Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 8, 2010

MAYBE HALEY BARBOUR SHOULD VISIT A BOOKSTORE SOMETIME.... Fresh off his bizarre and widely-mocked version of Southern history, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has turned his attention to President Obama's history.

Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi flirting with a presidential bid in 2012, told reporters today that Americans know less about President Obama than "any other president in history."

Reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor this morning asked Barbour why so many voters wrongly think Obama is Muslim. Barbour said it's surely no "vast right-wing conspiracy," and that he has no reason to doubt Obama's Christian faith or his citizenship.

"I accept just totally at face value that he's a Christian," Barbour said. "He said so throughout the time he's been in public life, that's good enough for me."

But Barbour pointedly mused about where the false rumors have originated.

"I don't know why people think what they think," Barbour said. He paused and then added, "This is a president that we know less about than any other president in history."

He went on to say -- just as "an observation," of course -- that "there's not much known" about the president's youth. "We don't know any of the childhood things," Barbour argued.

I guess the follow-up for the governor is, "Who counts as 'we'?"

I have a strong hunch that Haley Barbour doesn't spend a lot of time in bookstores, but there's an entire book about Obama's upbringing. Obama wrote it. It was a best-seller.

"We" arguably know more about this president than any in modern times -- his life has literally been an open-book that "we" can read.

The larger point remains the same, and it remains ugly. Far-right leaders, most notably those with problematic backgrounds on race, are obsessed with characterizing the president as some kind of foreign "other" to be mistrusted and seen as illegitimate. It's absurd and offensive, but it remains at the center of conservative thought.

Steve Benen 4:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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And we don't know much about Jesus' youth either. Just a coincidence I'm sure.

Posted by: Chris- The Fold on September 8, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

He's probably right, but not because Obama is a mystery, but because the country cares less about civics, history, and anything other than Snooki or whoever the latest celebuwhore is.

Posted by: doubtful on September 8, 2010 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Haley Barbour is fat. That's about all I know about him.

Posted by: SaintZak on September 8, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Do they have Fox-approved bookstores now?
Bookstores have liberal lies in them don't they?

If your a teabagger and want to know the truth, stick with the Coservapedia.
Here is what it says about Obama's religion:

Barack Hussein Obama II early life was outside the mainstream of Black America and had little in common with African-Americans social, political, and cultural experiences. Obama reportedly was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to Barack Sr. and Stanley Ann Dunham in 1961, but there is evidence[248] he may have been born in Kenya. Obama's birth father was a Muslim who converted to Marxism and Obama's maternal family was rooted in the progressive left and athiest traditions yet Obama made the rather ostensible claim to the Chicago Sun-Times religion editor Cathleen Falsani on April 5, 2004, "I'm rooted in the Christian tradition."[249] Obama was reared in the Islamic faith while living with his mother and stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, in Jakarta, Indonesia in the mid-1960s until the early 1970s.[250] It is believed Stanley Ann Dunham moved to Hawaii with the young Obama about 1970 or 1971 where he attended the elite Punahou School and graduated in 1979

Posted by: koreyel on September 8, 2010 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Does Barbour think we knew enough about Sarah Palin when the GOP tried to make her the vice-president? I know one thing about Southern Republicans - assume they are trying to appeal to racists until we "know enough about them" to prove otherwise.

Posted by: MuddyLee on September 8, 2010 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

"... Obama's maternal family was rooted in the progressive left and athiest traditions ... "

Athy, athier, athiest. But what does "athy" mean?

Oh, I get it: "atheist."

Posted by: RobNYN1957 on September 8, 2010 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Barbour added," What's to know? The boy's a nigra, or half blood, if his momma was white, like some say. Where's she at, anyway? Anybody actually seen this woman?

"Now it's a fact that a large percentage of his kind wind up in prison. Where a passel of 'em embrace Mooslimism, take names like Malcom X, and that cop killer Moo-me-a Jumal. And apples don't fall far the tree. Now, let me tell you about my presidential aspirations. . ."

Posted by: DAY on September 8, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you cut off the best bit of that narrative. He said we don't know much about Obama's childhood and college years, and juxtaposed it with what we do know about Washington's childhood... and how he chopped the cherry tree.

I nearly choked, when I read that. It appears that Barbour *had* visited a bookstore at some point. The children's section :)

Posted by: exlibra on September 8, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

How much do we really know about Millard Fillmore?

