Boy they must really, really like Haley Barbour in the Village. Andrea Mitchell and Chris Cillizza twisted themselves into pretzels today trying to excuse his "mess" and explain why he didn't mean what he seemed to mean, even as they both agree his words were "indefensible"
Cillizza: I'm sure in Haley Barbour's mind, what he was thinking in this interview was, that he was waxing nostalgic about his time growing up in a small town in the South. This story was about how he was the four year letter winner and he was the class president even when he was a junior and he was the guy everybody thought was going to go do big things and now he's done big things and now is he going to do it on a bigger stage. The problem is that talking about the 1960s and 1970s, the civil rights movement, race was a huge issue a huge problem, you can't wax nostalgic about those times. He has to be smarter than that going forward if he's going to be taken seriously as a presidential hopeful. This is clearly a slip-up -- it's not the end of the road for him, I think that's a little much but it's a slip-up.
Mitchell: it's something he's going to have to deal with and we saw today him dealing with it. Thank you very much.
Yeah, Haley Barbour's only been at the very top of the GOP heap for decades, a two term Governor and one of the most successful lobbyists in Washington. Cilizza says in his piece today on the flap that everyone in Washington considers him "the most able political strategist in the party." Yet we're supposed to believe that in this case he's so dumb that he didn't realize that the issue of race in the South in the 1960s was a minefield. Sure. But the good news is that he's "dealing with it" --- winking and nodding the whole way.
It's fairly clear that the GOP is seriously looking for a faux populist to run against Obama. And the Tea Party may require it. But while Barbour has a Southern drawl there is no one more "establishment" than he is. He's got some work to do to separate himself from his moneyed, beltway ties.
It's certainly possible that he just misspoke. Cillizza seemed to think that Barbour just got too comfortable with his pals in the press and didn't realize how toxic this would sound.it's possible, but Barbour is no George Allen -- he's a very sharp guy. And he knows that if he's running for president he has a much different constituency to worry about than a bunch of beltway chatterers and bloggers. He needs to let these Tea Partiers know for sure that he isn't some Gucci loafer wearing insider, but an authentic Real American who understands them very well. There are certain ways to do that and this one is an old GOP standard.
And while it's true that this isn't the good old days of the Southern Strategy, a smart politician can always find a way to put something "out there" and then take it back, having the best of both worlds.
Update: Did Haley suddenly change back to a sloppy white supremecist since 2004?
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