Sen. Kaine says Va. could "probably do better" on state's chosen statues in Capitol

Amid growing calls across the country for Confederate monuments to be taken down in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday that there should be a conversation about what might replace them.

One monument in particular that Kaine says needs to be re-examined: a statue of Robert E. Lee that stands in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol. 

"I think from 2017 looking backward, I think Virginia could probably do better in the two people that we choose to stand for us in Statuary Hall. And I think a number of the other states can do better as well," Kaine said. 

The state initially chose a statue of the first U.S. president, George Washington, to represent Virginia, and a decision was made in 1909 to add a statue of Lee, Kaine said. 

Kaine suggested considering other figures in Virginia's history. 

"I think as you look at the scope of Virginia history here in 2017, and if you want there to be two people to really stand for who Virginia is, why wouldn't you think about Pocahontas who, had she not saved John Smith's life, we wouldn't even be here possibly? Why wouldn't you think about a Barbara Johns, who led a school walkout in Prince Edward County that ultimately became part of the Brown versus Board, desegregation decision," he said.

Kaine said that "it's not just about subtraction, it also has to be about addition."

"Let's also talk about whose stories haven't been told and what buildings or monuments we might think about erecting in the future," he added.

"We're a history-obsessed commonwealth," Kaine said. "But why do the four years of the Civil War merit so much more attention in Virginia than 250 years of blood sacrifice by hundreds of thousands of slaves who lived here, who built up our state, who were sold through our state?"

Virginia's Governor Terry McAullife has shared a similar view, referring to monuments of Confederate-era figures "divisive symbols."

"It's time for these monuments to come down, it's time for us to move together after what happened in Charlottesville," McAullife said Thursday on "CBS This Morning."

Meanwhile, Kaine called President Trump's remarks, in which he blamed "both sides" for last weekend's Charlottesville violence, "outrageous," noting that Mr. Trump was quick to call recent international incidents acts of terror, but not in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer.

"When this white supremacist drives a car into a crowd of people killing Heather Heyer and injuring scores more and the president says, 'There's fine people on both sides,' or, 'There's violence on both sides,' why is he so confused and unclear and unwilling to call out the violent white supremacy that was on such gruesome display in my home state?" asked Kaine.

Kaine urged fellow members of the Democratic Party to be "precise" in their condemnation of acts of hate and violence. 

"You can't be polite and kind about that behavior or certainly about murder or violence. You have to condemn it," Kaine said.

"It is very important to be absolutely clear and condemn what's indefensible," he added. "But you have to do it in a way that suggests that you're open to dialogue with people who have different points of view than you do."

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital