Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina said last week that President Donald Trump must reassert "moral authority" in the current debate over racism, Confederate monuments, and the competing claims of Antifa and white extremists. On "Face the Nation" on Sunday,  Scott was interviewed by show host John Dickerson and reiterated that Trump's "moral authority" has been compromised. In contrast, cartoonist and author Scott Adams has ridiculed such calls for moral authority, saying in a video over the weekend that those who seek "moral authority" from Trump "have the wrong guy" because Trump has instead focused on the economy and job creation.

Here follows a partial transcript of the exchange between Scott and Dickerson: 

DICKERSON: Welcome, Senator. I want to start with your remarks about the president and idea that his moral authority is compromised. What does that mean?

SCOTT: Well, it means that as we look into — look to the future, it’s going to be very difficult for this president to lead if, in fact, that moral authority remains compromised.

He went into office — sometimes you have positional authority, and that is very hopeful. But the reality of it is this nation responds to moral authority, when we believe that our president has the entire nation’s best interests at heart. His comments on Tuesday that erased his positive comments on Monday started to compromise that moral authority that we need the president to have for this nation to be the beacon of light to all mankind.

DICKERSON: What should the president have said?

SCOTT: Well, I think what he said on Monday was fantastic. It would have been even better had he said it on Saturday.

What he said on Tuesday was just really challenging. What the president should do before he says something is to sit down and become better acquainted, have a personal connection to the painful history of racism and bigotry of this country. It would be fantastic if he sat down with a group of folks who have endured the pain of the 60’s, who’ve had humiliation of the 50’s and 60’s.

This would be an opportunity for him to become better educated and acquainted with the living history of so many folks, from John Lewis to my mother and so many others, who have gone through a very painful part of the history of this country. So that when he acts, when he responds, and when he speaks, he’s not reading the words that are so positive, that he’s breathing the very air that brings him to a different conclusion, a conclusion that comes from the wells of his heart.

That’s what America wants to see. That’s what we’re seeing in so many of the counterprotests. We’re seeing America rise in a way that it did not in the 60’s, which I think is powerful and symbolic to the rest of the world, that we reject the darkness and we embrace the light.

These are good times for those who believe that darkness must be put out and light must shine even brighter.

DICKERSON: Another thing that the president could have said, and might say, is to those white supremacists, I don’t want your support. And I raise this because two Republican senators have suggested perhaps a reason he hasn’t. The first is Ben Sasse who wrote “there are some whispering in the president’s ear that racial division could be good politics for them.” Senator Corker from Tennessee said helping inspire divisions because it generates support from your political base is not formula for causing our nation to advance.

Do you believe that that’s part of what at play here? And should the president say I don’t want these votes in any form?

SCOTT: Well, I assume that’s the automatically obvious answer, that we do not want the support of those folks who want to divide or to conquer this nation.

The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party is party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. We believe that all men and women are created in the image of God. We believe that we are all equally created. So the fact of the matter is that we should assume by default that we reject the support of those who do not support the theory, the notion, the fact, that all men are created equally. That to me seems like the starting point, and should not be a leap.

DICKERSON: Should the president, though, be a little bit more clear about this? Because can the leader of the party of Lincoln, the president, also be the person who’s being praised by former imperial wizard of the KKK, David Duke?

SCOTT: Yes, we should bask in the criticism of our enemies. We want those who believe that this country is better with a superior race and thoughts of inferiority pervasive through this nation that has been rejected. It should be rejected by the president and every single person.

I’ve said several times that, from my house to the White House, we all must reject hatred, racism, and bigotry, and do it in such a clear and unambiguous way that there leaves no doubt, period.

DICKERSON: You’ve worked on these issues for a long time. Charleston had its, of course, the horrible shooting more than two years ago. What can the president do beyond sort of fixing the remarks from last week? What more would you expect him to do to reach and deal with some of these larger issues?

SCOTT: At this point it’s not what the president says next. It’s what he does. We are in a very critical and sensitive time in this nation. We need our president to sit down with folks who have a personal experience, a deep connection to the horror and the pain of this country’s provocative racial history. If the president wants to have a better understanding and appreciation for what he should do next, he needs to hear something from folks who have gone through this painful history. Without that personal connection to the painful past, it will be hard for him to regain that moral authority from my perspective.

DICKERSON: When you and I talked about this before, you had suggested that this was something president could do at the start of his administration, spend more times in communities of color. Why do you think he hasn’t?

SCOTT: It’s hard to say why he has not. I can tell you that I stand by those comments back in January that if in fact our president is going to regain that moral authority, if he’s going to remain on the high ground, if we’re going to make progress in this nation, it’s not simply the issues that we fight for. It’s understanding that people that we are fighting for, and those issues that best represent a better future for those folks.

That’s one of the reasons why I have suggested that coming in to some of the most challenging economic communities in this nation is in his best interests, is in the nation’s best interests, that we fight for the issues that encourage and improves the outcome for those folks that are economically most disadvantaged, and frankly socially feel like they’re left out.

A recent column by Scott Adams can be seen here.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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