At a time when passions had cooled over proposals to remove the historic Confederate battle flag from atop South Carolina's Statehouse, Gov. David Beasley enflamed them anew, seeking "compromise."
A compromise, no matter how formulated, means the flag comes down. Such a plan, to relocate the banner to a ground-level Rebel memorial, was forged in 1994 by the state Senate, but died in the House. Beasley at that time promised to keep the flag where it is. Why did he flip-flop?
One major factor is heat from the business community. "Let's don't rock the boat" Chamber of Commerce types claim the flag hurts economic development. So, where's the evidence? South Carolina, as the governor boasts, is one of the most successful industrial recruiters in the nation.
Other reasons for Beasley's switch, which angers many in his Republican Party, is that his Civil Rights Commission couldn't get past the flag issue, particularly after two Klansmen were charged recently with shooting black patrons at a Pelion nightclub.
Yet, as state Attorney General Charlie Condon points out, the proper response to hate crimes is to "take down the hate groups, (which is not done) by offending those who revere the Confederate flag."
Another problem for Beasley is that he stepped into the flag briar-patch without doing his homework. The pro- and anti-flag groups who put together the '94 compromise are both having second thoughts. Flag backers, with justification, feel the opponents' real agenda is to erase all Confederate cultural symbols.
This was given credence when state Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Columbia, who backed the '94 plan, turned down Beasley's bid to fly the flag at a busy Columbia intersection. "We don't want it on Gervais Street flying in our face," snapped the black lawmaker.
The governor is now out on a limb, plugging for a compromise none of the principal parties are interested in. Maybe legislative leaders can bring the two sides back together again in January.
If that fails, though, and Beasley continues to divide the GOP, he could face tough gubernatorial primary opposition in two years.
Having campaigned as a "read my lips" supporter of the Confederate flag, he opens himself to the kind of charges that ultimately brought down George Bush's presidency.
When will conservatives learn that appeasement never wins them new friends on the Left? it only loses them friends on the Right.