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Posted at 8:55 AM ET, 02/10/2011

Haley Barbour in Israel

By Jennifer Rubin

The purpose of a foreign trip for a presidential candidate is to impress those who think the candidate is limited or non-presidential. It is a time for a candidate to stretch beyond his or her comfort zone. The candidate wants voters back home to imagine the he or she could, on day one, be there representing America.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) did not accomplish any of that at the Herzliya Conference. In fact, he simply reinforced the image that he is a governor of a Southern state with no real message.

Let's be honest: his thick southern accent is a bit hard for American audiences to discern, and it surely must have baffled the Israelis. That would be a minor issue if the content of his speech had been innovative or interesting. But the real problem is that his speech largely sounded like two recycled speeches -- one from the Republican Governors Association and one from an AIPAC outing -- that had been slammed together. He talked about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the clean-up. He espoused the virtues of energy independence. For an Israeli audience, this was provincial.

On Israel, he delivered a speech that sounded like it was extracted from "500 platitudes about Israel." In no particular order, he said Israel was our friend; Israel is a "strategic asset, not a liability;" we have to judge leaders on results; and our focus should be on Iran ("The number-one threat to peace and stability is Iran"). He ended: "Well done. Thanks. We're with you."

This is not a sign that Barbour understands that his biggest challenge is elevating his image from party insider/fundraiser to national leader. It is not a sign that he takes seriously the intellectual and rhetorical demands of a presidential run. In fact, his rhetorical skills are quite limited and the crowd applauded infrequently.

Barbour, I am told, was an effective governor. And he has been a loyal party insider and wonderful RNC chair. But if he wants to run for president he'll have to do better than this.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 10, 2011; 8:55 AM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Next: Herzliya wrap-up


Methinks Ms. Rubin is making too much of the situation.

Very few in the audience will actually vote in the 2012 U.S. presidential primaries. The conference and speech were barely covered by American media. It almost doesn’t matter what the governor said. Besides, I rather suspect his primary reason for the trip was to whip up more Israeli investment for his state, investment that’s partially paid for with U.S. tax dollars.

The real action for GOP presidential hopefuls this week is at CPAC, not in Israel. If Gov. Barbour is uninspiring at CPAC, then Ms. Rubin might have something to write about.

Posted by: MsJS | February 10, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

What a cynical, stupid article. Why don't you post the speech and let people judge for themselves?:

As for:
"Let's be honest: his thick southern accent is a bit hard for American audiences to discern, and it surely must have baffled the Israelis."

What a snoty little remark. I don't think Israelis are as narrow-minded or as provential as you. Many Israeli companies have business in Mississippi, as they do in places all over the world, and are not as "baffled" by differenct cultures, languages or accents... as you are. Try to overcome your petty little prejudices.

Posted by: Gelman1 | February 10, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Evidently the audience doesn't share your views, Jennifer, as Daniel Halper from the TWS said he received a standing ovation. And yes, your remarks about his accent were really telling. Guess you look down your nose at us Southerners.

Posted by: cajunkate | February 10, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse

didn't = doesn't

Posted by: cajunkate | February 10, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

"But if he wants to run for president he'll have to do better than this"

It's irrelevant what HB wants,what is relevant,is, does the GOP want to win back the Presidency in 2012?if they don't,Barbour can join a long list of GOP wannabes that can't beat BHO.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 10, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Ed.'s note:

"... thick southern accent is a bit hard for American audiences to discern..."

how about, "southern accent is a bit jarring on American ears"
or, "southern accent makes it a bit hard for American audiences to understand him", or "too reminiscent of Jimmy Carter"
oh heck, I give up, you discern my meaning. We can't help it we're Yankees!

Posted by: aardunza | February 10, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else remember that old Hawaii Five-O episode "Three Dead Cows at Makapu" with Loretta Swit the telephone operator telling that alcoholic actor Ed something(from St. Elsewhere) 'you're from Pennsylvania, I can always tell by the accent.'
With the exception of Chuck Grassley, Iowans speak normally, everyone else has an accent, right?

Posted by: aardunza | February 10, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer Rubin wrote about Haley Barbour: " we have to judge leaders on results; and our focus should be on Iran ("The number-one threat to peace and stability is Iran"). He ended: "Well done. Thanks. We're with you."

The answer to this staement is a phrase Mrs. Ashraf a Palestanian Mp qouted: "Not only Jews have occupied Palestine, they also occupied Washington". What a perfect analogy.

Posted by: abraham3 | February 10, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I listened to him speak until I was bored out of my head. He started off with a lame joke that no one in the audience understood, about having to have his speech translated into English. When no one laughed, he explained about the southern accent.

If Daniel Halper said he received a standing ovation, it must have been after I gave up watching and listening. Mostly Barbour received polite applause. Occasionally, when he hit on some platitude, the clapping was a bit louder.

This man is definitely not presidential material.

Posted by: orawh | February 10, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Ora, I see you've found Ms. Rubin's blog. I look forward to your comments here.

Posted by: MsJS | February 10, 2011 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Hi MsJS. You probably won't find many of my comments here. I only commented because I heard the speech or part of it and agreed with Ms. Rubin. Usually I avoid even reading the comments on most blogs, with one exception, of course, because they are often so full of vitriol.

Posted by: orawh | February 10, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

What a boob... we should be subjected to an Isreali governor of the Dead Sea state come yammer about being with the U.S.... "you are our friend ($2B a yr), you are not a liability.... blah. blah, yadda, yadda. Am I eating barbe-qued.....?

Posted by: 5inchtaint | February 10, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Ora, you are correct in surmising there is plenty of vitriol here.

I'll enjoy reading you elsewhere then.

Posted by: MsJS | February 10, 2011 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Barbour is simply the latest in a list of GOP presidential hopefuls lining up to get Israel's stamp of approval. Politico reported yesterday that there was a time when such candidates had to visit multiple states to achieve some degree of foreign policy cred, but the GOP has thrown all their eggs in the Israel basket.

It's astonishing the degree to which these politicians are bowing to the Israeli Lobby. If they had any honesty they would come out and admit that they are not interested in protecting the Constitution, but in serving Israel's interests.

How putrid that the leaders of this country have fallen to the point where they are grovelling at the feet of a foreign state.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 10, 2011 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Barbour, like other extremist Republicans and Christians, is hanging around Egypt in case they need a new dictator or another Reagan to part the Red Sea. La Jindal set the bar low by forcing BP to build his sand berms.

Posted by: ozonator | February 11, 2011 1:43 AM | Report abuse

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