Barbour's Racial Myopia.

It's a strange day at TAP when I find myself agreeing with Jim Geraghty:

I stand by my earlier point that the bar for accusations of racism has gotten dangerously low, and that Monday afternoon we saw a disturbing conveyor belt in which Barbour was compared to the worst villains of American history over a lone comment that suggests historical inaccuracy and gauzy hometown sentimentalism, not a deep-rooted hatred or a belief in one group of Americans’ inferiority. Neither inaccuracy nor obliviousness is hate, and neither deserves the same response.

It doesn't really matter whether Haley Barbour is a racist or not. He doesn't seem to have any particular racial animus, and I've seen nothing in his actions to suggest otherwise.

If there is anything significant in Barbour's comments, it's the extent to which they reveal his basic indifference to surrounding injustice. Of course he doesn't see his local White Citizens Council as a white supremacist organization; he wasn't the target of social and economic intimidation by his town's business elites. Of course he doesn't remember the strife at Ole Miss during integration; no one told him that "nigger bitches needed to go home." That would be okay, if he could acknowledge his myopia. But he can't and instead, opts to believe in a mythical Mississippi, where state-condoned terrorism wasn't the norm for African Americans.

Relatedly, I'm amazed that Barbour is viewed as a viable presidential candidate. Adam tells me that he has real pull within the Republican establishment, as head of the Republican Governor's Association, and chairman of the Republican National Committee during the 1994 Republican Revolution. Still, Barbour is almost comically unsuited to facing Barack Obama in a presidential election. Where Obama is Spock, Barbour is Foghorn Leghorn, where Obama is cool, Barbour is gregarious, and where Obama represents a post-racial future, Barbour represents the divisive past. Without a poor economy to support his odds, Barbour would be the Mondale to Obama's Reagan.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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