Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 6, 2010

IF NOTHING ELSE, BARBOUR'S CONSISTENT.... A few weeks ago, as the scope of the BP oil spill disaster was as obvious as it was painful, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) blew off rising fears. Ignoring the devastating consequences, the far-right former RNC chair compared the enormous oil spill to the gas sheen found around ski boats.

And while neighboring Govs. Bobby Jindal (R-La,), Charlie Crist (I-Fla.), and Bob Riley (R-Ala.) seem fully engaged, meeting with federal officials, including President Obama, about the response to the crisis, Barbour prefers a far different approach.

Today, Barbour told Fox News that the media is responsible for a "misperception" about the disaster. "The coast is clear," he told viewers. "Come on down!"

Alex Seitz-Wald reviews what we've seen of late from the Mississippi chief executive.

Barbour has consistently refused to accept the gravity of the situation in the Gulf, and blamed the media for supposedly over-hyping the disaster. He's compared oil to tooth paste, said all the oil on Mississippi's beaches could barely "fill up a milk jug," and handed out gas cards to encourage tourists to "[c]ome on down here and play golf, enjoy the beach, catch a fish." Meanwhile, dead dolphins have washed ashore on Mississippi's beaches.

Barbour went on to suggest that President Obama was "destroying himself" by not adequately responding to the spill, but he had nothing negative to say of BP. Barbour -- who received $1.8 million from oil and gas companies for his gubernatorial campaign -- explained, "When we ask BP for something, they try to do it."

Barbour's decision to trash the president on the air suggests the governor is moving even further from reality -- Barbour had recently offered qualified praise for the administration's efforts, noting that federal officials have "worked hard with us" to respond to the disaster.

Now Obama's "destroying himself"? How, by "working hard" with Mississippi officials?

I really do understand why Barbour wants to downplay the problem -- he's no doubt worried about losing tourist revenue, making him more willing to say things that aren't true.

But given the severity of the situation, Barbour not only sounds ridiculous and irresponsible, he's starting to sound more like a political hack.

And as an aside, it's probably worth mentioning that Barbour was a corporate lobbyist in Washington with energy companies as clients, which in turn generously contributed to his campaign. Seems like a relevant detail to keep in mind.

Steve Benen 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Also relevant...Mississippi only has about ninety miles of coastline. Granted, the bootheel is the economic engine of the entire state, but ninety miles cleans up a lot faster and and is easier to manage and stay on top of than all the coastline and marshlands of Louisiana.

Posted by: Blue Girl on June 6, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Compared to the other GOVs in the gulf Barbour is more attuned to what the national Republican party wants with this disaster rather than the people of his state. He cannot be seen as working with the President.

Posted by: CarlP on June 6, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Starting to sound like a hack? When did he ever stop being a hack. This man has been speaking gibberish from day 1 of his political career.

Posted by: VERBERNE on June 6, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

I read that BP and Haliburton are hiring a band of lawyers, also they are making big payments to the politicians that they can buy (including my jerk of a senator Richard Burr).

Posted by: Joan on June 6, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

in mushmouth's defence, there is no oil washing up in jackson.

Posted by: mellowjohn on June 6, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is destroying himself by not responding adequately to a milk jug-sized spill??

Posted by: Grumpy on June 6, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Simple really. Like Bush, Barbour can never admit he is/was wrong.

Posted by: SteinL on June 6, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Trivia Question: How many hollywood character actors can you think of who are spittin' images of "Boss Barbour"?

Posted by: DAY on June 6, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a suggestion: All you conservatives who want to prove how wrong Mr. Obama is, book your airline tickets and hotel reservations today for a sunny summer vacation in beautiful Mississippi.

Catch a fish for me.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on June 6, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Barbour typifies the type of thinking that glorifies the short-term bottom line uber alles.

Here in Tucson, we have the dubious distinction of being the third-worst city in the world for asthma, at least a few years ago. Phoenix is no. 1 and Los Angeles no. 2.

Back in 02, I survived an acute asthma attack. I used to work in the medical library which serves the medical school at the U. of Ariz. I was working on our electronic reference service one day, and got a message from a young woman in upstate NY who was thinking of moving to Arizona to ease her hay fever which was driving her nuts. She was acutely allergic to ragweed among other pollens.

I replied that if she had hay fever, Arizona was NOT the place to come, although many years in the past this had not been true. I did qualify that by saying that small towns high in the mountains might work, but even so, Arizona has ragweed also, although a different variety, I believe, than that prevalent in upstate NY.

