- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

Democratic presidential candidate Richard A. Gephardt has softened his opinion on the Confederate battle flag and now says it is acceptable to fly the flag on private property.
During a campaign swing through South Carolina in January, Mr. Gephardt said the flag should not be flown "anytime, anywhere." However, on Saturday in his home state of Missouri, Mr. Gephardt limited his opposition of the flag to public places.
"My position is clear: I think it's inappropriate to fly the Confederate flag in public places," Mr. Gephardt said.
"It's a hurtful, divisive symbol in our country, and it just shouldn't be in public places. They're free to do whatever they want in private property."
Mr. Gephardt told the Associated Press that he intended his statement to apply only to flag displays on public property, because "that's what the issue was in South Carolina."
Flying the Confederate flag has become an issue in many states and was a major factor last year in Georgia's gubernatorial election, where incumbent Democrat Roy Barnes lost his re-election bid to Sonny Perdue, who became the state's first Republican governor in 130 years.
On Friday, Mr. Perdue repeated his campaign promise to allow a statewide vote on whether to restore the Confederate battle cross to its former prominence on the state flag. Under pressure from Mr. Barnes, the state General Assembly changed the flag two years ago, angering Georgians who say the Confederate emblem represents their Southern heritage.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People opposes the restoration of the battle emblem and is boycotting South Carolina, where the flag is displayed at a Confederate memorial on the Statehouse grounds.
Mississippi held a referendum on the use of the Confederate symbol in its state flag two years ago. Despite an aggressive and well-funded campaign by opponents of the Confederate emblem, Mississippians voted to retain the 1894 design by a 2-to-1 margin.
In Oklahoma, the state Legislature is considering a bill to relocate 14 flags including the first national flag of the Confederacy, known as the "Stars and Bars" from the state Capitol to the Oklahoma History Center. The House voted unanimously on the move Thursday, and the measure now moves to the state Senate.
The flag is displayed in the old House chamber of the Alabama state Capitol, where state leaders decided to secede from the Union in 1861. Black lawmakers complained about its continued presence last week, and at least one black lawmaker walked out on Gov. Bob Riley's first State of the State address Tuesday.
Shortly after Mr. Gephardt made the January comments on the flag in South Carolina, it was reported that Confederate flags had been removed from two Missouri historic sites the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site in Higginsville and Fort Davidson.
The news sparked numerous complaints and protests at the governor's mansion. Mr. Gephardt's spokesman said at the time that Mr. Gephardt thought the flags at the state-run facilities should be removed.
Missouri Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, has defended the state's decision to remove the flags in spite of a poll that shows two-thirds of Missourians supported flying the Southern banners.
Mr. Holden was criticized in an editorial in the Missourian for creating a "divisive issue" in the state.
"The Civil War is part of this nation's history. The Confederate flag is part of our history. What is wrong with displaying the flag at Civil War sites along with the American flag?" the editorial said.
As Mr. Gephardt entered a Democratic banquet in Hannibal on Saturday night, he paused on his way to the podium to wave. Three men stood from their seats at a table beside him and waved back with small Confederate flags.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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