Posted by: pa on September 8, 2010 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

I know the 2012 GOP hopefuls are a less than steller bunch, but the GOP cannot be seriously considering Haley Barbour as a candidate. Seriously? Against the first black President ever, you would consider nominating a guy who fits every stereotype of the corrupt, overweight, likely racist Southern politician? For f__k's sake, the guy looks like he spends his down time chasing those dang blasted Duke boys all over Hazzard County.

Oh, and wasn't Barbour one of Jack Abramoff's snuggle buddies too?

Posted by: gf120581 on September 8, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on September 8, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

What do we know about Haley Barbour's childhood and college years?

Posted by: g on September 8, 2010 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Well to be fair, since Obama's book wasn't published by Regnery Press, Barbour had no chance to read it.

And we don't know much about Jesus' youth either.

I heartily recommend Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

Posted by: ckelly on September 8, 2010 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

So Obama wrote a book and we are supposed to believe it?!

The mans a proven liar! All he does is lie!
No matter what he says or writes we still know nothing, because he is a LIAR!

Posted by: agave on September 8, 2010 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

When I was in high school, I told my friend's mother that my parents were voting for Kennedy. She looked at me like I had a third eye. "Why, we can't have a CATHOLIC for President! The POPE will be running everything!" And that was before Fox news.

Posted by: mm on September 8, 2010 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone knows that Obama's book was really written by Bill Ayers. I saw it proved -- on P 56 of Obama's book, and P 34 of one of Ayers' books, similar cliches were used. Or something like that. I don't remember the exact page numbers but I remember being convinced.

Posted by: rusty chainsaw on September 8, 2010 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

I understand Mr. Barbour is planning a presidental run . Anyone know if this rumor has legs?

Posted by: Shifterx on September 8, 2010 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

That Conservapedia stuff makes me want to yak. When I look at the President and his family, here is what I see:

Our President is a smart, educated, articulate, cute-but-nerdy, young(ish) American. His childhood was spent in some exotic places, including the State of Hawaii and some time in Indonesia. He swam and surfed and played basketball. Does that make him elitist? If you think so, you've never been to Hawaii.

He is half black, raised by a white middle-class mom and grandparents from the Midwest plains, but in beautiful Hawaii that doesn't mean anything at all, because of the exquisite melding of cultures that has gone on forever there. He successfully competed for admission and honors at top American universities because of his brains, bearing, and work ethic, and he excelled because of those characteristics.

His wife is a genuine American story of a lovely woman who came from a solid working-class home, did well in her studies, and rose up higher than her parents did, which is pretty much all any of us ask for our children. (Did I mention she's black? Would it be any different if she were white?) In turn, she and her husband are raising two engaging, well-adjusted girls who will undoubtedly be a credit to their parents (just like Chelsea Clinton, Jenna and Barbara Bush, and scores of other presidential-family kids).

They came to be Christians, as many do, by a combination of family tradition and a sincere decision at some point that they were answering the call. They became observant and active in the church, as many of us have done, because they were raising children and wanted that solid background. They chose a church that gave them a spiritual home for that point in their lives. As many, if not most, of us do.

And when I look at them together, I see a family that came to the forefront of our culture quite unexpectedly, but not at all by accident. And when their time in the White House is over, they will still be young enough and determined enough to continue on working for the public good, making a difference at home and in the public eye.

Every time I hear this President speak, I just have to thank god we have him in that office right now. He's not perfect, he hasn't come up to my ideals of mounting the barricades like in the 60s, but he is doing well. More than that, he's doing good.

Oh, sorry, I got distracted there for a minute. Who were we talking about? Haley Barbour? Who the hell is he?

Posted by: Thisby on September 8, 2010 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

I heard an interesting hypothesis about why so many people think Obama is Muslim. It goes like this.

"Since it's socially unacceptable in polite US society to use the N-word to refer to the president, certain folks have decided to substitute the M-word"

This makes more sense to me than the crude being spewed from HB.

Posted by: DK on September 8, 2010 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

Barbour's right -- remember, during the campaign, Obama said nobody could investigate or bring up anything that happened before he was 40, which was, well, most of his life, and the compliant media went along because he gave them all nicknames. Oh wait that was Bush.

Posted by: gradysu on September 9, 2010 at 7:04 AM | PERMALINK

The Barbour remark that puzzled me the most was - "We don't know any of the childhood things we know about Ronald Reagan." I'm trying to think of a 'childhood thing' we know about Ronald Reagan, and I've got nuthin'.

And the idea that we know less about Obama than any other president is absurd on its face. Can anyone think of any other presidential campaign in which reporters went to the candidate's ELEMENTARY SCHOOL to investigate and give a nationwide news report about the curriculum there?

Posted by: JoyceH on September 9, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK
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