The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Haley Barbour, Coming to a Conclusion About What He Really Wants


For much of this week, I’ll be on the road – returning from an Easter getaway and then heading to Pittsburgh for coverage of the annual National Rifle Association Convention. But fear not – neither rain nor sleet nor heat nor multi-leg journeys with flights with sterling 50 to 60 percent on-time records will prevent the Jolt from being written each morning. From this morning’s edition:

Haley, Haley, The Gangs All Here, But He’s Not Running

Life is not fair. Haley Barbour deserved to be evaluated as a potential president by what he’s done as a governor and what he could do for the country as a president. Instead, his brief time as a potential candidate was marked by cheap Boss Hogg jokes and all-too-casual accusations of racism.

Actual headline of a Newsweek profile of Barbour: “Fat Redneck for President.”

Sure, Barbour used the term, jokingly, to refer to himself. I have my doubts that he wanted that self-effacing term to become the headline. There’s something tone-deaf about this type of coverage. Self-deprecating humor is A) reassuring to all (if the joke-teller is laughing at himself, he’s clearly okay with others laughing at his foibles) and B) a sign of confidence. Anyone who’s genuinely sensitive or insecure about their flaws can’t joke about them. If someone makes fun of themselves and you attempt to jump in and mock them… you just come across as a jerk. There was a high-profile example of this at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner a few years ago, when George W. Bush appeared side-by-side with impersonator Steve Bridges in full Bush makeup, who offered an uncensored version of his thoughts (“I have to pretend I like being here,” referring to Vice President Cheney as “the great white hunter”). The routine killed. That evening he was followed by Stephen Colbert, who told Bush jokes and generally got very mixed reviews. It’s like watching Don Rickles mock Jeff Foxworthy’s redneck roots – he’s already told all the good jokes on that topic.

Yes, Newsweek, that’s what matters about the man: His weight and his home state.  Kids, you may not believe it, but Newsweek was once a real magazine, distinguishable from Wonkette.

The word from the man himself: “I will not be a candidate for president next year. This has been a difficult, personal decision, and I am very grateful to my family for their total support of my going forward, had that been what I decided. “Hundreds of people have encouraged me to run and offered both to give and raise money for a presidential campaign.  Many volunteers have organized events in support of my pursuing the race.  Some have dedicated virtually full time to setting up preliminary organizations in critical, early states and to helping plan what has been several months of intensive activity. “I greatly appreciate each and every one of them and all their outstanding efforts.  If I have disappointed any of them in this decision, I sincerely regret it. “A candidate for president today is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else.  His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate.  I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required.”

Dan McLaughlin at RedState describes the decision before Barbour, and perhaps inadvertently raises the question of why any self-respecting man of accomplishment and stature would sign on for the abuse: “If there is one thing we should have learned from the 2008 primary and general elections, to say nothing of 1996, it’s that being a good presidential candidate on paper is useless; you have to want it – want it badly enough to hire a serious staff, badly enough to trim a few positions and hard edges to fit the various demands of the primary and general electorates, badly enough to endure the most exhaustive efforts to tear apart your entire life for public entertainment, badly enough to spend endless weary hours fundraising and stumping in Iowa and New Hampshire and enduring crummy bus rides with grumpy reporters and town halls with cranks and half-wits and left-wing troublemakers. Your family needs to want it too – a man whose wife doesn’t want him to be president will not become president. It’s a big, life-consuming commitment, and you don’t do it halfway.”

W. James Antle at the American Spectator is taken aback: “I’m genuinely surprised. Every indication I’d seen from the Barbour camp made it look like all systems were go. This marginally increases the chances of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels getting in the race.”

Verum Serum thinks Barbour made the right call: “The spectacle of a white southern Republican taking on Obama was a ready made script for the MSM which has already shown itself eager to lap up accusations of conservative racism… I think Barbour made the wise choice. Anyone who witnessed what the MSM is willing to do to a conservative contender, like Sarah Palin circa 2008, would have to be crazy to volunteer for such treatment. Crazy or just truly driven. I think Barbour is a little too savvy to get caught up in the sort of low odds long-shot that his candidacy would have represented.”

Tags: Haley Barbour


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