Former Gov. Haslam on the pandemic, his political plans, and a possible Trump return to politics

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Bill Haslam says the last thing Tennessee needs is a former governor chiming in from the sidelines.

But in a recent interview with News Channel 11, the former two-term Republican Governor did offer a brief assessment of the state that he led for eight years.

“I happen to think the state is in a great place and doing well,” Haslam said during the interview conducted in his downtown Knoxville office.

While Haslam has intentionally withheld his opinions on matters of state government in the years since he left it, he says he decided it was time to speak out about the state of government in America, more specifically the deep political division in America, and how to move beyond it.

Haslam wrote a new book called “Faithful Presence: The Promise and the Peril of Faith in the Public Square”.

During our interview about the book, the former governor weighed in on a few other topics including his concerns about the ongoing pandemic.

“This is something we’d like to put behind us, and that seems like something we can do if more people get vaccinated,” he said.

Haslam said he remains committed to the Republican party, but he says Republicans often “miss the boat”
by focusing on hot-button issues that grab the headlines instead of focusing on complex issues like the nation’s massive debt.

“It’s easier to bring up things that get everyone saying, ‘yea, that’s how I feel.’ It’s a lot harder to bring up things that there’s a problem than can and needs to be solved,” he said. “It’s really easy in today’s world to get a million likes on Facebook and Instagram. It’s a lot harder to solve a problem.”

Haslam, who in 2016 called on former President Donald Trump to step down as the GOP Presidential nominee, had this to say about a possible Donald Trump Presidential campaign in 2024.

“If he runs will he have your support?” News Channel 11 asked.

“That’s still a long way away,” Haslam said. “I don’t know what will happen there. I tend to think President Trump won’t run again, but every prediction I’ve made has been wrong about him. So I’m not sure you should take my word.”

“So you are not going to say?” News Channel 11’s Josh Smith asked.

“We’re a way a ways from that,” Haslam said.

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with members of the National Association of Police Organizations Leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House July 31, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)

Is he finished with politics? Haslam acknowledged that people with political aspirations often write books, but he insists that wasn’t the reason for “Faithful Presence.”

Still, he didn’t rule it out.

“There’s nothing on the horizon right now,” he said. “However if the opportunity came up…and it might be an elected office, or it might not be being the elected person. I’d take a look at it,” he said. “But I’m not lining up my horse to run for anything at this time.”

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