Tags: Haley Barbour

A Brief Defense of This Town From This Town


The Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt features a look at some of the potential primary challengers to South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, Congress waking up and objecting to Obama’s effort to arm the Syrian rebels, and then this hot topic in the nation’s capital . . . 

A Brief Defense of This Town From This Town

I’m eager to read Mark Leibovitch’s This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital. The reviews make it sound like an utterly delicious dissection of the clubby, incestuous ways of Washington D.C.’s most powerful figures. As the Washington Post review summarized, “His tour through Washington only feeds the worst suspicions anyone can have about the place — a land driven by insecurity, hypocrisy and cable hits, where friendships are transactional, blind-copying is rampant and acts of public service appear largely accidental.”

But as I see reviewers tripping over themselves to salute the book as the Necronomicon of Washington Insiders, I’m left wondering who, exactly, is still surprised by a description of powerful D.C. officials being ambitious and eager to trade favors and jockeying for status . . . and how, exactly, one would cultivate a culture significantly different from this in the capital city of a democratic republic.

Isn’t any one-industry town a combination of clubby shared interests and quiet competition for superiority? Certainly Hollywood is. Don’t all the big shots in Silicon Valley run into each other at the same parties, eat at the same restaurants, meet at the same conferences, and so on? I realize J. R. Ewing is a fictional character, but I am to believe that Dallas and Houston don’t have their share of ambitious, sharp-elbowed energy-industry executives competing for the corner office? Aren’t most state capitals the same cultural dynamics as Washington, on a smaller scale? And you’re telling me that Manhattan isn’t just as bad or worse when it comes to giant egos, conspicuous consumption, fierce competition, less-than-genuine social-based friendships, and so on?

Any city with a lot of power (political, economic, cultural) and money is going to attract a lot of folks who want to get a part in it. Some will be brilliant, some will be craven, and a lot will be somewhere in between or both.

The ambition, desire for power, and temptation of lies that Leibovitch describes is more or less the human condition, and I’m skeptical that the culture of today’s Washington is significantly different than a generation ago, when Clark Clifford scoffed that Ronald Reagan was an “amiable dunce” at a party while working for the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, and Sally Quinn enjoyed her era of “five-course dinners a couple of nights a week, with a different wine for each course, served in a power-filled room of politicians, diplomats, White House officials and well-known journalists.” Want to go back further, to the era of Pamela Harriman’s Georgetown parties? The grand gatherings of Marjorie Merriweather Post? There was no golden age when Washington didn’t have folks who wanted to be thought of as the smartest, the most powerful, the most well-connected, the funniest, and so on.

(If you want to find something likeable about those past eras, let’s note that Washington’s role as “Hollywood for ugly people” meant you were less likely to be judged by your appearance. Henry Kissinger said power was the ultimate aphrodisiac, not his rugged good looks or rumbling baritone.)

Anyway, back to This Town. From the Washington Post’s review:

First, there is longtime NBC news reporter Andrea Mitchell — a conflict of interest in human form. Married to former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, Mitchell has specialized in covering administrations and campaigns that “overlapped considerably with her social and personal habitat,” as Leibovich puts it.

There are those weekend getaways at George Shultz’s home. And dinner with Tipper and Al. And that surprise 50th-birthday party for Condi. And what do you do when you’re reporting on the 2008 financial crisis and many people are pointing at your husband as a chief culprit? NBC tossed up a fig leaf: allowing Mitchell to cover the politics of dealing with the financial crisis, but not the conditions that gave rise to it. Such hair-splitting becomes inevitable, Leibovich writes, because Mitchell trying to avoid conflicts of interest is “like an owl trying to avoid trees.”

I can hear you cheering the public flaying of Mitchell for being too clubby with the officials she covers, but let me ask you this: If Andrea Mitchell had been a college professor or worked in some other non-media jobs, would Greenspan be widely sneered and spat upon and put in public stocks to have rotten fruit hurled at him? Does anybody feel like coverage and public discussion of Alan Greenspan — and the resulting public opinion of him — was/is significantly altered by Mitchell’s role at NBC News? Greenspan’s had his defenders and critics hashing it out in the public square for years. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here…)

I need to read This Town to see if Leibovitch finds Mitchell to be the figure at NBC/MSNBC who most deserves a public dressing down. But don’t her offenses seem mid-level at best? In the end, which is more damaging to journalism — Mitchell’s marriage to Greenspan and friendships with elected officials, or MSNBC determining its market role is to be the Obama administration’s in-house network, showcasing the likes of (at various times) Al Sharpton, Ed Schultz, Keith Olbermann, Lawrence O’Donnell, Melissa Harris-Perry, etc.? How about the hiring of Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod as “political analysts”? How about the president of MSNBC declaring, “we’re not the place for breaking news”?

