Jeb Bush’s Clear Record on the Confederate Flag

While many Republicans stumble to find a comfortable position, Bush can point to his past. As governor, he permanently lowered the flag in Florida.

Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spoke during the Faith & Freedom Coalition's conference on Friday morning, before the threat was reported.
National Journal
S.V. Dáte
Add to Briefcase
S.V. Dáte
June 22, 2015, 12:11 p.m.

As Republican presidential contenders scramble to adjust to the shifting politics of the Confederate flag debate in South Carolina, one candidate can point back to his own actions on the issue more than a decade ago.

With neither warning nor fanfare, then-Gov. Jeb Bush unilaterally removed the Confederate “Stainless Banner” from the grounds of the Florida Capitol in early 2001. It had flown alongside the French, Spanish, and British ensigns, all of which had at various points controlled Florida. All the flags and their poles had come down for some renovation work, and when it was completed, the flags were instead sent a few blocks away to the Florida Museum of History.

Richard Lee, from the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Florida Division, still hasn’t forgiven him.

“He’s a typical Yankee,” Lee, now 75, told National Journal. “Coming down to the South and trying to tell us how to run things.”

Bush, who is actually a native of Midland, Texas, explained his decision at a Black History Month reception at the Florida Governor’s Mansion two weeks after Confederate groups noticed the flag was gone and started complaining. “I thought it was appropriate to take those flags down and put them in the museum where people can appreciate our heritage, but not have them fly as a symbol of what we are today as a state,” he said at the time.

Bush last week officially declared his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. In 1998, when he won the governorship for the first time, he won double-digit support from black voters. Some of that support evaporated in early 2000 after Bush’s controversial executive order to replace affirmative action programs with race-neutral policies that were nevertheless designed to increase minority participation in state contracts and state universities.

Bush’s history is back in the news following his Facebook post on the Confederate flag controversy that has flared up in South Carolina. Nine African Americans were gunned down at a Charleston church last week, and the accused killer is a white supremacist who posted images of himself with the Confederate flag.

“My position on how to address the Confederate flag is clear. In Florida, we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged,” Bush wrote. “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.”

By “we” in his statement, Bush actually meant “I.” His action was taken without consulting the Florida Legislature or the elected Cabinet. He did, however, get the concurrence of then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris, whose department ran the state museums.

Bush’s flag decision came a year after a Confederate flag controversy, again in South Carolina, dogged his brother’s presidential campaign in 2000. George W. Bush declared then that it was an issue for the people of that state. That was the year South Carolina moved the Confederate flag from the top of the state Capitol onto its own flagpole across the street.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Lee was among three dozen protesters who marched from the Tallahassee Capitol to the Governor’s Mansion in June 2001, chanting “Put the flag back” and singing “Dixie.”

“He was in the house, but he wouldn’t come out and talk to us,” Lee said of Bush. “I thought that was pretty cowardly”¦. We weren’t going to shoot him or nothing. We just wanted to talk to him and raise our concerns.”

Lee said he is a sixth-generation Floridian whose family owned slaves, and claimed that slaves for the most part had it better than today’s low-wage workers, who have to find housing and food for themselves. He acknowledged that some owners mistreated their slaves, just as some farmers mistreat their equipment, like tractors, today.

Lee, though, said that despite Bush’s actions in 2001, he still voted for him in his 2002 reelection because Bush had visited New Smyrna Speedway, near Lee’s home, during that campaign. “I never shook a governor’s hand before,” he said.

What We're Following See More »
SEX WOULD BE CONSIDERED BINARY
HHS Could Nix Title IX Protections for Transgender Students
50 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"The Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times. The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined 'on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.' The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with."

Source:
SAYS HIS DEATH STEMMED FROM A FISTFIGHT
Saudis Admit Khashoggi Killed in Embassy
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Saudi Arabia said Saturday that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist who disappeared more than two weeks ago, had died after an argument and fistfight with unidentified men inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Eighteen men have been arrested and are being investigated in the case, Saudi state-run media reported without identifying any of them. State media also reported that Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence officials had been dismissed."

Source:
ROGER STONE IN THE CROSSHAIRS?
Mueller Looking into Ties Between WikiLeaks, Conservative Groups
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is scrutinizing how a collection of activists and pundits intersected with WikiLeaks, the website that U.S. officials say was the primary conduit for publishing materials stolen by Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller’s team has recently questioned witnesses about the activities of longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, including his contacts with WikiLeaks, and has obtained telephone records, according to the people familiar with the matter."

Source:
PROBING COLLUSION AND OBSTRUCTION
Mueller To Release Key Findings After Midterms
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections ... Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice." Mueller has faced pressure to wrap up the investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, said an official, who would receive the results of the investigation and have "some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released," if he remains at his post.

Source:
PASSED ON SO-CALLED "SAR" REPORTS
FinCen Official Charged with Leaking Info on Manafort, Gates
2 days ago
THE DETAILS
"A senior official working for the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has been charged with leaking confidential financial reports on former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort, Richard Gates and others to a media outlet. Prosecutors say that Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior adviser to FinCEN, photographed what are called suspicious activity reports, or SARs, and other sensitive government files and sent them to an unnamed reporter, in violation of U.S. law."
Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login