Democratic presidential contender Jim Webb, a former senator from Virginia, sought Thursday to clarify his views on the Confederate battle flag, saying it has “long been due to come down” from the capitol grounds in South Carolina.
Webb’s position was more opaque in a Facebook posting last month in which he called for respecting “the complicated history of the Civil War” at a time when emotions were running high following the shootings at an historic African American church in Charleston, S.C.
Other Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination have been far more vocal advocates of removing the flag.
During an appearance Thursday on “CBS This Morning” -- billed as Webb’s first interview since declaring as a long-shot presidential candidate last week -- he spoke approvingly of the South Carolina legislature’s overnight vote to take the flag down.
“It assumed a lot of unfortunate racist and divisionist overtones during the civil rights era,” Webb said.
He repeated several points made in his Facebook post, saying “my concern was that this would go beyond the issues of harmony and unity that we want to keep on the table and into issues that again divide us.”
Speaking again of the “very complex history of the Civil War itself,” Webb cited a statistic that only 5 percent of whites in the South owned slaves and that four slave states remained in the union during the Civil War.
“If you were a young person being called to duty during that period, this was a very complicated decision to make, and we should remember that,” Webb said.
During the interview, Webb also said that he -- unlike most other presidential contenders -- does not want the support of a super PAC. Those groups are allowed to take unlimited contributions and run independent campaigns supporting their preferred candidates, a practice that Webb said is ethically bothersome.
Webb passed on an opportunity to directly criticize the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying “I don’t have a main argument against anyone who’s running. I think we should all put our issues on the table and let the American people decide.”
He also sounded wary of ongoing negotiations with Iran, saying the United States should not “acquiesce” to a deal that would allow Iran to eventually acquire nuclear weapons.
“I don’t see that there’s a hurry here,” Webb said.