Ahem. Some of us noticed this a long time ago.

Clubbiness between government officials and those who cover them is a legitimate issue to discuss, but the Greenspan-Mitchell marriage feels like a rather dated issue to find objectionable…

Then there’s this, from the New York Times review . . . 

He opens with an account of the 2008 funeral of the NBC Washington bureau chief and “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, and as a quarter-century resident now in happy exile, I suppose I should stick to form and mention, hideously, that we — Tim and I — came to Washington at the same time and were friends, although mostly because I had a wife from Buffalo, and he delighted in teasing her about her bowling. The people at this funeral (and as I recall, this was an invitation-only rite) adhered to what Mr. Leibovich calls “the distinctive code of posture at the fancy-pants funeral: head bowed, conspicuously biting his lips, squinting extra hard for the full telegenic grief effect.”

How does Leibovich know they’re mugging grief for the cameras? How does he know this isn’t how these people look when they’re actually grieving?

Then there’s this litany in the Times review:

So, striding self-importantly through these pages are the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid (“harshly judgmental of fat people”); Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican (“a blister on the leadership of both chambers, or sometimes something more dangerous”); Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York (“lens-happy, even by senatorial standards”); the lobbyist and former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour (“looks like a grown version of Spanky from the Little Rascals”); the former House minority leader Richard Gephardt (“whose willingness to reverse long-held positions in the service of paying clients was egregious even by D.C.’s standards”); and the modern super-flack Kurt Bardella (possessed of “a frantic vulnerability and desperation”).

Lest you’ve forgotten, here’s Spanky. Yeah, yeah, “ha ha ha.” We can all see Barbour. He’s fat. Round face. Double chin. A lot of folks have that. Is making fun of Haley Barbour’s appearance . . . edgy? Daring? Some sort of great, witty insight that reveals the ways of American politics?

Finally, there’s this detail in a long excerpt that ran in the New York Times this weekend:

Robert Gibbs announced that he would be leaving as White House press secretary . . . he was a journeyman flack who struck gold with the right patron and wound up talking at the lectern at 1600 Pennsylvania. Gibbs’s time at the White House had been a mixed bag, which included internal West Wing clashes, strained relationships with reporters and a few mishaps that resulted from excessive candor. But he was nonetheless set for life as a professional “former.” That is, a former official who can easily score a seven-figure income as an out-of-office wise man, statesman or hired gun. “Formers” stick to Washington like melted cheese on a gold-plated toaster, and Gibbs would be no exception. He could move seamlessly into the news media (MSNBC) at a time when punditry replaced reporting as journalism’s highest pursuit. (Since leaving the White House in 2011, Gibbs has made about $2 million in paid speeches alone.)

Cue the outrage that Gibbs has made $2 million in paid speaking gigs in about two years. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Just keep in mind that unless you’re a member of an organization that paid Gibbs his unspecified fee — like the Traffic Club of Pittsburgh, National Ocean Industries Association, Union College, American University in Dubai, Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, United States Travel Association, Premier Health Alliance, Citigroup Latin America, Saint Xavier University — he didn’t take your money.

Speaking gigs are pretty much the only way a guy like Robert Gibbs is ever going to make a million a year. If you give a man an opportunity to make oodles of money giving speeches . . . he’s going to take it. Tears for Fears didn’t quite have it right; Lots of folks don’t want to rule the world; they just want to live well while somebody else rules the world.

Tags: Alan Greenspan , MSNBC , Andrea Mitchell , Haley Barbour , Robert Gibbs

Terry McAuliffe’s Restaurant Deal With Haley Barbour


Hmmm. Does this anecdote reassure you about Terry McAuliffe’s skill with money?