She expressed utter astonishment, as she had a circular from Arizona's Chamber of Commerce in front of her touting Arizona's clear skies and salubriousness for those suffering from either asthma or hay fever. I held onto my temper with difficulty, as this had not been true for many years.

The reason is that people moving to Arizona from elsewhere did not wait to accustom themselves to the starker beauty of the desert and/or the pine- and juniper-studded areas in higher altitudes. Not to mention Sedona and other red rock parts. Instead, people moving from elsewhere planted the plants they were accustomed to, which in Phoenix and Tucson, bloom more than once a year. In fact, except for a short period in Dec. and Jan., we Tucsonans and Phoenicians are bombarded with pollen. LOTS of pollen of various kinds. So, even people who have never suffered before, after moving to Arizona, eventually develop hay fever and/or asthma.

People like Barbour and Chambers of Commerce all over the country resist all efforts to be honest lest tourism suffer. So then tourists unwittingly come, and some suffer acute problems and a few even sue. An expensive suit can easily eat up all those sacred tourist bucks.

Sort of like the drug companies suppressing or ignoring negative results from clinical trials, then getting their asses sued off by angry people whose near and dear ones just died.

I don't get it. I don't get Haley Barbour.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on June 6, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Barbour is a legendary hack, the GOP's answer to Baghdad Bob. So he's being consistent here.

Also, although it is snobbish of me, I have to say that I never plan to spend a minute of my life in backwards, ignorant, hate-riven Mississippi. Maybe that will change some day.

Posted by: Rathskeller on June 6, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Sheriff Brody in Jaws: "Larry, the summer is over. You're the mayor of "shark city". These people think you want the beaches open."

Posted by: Speed on June 6, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

"Trivia Question: How many hollywood character actors can you think of who are spittin' images of 'Boss Barbour'?"
Posted by: DAY on June 6, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK
Coincidentally, Barbour looks quite a bit like Murray Hamilton, a character actor most famous for playing a politician with a PR nightmare on his hands and no backbone to do the right thing until it was absolutely too late - Mayor Vaughn in Jaws.

Mayor Vaughn: [to reporter] I'm pleased and happy to repeat the news that we have, in fact, caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers. But, as you see, it's a beautiful day, the beaches are open and people are having a wonderful time. Amity, as you know, means "friendship".

Mayor Vaughn: I'm only trying to say that Amity is a summer town. We need summer dollars. Now, if the people can't swim here, they'll be glad to swim at the beaches of Cape Cod, the Hamptons, Long Island...
Brody: That doesn't mean we have to serve them up as smörgåsbord!

Mayor Vaughn: I don't think either of one you are familiar with our problems.
Hooper: I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and BITES YOU ON THE ASS!

Hooper: Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It's really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks, and that's all. Now, why don't you take a long, close look at this sign.
[refers to the graffitied billboard]
Hooper: Those proportions are correct.
Mayor Vaughn: Love to prove that, wouldn't ya? Get your name into the National Geographic.

Posted by: slappy magoo on June 6, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Of course I seldom believe ALL of anything I see/hear reported...but have not heard anyone ask WHAT HAPPENS to all the bags of oil and debris that the workers are picking up ...how about dumping them all in the Governor's front yard!!!! Then invite the media to come film THAT!!!

Posted by: Dancer on June 6, 2010 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Haley Barbour is the posterboy of Repugnant ugly thugs. He is a rotten human being, and truly deserving to be the head of the most rotten state in the union.

Posted by: neill on June 6, 2010 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

How bad a party chairman is Michael Steele? He makes predecessor Haley Barbour look like a rhetorical genius.

Posted by: Steve High on June 6, 2010 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

That being a FOX interview,you don't suppose they gave the Gov some talking points first.

Posted by: Tom on June 6, 2010 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

I want to see this fat racist fuck and his entire family spend a week down there. And swimming every day.

Posted by: Breezeblock on June 6, 2010 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK
I really do understand why Barbour wants to downplay the problem -- he's no doubt worried about losing tourist revenue, making him more willing to say things that aren't true.

That's part of it. It's also that Haley Barbour has dedicated his entire life to keeping the United States oil-dependent and can't very well do a total U-turn now that he's a lame duck with 6 months left in his term. There could also be a certain amount of après-moi, le deluge going on here.

