Politics » Politics Feature

Bob Corker’s Back: Resumes Criticism of Trump, Eyes Political Future



Not everybody thinks he's entitled to do so, but former Tennessee Senator Bob Corker is making a point of saying "I told you so" about the potentially ill consequences of Donald Trump's presidency, now on life support as a bipartisan coalition seeks to terminate it less than a week before it's scheduled to expire.

In several formats and forums, Corker is issuing reminders that he was one of the first Republican public officials to utter serious criticism of the president, whom he now refers to as a "tin-pot dictator." There were a number of such occasions, but the best remembered — by Trump and others — was in 2017, in the aftermath of Trump's handling of several events, including a disturbance at Charlottesville, Virginia, involving white supremacists.

Former Senator Bob Corker - JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker
  • Former Senator Bob Corker

Speaking to reporters in his hometown of Chattanooga, Corker declared that the White House under Trump had become an "adult daycare," needful of help from more conscientious members of the administration to "separate our country from chaos." He questioned the president's steadiness and scheduled a hearing to consider limiting the president's power to use nuclear weapons.

Up until then, the senator had maintained workable relations with Trump and, early on, had even been considered by the president for the office of secretary of state. From that point on, however, Corker would become one of several Republicans subject to attack by presidential tweets.

"Nobody's perfect. You don't ever have all of the information. But I think I've been validated," said Corker in an interview with the periodical Politico. "My observations about his character and his conduct certainly have been validated, unfortunately, with people's lives being lost. And our country appears to be run by a tin-pot dictator to people around the world.   

"Enough is enough. He knows he's lost," said Corker, who added that any further effort by Trump and his acolytes to deny the presidential victory by Democrat Joe Biden would seriously "undermine" the two-party system and the country itself.

As for his own party, Corker saw it facing a particular crisis. "Republicans are going to have to have a real debate about who they are going to be," Corker told CNBC, in another interview. "The Republican Party has been a party of adults, and people who make tough decisions. Obviously, that hasn't been the case in recent times. ... We created such divisiveness that's going to be very hard to overcome, and I hope that Republicans will never ever return to that type of leadership." 

Corker, who served for several years as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also was critical of Trump's foreign policy while taking part in an international forum of the Milken Institute Asia Summit in Singapore, Malaysia.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement, nixed by Trump, that would have bound the United States with several Asian nations, was a "missed opportunity" for the U.S. to "put a lot of pressure" on China, Corker maintained, saying such an agreement would still "be a significant step forward if the Biden administration can figure out a way" to revive it.

"Obviously, politics got ahold of the issue in 2016, and it was a missed opportunity for our country to really put a lot of pressure against some of the things that China was doing, and to have an alliance that would have made a significant difference."

Corker, who chose not to run for re-election in 2018 and whose seat was won by former Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, has not excluded the possibility of another run for office. There has been some speculation that he has been considering a future race for governor, an office he aspired to before his election to the Senate.

Steve Mulroy, the author and University of Memphis law professor who served two terms as a county commissioner and made a race for county mayor in 2014, became by his own description a "grunt" in the recent U.S. Senate runoff campaigns in Georgia. Mulroy spent two weeks in northwestern Georgia as an on-call assistant in the "curing" of imperfectly completed voter registration forms from Democratic applicants.

The victories in Georgia of Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff brought the Democrats in the U.S. Senate to 50-50 parity with the Republicans, giving them technical majority-party status, inasmuch as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will preside over the Senate and serve as a potential tie-breaker.

• The state Democratic Executive Committee will participate in an online meeting Saturday to select a new state party chairman to succeed Mary Mancini, who is retiring from the office. Christy Pruitt Hayes, a human resources professional from Nashville, has assisted in the process by organizing a pre-selection process consisting of interviews with the prospective chairs, submitting them to questionnaires, and establishing some general criteria.

There are 10 candidates: Theryn Bond of Memphis, a well-known activist who served as campaign manager last year for state Representative Torrey Harris; London Lamar, a state representative from Memphis; former Memphian Hendrell Remus, now serving as director of emergency affairs for Tennessee State University; Kate Craig, chair of the Washington County Democratic Party; Chris Finley, two-time candidate for Congress in the 6th District; Jane George, a former state Senate candidate; Robin Kimbrough Hayes of Nashville, former candidate for the U.S Senate; Frank Hundley of Nashville, formerly campaign manager for state Senator Heidi Campbell; Civil Miller Watkins, chair of the Fayette County Board of Education; and Wade Munday of Nashville, member of the Democratic National Committee.

The Democrats' state legislative caucuses also recently held elections for officers. The six-member caucus unanimously voted to keep state Senator Jeff Yarbro as minority leader and state Senator Raumesh Akbari as caucus chair.

The House Democrats elected Nashville state Representative Vincent Dixie as caucus chair, succeeding Nashville Representative Mike Stewart, who decided not to seek the post again.

• One of the most animated recent meetings of the Shelby County Commission occurred in December when scores of affected Memphians, including restaurant workers and gym owners, filled up the auditorium of the Vasco Smith County Building and voiced pleas for the loosening of then newly reimposed restrictions on commercial operations due to a COVID-19 resurgence.

The administration of County Mayor Lee Harris and a commission majority acted on those pleas Monday by approving by a vote of eight to five a resolution to transfer a sum of $2.5 million from the county's fund balance to provide emergency grants of $1,000 each to relieve the economic situations of the affected personnel.

The action was one of several that involved the process of reorienting the funding by county government and was decided along party lines, with the commission's five Republicans offering objections of one kind or another. There was a spirited — and unresolved — debate on the issues of whether the $2.5 million derived from state funds or from a previously uncommitted portion of the county reserve.

In any event, Michael Thompson, the county's newly appointed budget manager, said the outlay would bring the county's fund balance down to the level of $74 million.

Two other matters tied into what has become a fundamental debate on the commission about the funding process. In one action, the administration proposed to deliver in the near future the details of a new cash-management policy. In another, the commission voted to transfer $300,000 from Sheriff's Department funds to the County Attorney's office to handle what was described as pending "complex litigation" involving a wrongful death suit.

Commissioner Van Turner conveyed the startling fact to his fellow commissioners that 40 percent of county law enforcement officers have declined to submit to vaccination in a process inaugurated by the Health Department.

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