In late 1999, [Haley] Barbour and Tommy Boggs were planning to open a downtown restaurant called the Caucus Room, which The Washington Post described as a “red-meat emporium” that “will serve up power, influence, loopholes, money and all the other ingredients that make American Democracy great.” Seeking investors, Barbour called McAuliffe and asked for $100,000, which he sent over immediately. A while later, Barbour called back, said they were oversubscribed and sent McAuliffe back a check for $50,000. “So I figure I made 50 in the deal,” said McAuliffe, who never saw a penny more.

Hahahahahaha. Er, no, Mr. McAuliffe, you didn’t “make 50 in the deal”; you gave a retired RNC chair and then-lobbyist $50,000 to start a restaurant. That restaurant is still in business; the Caucus Room restaurant changed its name and is now “Social Reform.” Really.

Then again, perhaps it was money well spent for McAuliffe in terms of influence and favors to be returned, down the road a bit. Haley Barbour, of course, went on to become governor of Mississippi . . . where the state Development Authority gave GreenTech $3 million in loan assistance related to the company’s Tunica County plan and provided $2 million to the county to purchase land for the facility. McAuliffe, of course, was chairman of GreenTech Automotive at the time.

Tags: Haley Barbour , Terry McAuliffe

American Crossroads Brings Back a Familiar Term: ‘Malaise.’


American Crossroads unveils a new, two-and-a-half minutes web video featuring outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. He stands against a blank white wall as animated graphs and charts illustrate his points beside him – including the infamous Obama administration projection of how the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8 percent.

Barbour points out, “even breakfast cereal and salt are under regulatory attack.”

He concludes, “a second Obama term means making this malaise permanent.”

Tags: American Crossroads , Haley Barbour

Shouldn’t Any 2012 GOP Nominee ‘Sweep the South’?


Mississippi governor Haley Barbour predicts that if nominated, Herman Cain will “sweep the South.”

Is that really something a potential GOP nominee should be bragging about? Isn’t the South the most heavily Republican region of the country? With one or two exceptions, isn’t sweeping the South almost expected of any Republican nominee?

In 2008, Obama defied the trend a bit by winning one indisputably Southern state (North Carolina) and winning two states that are quasi-Southern (Virginia, Florida). Southern Florida is different in its culture and political traditions than most of the rest of the states considered classically “Southern,” and Northern Virginia is better seen as part of the mid-Atlantic, culturally and politically. (Although the 2009 and even 2010 results suggest it’s becoming redder . . .)

The most recent polls in North Carolina put Obama’s job approval at 44 percent or 36 percent. Sure, PPP has Obama narrowly ahead of Republican options in the Tar Heel State, but that probably reflects a certain unfamiliarity or hesitation about the GOP options. (Notice Obama, a completely known quantity, is topping out at 49 percent even against Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich.) If the current conditions continue — an extremely high number of voters thinking the country is on the wrong track, disapproving of Obama’s handling of the economy, little sense that dramatic improvement is around the corner — then North Carolinians will not check the box for “four more years of the same.” Oh, by the way, the current unemployment rate in North Carolina is 10.4 percent.

In Florida, Obama’s job approval is 46 percent (PPP) or 39 percent (Quinnipiac). In PPP’s poll, Obama is currently trailing Ron Paul.

And then there’s Virginia, where Quinnipiac puts Obama’s job approval at 40 percent (56 percent disapproval!).

Sure, Obama could win any of these states, but considering the current state of affairs, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see all three shift back to red, perhaps by a wide margin. (Spare me the argument that evangelical concerns about Mormonism would be enough to get southern Republicans to stay home on Election Day when Barack Obama’s on the ticket.) Sweeping the South should not be seen as a remarkable potential achievement for any of the potential nominees.

Tags: Haley Barbour , Herman Cain

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

Haley Barbour, Still Traveling Like an Aspiring Presidential Candidate


When Nick Ayers, Haley Barbour’s right-hand man from his Republican Governors Association days jumped to Tim Pawlenty team, there was quite a bit of speculation that Ayers’ decision meant Barbour presidential bid wasn’t in the cards. But at least in the near future, Barbour is maintaining the schedule of an aspiring candidate.

Tomorrow he’s attending a reception in Bow, New Hampshire; Thursday a breakfast in Manchester, a meet-and-greet in a gun shop in Hooksett, and another reception at the Greater Manchester Federation of Republican Women.

