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Posted at 9:20 AM ET, 02/16/2011

Is Haley Barbour done yet?

By Jennifer Rubin

When Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour first ran into a firestorm on the race issue, I suggested he was done for as a potential presidential nominee. The last thing the Republican Party needed, I explained at the time, was a Southerner out of central casting who appeared tone deaf on race. And besides, what was the rationale for the governor's candidacy? But many conservatives disagreed and on he plunged into the primary before the primary.

Well, after an uninspired overseas speech and a rocky outing on the friendliest of the Sunday news shows, Barbour is back in the news, and the subject once again is race. Politico reports:

In the latest racially charged incident in his home state, Haley Barbour on Tuesday drew fire when he refused to condemn a proposal honoring a Klu Klux Klan leader and Confederate general on a state license plate.

"I don't go around denouncing people. That's not going to happen," Barbour, who is considering a run for the White House in 2012, said when asked about the plate, the Associated Press reported. "I know there's not a chance it'll become law."

The state NAACP has denounced the proposal from the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to honor Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who went on to become an early leader of the KKK.

Let's be clear: no candidate can successfully run for president if he doesn't understand you should rebuke efforts to honor the man most identified with the KKK.

Do I think Barbour is a racist? No. Do I think he's clueless as to how racial issues play outside his home state? Yes. Do I think it's feasible that the Republican electorate would want him as the standard bearer of its party to run against the first African American president? I really don't.

A very smart Republican consultant who is not aligned with any candidate said of the latest flap, "Maybe it's a good thing. Let everybody move on." Indeed, better for this to happen now, and for activists, insiders, donors and voters to know what would be in store with a Barbour candidacy. Barbour's been a valuable asset to the Governors' Association and to the party as RNC chairman. That doesn't mean he should be a presidential nominee. You sort of hope, for his own sake, he'll quietly return to the governorship before more damage is done to his own reputation.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 16, 2011; 9:20 AM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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"Do I think Barbour is a racist? No. Do I think he's clueless as to how racial issues play outside his home state? Yes."

This is one of the fairest things I think I've seen about Barbour's racial controversy. I'd add, though, that he's not so great at understanding racial issues even in Mississippi (at least from the perspective of black folks: ).

I don't necessarily condemn Barbour for it - he's a conservative, and his Mississippian base are predominately white conservatives, and in terms of genuine race-baiting, he's better than certain governors of Maine:

But he's fundamentally out of touch with most Americans on this one, left and right, and Obama's going to be a tough candidate for any Republican nominee. Barbour's presidential aspirations are dead in the water.

Posted by: NicholasLeCompte | February 16, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Forrest was a brilliant general, but his role in forming the Klan makes him one of the villains of Southern history. Barbour is clueless not to grasp that fact.

Posted by: eoniii | February 16, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

The fact that you're posting about HB shows how truly clueless and desperate the NeoCons are to find the sucessor to BO.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 16, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

"The fact that you're posting about HB shows how truly clueless and desperate the NeoCons are to find the sucessor to BO."

C'mon RCAR, just because JR writes an article on Haley Barbour (that denounces him no less), it isn't an attempt to "find the successor to BO." Should the dreaded "neo-cons" avoid writing articles about anyone who might have even an outside shot at being the R nominee?

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 16, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Yes Concentrate on winners not losers

Posted by: rcaruth | February 16, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I see no problem honoring HB, and no Democrat should either.... (I hear screaming somewhere lol..) Why? Two words.. Robert Byrd... Any Democrat remember him? I was shocked looking at all the appraise he got over the last decade, and a huge swelling of democratic pride after he died last year. They did not bring up the fact Byrd was the founder of his local KKK branch. Flying the confederate flag... BAD... honoring a true KKK founder.. GOOD! He’s our KKK guy so that’s ok…

Posted by: thatavkguy | February 16, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"Yes Concentrate on winners not losers."

RCAR, And who in god's name knows who's a winner and a loser at this point? Bill Clinton came from deep inside the pack to win the nomination. Obama was an underdog at this stage in the game as well. McCain was barely on the presidential nominee radar when things got started last time around.

My guess is that Barbour is not the nominee when we get to November 2012, but he's a potential candidate at this point. Who knows where he ends up??

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 16, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Rcar and Ritchie: That's why discussion of potential GOP presidential candidates is premature at this stage and more akin to gossip than anything else.

thatavkguy: trust me, plenty of Dems outside the Beltway, probably mostly northerners, were never Robert Byrd fans.

Posted by: MsJS | February 16, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

According to reports from his era he was not a great general. The Battle/Massacre at Fort Pillow. An official investigation discovered evidence that "the Confederates were guilty of atrocities which included murdering most of the garrison after it surrendered, burying Negro soldiers alive, and setting fire to tents containing Federal wounded."

Byrd and the Klan. Joined in 1942 and left in 1943. He said, he thought the Klan could provide an outlet for his talents and ambitions but would long live to regret it. In a 2005 interview he said, "I know now I was wrong. Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times . . . and I don’t mind apologizing over and over again. I can’t erase what happened." No comparison.

