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Edwards: Coble Should Resign Panel Leadership

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — A North Carolina congressman's remarks supporting the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II suggest he isn't fit to lead a House subcommittee on homeland security, U.S. Sen. John Edwards said.

Edwards, a Democratic presidential candidate from North Carolina, said Tuesday in a written statement Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Howard Coble's remarks were "divisive" and "ill-informed."

"Someone who thinks it was OK for the United States to put innocent Americans behind barbed wire fences in 1942 should not make decisions about how to protect Americans in 2003," Edwards said in a written statement issued in response to a media inquiry. It was his first public comment on the situation.

Edwards' comments are the latest criticism Coble, a GreensboroRepublican, has drawn since indicating on a Greensboro radio showFeb. 4 that Japanese-Americans were interned for their own safety.The Democratic National Committee last week called on Coble toresign his post as chairman of the House Crime, Terrorism andHomeland Security subcommittee, which handles legislation governingdomestic security and terrorism programs, drug-interdiction effortsand the federal prison system.

"We were at war. They (Japanese-Americans) were an endangeredspecies," Coble said during the radio show. "For many of theseJapanese-Americans, it wasn't safe for them to be on the street."

He disagreed with a caller who said Arab-Americans should beconfined.

Like most Arab-Americans today, Coble said, mostJapanese-Americans during World War II were not America's enemies.Still, Coble said, Roosevelt had to consider the nation's security.

"Some probably were intent on doing harm to us," he said,"just as some of these Arab-Americans are probably intent on doingharm to us."

The remarks sparked protests from several minority groups.Criticism also came from three Asian-American congressmen, Reps.Mike Honda, D-Calif., Robert Matsui, D-Calif., and David Wu, D-Ore.

Coble issued a statement on Feb. 10 that apologized for his"choice of words." Coble's staff referred reporters to thatstatement Tuesday in response to Edwards' remarks.

Coble's chief of staff, Missy Branson, said Tuesday that she andCoble haven't discussed the possibility of his resigning thechairmanship. She said that she knows of no pressure fromRepublican congressional leaders for Coble to resign.

"He was wrong, and he ought to apologize," Edwards said. "Asleaders, elected officials have an obligation not to divide, but tobring groups together. Leadership means thinking of American interms of 'us,' not 'them.' Leadership means being committed everyday to making equality a reality. It means learning from the pastand making a better future for everyone. Representative Coblefailed to lead."

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