Then it’s off to another key early state, South Carolina. He’ll address the Charleston GOP convention Friday, the Lexington County GOP convention Saturday morning and the Richland GOP Convention later in the day.

Tags: Haley Barbour

Haley Barbour: No Presidential Bid Decisions Before Spring


Sounds like “spring” is the psychological deadline for gubernatorial potential presidential contenders: First Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty, now Haley Barbour, speaking to a Mississippi television station:

While addressing Republicans in Baltimore for the annual Grand Old Party conference, Barbour said he is focused on fulfilling his job as governor and will not yet make an announcement about his presidential plans.”As far as running for president, I’ve said I’m not going to make any decision about that until the spring. I’ve got a budget to do and a legislative session (to attend). I’m going to get through my day job before I think about looking for the next job,” Barbour said.

Tags: Haley Barbour

Haley Barbour: ‘The ‘Citizens Council,’ is totally indefensible, as is segregation.’


Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour issues a statement about the recent controversy:

Dec. 21, 2010


“When asked why my hometown in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns’ integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn’t tolerate it and helped prevent violence there. My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the ‘Citizens Council,’ is totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country, and especially African Americans who were persecuted in that time.”

Will this settle the issue? Perhaps it ought to, at least for the holiday season, and until Barbour makes a decision on a presidential bid.

But if Barbour runs, we will hear a great deal about the word “watermelon” and how it was used and why. He and his campaign had better be ready to handle the inevitable questions, fair and unfair, and predictable media firestorm. No presidential candidate wants to deal with this sort of thing when there are major, pressing issues facing the nation that they would rather discuss. But then again, most presidential candidates aren’t quoted using the term in the New York Times.

For what it is worth, a 2009 article recounting the peaceful integration of Yazoo City’s schools from NPR can be found here.

Tags: Haley Barbour

Haley Barbour, Take Two


Ben Smith of Politico finds an old comment from Haley Barbour that will, I suspect, come to define him:

The context is a 1982 New York Times article on Barbour’s challenge that year to the octogenarian incumbent Democratic Senator, John Stennis. The piece’s tone is almost sneering about Barbour — ” Mr. Barbour, now 34 years old, won renown as a high school linebacker and as a dedicated attender of parties at the state university” — but this is the passage that he’ll get asked about on the campaign trail:

This being Mississippi, race is a factor in the campaign, but mainly because neither candidate has offered much to black voters. The Republicans have tried to remind them that in 1964 Mr. Stennis sponsored legislation to export Mississippi blacks to states that wanted to practice integration.

But the racial sensitivity at Barbour headquarters was suggested by an exchange between the candidate and an aide who complained that there would be ‘’coons’’ at a campaign stop at the state fair. Embarrassed that a reporter heard this, Mr. Barbour warned that if the aide persisted in racist remarks, he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks.

A pattern of remarks is a different matter than one off-the-cuff anecdote that suggests a man remembers the elders of his youth through rose-colored glasses. Watermelon jokes are appalling. Perhaps in that time and place the comment was common, but to modern ears, across the country today, it’s an unthinkably obnoxious and racially provocative remark.

I asked earlier, in reference to Barbour remembering his local Citizens Council as anti-Klan, “This comment outweighs everything else he’s done with his life?” Presuming the anecdote of Barbour’s watermelon joke is accurate, it will outweigh everything else he’s done in the eyes of millions upon millions of voters. There’s too much baggage to that remark to dismiss as a momentary stupid slip of the tongue. Even if a racially insensitive remark is said to rebuke another’s racially insensitive remark, with enough examples, the benefit of the doubt is eviscerated.

I stand by my earlier point that the bar for accusations of racism has gotten dangerously low, and that Monday afternoon we saw a disturbing conveyor belt in which Barbour was compared to the worst villains of American history over a lone comment that suggests historical inaccuracy and gauzy hometown sentimentalism, not a deep-rooted hatred or a belief in one group of Americans’ inferiority. Neither inaccuracy nor obliviousness is hate, and neither deserves the same response.

In his comment in the Weekly Standard article, Barbour recalls his town elders as benevolent authority figures, keeping the Klan out and playing a key role in the non-violent integration of the local schools; the historical record paints a much more malevolent picture of the Citizens Council, who opposed the Klan’s methods but not their basic views on racial superiority and the value of segregation.

