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Both Campaigns Address Confederate Flag

The Confederate flag may be the third rail of Virginia politics.

Plenty of people are offended by it and think any candidate who fails to refute it entirely embraces Virginia's racist past. Plenty of people believe it's a symbol of their heritage and would disown any candidate who said otherwise.

The vociferousness of Bob McDonnell's campaign's reaction to the suggestion that his staffers flew the flag at their booth at a sportsman's show (Not our flag! We're appalled at the suggestion!) got us wondering: Does that mean McDonnell believes there's something wrong with the flag and believes it should not be flown?

Likewise, the tweet from Deeds' campaign manager Joe Abbey directing people to the photo had us wondering the same about Deeds, especially given that he told the House of Delegates in 1999 that he had a picture of the flag on his wall as a child.

We asked both campaigns Wednesday afternoon the same question: Does your candidate believe it is ever appropriate to fly the Confederate flag?

Neither campaign answered the question fully. The McDonnell campaign said their campaign does not display Confederate flags. The Deeds campaign said their candidate does not believe the flag should be a part of official displays of the commonwealth. Neither camp said whether they believe the flag's display is ever appropriate.

Here are their full comments, delivered via email.

From Tucker Martin, spokesman for McDonnell:

This issue has arisen because Creigh Deeds' flailing campaign tried to launch another divisive attack, this time over an intentionally misrepresented photograph. Proven wrong, the Deeds' campaign was once again exposed as being completely unable to address the important issues of top concern to the voters. Bob McDonnell does not own a Confederate flag. The campaign does not display Confederate flags. Once again, Bob McDonnell is the only candidate talking about jobs, the economy, public safety, transportation, education and government reform. We will continue to stay focused on jobs, the economy, public safety, transportation, education and government reform. And we will leave the errant, divisive, and distracting attacks to Creigh Deeds.

From Mo Elliethee, a Deeds spokesman, addressing the candidate's 1999 remarks and his position on the flag:

Creigh spoke on the floor that day and explained that the Confederate battle flag is a symbol of pride and heritage to some and hatred and great pain to others. The point of his speech was that an official symbol of the commonwealth should unite people and not divide them. He believes the flag should not be a part of an official display of the Commonwealth.

-- Rosalind Helderman

By Washington Post Editors  |  August 12, 2009; 10:56 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Nice job making an issue out of a non-issue, Deeds camp. First abortion, now taking on the Confederate flag--- Deeds talking about social issues (or tweeting about them) and McDonnell talking about the economy and jobs. Seriously- who would have thought this would happen w/someone wanting to be like Warner and Kaine?

Posted by: ChrisD4 | August 12, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Both campaigns are cowardly. Racism is about ignorance and for our communities to still pander to the ignorant middle is saddening and maddening. Yes it's part of Virginia history, but not it's present or future.

Shame on both campaigns.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | August 12, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Everyone knows that some forms of Racism are alive and well in Virginia. What proves the fact are the People who claim its heritage! That flag shows nothing more than ignorance, Racism, and folks who support it have deep seeded issues. This flag has no course in the growth of America today and should be burned Nation wide. However, this should not be a big issue in a struggling economy. The key issues should be jobs and ways of strengthening the economy of Virginia! Any Candidate not speaking on actions toward the Economy has no true grounds to be Governor of Virginia!

Posted by: ifordc | August 12, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

So, the most important things in Virginia are: guns, abortion, an outdated flag? Good luck.

Posted by: jckdoors | August 12, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see either a video clip or a transcript of Creigh Deeds's 1999 comments, in full. Given the pace of the General Assembly, I'm sure it would not be all that long, maybe a minute or two. Realistically, I guess 1999 is "so long ago" in digital terms that a written transcript is more likely. Can the Post provide it or a link to it?

From the excerpt quoted or referred to here, it sounds thoughtful and interesting, respecting Virginians' very different views of this flag, views I have seen in my own circle of friends and colleagues. It would be nice to see his comments for myself, though. I agree with his conclusion that it is best not displayed as representing all of Virginia, or on official occasions.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | August 12, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Once again the Post is missing the real issue here - that Bob McDonnell was reaching out to an important block of voters - sportsmen and women. Deeds and his campaign was noticeably absent from the event. And, someone associated with the Deeds campaign is trying to cover that mistake by making an issue out of something that was intentionally misrepresented. Sportsmen should ask themselves why their vote was not important enough for Deeds and his campaign to seek during this weekend long event and why a high level staff member dismissed the event as "gun show."

