Mitt Romney Tells South Carolina To Remove The Confederate Flag, But Not All Republicans Agree

The chorus of voices criticizing the state of South Carolina for flying the Confederate flag over its statehouse just got a little louder, and it came from an unexpected source. In a tweet sent out Saturday morning, former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag, calling it "a symbol of racial hatred" to many people.

It's the kind of sentiment that might make you roll your eyes, considering it's coming now rather than in 2012, when Romney was truly in a position to effect the Republican Party's standards on this issue. But it's worth noting that this isn't the first time he's voiced this view — he went on record against the Confederate flag during his 2008 presidential campaign, which ultimately saw him lose the nomination to Arizona's Senator John McCain (McCain, to his credit, also opposed it, after failing to do so in his 2000 presidential campaign).

During a 2007 Republican primary debate, as NBC News details, Romney flatly condemned the flag, calling it "not a flag I recognize," "divisive," and saying it "shouldn't be shown." His specific choice of words was even more direct on Saturday, however, confronting the flag's racist legacy more directly.

It's in that choice of words that you see the difference most clearly, between the presidential contender Romney on the stump, and the ex-politico who cares nothing for the early primary state status of South Carolina.

Suffice it to say, telling a crowd of South Carolina conservatives that you think the flag shouldn't be flown is one thing, but openly acknowledging it as a "symbol of racial hate" is quite another. He leaned into the condemnation harder than was probably necessary for him to make the case, and it likely says something that he did so.

Perhaps he earnestly feels strongly about this, and knows as the last nominee that he can force a conversation on the current GOP field? Or maybe he simply senses a changing conversation coming? Or maybe both! In any case, it's kind of refreshing, even if you're not keen to spare any positive vibes for Mitt Romney.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Some people who are in the race, however, haven't exactly sparkled on this question. South Carolina's own Senator Lindsey Graham, one of a slew of Republicans running for the White House in 2016, has come out in the flag's continuing defense. Speaking in the aftermath of the harrowing Charleston, South Carolina black church shooting on Wednesday, Graham said the following to CNN:

It works here, that's what the statehouse agreed to do. You could probably visit other places in the country near some symbol that doesn't quite strike you right.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

He's joined on the issue by GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who also ran in 2008, against Romney and McCain. As detailed by the Huffington Post, Huckabee made his views on the flag pretty obvious back then, by way of a crude joke during a campaign rally.

You don't like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag. ... If somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell them what to do with the pole. That's what we'd do.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As you can see, whatever you think of Mitt Romney, this kind of candor isn't always easy to come by (although Jeb Bush also weighed in on Saturday, expressing the hope that South Carolina will eventually do the "right thing" and remove it). May as well enjoy it when you get the chance, right?

Images: Getty Images (3)