Couple this with other Barbour comments:

  • Barbour fondly remembering a black classmate at the University of Mississippi in 1965 and recalling his time there as “a very pleasant experience.” The classmate, Verna Bailey, recalls the time quite differently: “I don’t remember him at all, no, because during that time that certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience for me,” she said. “My interactions with white people were very, very limited. Very, very few reached out at all.”
  • His comment that the controversy about commemorating Confederate History Month in Virginia “doesn’t amount to diddly.”
  • His statement that he attended “integrated” schools  — he attended during the 50s and early 60s –  when Mississippi schools were not effectively integrated until 1970.

You can see a pattern emerging: where others in Mississippi experienced a painful, frightening, scarring struggle to recognize and assure the rights guaranteed all Americans, Barbour experienced a pleasant upbringing and was largely unaware of and unaffected by Civil Rights era conflicts as a child and a young man.

It is possible to put this together and make a legitimate argument against Barbour: He is governor of a state that played a central role in the Civil Rights Movement, and yet today sees a long, difficult, sometimes violent, struggle for equal rights as all too easy and driven by consensus. Having seemed oblivious to the hardship and pain of Americans who were denied their God-given rights in the past, a voter might wonder if he would, as president, be properly vigilant against modern examples of Americans unjustly denied their rights.

Of course, Barbour critics skipped all that; his comment was seized upon as ipso facto evidence of racism, and it was open season to denounce him as a racist.

Mississippi was denounced as “the state where politicians actually run ON racism.” The Washington Monthly declared he was “well positioned to wrap up the racist vote.” Wonkette declares he “wants a piece of that 2012 Segregationist Money” and the American Prospect call him “The Good King of White Supremacy.” The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson calls him “beyond appalling.” (Really? “Appalling” is too kind an adjective for him?)

The Monday campaign against Barbour ran on two tracks; outspoken liberals called him racist; more mainstream sources simply emphasized that he’s associated with a racial controversy, which in time will turn into the modifier, “Barbour, who has been accused of racism by critics because of some comments about the South during the segregation era,” and so on. The description becomes the inverse of a Good-Housekeeping Seal of Approval, warding off anyone who might give a Southern Republican the benefit of the doubt. Everyone with good sense, not wanting to be associated with a dreaded racial controversy,  keeps their distance.

By Monday evening, it was done:

Barbour’s Comments Focus Attention on Race

Discussing Civil Rights Era, a Governor Is Criticized

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour Criticized for Downplaying ‘60 Racial Tensions

Before emphasizing that no one can really know, The Economist asks, “IS HALEY BARBOUR a racist?” Of course, if you want to be president, you don’t want major publications asking if you’re racist and then giving any answer other than “absolutely not.”

Does Barbour’s kind interpretation of the Citizens Council make him unelectable? Alone, perhaps not, but coupled with the watermelon joke and other factors, almost certainly, and deservedly so if Barbour had a habit of using stereotypical caricatures.

But if Barbour’s future career is derailed by these comments, it will further reflect the epic double standard reflecting race and partisan politics. Harry Reid can marvel at Barack Obama’s lack of a “negro accent” with no real consequence. Bill Clinton can describe Obama to Ted Kennedy as a “guy [who] would have been getting us coffee” not long ago with no real consequence.  Hillary Clinton faced accusations of racism for appearing to diminish the accomplishments of Martin Luther King in comparison to Lyndon Johnson – until the Democratic primary ended, and then no liberal had much reason to stir the controversy further. Joe Biden can utter awful stereotypical jokes about Indians running 7-11s and Dunkin’ Doughnuts with no major repercussion. The President’s mentor trafficked in explicit racial insults – referring to Italians as “garlic noses” – and the topic was deemed irrelevant by many. And of course, there is the former recruiter of the Ku Klux Klan who used the n-word on national television with little major repercussion.

Every major Democrat in public life has made controversial comments about race; it’s probably a natural consequence of speaking extemporaneously about the topic in front of television cameras. But that benefit of the doubt is rarely if ever extended to a Republican official.

Tags: Haley Barbour

Haley Barbour Faces an All-Too Familiar, All-Too Exhausted Accusation


Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, is increasingly mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012.

The Weekly Standard profiles him this week, and liberal bloggers are spotlighting one section where Barbour discusses segregation and racism in Mississippi in his childhood days. You can sense where this is going, right?