Posted by: vssapresident | August 12, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Folks, here's the issue that I wish the Washington Post would address. Deeds campaign knew the flag did not belong to McDonnell (or should have certainly looked into it and did not), but the campaign manager made that assertion anyways to stir up an issue that has a lot do with race. If McDonnell's campaign had done something similar- stirred up a racially charged controversy based on, at best, an assumption and at worst, a lie, it would be a big deal. But rather, the Post doesn't address this and uses the incident to talk about the meaning of the flag, the candidates views, etc. There is a hypocrisy when dealing with both parties by the media on social issues like race. Deeds camp should not get a free pass for trying to make an issue out of this.

Posted by: ChrisD4 | August 12, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Yes, ignoramuses display the Confederate flag in my beloved Commonwealth. Yes, Virginia allowed Prince Edward County to close public schools during the days of blatant resistance to integration. Yes, Macaca Allen displayed a rebel flag and a noose in his office. Anyone of any significance knows that the rebel flag is offensive and connotes a time when equal rights were not conveyed to our black brothers and sisters. In 2009, we Virginians have moved forward and accept that the rebel flag is obnoxious to many. Those that continue to display this talisman of hate are simply - ignorant.

Posted by: britwit1 | August 12, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

To the partisans here: When should the Confederate flag be flown? NEVER. Those who created it fought to break-up the Union!

Posted by: AMviennaVA | August 12, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"Does your candidate believe it is ever appropriate to fly the Confederate flag?"

Sure it is. Else, how would you know, during a Civil War reenactment, which side was which?

Posted by: hooligansteve | August 12, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Why not hang the Nazi flag too? Along with the black panthers. Would that be OK with Virginians?

Posted by: ged0386 | August 12, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I think they should fly the Nation of Islam flag along with a flag with a picture of Rev Louis Farrakhan outside the VA courthouse. As long as we are talking about sensitivity.

Posted by: ged0386 | August 12, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

In other news, groups rallied around a suggestion that all evidence of the United States' native Americans be obliterated, as they too lost a war with the federals.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | August 12, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Are you people really from Virginia?
Not a lot of history majors on board today huh? I wonder how many tourist dollars were poured into the Commonwealth just in the last decade from people visiting Virginia's museums and battlefields to explore OUR HISTORY-like it or not.

This was injected into the Gubernatorial race to get an emotional reaction.
I guess that kind of crap still works.

Posted by: menopausequeen | August 12, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Hey Curmudgeon.

Terrible analogy. The Native Americans did not commit treason by seceding. the Confederate flag is a reminder of the failed, despicable antebellem South. Too bad we let them back in after we kicked their lazy butts. I say we do it again and kick 'em out. The CSA wouldn't last a year. Laziness and ignorance doesn't work anywhere but the Republican party.

Posted by: bflorhodes | August 12, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

bflorhodes: "Laziness and ignorance doesn't work anywhere but the Republican party."

Deeds campaign was lazy and ignorant to accuse their opponent of flying the Confederate flag. Period. Your comment is the exact type of attitude that turns so many off to both parties. There are equal amounts of ignorance and laziness in both parties.

Posted by: ChrisD4 | August 12, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Time for a history lesson-

1. The States in the South seceeded over "States Rights" vs a perceived overly intrusive form of government.

2. Although slavery existed in the South, it extended into non-seceeding States such as Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, to name a few states.

3. That during the War Between the States (WBTS), the non-seceeding states that had slavery, were allowed to continue the practice.

4. That although General Robert E. Lee manumitted his slaves at the outset of the WBTS, General's Grant, Sherman, other Union officers and Members of Congress, kept their slaves until the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

5. Blacks owned slaves (see "Dunkerhook Community"), Hispanics, Native Americans as well as White people. This was a case of using people as chattel for anual labor. Clearly a moral issue.

6. The importation of slaves, from the African continent, to the Colonies ended, long before the ratification of the US Constitution.

7. The acquisition of slaves came from the natives of the African continent, who had "prisoners of war." This created a moral dilemma and posed the question, is it better to be executed or to live the rest of one's life as a slave, with the potential of freedom?

8. Lincoln's post-war plans for the slave population was to either, ship them back to Africa, ship them to Texas or ship them out to Central America.