Posted by: Big River Bandido on June 6, 2010 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

Between what Republicans have done to Hispanics in Arizona and what they have done to the environment in the Gulf States about the only place left to go on junkets is the South Gleason Park Municipal Golf Course in Gary, Indiana.

Book your tee times here: http://www.golflink.com/golf-courses/golf-tee-times/teetime.aspx?course=396045.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on June 6, 2010 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

Hay - who says Oil Volcanoes are worthless.

If your Lava Lamp is broken, just leave this up on a 2nd PC monitor.

Posted by: cwolf on June 6, 2010 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

OOps, forgot the link:

Posted by: cwolf on June 6, 2010 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one reminded by Barbour of the mayor in Jaws.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on June 6, 2010 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Someone enlighten me. Was Barbour ever anything but a political hack?

Posted by: sparrow on June 6, 2010 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

isn't he strom thurmonds lost child?

Posted by: danny quinn on June 6, 2010 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't matter what he or anyone else says about this mess. Words won't fix anything.

Posted by: johndri on June 7, 2010 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

Did anyone see Candy Crowley of CNN praising Haley Barbour on Relaible Sources Sunday morning?

Here is the relevant portion of the transcript:

CROWLEY: So there was one more thing I wanted to share with you just because it was great TV. Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi -- nobody is a better politician than Haley Barbour is. And the question to him was about how he thought the president was doing, whether there was something there to criticize. Listen to this as the art of the political soundbite.


GOV. HALEY BARBOUR, (R), MISSISSIPPI: The American people want problems solved, and they don't need Republican politicians like me piling on. The American people are making up their minds pretty clearly about what they think of the administration's performance in this disaster, and I'll let it stand at that. You know, Napoleon said never interfere with the enemy while he's in the process of destroying himself.


KURTZ: So he takes a shot without taking a shot.

CROWLEY: That's right. He said I am not going to criticize the president. The last thing he needs is someone like me piling on him. By the way, Napoleon said don't interrupt your enemy when they're busy destroying themselves.

KURTZ: Message, this is Barack Obama's Waterloo, but I didn't say that.

CROWLEY: He was great.

Ms. Crowley was not so great. Neither was Howie Kurtz for not calling Crowley out for not presenting Barbour's soundbite with any context. Mr. Barbour is a highly partisan Governor, a former National Chairman of the GOP, has not been critical of BP, was the only Gulf Coast Governor not to meet with President Obama and inferred that the President was his enemy. Do you you think the average CNN viewer knows any of this background of Governor Barbour? Does Candy Crowley know it? To paraphrase Mr. Barbour, I won't pile on criticizing Ms. Crowley, but if she was a newsperson in the 1930s she would be praising Goebbels for his ability to spin the news.

Posted by: greentaxman on June 7, 2010 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

Message, this is Barack Obama's Waterloo, but I didn't say that.

Wait -- Howard Kurtz thinks Haley Barbour quoted a piece of wisdom from Napoleon, about Napoleon's enemies, to summon up subliminal connotations of Napoleon's greatest defeat at the hands of those same enemies? Howard Kurtz and Candy Crowley are both scum-sucking historically ignorant idiots.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on June 7, 2010 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

"But given the severity of the situation, Barbour not only sounds ridiculous and irresponsible, he's starting to sound more like a political hack."

Am I the only person left on the planet who remembers that Barbour used to chair the Republican National Committee? Or that he took a million-dollar boat ride with the Chinese Communists that resulted in seven figures of ChiCom coin being dumped into Republican coffers?

OF COURSE he's a political hack! He has never been anything but a political hack, ever.

Posted by: Phoenix Woman on June 7, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

That Barbour aspires to the Presidency gives me nightmares.

Joan, that should read Big Business, Big Oil, Anti-Woman candidate Richard Burr.

Posted by: marilyn on June 7, 2010 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Repugnant and devious he may be, but Haley Babar is a crafty political operator. A master propagandist. An insider's insider. I say this not to praise the man but to highlight that this isn't just some dumb cluck southern fried governor. I'm glad to see that at least some of his misinformation and misdirection is being challenged.

Posted by: Farsider on June 7, 2010 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

this is such a horrible disaster this leak has killed so many animals and is now reaching the coast of Florida

Posted by: Leviev on June 7, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't Mississippi now spelled 'MississiBPi'??

Posted by: Moxo on June 7, 2010 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

I am still furious about this disaster. Its probably the worst one in American history. Such a sad deal.

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