The segment that triggered the brouhaha:

Both Mr. Mott and Mr. Kelly had told me that Yazoo City was perhaps the only municipality in Mississippi that managed to integrate the schools without violence. I asked Haley Barbour why he thought that was so. 

“Because the business community wouldn’t stand for it,” he said. “You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”

In interviews Barbour doesn’t have much to say about growing up in the midst of the civil rights revolution. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” he said. “I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in ’62. He spoke out at the old fairground and it was full of people, black and white.”

Did you go? I asked.

“Sure, I was there with some of my friends.”

I asked him why he went out.

“We wanted to hear him speak.”

I asked what King had said that day. 

“I don’t really remember. The truth is, we couldn’t hear very well. We were sort of out there on the periphery. We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do. We paid more attention to the girls than to King.”

Over at Ace of Spades, Drew M. details how liberal bloggers are pointing out that the Citizens Councils weren’t as benign as Barbour remembers; the story angle and accusation is gradually migrating from the most highly-strung of liberal blogs to the most likely MSM outlets. “It’s as if JournoList is back in action,” he tweets.

Any white Republican who grew up in the South is going to be accused of racism. In fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence to suggest that any Republican running against Barack Obama will be accused of racism, period. Hell, any Republican, running for office, anywhere, at any time, will be accused of racism eventually.

A few factors are working in Barbour’s favor at this moment. First, this is Christmas week, and thus public attention to these sorts of mini-controversies is probably near its annual low. Second, it is easy to grasp the inanity of trying to somehow hold Barbour accountable for the actions of his hometown leaders while he was in his boyhood years. His sin is that, decades later, he remembers his hometown through rose-colored glasses? Don’t most people do that?

Working against Barbour is that he is a distinctly Southern in his drawl and mannerisms, and Southern politicians have a higher bar to clear when it comes to accusations of racism. Because of the experience of slavery and segregation, the South is associated with racism in the minds of a significant chunk of the electorate. The perception may be outdated, false, unfair, and hypocritical, but it is out there. Still, we’ve hit a new low when an interview in which the subject recalls attending a Martin Luther King Jr. speech is the trigger for the accusation of racial animosity.

I’m still not quite sure how the argument against Barbour gets summarized quickly; I think it will be something like, “he fondly remembers the racist Citizens Councils” or something. Of course, all Barbour said was that the Citizens Councils kept the Klan out of the town, and that the business community didn’t want to see violence in response to the integration of schools. Members of the Citizens Councils undoubtedly held reprehensible views, but is anything Barbour said untrue? Is Haley Barbour to be smeared as a racist, once the single most damaging accusation in our society, over this? This comment outweighs everything else he’s done with his life?

Tags: Haley Barbour

Where Are the Aspiring GOP Presidents on the Tax Deal?


A reader writes in:

Question: What do Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, John Thune, and Rick Santorum have in common?

Answer: Apparently, all have been moved to a secure undisclosed location since the announcement Monday night of Barack Obama’s so-called “compromise” tax deal. Not a peep has been heard from any Republican supposedly considering a run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. For more than sixty hours, they have remained silent.

Note to would-be leaders: The first one to go public in opposition to this “deal” is going to be on wall-to-wall cable TV, and — given that Tea Party leaders have announced their opposition to the “deal” — will earn major street cred with some voter groups that are going to have something to say about the 2012 nomination you seek.

In shorter, sweeter terms: If you want to be a leader . . . lead.

The reader isn’t quite right. I notice that on Twitter, Palin has retweeted a link to an interview by Sen. Jim DeMint expressing skepticism of the deal, and a comment from Jedediah Bila, saying, “Thank you, @JimDeMint - DeMint comes out against tax deal, says GOP must do ‘better than this’ - .’ That’s not explicit opposition, but certainly seems to lean that way.

John Thune said he has some concerns, but said on Hannity there’s a lot to like for Republicans in the deal:

I see nothing about this issue yet on the site for Romney’s PAC, nothing on, nothing on the site for Tim Pawlenty’s PAC, nothing on Huckabee’s site, or Santorum’s site.

Having said that, keep in mind that only Thune actually as a vote on this. And if these aspiring GOP figures like the deal, they may calculate that the endorsement of several aspiring Republican presidents might be enough to drive Democrats away from it . . .

