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GOP govs weigh in at Aspen on pot, hate and Trump

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Removing the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House was a decision made easy by the actions of families of the nine victims of the Charleston shooting last month, the state governor told an Aspen audience Tuesday night.

Gov. Nikki Haley was credited with handling the potentially explosive situation with “skill and grace,” according to Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson during an annual event called, “A Conversation with Republican Governors.”

But Haley credited the families with defusing the situation and providing motivation to remove the flag, which had evolved into a symbol of hatred to many people.

Haley said 11 people met for Bible study in Charleston last month and welcomed Dylann Roof into their church.

“When they were faced with the murder, they showed our state and our country what it meant to forgive.”Gov. Nikki Haley on the families of the victims of the Charleston shooting

“They accepted someone that didn’t look like them, didn’t act like them, and they accepted him and prayed with him for an hour,” Haley said. “That love and acceptance was so powerful that it gave a grace to the families.

“When they were faced with the murder, they showed our state and our country what it meant to forgive,” Haley continued. “That forgiveness was so overwhelming that the compassion across the state of South Carolina and the compassion across this country hit a chord we had not dealt with in a long time. So there weren’t protests, there were vigils. There weren’t arguments, there were hugs. And all of that compassion motivated people so much that it led to action.

“That is why last Friday saw the Confederate flag come down off the State House Grounds in South Carolina,” Haley concluded, drawing applause from hundreds in the audience packed into the Greenwald Pavilion.

Roof is accused of fatally shooting nine of the members of the Bible study. He is an avowed white supremacist who allegedly said he wanted to start a race war. Online images show him with a gun and the Confederate flag sometime prior to the shootings.

Isaacson posed a handful of questions to Haley, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory in what’s become an annual event the coincides with the Republican Governors Association conference in Aspen. Democratic governors will be interviewed next month during their conference.

Haley had stirring comments again when an audience member asked for the governors’ opinions on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. Haley said “most” of the 17 candidates are “fantastic.” She said Trump is a friend of hers, but she doesn’t support his early stumping on the campaign trail.

“I’m disappointed in him because he’s attacked everybody personally,” she said.

Haley later said Trump is creating a “combative tone.” The Republican Party needs a candidate who can welcome all people into the fold if it is going to win the White House, she said.

The governors were all put on the hot seat when asked how they would feel about legalization of marijuana in their states.

Ducey credited someone else with coming up with a great quote about no state getting stronger by getting stoned. As the son of a cop and father of three young sons, he is opposed to legalization.

“It just doesn’t strike me as a very good idea,” he said.

McCrory said what’s happening with marijuana is “glorifying a drug too much” without understanding how it could affect the brain, particularly of youth.

Haley said all governors are watching what is happening in Colorado and Washington, the two states that have implemented retail sales of marijuana. South Carolina has approved medical marijuana sales. She said she wants to take the advice of Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper and see how issues evolve with retail sales of marijuana and learn.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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