This Aug. 9, 2014, file photo shows Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as he speaks during an event in Ames, Iowa.
Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP

GOP candidates magically find their voice on flag

Over the weekend, Chuck Todd asked Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee about the Confederate battle flag on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds. The Arkansan didn’t want to talk about it.
“I still think it’s not an issue for a person running for president,” Huckabee said, adding, “[E]veryone’s being baited with this question as if somehow that has anything to do whatsoever with running for president. And my position is, it most certainly does not.”
He won’t win any Profile in Courage awards with answers like these – especially given Huckabee’s willingness to talk about the issue during his 2008 race – but Bloomberg Politics noted this morning that the former governor’s position has apparently come into sharper focus.
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on Tuesday said he supports South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds.
His comments come after he said Sunday the flag debate, which erupted after the shooting of nine African-American worshippers in a Charleston church last week, was “not an issue for a person running for president.”
Appearing on Fox News this morning, Ed Henry asked Huckabee, “Now that Republican governor has spoken out and has said that it is an awful symbol and she wants it to come down. Do you agree with her? Yes or no.”
Huckabee replied, “Absolutely, because that’s where it needed to be settled.” He went to say he “salutes” the South Carolina governor’s decision.
There’s a lot of that going around. National GOP candidates who couldn’t muster the courage to give a straight answer over the weekend are suddenly delighted to say how much they agree with Nikki Haley’s decision.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) wouldn’t give his position, but after yesterday afternoon’s press conference in South Carolina, Walker is suddenly delighted to endorse Haley’s new position.
Former Govs. Jeb Bush (R) and Rick Perry (R) soon after did the same, saying after Haley’s announcement what they wouldn’t say before.
It’s quite a coincidence how these candidates decided to add clarity to their ambiguous positions right after someone else did the heavy lifting.
In this context, The New Republic’s Brian Beutler argued that Haley’s change of heart “wasn’t the result of a moral epiphany.”
It was undertaken largely as an act of damage control on behalf of Republican presidential primary candidates who were so frozen in terror at the thought of risking South Carolina’s pro-Confederacy vote that they couldn’t articulate whether they believed the flag should come down. […]
Her decision to aggressively seek its removal is the right one, but it’s been the right one all along, and shouldn’t have taken a racist massacre at a black church by a local neoconfederate to awaken her to that conclusion. If this makes her likelier to be a vice presidential nominee than she was before, it’s only because whoever wins the presidential nomination will appreciate her intervention as an act of mercy.
Watching leaders turn into followers so quickly is quite a sight.