UPDATE: This comment from Huckabee on Twitter today suggests he supports the deal: “If House Democrats end up blocking this tax deal – it proves AGAIN, they just don’t get it. Hurry up January.”

Tags: Haley Barbour , John Thune , Mike Huckabee , Mitch Daniels , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rick Santorum , Sarah Palin , Tim Pawlenty

Barbour, Thune, Shuler, and Boren Meet the NRA


Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi, achieved a rare balance in his address at the NRA convention today. His speech concentrated on telling the crowd to stay focused on 2010 while he sounded very much like a 2012 candidate.

While he included the almost-standard hunting stories, he veered pretty far into economic topics of taxes and spending, and delivered lines that would be catnip at any Tea Party rally: “The Constitution set up a government that is a limited government . . . It’s not just anything that you can get a majority to vote for.”

When Barbour referred to being chairman of the RNC during the victories in 1994, a member of the audience yelled out, “Let’s do it again!,” triggering a round of applause. Barbour noted that “the political environment for conservatives and Republicans in spring of 2010 is better than it was in 1994. That’s just a fact . . . We can’t wait for 2012 to start taking our country back.” Barbour quoted FedEx CEO Fred Smith that ”the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” and explained that for gun owners and conservatives, the 2010 elections ought to be the main thing. “The most powerful weapon in American politics is when you say to someone who respects you, ‘I’m voting for this candidate.’ It’s more powerful than any TV ad or anything that comes in the mail.”

He was followed by a guy who looks the part of a presidential candidate, South Dakota senator John Thune. His speech was less rah-rah; he noted recent successes in the Senate for gun owners on the District of Columbia, national parks, and Amtrak trains, and addressed the seeming contradiction: “How can we have this success when we have the most liberal President in history and the most liberal Congress in history? The answer is people like you.” He, too, made a pitch for November being a choice between “more government and less freedom” and “more freedom and less government.”

Rep. Heath Shuler, North Carolina Democrat, avoided much reference to his party, beyond “whether we’re Democrats or Republicans, one of the most important things we can do is protect our Second Amendment rights.” Instead, he turned the folksiness up to 11, talked about how his first piece of advice as a candidate was his father telling him to always stand for hunters, and said he was departing early to make his son’s ninth birthday.

Former Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell wowed the crowd moments ago: “The phrase ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’ is the way the Founders could say, ‘Any knucklehead should be able to understand this.’”

The second in-person Democrat to address the audience, Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, was introduced by the NRA’s Chris Cox as the right kind of Democrat: “As a Democrat, he’s an important ally reaching out on his side of the aisle. He’s not afraid to stand up to Nancy Pelosi. He said no to cap and trade, no to health care, and hell no to gun control.”

Of course, his first vote every two years is to make Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House.

UPDATE: I mentioned earlier today that the NRA was still reviewing the Florida Senate race. Take a look at what just arrived in my e-mailbox:

As he looks forward to attending the Southern Classic Gun And Knife Show in Orlando on Saturday, U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio today announced his campaign’s 2nd Amendment Coalition.  Comprised of Florida’s most respected and ardent defenders of the Second Amendment, this committee will serve to advise Rubio and educate Floridians about his strong record of protecting this constitutional right. 

“The Second Amendment is a cornerstone of our democracy, and its protection is essential for the safety of our citizens,” said Rubio.  “I am honored to have the support of Florida’s most respected proponents and defenders of the Second Amendment, whose counsel I trust on this important issue.  I look forward to working with them to ensure all Floridians know where I stand on protecting the right to bear arms that our Founding Fathers enshrined in our Constitution.”

“Marco Rubio is a friend of all who believe the Second Amendment guarantees our citizens the constitutional right to bear arms,” said Bill Bunting the coalition’s chairman. “Marco Rubio has a strong Second Amendment record, one that should give Floridians complete assurance that he will continue to stand up for this constitutional right in the U.S. Senate.  We are proud to stand with him and will work tirelessly to ensure his strong Second Amendment record is clear to all Floridians.”

