Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 20, 2010

BARBOUR'S 'CLARIFICATION' NEEDS SOME WORK.... As we discussed earlier, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) made some racially-charged remarks to the Weekly Standard, which may very likely have an impact on the national ambitions of the lobbyist-turned-governor.

Among other things, Barbour said he doesn't recall segregated Mississippi in the midst of the civil rights revolution as being "that bad," and recalls attending a speech delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1962, though he didn't pay much attention to King's remarks.

Perhaps most notably, Barbour praised the white supremacist Citizens Council in his hometown of Yazoo City for keeping the community calm during the civil rights era.

In light of the controversy created by the remarks, TPM's Eric Kleefeld spoke to Dan Turner, Barbour's chief spokesperson, who sounded a little defensive.

So, I asked Turner, does Barbour have any comment on the Citizen Council movement's basis in white supremacy, and its work of launching economic boycotts to cut off employment and business for African-Americans who became active for civil rights -- including that notable occasion in Yazoo City?

"Gov. Barbour did not comment on the Citizens Council movement's history," Turner responded. "He commented on the business community in Yazoo City, Mississippi."

I asked further about the Citizen Council movement's white supremacist activities, such as the boycotts in Barbour's hometown. "I'm not aware that that's accurate," Turner said. "I'm not aware that he [Barbour] has any statement on that. I'm aware of the statement that he made in context of how he made it."

After being pressed further on whether Barbour's comments about the Citizens Councils were accurate, Turner said: "I'm aware of what the governor said in this interview. I'm not gonna get into the business of trying to twist what the governor said, or to manipulate it."

The remarks don't need manipulation. Barbour was asked about the civil rights era in his Mississippi community, and he responded with praise for a racist organization, known for touting "racial integrity" and fighting for segregation.

Barbour's point was to draw a distinction between Citizens Councils and the KKK, but what he fails to appreciate is that the two are different sides of the same coin -- the Citizens Councils used economic coercion to preserve racial harmony that kept whites on top, while the KKK used violence to achieve the same ends.

The governor and his spokesperson seem impressed with the fact that the Citizens Council in the community where Barbour grew up kept the KKK out of town. That's nice, but it's also missing the point -- that same Citizens Council enforced what was effectively mandatory apartheid; it was created in response to Brown v. Board of Education; and its efforts were focused on not only fighting the civil rights movement, but also in demanding that local African Americans never even tried to advance beyond second class citizens.

Barbour looks back at those Citizens Council efforts as laudable, effective, and worthy of praise. By any modern standards of decency, that's simply unacceptable.

In the larger political context, does Barbour have a "Bubba" problem? That seems like a fair assessment.

Update: Also note, it's not as if Barbour has a background on civil rights that he can fall back on to demonstrate his integrity on these issues. Just the opposite is true -- few figures in American public life have an uglier past on racial issues.

Steve Benen 4:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

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of course it wasn't "that bad," haley. you're white!!!
that was the whole point of segregation.

Posted by: mellowjohn on December 20, 2010 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't this a little bit like trying to prove you're not a fascist by pointing out that in the 30s, you supported Franco and Mussolini, but not Hitler? I suppose that makes you slightly less evil than an outright Nazi, but you're still a pretty big dick.

Posted by: jonas on December 20, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

You can't make this stuff up - it took a black president to save Barbour's-Citizens-Council-loving-ass (and the asses of those who would vote for him) during this year's oil spill mess. And by "save," I mean the authorization of massive government resources to address the spill, countless visits to the communities affected, and the obtaining of upfront billions from BP to help those affected.

And what is one of the first things out of Haley's mouth? Praise for a disgraceful, whites-only group.

It's strange that with the election of a black president, this country seems to be nearer than ever to going back to an overt and brutal racist past.

Posted by: June on December 20, 2010 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Obama as first black president has re-ignited a lot of the latent and not-so latent good ole boy redneck bigotry that won' just won't magically vanish with the passage of time. Racial hatreds withstand the test of time.

And have really gone mainstream with an odd twisted twist re: Glenn Beck and Obama as hating white people and white culture et al and Limbaugh and black reparations tirades.

Perhaps time to give a link and a visit to the Southern Poverty Law Center here: http://www.splcenter.org/ for a quick reality check.

Posted by: miktek on December 20, 2010 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Barbour has got two problems - not only is he a fool on civil rights, but he also looks like Boss Hogg after a 3 day bender, making people more likely to believe that, yes, he really IS a redneck.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on December 20, 2010 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Everything he says is classic racist tripe.

He thinks his southern white values have so metastasized throughout the country because of the election of a black president that he can confidently stride out of the racist closet.

Well... he can't.

Posted by: jjm on December 20, 2010 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

I covered this at some length eight months ago, and there was zero interest. Glad to see that it's suddenly legitimate. You might find it useful or interesting or timely or something.

"Haley the Barbourian and the Invisible Empire"


Posted by: Hart Williams on December 20, 2010 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

Haley Barbour is from Yazoo City? Of Course he is. Yazoo City lies at the crossroods of Yahooville and Wazooburg (with aplolgies to Dr. Suess). You really can't make these things up. Republicans render satire superfluous.

Posted by: broken arrow on December 20, 2010 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

It's strange that with the election of a black president, this country seems to be nearer than ever to going back to an overt and brutal racist past.

And yet, in another sense, it isn't so strange at all. There have always been a certain number of white people who (lacking money, or educational credentials, or a house on a hill, or prominent family connections, or other sources of real or imagined distinction) have depended on DuBois' "psychic wages of whiteness" to give them a sense of social worth. With the bottom having dropped out of the economy, such people wish more than ever to cling to those psychic wages as compensation for the decline in their *actual* wages...but having one of "them" in the White House makes it harder than ever for them to believe they're still holding those wages.

Posted by: Chet on December 20, 2010 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

It is good to expose Barbour for who he is and what he represents; and, perhaps the RNC will decide he is too extreme to be the candidate. It sure would pull the 2010 non-voters back to the polls in 2012 if he gets to be the candidate challenging our president though.

Posted by: withay on December 20, 2010 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

It is very odd that this has come out. I mean, this wasn't oppo research or something Romney's guys were pushing. He's just blabbing away about a group so racist they were expelled from CPAC. I used to think of him as canny, and able to play a king-maker role in the next GOP scramble for the presidency. No longer -- Palin has better instincts than this.

Posted by: Rathskeller on December 20, 2010 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

Don't be so quick to accept Barbour's assertion that the Citizens Council passed any such resolution regarding the KKK. He probably just made it up, and it shouldn't be too long before that truth comes out too.

Posted by: Kansachusetts on December 21, 2010 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

I give it 2-3 months before Barbour's stand on this issue first becomes common language among Gopers and then common sense knowledge on cable TV.

Facts don't matter, memes do!

Posted by: Vokoban on December 21, 2010 at 5:05 AM | PERMALINK

As usual liberals are taking things out of context. Barbour's use of the past tense when discussing the Yazoo City CCC was obviously referring to the last year or two, not the 1950s and 1960s.

His spokesman explained this but you geniuses are just incapable of listening.

Barbour is not a racist. He agreed that Mississippi should ratify the 13th amendment in 1995 and he didn't even try to reverse it once he became governor.

But you guys just ignore all of that.

Posted by: Myke K on December 21, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK



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