Haley Barbour and the KKK: A perfect Republican match?
The other day, I withdrew my support for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
It was a difficult and sad thing to do, and it's not a decision I made lightly. I came to it only after serious reflection and delirious soul-searching. I want what's best for the Republican Party, after all, and I really thought that Barbour, the seemingly perfect Republican, was the best.
But, you know, if you support and lobby for amnesty for illegal immigrants, if you show even the tiniest speck of humanity towards the many hard-working people who just want to make a better life for themselves in America, as well as for their children, you're just not a good enough Republican, and you certainly don't deserve the lofty, Reaganesque honor of being your party's nominee for the highest office in the land.
But maybe I was too impulsive. Maybe I didn't think the thing through. Maybe I didn't give Boss Barbour enough credit.
Maybe -- yes, maybe -- I was wrong. And maybe I need to send him a big fat apology.
Because he really is a great Republican, and it took something he said just this week to remind me of that:
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Tuesday he won't denounce a Southern heritage group's proposal for a state-issued license plate that would honor Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
Barbour is a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate.
Questioned by reporters Tuesday after an energy speech in Jackson, Barbour said he doesn't think Mississippi legislators will approve the Forrest license plate proposed by the Mississippi Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The group wants to sponsor a series of state-issued license plates over the next few years to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War - or in its words, the "War Between the States." The Forrest license plate would be slated for 2014.
Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson said it's "absurd" to honor a "racially divisive figure" such as Forrest. Johnson has also called on Barbour to denounce the license plate idea.
Asked about the NAACP's stance Tuesday, Barbour replied: "I don't go around denouncing people. That's not going to happen. I don't even denounce the news media."
As Jonathan Chait notes, it would appear that, for Barbour the news media are even worse than the KKK. Such crazy anti-media sentiment certainly reinforces his Republican cred.
But it's also his refusal to denounce the effort to honor not just a major Confederate figure but a leader of the KKK that really sends his star back into orbit. While he said that "there's not a chance it'll become law," and hence that there won't be a state-issued licence plate (though it's not clear if he himself supports the idea or if he just thinks the Mississippi legislature won't approve it), it's that refusal that supersizes his Republican cred.
No, he's not perfect. Alas. There's still that "amnesty" blip, and he won't be able to run away from that, just as Romney won't be able to run away from health-care reform in Massachusetts.
But he's a good Republican, a very good Republican, and very much a model for how Republicans should conduct themselves. I doubt he'll run, and maybe he's not Teabagger enough for the far right, but the party could do a lot worse, and I really hope all Americans, especially independents who may need some help deciding between the two parties, come to identify him with the Republican Party.
He deserves no less. And neither does the GOP.