Seemingly minor matters can become hot issues in a presidential campaign. Case in point: the Confederate banner waving over South Carolina's capitol.
That Southern state looms large, especially for Republicans John McCain and George W. Bush. So, perhaps inevitably, those gentlemen were given the question that has stirred South Carolinians for years: whether to keep the flag.
Five years ago, in fact, a Republican governor, David Beasley, tried to take it down because, he argued, it was time for the state to get rid of a symbol of division. The legislature, however, wouldn't let him do it.
Governor Beasley made a strong argument that his fellow Republicans now running for president should reiterate: The Confederate historical heritage can be marked in many ways, but the flag that crowns a state building ought to symbolize the values of all a state's citizens, black and white.
Taking an unequivocal stand on this may hurt the candidates with some voters. But it will help them with a broader swath of voters. And what an opportunity to show that Republicans can be sensitive on racial issues.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society