9. President Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina Davis had adopted a son was African-American.

10. this "Antebellum south" is a Hollyweird fairy tale, since seven out of ten people fighting for the Confederacy didn't own slaves.

Folks, some people take a flag and look at it from a historical perspective. Others try to make it out for something it isn't.

Whether it is the Union's Stars & Stripes or the Confederacy's Stars & Bars from the "First National" or "The Banner", people will always find a way to twist things into something that wasn't.

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | August 12, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

First, at issue here is not the display of the rarely seen flag of the Confederate States of America.

The fabric which riles its opponents and rallies its advocates is the Confederate BATTLE flag and it was born in what is now Fairfax City, Virginia.

The War Between the States, War for Southern Independence, War of Northern Aggression, and of course, the Civil War, has long been over.

Folks who want to display the Confederate Battle flag should be allowed to do so.

Ditto for those who want to make a statement supporting the X of Malcom X.

As the computer expert has ably stated elsewhere, the war was not fought to free the slaves.

That was added later.

Those advocating the Confederate cause should acknowledge, however, that the CSA was not a progressive nation. The southerners favored property over personal liberty.

Posted by: jbartelloni | August 12, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

The Confederacy was made up of a bunch of racist terrorists who hated America so much that they tried to form their own country. Would McDonnell or Creigh Deeds come out in favor of Osama Bin Laden or David Duke?

Posted by: alc0f7 | August 12, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

bflorhodes you are a dolt !!

You should try to go read up on how Lincoln and Grant felt about the south at the end of the war, dont think they would share your sentiment.

Laziness only works in Government supported positions and welfare. Sorry, doesnt work in the Republic Party, nor is it prevalent in the south... More common in Washington DC than anyplace I have ever lived. You are such a bigot and prove it by stereotyping southerners as lazy and ignorant. If I were you I would look inside myself for a true demonstration of ignorance!

Posted by: John-from-far-away | August 12, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Right on "vssapresident"! As of late, Deeds' camp has been fast, digging itself a grave -- The visible absence of Deeds' campaign from the referred event smacks of premature lethargy.
(Isn't it a little too early for the campaign blues?)

Posted by: bava84 | August 12, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

I agree that the lack of knowledge about History is appalling as evidenced here in a lot of these comments. Of course there has been several generations now since the so called Civil War. History is taught by the victors and promoted by their press. This history has been taught in public schools for generations now. Tell a lie long enough and it will become fact. It is easy to post emotional ignorant comments. Ignorance means that yes you are ignorant to the facts in this case. Unfortunately, it is the state of education in the U.S. not only concerning this war, but History period of any kind in general. I'll not debate the ignorant, nor be emotional. I will challenge you to become much more knowledgeable about what I call the War for Southern Independence.

Posted by: rmills40 | August 13, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand why the Post keeps making Deeds' campaign seem to be all about hot-button issues when it CLEARLY is not---him pointing to the RECORD of McDonnell as being EXACTLY that does NOT mean that this is what Deeds is all about. His campaign is simply trying to make sure the truth about Bob McDonnell's record is told....since the press is obviously not doing their job in telling it---no they appear all too ready to swallow the consultant and advisor generated (but false) meme that Bob McDonnell is suddenly a suburban-focused moderate who REALLY cares about good schools, adequate transportation planning and implementation (inlcuding even mass transit!)....yeah right, and there's a bridge in Brooklyn people.

Those who have paid attention to politics in Virginia since the Allen-Gilmore days full-well know the score, and know the real Bob McDonnell....he is not a moderate who will put the needs of Virginia first, and that's what Deeds' campaign has been pointing too....

Creigh talks mostly about education as his mother was a teacher, and the fact that McDonnell is proposing TAKING $500M from VA education spending and moving it to transportation....ok great, so let's rob Peter to pay Paul....if he seriously thinks suburban voters will back this, he's wrong.

The REAL issue in this race is this: is Virginia really ready to abandon her late commitment and devotion to solving the real issues and problems of the state, and going back to irresponsible budgeting, defunding education and not solving the transportation planning and implementation (and maintenance) shortfalls in any real discernible way.....I think the obvious answer is that no, Virginia wants to maintain the tradition of governance firmly established by Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

If voters are paying attention, they will know that Creigh Deeds is the right choice to maintain this legacy and firmly responsible stewardship of Virignia government.

Posted by: DouginMountVernon | August 13, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

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