Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 20, 2010

BARBOUR WELL POSITIONED TO WRAP UP THE RACIST VOTE.... To put it mildly, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), a likely presidential candidate in 2012, has a difficult background on race relations.

The far-right lobbyist-turned-governor has at times conveyed a demonstrably ridiculous version of history when it comes to civil rights in the South, and Barbour is known for keeping a Confederate flag signed by Jefferson Davis in his office. He's cited Jim Eastland as his political inspiration -- Eastland is best known as a champion on segregation -- and once told a campaign aide who'd made racist comments that "he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks."

But Barbour has opened a new chapter in this story with a lengthy interview with the Weekly Standard.

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."

It's hard to know where to start with such odious madness. As far as Barbour is concerned, Mississippi -- home to lynchings and other Jim Crow-era violence -- wasn't "that bad" in the 1950s and early 1960s? This coming from a man who "never thought twice" about integration, because he attended all-white, segregated schools.

Wait, it gets worse.

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."

Those "up north" happen to be right, and Barbour happens to be dangerously ignorant. As Matt Yglesias noted, "The Citizens' Councils were, right in the state of Mississippi where Barbour is from, the respectable face of white supremacist political activism." Josh Marshall added that these Citizens' Councils were so transparently racist, the conservative mainstream "would have nothing to do with them."

But from Barbour's twisted perspective, he's inclined to credit these white supremacists for keeping Mississippi calm during the civil rights era.

I recognize, and have written about, political reporters' love for Barbour, in part because of his willingness to feed their egos and serve them alcohol.

But as the 2012 race draws closer, I can only hope the political world recognizes Barbour for what, by all accounts, he appears to be: an old-school Southern racist.

Steve Benen 12:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Even today, in the south the pickup trucks sport mud flaps with the image of Yosemite Sam brandishing his pistols and the words "Forget, Hell!"

Posted by: DAY on December 20, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

you forgot this little gem:

“We were Eastland Democrats,” Haley told me, referring to James O. Eastland, the long-serving U.S. senator, steadfast conservative, committed segregationist, and the bane of the national party’s left wing.

hey, nothing like pointing out how much you adored a segregationist to prove your racially impartial bona fides.

Posted by: ahoy polloi on December 20, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid the 2012 campaign will be unlike anything we've ever seen before.

Posted by: SaintZak on December 20, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Would our country have turned out better if the traitors had been hanged at the end of the 1861 rebellion?

Posted by: freelunch on December 20, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Would our country have turned out better if the traitors had been hanged at the end of the 1861 rebellion?"

I would have to say ...yes.

Posted by: SaintZak on December 20, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

But as the 2012 race draws closer, I can only hope the political world recognizes Barbour for what, by all accounts, he appears to be: an old-school Southern racist.

If they do, it will no doubt help Barbour in much of the country.

Sigh,
-Z

Posted by: Zorro on December 20, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

May I ask what, exactly, is the Weekly Standard doing by giving this guy space to air his opinions? Is it some sort of esoteric double-backwards Straussian subtlety? Or, maybe... just 'racism is good if it wins elections'?

Posted by: MattF on December 20, 2010 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Fun fact: the modern-day Citizens' Councils were the ones protesting the casting of a black actor in the movie Thor last week.

Posted by: Clambone on December 20, 2010 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Whaley Harbor

Posted by: Kill Bill on December 20, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not certain of this, but I'm very skeptical that an interracial rally spoken to by Dr. King in Mississippi took place given the vicious racial attitudes of that time and place. I'd bet the mortgage that this story is a complete fabrication.

Any budding researchers want to take this on? Not that proving Barbour a liar would make a difference to the average Republican primary voter.

Posted by: JD on December 20, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

"I'd bet the mortgage that this story is a complete fabrication."

Mitt Romney will vouch for him.

Posted by: freelunch on December 20, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Zorro:
I have no problem with Haley Barbour being popular in places he is already popular. How he will become popular in other parts of the country,
which he would need to win a presidential race, is a mystery to me.

Goldwater won in the south. It didn't help.

Posted by: catclub on December 20, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

The Weekly Standard gets, just like the libertarians, that it's only wedge issues that make Republican presidents possible. So, while you don't actually traffic in racist language and Confederacy nostalgia, you do respect it. You better since that's the only way the Neocons get back into power.

Posted by: walt on December 20, 2010 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Barbour and his buddies probably didn't hear Rev. King because they were too busy jeering and shouting epithets.

Come on. There ain't no way a carload of Mississippi white boys showed up at a King rally to listen to King and watch girls. He's insulting our intelligence.

Posted by: kc on December 20, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Here's to the land you tore out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

--- Phil Ochs

Posted by: martin on December 20, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

The whole Citizens Council stunt reminds me of an episode of Mary Hartman Mary Hartman when the KKK changed it's name to the Glorious Guardians of Good... Because they thought themselves are glorious, claimed protect people, and "who can say anything vad about good?"

