Gov. Asa Hutchinson appeared today on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos and seemed to indicate he favored removal of Confederate monuments from state Capitol grounds.
The program was mostly about COVID-19 response, with Hutchinson offering his familiar defense of supporting health guidelines while keeping business operating. He did endorse a dramatic increase in coronavirus testing, something Donald Trump hasn’t embraced, and he complained about Arkansas travelers being quarantined in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut because of Arkansas’s rise in COVID-19 cases.
But when Stephanopoulos asked about the decision in Mississippi to remove the Confederate battle flag emblem from its state flag, his answers edged into local headline material.
Is it time for Confederate monuments in Arkansas to come down, Stephanopoulos asked. The governor noted an agreement had been reached to move a statue in Bentonville from a public square. “That’s the right process to go through. It’s not the right process to destroy by acts of vandalism. It’s right to have debate and take action. There’s more that we need to look at it in Arkansas.” He said Mississippi had done it thoughtfully.
But, he was pressed, is it your personal opinion they should come down? “Which one are you talking about,” Hutchinson responded. He said some are local decisions, citing a monument in Hot Springs.
But he acknowledged, “We do have one on Capitol grounds.” (There are actually two, one a monument to soldiers, the other a monument to women of the Confederacy.) “That’s a decision for the General Assembly. What do I think about it? It’s time to look for other places that we can know that history and remind ourselves of the lessons of that history.”
On other topics:
He said he understood where governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were coming from on imposing quarantines, noting that Arkansas had done the same early in response to the crisis. But with continued outbreaks, Hutchinson said, “Ultimately we can’t be putting these restrictions on each other across the country. We have to do two things: manage the virus and manage the growth of our economy.”
He said New York doesn’t want to isolate itself from every area that has a rise in cases.
Asked about the steep growth in COVID-19 in Arkansas and whether there’s a need for a pause in reopening protocols, Hutchinson said the state essentially was on pause in moving to Phase 3 reopening “until we make sure we get a handle on current cases.” But, he added, “we are continuing to move our economy,” he said.
Hutchinson departed from the Trump administration line on testing. Trump has lamented how testing just causes a rise in case numbers and has pulled back on federal support in some places.
“We’ve doubled the amount of our testing nationally. We’ve got to double it again. That is probably the most important thing that we can do,” Hutchinson said. “I really think we need to look at a greater use of the Defense Production Act so that we can make sure that supply keeps up with the demand that we know is going to continue growing.”
He was asked about the Little Rock mayor’s declaration last week on face masks and whether there should be a statewide order. He said the state is “not going to pass a mandate that is unenforceable.” But he said he and many mayors encourage use of masks. He has said previously but didn’t repeat today, that he views the Little Rock proclamation as “encouragement,” not a mandate. It specifically exempts private businesses serving the public.
Should the president do more to encourage the wearing of masks? Hutchinson said he’d seen Mike Pence wear a mask. But he said there should be a “consistent national message.” He continued to insist you can have two messages — being safe and growing the economy. Trump and his supporters are sending a decidedly different message about masks.
Hutchinson said that despite some weak polling recently, Donald Trump is “going to do fine in Arkansas. He will carry Arkansas.” He said people are “writing his obituaries a little bit early. The key is the economy and the key is of course managing this virus.” He indicated the public responded well when Trump was having daily briefings on the virus, a practice Hutchinson has stuck with.