Posted by: rlj1 | February 16, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

There is no comparison between NB Forrest and Sheets Byrd. The only people who have to answer for Byrd are the voters of West Virginia, an inbred, slackjawed group if there ever was one. There are few if any Northern states that would ever have elected this pompous clown.

And at least Byrd apologized for his missteps, unlike Strom "I love me some dark meat" Thurmond -- and not on his deathbed, either.

Posted by: Observer691 | February 16, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Barbour was a non-starter. Sure, just have the GOP keep tacking far Right, alienate the center. You can't win with just 30% of the vote. Better forget 2012, and look towards 2016 when you decide America wants neither extreme.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 16, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Come on. He don't get it, and he ain't never gonna get it. The only people who would think Haley Barbour would be a good presidential candidate are Democrats. He's goofy on top of everything else. There are better southern governors around, including former Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama.

Posted by: dparks2 | February 16, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Boss Hog

Posted by: rcaruth | February 16, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

rlj1, I agree that the Fort Pillow massacre was unforgivable even by the standards of the time (see Gen. W.T. Sherman's march across Georgia). You're wrong, though, about Forrest not being a great cavalry general. He revolutionized the tactics of warfare despite having little education and no military training. He emphasized getting there first with the most, which has remained a main principle of warfare ever since. Shelby Foote said the Civil War produced only two geniuses, Lincoln and Forrest.

Forrest was a ferocious warrior who reportedly killed 31 men in hand-to-hand combat and had thirty horses shot out from under him during the war. His courage, leadership skills, and tactical brilliance were off the charts. But the Fort Pillow massacre and his role in founding the KKK, in my opinion, outweigh the recognition he deserves for his greatness.

Posted by: eoniii | February 16, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

The Civil War was long ago. Even Woodrow Wilson praised Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" with its glorification of the KKK.
WHAT many (most?) people don't know is that Theodore Roosevelt's racial views were EXACTLY the same as Adolph Hitler's.

Check it OUT - - - Our racial slaughter of the monkey men, women and children in the Philippines was a forerunner of Hitler's Holocaust!

Geeze! When will Rubin and others learn to stop judging people by 2011 social mores? Apparently never!

Stupidity and Ignorance persists.

Posted by: lufrank1 | February 16, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

The question isn't really whether Barbour is a racist or not. Might be, might not be...we can't be sure of what he thinks. However, if he's this clueless about how a candidate should behave, he clearly doesn't have the sense to be a successful presidential candidate. He's a backroom pol/operator and very good at it. He's not ready to be out in front.

Posted by: AHappyWarrior | February 16, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

@ thatavkguy: You mentioned.. Byrd was a republican first at heart. Why do you think he joined the KKK and than became a democrat later. He realized what the republican party was all about and how wrong they were. So he decided to run as a democrat to help those the republican party wanted to shaft. Someone had to protect them and Byrd took it upon himself to stand up for the rights of people, freedom and justice for all. May he rest in peace...

Posted by: Realistic5 | February 16, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

First, the guy is a Bigot, plain ans simple, includiong the capital "B".
Second, he's a hillbilly bigot AND a K Street CROOK. I think he'd be a brilliant tea-bagger republican candidate!

Posted by: jeffc6578 | February 16, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I see Gov "Boss Hogg" Barbour as the epitome of everything that is wrong with America, and of nothing that is right with America.
As such, I cannot imagine supporting him for any national office; but, I can foresee a new golden age in political cartooning, if by the curse of God, he happened to get elected.

Posted by: OldUncleTom | February 16, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Barbour seems to think that the issue will resolve itself by being defeated in the legislature. That however does NOT excuse his clueless and spineless approach to the issue. America is so over politicians of his stripe.

Posted by: drazen1 | February 16, 2011 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Is Haley Barbour done yet? mean is his season of vanity as a poseur trying to see if his doomed prospects for POTUS are something other than "unreal" or "impossible" finally reaching their inevitable conclusion?

He is not only done, he is Did.

There are no Republican contenders yet that meet that test of "hey now, that guy (yes...male...because c'mon, there are no serious female contenders)looks like a US president.

Posted by: roboturkey | February 16, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

He's wasting everyone's time. Ain't going to happen. A good ole boy from the south. Anyone is mentally picturing him wearing a hood. And, since Nixon, chipmunk looking presidents ain't the way either.

Posted by: RegisUrgel | February 16, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Haley might have thought he might get a call to be VP on the ticket, even if he did not do well in the primaries. But, after this, Say Goodnight, Haley!!

Posted by: ners1507 | February 16, 2011 7:33 PM | Report abuse

It's disappointing. Barbour had all of the chops to be a legit national candidate. I don't think he's bigoted (well, at least racist), but he has blinders regarding the South.

That's fair enough. He'll be a successful governor of 'Bama. Just don't plan on a house on the Potomac.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 16, 2011 8:16 PM | Report abuse

It's laughable that anyone thought he had a chance to be POTUS in the first place.

He is a repulsive overweight good ol' boy.

How could anyone think this repellent racist slug had a chance to be POTUS.

It boggles the mind.

Posted by: ethereal_reality | February 16, 2011 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Yes, stick a fork in him...

Posted by: staussfamily | February 16, 2011 10:42 PM | Report abuse

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