Was Barbour being bad or honest?

Published 12:24 am Sunday, December 26, 2010

The good news for Haley Barbour is that the left-wing is after him. That means he’s being taken as a serious contender. The ruckus over Barbour’s latest interview is a typical example of taking individual words out of context.

For instance, Barbour is being blasted for saying something, we don’t know what, “wasn’t that bad.”

The liberal bloggers argue that Barbour was saying the Citizens Council and the KKK “wasn’t that bad” but in fact, Barbour said no such thing.

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Here’s is the exact text of the Weekly Standard article.

“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.”

Note that the introductory sentence preceding Barbour’s infamous statement contains “interviews” with an “s”. So we really don’t know the exact question to which Barbour was responding. Was Barbour referring to the violence associated with Yazoo City desegregation, which indeed “wasn’t that bad” compared to other cities in Mississippi. Was Barbour referring to the economic impact on the town, which “wasn’t that bad.” Was he referring to the impact of the civil rights movement on his individual life which probably “wasn’t that bad.” Was Barbour referring to the level of violence typically associated with such a revolution which, indeed, “wasn’t that bad” in historical terms. The violence associated with the Mississippi’s civil rights movement was minuscule compared to the French Revolution of China’s Cultural Revolution or even the gang warfare raging right now in our inner cities.

If you are going to blast someone for an exact quote, it only seems fair to state the exact question to which the quote was in response.

At least with the other “controversial” remark we have a clear question.

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.”

So where is Barbour “lauding” the Citizens Council as the liberal bloggers howl? Barbour is simply pointing out that by 1970, the Citizens Council, which had less taste for violence than the KKK, had greater influence and thus there was less violence. This is historical fact. Calling members of the Yazoo Citizens Council “local leaders” is historical fact, sad though it may be. Local leaders often support vile organizations, although some are less vile than others. To say the Citizens Council has less taste for violence cannot be construed as an endorsement of the Citizens Council by any objective person.

Of course, Gov. Barbour should have stated he was mesmerized, inspired and transformed at age15 listening to Martin Luther King speak. Instead, he answered honestly, saying he had a hard time hearing the words and he was just hanging out watching the crowd.

Of course Barbour should have mouthed all the liberal platitudes about the civil rights era, taking extreme caution to how his words might be twisted by liberal bloggers out to smear him. Instead of going into hyper-PC mode, Barbour was just honest. If Barbour were truly a racist, eight years as governor of Mississippi, where 38 percent of the state is African American, would have exposed it. Instead, he has an approval rating of over 70 percent.

Was this an incredible unforced error by Barbour? Or was this a man, comfortable in his own skin, being honest and up front. Ronald Reagan had a reputation of being the teflon man because the liberal media couldn’t make the character assassinations stick. I won’t be surprising if Barbour has inherited the same quality from his mentor.