Tuesday, December 21, 2010


In comments to my first Haley Barbour post yesterday, mb wrote:

I think this will sink any (small) chance Barbour had of mounting a serious challenge for the GOP nomination.

I've been inclined to believe him -- the point of my post was that the Beltway, confronted with the sort of racial insensitivity Barbour displayed, feels compelled to take it seriously, though not all that seriously. Especially in the case of an admired insider, the political world tut-tuts for a while, then welcomes the pol back into the fold. But yeah, I did think the temporary suspension of the cozy relationship in Barbour's case might last long enough to derail his presidential bid, which he'll have to start soon.

Except that I was forgetting one thing: Barbour isn't George Allen -- a guy making a racist remark in the midst of a general-election campaign. He's not Trent Lott -- a prominent guy in the national government. Until nearly two years from now, the only people he has to appeal to are Republicans. And (all that "Look how many blacks we had at the tea party rally!!!" talk notwithstanding) they don't care. And, in fact, Barbour's offended us, which means this is probably a really good thing for him, at least for now -- he was just a non-teabagging, old-fashioned pol whose only constituency was the insider media and fellow wheeler-dealers, and now he's what every serious GOP candidate tries to be: a victim of evil liberalism.

And so we get this from National Review's Jim Geraghty, eagerly linked by Fox Nation:

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?

...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.

... 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.

... 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? ...

There you go -- Haley Barbour doesn't have a problem, you have a problem, you damn hippie!

So, in the Republican race, this is really good for Barbour.

Now, maybe this will worry the party mandarins in the (unlikely) event that Barbour starts doing very well in the race. (I still think the winner of the race will be someone who can rabble-rouse the best -- Barbour's too schmoozy.) But if Barbour does manage to do well, the GOP noise machine will just tell us all that we distorted and misinterpreted this incident, that we're the real racists, that Democrats were the segs, blah blah blah ... And enough time will have passed that the Barbour-loving mainstream press will (delightedly) go along; it will conclude that Barbour's served his time. (Besides, aren't heartland Republican voters normative? If they think Barbour's OK, the MSM will conclude, shouldn't we all?)

Unless he puts his foot in his mouth again in the same way, which I'm not ruling out.


Screenshot from the Fox Nation page for the Geraghty column:

No comment.

No comments: