The Chattanooga Bar Association surprised retiring U.S. Sen. Bob Corker Friday morning by presenting him its Liberty Bell Award.
Corker, a Tennessean and Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the keynote speaker for the association's 60th annual Law Day breakfast.
The award recognizes "community service that has strengthened the American system of freedom under law" and is the only recognition the bar association bestows on nonlawyers, CBA Executive Director Lynda Minks Hood told the audience at the Westin Hotel.
Corker is not seeking re-election after two terms in the Senate. The former businessman, finance commissioner and Chattanooga mayor said he's still considering what he'll do in the next phase of his life. But despite multiple offers, he joked, he's ruled out the idea of a "kiss-and-tell" book about his relationship with President Donald Trump.
"It would be a best-seller," he promised, prompting chuckles in the audience.
Speaking on the Law Day theme of separation of powers, Corker lamented that political division and dysfunction in Congress is having the effect of ceding authority to judges and the White House.
"As we continue to be unable on the legislative side to be unable to deal with issues, the regulatory and executive branch continues to take power," Corker said.
Responding to audience questions, he also said that as a longtime fiscal hawk he's given up on the idea that the United States is going to reverse course on deficit spending.
"It's just not going to happen. The American people today aren't interested in it," he said. Eventually, "we're going to have a crisis and we will deal with it. Or we're going to have a president who's willing to campaign on the fact that this is the greatest threat to our nation over time, but I don't see that."
He was mixed on international issues, praising Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and seeing steps toward progress with North Korea but acknowledging the turmoil created when Trump canceled the Iran nuclear accord. He thinks there will be "no long-term issues" with moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But he also said the president "was very disturbed" that more than 50 Palestinians protesting the move were killed and more than 2,500 wounded by Israeli soldiers.
"I could see him more fully understanding his responsibilities as president," Corker said.
Afterward, when Hood announced the award, Corker said he was surprised and "tremendously honored."
Also Saturday, Corker was awarded the Heart for Haiti Award of the Children's Nutrition Program of Haiti. He has been a longtime supporter of the program to support healthy children in the poor Caribbean nation.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416.