James Clyburn bemused by Donald Trump praise for ‘loser’ Robert E. Lee

April 28, 2019 GMT

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn said Sunday it is odd that President Trump complimented Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, since he is “now glorifying a loser.”

“He always said that he hated losers,” Mr. Clyburn said on ABC’s This Week.

The South Carolina Democrat was addressing Mr. Trump’s decision to show no regret over comments he made after the August 2017 violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The president at the time suggested equivalence between right-wing combatants, who shouted antisemitic slogans and wielded Nazi symbols, and protesters who confronted them in the streets of the Virginia city. He said there were “very fine people” on both sides.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden pointedly referenced that moment in launching his 2020 primary bid for president, though Mr. Trump said he did nothing wrong.

The president says he was referencing protesters who wanted to preserve a monument to Lee in Charlottesville because, “like it or not,” the Confederate leader was considered a great general.

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The comments sparked an uproar, since the Confederacy fought to preserve slavery.

“Robert E. Lee was a great tactician was not a great person,” Mr. Clyburn said. “Thankfully, he lost that war.”

Mr. Clyburn said Mr. Biden was right to focus on the Charlottesville upheaval, which resulted in the death of a counterprotester, because the president is charged with bringing people together, both domestically and through allies around the globe.

“I think that’s what the crux of this campaign is going to be about,” he said.

Mr. Clyburn said Mr. Biden is probably the leader in a crowded Democratic primary field. But it’s early, he said, and Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have been spending a lot of time in his state.

He said the party needs to energize rural voters, and noted about half of black voters live in the South.

“The South is basically rural,” he said.

Mr. Clyburn downplayed talk of trying to impeach Mr. Trump before the 2020 election, saying House Democrats will attempt to build off the investigation by Robert Mueller and dig into cracks the special counsel was unable to get into.

The congressman wants to “lay a foundation, gather the facts, educate the American people so we can see what needs to be done and when we should do it.”