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on December 20, 2010 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

The Weekly Standard, a News Corp publication.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on December 20, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

might i ask the indelicate question as to the race of the girls he and his buddies were leering at. I find it hard to believe they were oogling black girls and just as hard to believe that they thought of going to a King rally to pick up white chicks.

No way this story is true.

Posted by: eric on December 20, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

He isn't ignorant, he's lying.
He celebrates the Southern tradition of freedom is slavery and other Orwellian mental gymnastics.

Posted by: thebewilderness on December 20, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

The Citizen's Councils were the brains, the KKK was the muscle. The FBI was effective in turning KKK members into informants by pointing out the muscle would be convicted and sent to prison, while the brains would still be sitting on their verandas (at least until Katrina arrived) drinking mint juleps.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on December 20, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

eric,

" I find it hard to believe they were oogling black girls "

You are definitely not from the South. Raping black women has a long history in the South. Oggling black girls would allow these peckerwoods to intimidate girls who very well understood that plantation owners often personally increased the size of their "inventory". Can you imagine a better way to intimidate people than to stand there and proclaim "I wanna rape your ass. I can at any opportunity, I will if I want to, and I will not only get away with it but also make you the one everyone blames. Hur hur hur." Southern whites never wanted nothing to do with blacks - that could have been fixed by a couple of good, old-fashioned pogroms; they wanted cowed blacks to be around specifically to show their "White superiority" (kinda like Innocent III wanted Jews left alone so there would be an audience to gloat over at the Last Judgment). Raping black girls was a way to "prove" the superiority and - if nature was "kind" to the white boy - create a new subservient to cow (with the added benefit of proving his virility).

Posted by: phalamir on December 20, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

JD it probably went like this:

"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."

"We were hoping one of the smaller ones would get separated from the herd so we could say he was mouthing off to us and then we'd beat the crap out of him. That always impressed the girls."

Posted by: markg8 on December 20, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

As Mr. Barbour displays our values, my fellow TeaPartiers and I will support him!

The only way he could have more clearly presented his views as being identical to ours would be if he would say "No blacks in the White House!"

Posted by: TeaPartyForever on December 20, 2010 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Mississippian here.

We can have endless fun/horror delving into Barbour's comments on race. But for those of you who are worried about his candidacy, don't.

For one thing, he's probably the only candidate easier for Obama to beat than Palin. But more importantly, although he'll probably run, he has no intention of even making it to the primaries.

Barbour is an old-school GOP insider, the ultimate smoke-filled-room guy. He's term-limited in MS, so he's going to run purely as an exercise in territory marking. You're worth more to the people who pay ex-politicians seven-figure retainers if you can add "legitimate Presidential candidate" to your CV.

Nobody, but nobody, expects him to go beyond the token fundraising-and-donor-meet phase. You will not see Haley Barbour addressing an Elks lodge in the middle of a New Hampshire winter. You will not see Haley Barbour caught dead within earshot of any voter.

Posted by: Matt on December 20, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad we didn't ethnically cleanse the place at the conclusion of The War of Southern Treason, when we had the chance.

Having been in "Mississippi(goddamn!)" in the 60s, I can only say Barbour lived in an alternative reality (surprise surprise). But then, the most ignorant white people I have ever met have always turned out to be from Mississippi. They even beat Alabamians.

Posted by: TCinLA on December 20, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

If Barbour's lying, and I think he is, someone will be able to prove it pretty soon. I bet Taylor Branch knows the answer.

Posted by: Geoff G on December 20, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Changing one's luck" is a white man's euphemism for having sex with a black girl.

Posted by: DAY on December 20, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

He just assumes that his southern white values have sufficiently metastasized throughout the country that he can now be open about them.

Let us pray he is not correct.

If he isn't -- then you can see how blind such people are.

Posted by: jjm on December 20, 2010 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

I just thought that I should say that not every Barbour is a racist buffoon. Yours, Dennis Barbour

Posted by: Dennis Barbour on December 20, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Barbour would do well to read Local People by John Dittmer to learn what happened in Mississippi during the Civil Rights movement. It is a wonderfully written and meticulously researched account of those years of which Barbour has such a fuzzy memory.

Posted by: WillnPL on December 20, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't he claim that there was no racism at whatever college he went to in Mississippi? When the school would have ben about 99.9% white. What a lying sack of $h!t.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on December 20, 2010 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Folks such as Barbour define the norm for racial tolerance a bit differently than do most people. In his world, if you don't subscribe to lynchings and lawn burnings, then you are a model citizen without a racist bone in your body ... even though you can't stomach the idea of full racial equality and a totally desegregated society.

Posted by: labman57 on December 20, 2010 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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