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Mitch Perry Report for 6.22.15 — South Carolina’s Confederate flag — and Tampa’s

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Current events can change the trajectory of a presidential race, and all of the men and women running for the nation’s highest office in the land are being tested in terms of how they react to the racist killings in Charleston last week.

While Democrats are willing to bring up the issue of guns, Republicans are being asked what they think of South Carolina continuing to raise the Confederate flag. Photographs of the racist killer waving the flag and burning the American flag surfaced on a website on Saturday. The killer also displayed a confederate flag vanity license plate on the front of the car in which he drove to and from the mass shooting.

It wasn’t a “liberal journalist” who raised the level of this topic over a weekend, it was two-time GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney who did. Romney tweeted that the flag at the state capitol in Columbia was viewed by many people as “a symbol of racial hatred” and should be removed to honor the nine people shot last week at Emanuel AME Church, sometimes called “Mother Emanuel.”

When asked about this yesterday on Meet the Press, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee punted, saying it wasn’t even a legitimate question.

“Everyone’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,” Huckabee said on Sunday. “People want their president to be focused on the economy, keeping America safe. I don’t think they want us to weigh in on every little issue in all 50 states.”

Uh, yeah, actually, I think they do.

“If the state government of South Carolina wishes to address an issue in their state, that’s fine,” Huckabee continued Sunday. “If you can point me to an article and section in the Constitution in which a United States president ought to weigh in on what states use as symbols, then please refresh my memory on that.”

Rick Santorum said the same thing yesterday. “I take the position that the federal government really has no role in determining what the states are going to do,” Santorum told ABC News.

Jeb Bush said on Saturday that “following a period of mourning, there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward and I’m confident they will do the right thing.”

Marco Rubio essentially said the same thing.

Need we remind you that South Carolina votes third in next year’s presidential contest, after Iowa and New Hampshire?  Some might want to say it’s easy for Romney to opine since he’s not on the ballot in South Carolina next year — but that argument falls apart when you realize he made that comment in 2008, when he was running for president for the first time.

Meanwhile, props to the editor(s) at the Tampa Bay Times who ordered up a story on our own Confederate flag flying high just a few miles from where I sit right now — allegedly the world’s largest such flag, standing high at the intersection of I-75 and I-4 in Tampa. We reported a lot about this back in 2008 when it was first going up. Members of the black community then and now are absolutely disgusted by the flag. Meanwhile the majority culture of officials in Hillsborough County just shrugged their shoulders and tried to pretend it wasn’t that significant a deal. This issue locally isn’t going to go away, folks.

In other news..

We attended the Hillsborough County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner on Friday night, where the party came together in a big way for its annual fundraiser. Jeb Bush was the keynote speaker, and while the newly declared presidential candidate gave a miniaturized version of the stump speech he gave last Monday in Miami, he also added some much needed commentary on the racist terrorist attack that occurred in Charleston last Wednesday.

Hours before Jeb took to the stage at the Pepin Center, over a dozen critics of Common Core education standards stood outside in the deadly heat and humidity to register their opposition to the federalization of education and Bush’s support for it.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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