In the past few days we’ve experienced one of our infrequent sea changes, and long-established Confederate flag apologists are now flip-flopping all over to claim they never were really in favor of flying Confederate flags over statehouses. Except they were.
Where could anyone have gotten the impression that the flag is a presidential campaign issue?
Maybe from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who did everything short of actually firing on Fort Sumter in an effort to court white South Carolina voters during his 2008 presidential campaign:
You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag. In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell ’em what to do with the pole; that’s what we’d do.
Evidently, Huckabee’s pandering on the flag issue was deemed a successful strategy. In that same campaign, the New York Times noted, an independent group ran radio ads attacking Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for criticizing the Confederate flag, and boasted that “Mike Huckabee understands the value of heritage.”
Lindsey Graham — I will refrain from calling him “Miss Lindsey” as I am tired of dealing with damnyankee dweebs who don’t get the cultural reference, but he will always be Miss Lindsey to me — late last week was still saying the flag is “part of who we are,” while today he’s all in favor of taking it down from the South Carolina statehouse.
It would be grand to believe this shift represents a newly found sensitivity to racial issues. But this is South Carolina we’re talking about now, so let’s not kid ourselves.
Reading between the lines of this Politico article, some things become clear.
Those critics have argued that the new South Carolina, where Boeing decided in 2009 to locate a new assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner that created some 4,000 new jobs, could grow at a faster pace if they could find a way to remove the flag from the Statehouse.
â€œWe were missing out on some great opportunities to showcase our state,â€ said Glenn McCall, an RNC committeeman who stood with Haley on Monday. â€œWeâ€™ve lost some NCAA tournaments, some big companies looking to relocate because of that flag.â€
There was a sense among South Carolina Republican leaders, including Graham, that they couldnâ€™t come out too forcefully against the flag until they were certain there would be enough support across the state to follow through. A source familiar with Grahamâ€™s thinking noted that in addition to the sensitivities around the families of those killed, there were economic considerations in play.
â€œIf the senior senator rushed out right in front of the cameras, and the flag had not come down, you just handed the competing states a huge weapon to use against you,â€ said the source, noting that other states would try to attract business based on the state failing to follow through on a moral call from a senior leader. â€œFailure is not an option.â€
Since Thursday night, the source said, Graham had been working the phones, talking with business leaders, state and federal legislators and other stakeholders to take their temperature on the issue, and was in frequent consultation with Haley and Scott.
On Sunday afternoon, Haleyâ€™s staffers called Grahamâ€™s team and invited him to come to Columbia for a meeting early Monday afternoon with other stakeholders and legislators, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and South Carolina GOP Chairman Matt Moore.
By Sunday, the source said, the direction in which the issue was trending was fairly clear â€” it was more a question of how the announcement would be rolled out.
â€œI keep hearing people saying we need more conversations about race,â€ the former Arkansas governor opined. â€œActually we donâ€™t need more conversations. What we need is conversions because the reconciliations that changes people is not a racial reconciliation, itâ€™s a spiritual reconciliation when people are reconciled to God.â€
â€œWhen I love God and I know that God created other people regardless of their color as much as he made me, I donâ€™t have a problem with racism,â€ Huckabee insisted.
The candidate concluded: â€œItâ€™s solved!â€