John McCain to condemn Confederate flag

Out of the media spotlight and away from the presidential crucible, the Arizona senator will take a stand on a South Carolina controversy.

Topics: John McCain, R-Ariz.

Arizona Sen. John McCain will fly to Columbia, S.C., Wednesday morning, where he will attempt to mend his one campaign regret by condemning the Confederate flag flying atop the state Capitol.

In what he is calling a “speech on conservative reform,” McCain will speak Wednesday at noon at a South Carolina restaurant, flanked by Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of his chief presidential-campaign backers in the state. He will tacitly support a compromise bill passed last week by the state Senate that would move the flag from atop the Capitol dome to a Confederate soldiers’ memorial on state grounds. He will support the idea that South Carolinians are solving the issue on their own, though he does not plan on supporting the specific bill, as has been
reported elsewhere.

The issue is a personal one for McCain, sources close to him say, because he feels it represents the one moment during his presidential campaign when he violated a promise he made to the American people to always tell the truth, regardless of the political consequences. After dodging questions during the campaign about his personal feelings over the appropriateness of the Confederate flag flying above the Capitol — which he did for fear of voter backlash in the South Carolina primary — McCain will express regret that he honored politics over principle. Personally, he believes that flying the flag over the Capitol is wrong, as it deeply offends so many blacks.

Additionally, the sources say, McCain will note that his Southern ancestors owned slaves, a fact he learned from Salon during a February interview.

The flag issue became controversial early in the campaign for the GOP nomination as the fight moved to South Carolina after McCain’s stunning 19-point New Hampshire victory. Wednesday is sure to be a bittersweet return for McCain, who was handed a bruising primary defeat by the state.

During the weeks leading up to the South Carolina primary, whenever McCain was asked about the Confederate flag controversy he recited the same namby-pamby cop-out position favored by his chief rival, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, saying that the decision was best left up to the people of South Carolina. This despite McCain’s much-heralded reputation for “straight talk.”

During a Jan. 9 TV interview, McCain called the Confederate flag “offensive” and “a symbol of racism and slavery,” though he said he could see the other side of the issue as well. Later he waffled clumsily back to the more conservative view, saying: “Some view it as a symbol of slavery. Others view it as a symbol of heritage. Personally, I see the battle flag as a symbol of heritage.” But that statement was apparently more pander than principle.

Many supporters of the flag claim they’re merely fighting for the preservation of Southern heritage. But to many others it’s a symbol of slavery and bigotry. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is boycotting the state until the flag — put up in 1962 as a segregationist sneer at the nation’s embrace of civil rights — is taken down. It is fairly well known — albeit generally unreported — that the flag is displayed outside bars and restaurants throughout the South where blacks are not welcome.

But the tide has started to turn. According to polls, a majority of South Carolinians favor removing the flag from the Capitol. On Jan. 17, William Bennett, secretary of education under former President Bush, said on CNN: “Although there were great individuals who fought for the Confederacy, and their individual memory should be honored, what the flag stood for was slavery and separation from the Union. And that, I think, is not something to be flown or to be hailed or to be saluted.”

Last Wednesday, the South Carolina Senate passed a bill to remove the flag from the Capitol dome as well as from House and Senate chambers. During the debate, African-American tennis player Serena Williams honored the NAACP boycott, withdrawing from the Family Circle Cup on Hilton Head Island. The boycott, which took effect on Jan. 1, is said to have already cost the state upwards of $7 million.

A five-day, 120-mile anti-flag march from Charleston to Columbia, led by Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., also brought national attention to the issue, adding to the momentum created by the 50,000 people who marched on the Capitol on Jan. 17, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. A pro-flag rally on Jan. 8 brought out 6,000 supporters, including a pro-Bush state senator, Arthur Ravenel, who referred to the NAACP as the “National Association of Retarded People.”

It is unknown whether McCain will, on Wednesday, condemn Richard Quinn, his chief South Carolina advisor, who edits a racially controversial magazine called Southern Partisan. During his campaign, McCain brushed off requests from the liberal interest group People for the American Way when it asked him to fire Quinn. According to the group, Quinn’s articles have called Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” and King a man “whose role in history was to lead his people into a perpetual dependence on the welfare state, a terrible bondage of body and soul.” In another piece, Quinn said of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, “What better way to reject politics as usual than to elect a maverick like David Duke?” though he did condemn Duke’s bigotry.

McCain lost the Feb. 19 South Carolina primary in a bruising and ugly battle with Bush, who made his first campaign stop in the state at Bob Jones University, where Catholic-bashing is dogma and interracial dating was banned. It was an appropriate first stop for Bush, who resorted to gay-baiting, Jew-baiting and race-baiting tactics against McCain. The tactics worked for Bush, who won the primary by overwhelmingly carrying the Christian conservative vote, though he lost every other demographic group.

Bush himself did not take a stand on the flag, though, slyly, his wife, Laura, publicly stated that she does not believe the flag is racist. In the closing days of the South Carolina primary, a spontaneously generated political action committee — the Keep It Flying PAC — blanketed the state with anti-McCain leaflets containing the Laura Bush quote. The McCain campaign has long charged the Bush campaign with directly coordinating the birth and activities of the Keep It Flying PAC. Any such link to the PAC would constitute a federal crime, but none has been established, and the Bush campaign has repeatedly denied any linkage.

McCain has said he was dismayed by Bush’s campaign, which orchestrated third-party assaults on him, his personal life, his wife and even his adopted Bangladeshi daughter. McCain did not respond in kind except with some controversial phone calls in Michigan that intimated that Bush was cozying up to bigots.

Thrust into his new role as the Republican anti-bigot, McCain embraced an inclusive campaign. But behind closed doors, he expressed regrets at his reticence and told aides that he should have taken a stand.

This isn’t an entirely new evolution for McCain. Having, as a member of the House, initially opposed the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, McCain later offered a mea culpa, did a 180-degree turn on the issue and lobbied Arizona legislators to pass the holiday when it was up for a state vote.

In a Feb. 9 “Hardball” interview with Chris Matthews, McCain compared his evolution to that of one of his political heroes, former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. “I believe that Barry Goldwater, to start with, regretted his vote on the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” McCain said. “I think that Barry grew, like all of us grow and evolve. In 1983, when I was brand-new in the Congress, I voted against the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King. That was a mistake, OK? And later I had the chance to … help fight for … the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King as a holiday in my state.”

As McCain returns Wednesday to the state that handed him one of the ugliest presidential primary losses in history, he will try a similar maneuver. No doubt critics on both sides will bash him — for political expediency and for too little too late. But by now McCain’s skin, at least when it comes to South Carolina politics, may be pretty thick.

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>