He’s been asked the question before, and on Friday, U.S. Senator Bob Corker answered it again: Are you considering running for president in 2016?
Corker didn’t say “no,” but he did dampen the discussion. The Tennessee Republican pointed out that if he were a candidate, he would likely be making trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, key early stops in presidential campaigns, rather than visiting Oak Ridge and East Tennessee.
Still, after a short speech to the East Tennessee Economic Council on Friday, Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said every senator involved in policy decisions and helping to solve the nation’s problems probably thinks about a presidential run “from time to time.”
Corker was the guest speaker at ETEC’s weekly Friday morning meeting. During his talk, he bemoaned the nation’s lack of vision, saying the chief executive needs to have one but President Obama doesn’t lead toward one.
“Without vision, people bicker,” Corker said. The question is: Who is going to create the national vision? the senator said. The nation may need three priorities, he said.
Corker, who turned 62 Sunday, said his generation may not be leading the country in the right direction.
“We may well be the first generation to be worse off” than the previous generation, he said.
Corker, who has gained national attention for his work on issues like the bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate last year, said President Obama is uncomfortable serving as commander-in-chief, with even simple decisions debated for long periods.
The next debate is going to be about who can create a vision for the United States, Corker said. He said he hopes the nation can rally behind a consensus candidate who embraces some of the ideas he discussed Friday.
He expressed frustration with Congress’ inability to solve major problems.
“I can’t remember a big issue that we’ve solved in 7.5 years,” said Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor and businessman who is now in his second six-year term in the Senate.
Corker also expressed concerns with an array of international problems, including Syria, ISIS, and Ukraine. He said ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is the “most grotesque, demonic group of people that we’ve ever encountered.” ISIS is holding territory, is well-financed, and has U.S. equipment abandoned by Iraqi soldiers who fled from the militants.
“They have to be exterminated,” Corker said of ISIS. “We’re going to do everything we can to support the Iraqis.”
Although the U.S. helped create the problem, he said he doesn’t want to see any American “boots on the ground.”
Corker also expressed concern with international perceptions of the United States, including an attitude in China that America is in decline, as well as with Medicare spending and the “generational theft” of using general fund money for the highway trust fund.
Still, “In spite of the ills, I see tremendous promise,” Corker said.
But he remains less optimistic about a “grand bargain” on issues like tax reform or entitlement reform. One person’s questionable loophole is another person’s “holy grail,” Corker said.
“We may take some baby steps, but I’m not sure,” he said. “The grand bargain may be elusive.”
Turning to Tennessee, Corker briefly discussed some of the recent successes in the Volunteer State, particularly in the automotive industry, including recent major expansion announcements by Volkswagen in Chattanooga and SL Tennessee in Clinton.
“What we’ve done in this state in terms of the auto industry is going to pay dividends for years,” Corker said.
A huge factor in manufacturing plants returning to the Southeast and Tennessee may be the low-cost, reliable energy that is available here, Corker said.