall includes statues of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and a number of other Confederate leaders.

Trump: Rewriting history

There are mixed views in the U.S. about the effort to remove the statues from public sites, often parks and town squares, with most, but not all, of the statues in the South. Many are demanding their removal, saying they are a symbol of an indelible ugly stain — slave ownership — on the country's heritage that should not be celebrated.

Others, like Trump, are arguing that history should not be rewritten by removal of the statues, and note that some of country's Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves. Trump's tweet mentioning the country's first and third presidents, Washington and Jefferson, was the second time this week that he questioned to what extent those wishing to eradicate the memory of slavery would attempt to go to erase history from the public square.

The U.S. national capital is named after Washington, and two of the city's most dominant memorials honor Washington and Jefferson. There are 10 statues in the U.S. Capitol building depicting prominent figures from the Confederacy, but they are likely to remain there.

Workers remove the monuments to Robert E. Lee, commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army in the American Civil War, and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, a Confederate general, from Wyman Park in Baltimore, Maryland, Aug. 16, 2017.
Workers remove the monuments to Robert E. Lee, commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army in the American Civil War, and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, a Confederate general, from Wyman Park in Baltimore, Maryland, Aug. 16, 2017.

Just this week, Baltimore, Maryland, took down four Confederate statues overnight, without announcing their removal ahead of time, so that protests, like those in Charlottesville, would not likely materialize.

In Durham, North Carolina, protesters toppled a statue of a Confederate soldier that crumpled to the ground, but police charged four people with vandalism in the incident.

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