Members Of The Marco Rubio For U.S. Senate 2nd Amendment Coalition Charlie Amaral (Pasco), Chairman, Friends of the NRA, West Pasco County Dennis Baxley (Marion), Former Speaker Pro Tempore of the Florida House, NRA Defender of Freedom Award Winner, Author of the “Castle Doctrine” legislation Victor Bean (Okaloosa), Southern Classic Gun and Knife Shows Charlie Berrane (Miami), Charlie’s Armory Bill Bunting (Pasco County), Certified NRA Instructor for Concealed Weapons Permits John DiGaetano (Pasco), President, 2nd Amendment Club of AmericaBruce Dow (Dade City), Dow’s Arm RoomTed Everett (Washington) Hard Labor Creek PlantationFitzhugh K. Powell Sr. (NE Florida), Chairman, Scottish Rite Masonic Fraternity, State of Florida; Chairman, Public Education and Citizenship of the state of Florida Mike Jones (Pasco), Patron Member of the NRA, Past Chairman and Co- Chair of the Friends of NRA Senator Steve Oelrich (North Central Florida) Frank Reinstine, Jr. (Jacksonville), President, Jacksonville Skeet and Trap Club Ron Shultz (Lakeland), Member, Lakeland Rifle and Pistol Club Laurie Townsend (Palm Beach), President, Sun Coast Gun Shows Representative Charles Van Zant (Keystone Heights)In addition, over 500 grassroots 2nd amendment supporters are standing with Marco Rubio on Facebook, a group administered by Brent Shryock of Jacksonville.

Tags: Dan Boren , Haley Barbour , Heath Shuler , John Thune , Ken Blackwell

Gunning It


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In past years, some cities have faced a bit of controversy about hosting the National Rifle Association’s annual convention. Of course, those who hesitate cut off their noses to spite their wallets: “Organizers say they expect at least 70,000 visitors. Hotels are booked, restaurants will be packed, and the entire event is expected to pump $20 million into the local economy.” So far, from the crowds I’ve seen in the neighborhood around the convention center, it’s younger than you might picture — a lot of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, I suspect — and more women than you might expect. I’m told some folks make this their family vacations.

Cam had told me it was a big event, but the scope of it is really expansive; more than 500 booths with every possible product, service, and business relating to firearms, hunting, and personal protection. If you’re not a diehard gun guy, the sheer volume and variety of firearms and related equipment at the NRA convention is jaw-dropping. For example, there are booths for African Elephant Hair Bracelets, “The Concealment Shop,” Hillsdale College, and the “North South Skirmish Association,” booths dedicated entirely to “custom-fit hearing protection,” booths devoted entirely to binoculars, safaris to every corner of the world imaginable, and of course, an NRA Wine Club. (Perhaps you’re looking for a vintage of a higher caliber.)

While I’m not a diehard gun guy, I am a diehard 24 guy, and tomorrow in Booth 701 I can check out the model that is Jack Bauer’s gun, the Sig Sauer P229. I suspect each time you fire it, a voice shouts, “Who do you work for?” and the round tortures answers out of your target.

Sarah Palin is the headline speaker tomorrow; and no, she’s not taking a fee for this address. The other current and former GOP officials who are speaking — and whose appearance gives off a whiff of 2012 ambitions — include Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who appears Sunday. As far as I can tell, Rep. Heath Shuler, North Carolina Democrat, is the lone representative of his party speaking. Sean Hannity was also scheduled to speak this weekend but had to cancel at the last minute; fellow Fox News host Glenn Beck will appear in his place.

By the way, for those mainstream-media folks looking for a quick and easy way to demonize all conventiongoers and NRA members as dangerous insurrectionists, an ad in the program for the new Benelli Vinci 12-gauge shotgun shows a masked man in camouflage holding the product beneath the slogan “LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN.” Of course, they pretty obviously mean a revolution in their product, and the ad print says “the new Benelli Vinci places the shotgun revolution in your hands.” But the facts have never meant much to those determined to paint gun owners as dangerous extremists, so I wanted to give you a heads-up on the next smear coming down the pike. The guy’s eyes look like they could belong to Texas governor Rick Perry, anyway.

Ironically, Charlotte is going to use its performance hosting this convention to help bolster its bid to host another big convention, a perhaps ironic subsequent event: the Democratic National Convention in 2012. Maybe Wayne LaPierre will leave a note at the convention center podium for President Obama.

Tags: Haley Barbour , John Thune , Mike Pence , Newt Gingrich , NRA Convention , Sarah Palin

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