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Huckabee: Confederate flag has nothing to do with being president

By Doug G. Ware
1/9
Huckabee: Confederate flag has nothing to do with being president
The Confederate battle flag flies outside the South Carolina State House, Saturday, June 20, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Thousands of protesters showed up to show their disapproval of the flag's presence on the capitol grounds. Photo by Kevin Liles/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) -- While some 2016 White House contenders are debating the propriety of the Confederate flag flying at the South Carolina state house, there's one candidate who won't join the fray.

Speaking to NBC's Face the Nation Sunday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he won't become part of the argument because he believes it has nothing to do with running for president.

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"Everyone is 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," the Arkansas Republican told host Chuck Todd 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."

The issue has been a contentious one in the United States since the end of the Civil War, but the debate once again entered the public consciousness following Wednesday's deadly shooting rampage that killed nine at a South Carolina church. Photos of the accused gunman, who police believe is a racist, ultimately surfaced online showing him posing with a handgun and a Confederate flag.

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While he acknowledged the symbolic flag's significance in the public consciousness, Huckabee said he just doesn't believe it's a matter that should occupy the time or efforts of the person sitting in the White House.

GOP candidates Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney have all addressed the controversy within the last several days.

"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," he said.

RELATED Calls mount for removal of Confederate flag in wake of Charleston church shooting

During his last run for president in 2008, Huckabee briefly touched on the issue at a rally in Myrtle Beach -- during which he indicated that states should have the right to fly whatever flag their constituents support.

"You don't like people from outside the state coming down and telling you what to do with your flag. In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell them what to do with the pole," he said at the January 2008 rally, which was replayed for Huckabee on Meet the Press.

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"I still feel like it's not an issue for a person running for president," he replied.

RELATED 'Manifesto' found online said to be written by accused Charleston gunman

"We are asking, 'is South Carolina a racist state because of the flag that flies on their capitol grounds?'" he continued. "Here's what I can tell you. As a frequent visitor to South Carolina, this is a state that, largely, white people elected a female governor of Indian descent, and the first-ever African-American United States senator from the South."

"I don't think you could say that the presence of one lunatic racist, who everybody in this country feels contempt for and no one is defending, is somehow evidence of the people of South Carolina," Huckabee said.

One of Huckabee's Republican opponents, Rick Santorum, also said on ABC News' This Week Sunday that the issue isn't relevant to presidential candidates.

"Like everybody else, I have my opinion," he said. "But I think the opinion of people here in South Carolina and having them work through this difficulty is much more important than politicizing it."

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