The Note: Confederate Flag Decision Shines a Spotlight on Nikki Haley

ByABC News
June 23, 2015, 9:11 AM



--NIKKI HALEY LEADS 'MOMENT OF UNITY': Yesterday GOP South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the state capitol in the wake of the racially-charged killing of nine churchgoers in a historic Charleston congregation, ABC's MEGHAN KENEALLY reports. "Today we are here in a moment of unity... without ill will to say it's time to move the flag from capitol grounds," she said, and was met with applause. The removal of the flag from the lawn of the government building, if it is approved by the legislature, would have no effect on those who wish to fly it on their own private property, Haley said. Many respect the flag as a reminder of ancestors who died in the Civil War, noting that such feelings do not represent "hate nor is it racism. At the same time, for many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past," she said. "We do not need to declare a winner and a loser here," she said.

--HERE'S WHERE THE GOP CANDIDATES STAND ON THE FLAG: The 2016 presidential candidates have been asked to weigh in on whether the flag should be removed from the grounds, prompting some to call for its immediate removal while others have said it's a decision left to the people of South Carolina. Here's where each stands on the issue, courtesy of ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ:

--ANALYSIS -- ABC's RICK KLEIN: In a 2016 field with no clear frontrunner, yet no shortage of candidates, it took a non-candidate to recognize a major national moment and, well, lead. Gov. Nikki Haley did what governors and leaders more broadly seek to do all the time -- to unite, to push forward, and to heal, all in the wake of unspeakable tragedy. Yes, this raises her veepstakes stock. But that's almost secondary to the example she set. She managed to drain the politics out of a charged debate over the Confederate flag that's been popping up for longer than she's been alive. She consulted with national and state leaders in both parties to a degree that she could appear with both Democrats and Republicans in announcing her new position. She cut through a muddled, half-hearted set of responses from 2016ers and now sees them drafting behind her leadership. Out of a tragic story, this is politics at its best -- not as pejorative but as a force for the positive.


OBAMA TO DELIVER EULOGY FOR CLEMENTA PICKNEY: President Obama is expected to travel to Charleston, South Carolina Friday to deliver the eulogy for slain pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in a mass shooting at a historic church there. First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will also travel to South Carolina for the funeral, according to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ and JORDYN PHELPS. President Obama and the first lady personally knew Pinckney, first meeting him during the president's 2008 campaign.

HAPPENING TODAY: Presidential candidate Donald Trump will headline the Maryland Republican Party's 25th Annual Red, White and Blue Dinner tonight in Baltimore.

MEET JIM OBERGEFELL: THE MAN BEHIND THE SUPREME COURT SAME-SEX MARRIAGE CASE. Jim Obergefell's case will affect the marriage laws under which about 200 million Americans live, but the reason he sued his home state of Ohio was very personal: To make state bureaucracy recognize him as the widower of his late partner of 21 years, John Arthur. They were legally married in Maryland just a few months before John died in 2013 -- but in 2004, Ohio voters had amended their state constitution to prohibit gay marriage from being "valid in or recognized by" the Buckeye State. In April, Obergefell's lawyer argued his case before the Supreme Court, which could issue its opinion as soon as this week, ABC's ADAM TEICHOLZ notes.

OBAMA DOESN'T REGRET USING THE N-WORD. President Obama did not plan to use the n-word in his interview with comedian Marc Maron, but he doesn't regret the word choice either, ABC's JORDYN PHELPS reports. "As is as evident from the conversation, it was a free-flowing conversation," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told ABC'S JON KARL at Monday's press briefing. "It was pretty wide-ranging, and there was no decision made on the part of anybody here at the White House that we are going to capitalize on this audio interview from somebody's garage in California, that this would be an opportune time for him to get this particular point off his chest." Although the president's word choice was unconventional in the interview on Maron's "WTF" podcast, Earnest said, the point he was making was "entirely consistent" with a message he has made numerous times on race relations -- that although much progress has been made in recent decades, "we're not cured" of the "legacy of slavery" and Jim Crow.

GOP CANDIDATES VOW TO RETURN DONATIONS FROM WHITE SUPREMACIST LEADER. Three Republican candidates for president, Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and former Sen. Rick Santorum said yesterday they would return or donate thousands of dollars possibly linked to the head of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a white supremacist group. The group was cited in a purported manifesto believed linked to the suspect in last week's massacre at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, ABC's BEN GITTLESON and ARLETTE SAENZ report. The head of that group, Earl Holt, appears to have made contributions to several Republican candidates for president over the past several years or their political action committees, including Cruz, of Texas, Paul, of Kentucky, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, as well as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and other prominent Republicans.


SUPREME COURT JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN GEEKS OUT. Elena Kagan's spidey senses are tingling. The Supreme Court justice penned an opinion released yesterday that ruled against a toymaker attempting to collect royalties on the Web blaster, a gadget that shoots silly string from a glove, Spider-Man style. In the 6-3 decision, the court ruled that Marvel Entertainment -- which purchased the toy's patent in 2001 for $516,000 plus 3 percent of net sales -- can continue to sell the contraption without paying additional royalties to the inventor, Stephen Kimble, because the patent is expired. Justice Kagan, 55 -- "an avid fan of comic-book-based action films," according to the "Supreme Court Review" -- had a little fun with the references to Spider-Man's alter ego, Peter Parker, ABC's ERIN DOOLEY notes. "The parties sent no end date for royalties," Kagan wrote, "apparently contemplating that they would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can)."


@sinderbrand: Look over Nikki Haley's right shoulder. Look closer. Here's why that blur matters:

@NYTNational: South Carolina to Vote on Addressing Governor's Call to Remove Confederate Flag

@USATOnPolitics: Mike Huckabee tops the list for 2016 contenders' appearances on Sunday shows so far this year

@DavidMDrucker: Don't often find @Reince active in a state issue. Explains much about GOP urgency to address Confed flag in SC:

@HooverInst: .@CondoleezzaRice urges #Congress to give Obama trade-promotion authority: #TPA @washingtonpost