MS Gov. Haley Barbour (R) is an ex-lobbyist, RNC chair, WH pol. dir. “and a familiar enough piece” of the nat’l pol. “furniture to be known simply as ‘Haley’” within certain DC circles.
“Now, for the second time in five years,” Barbour “finds himself in a highly visible role during a Gulf Coast catastrophe. As he nears the end of his eight-year stint” as gov., Barbour’s “performance could help shift his political image from that of an insider party boss to an out-front crisis” mgr. — and possible WH candidate in ‘12.
Barbour, 62, “is proof that if you hang around long enough, even a good old boy lobbyist and political party animal can come back into fashion — or at least be recast by circumstance. A self-described ‘fat redneck,’ he speaks in a marble-mouthed” MS “drawl, loves Maker’s Mark bourbon, resembles an adult version of Spanky from the Little Rascals and fits no one’s ideal of a sleek new political model: squat, big-bellied and pink-jowled, he looks as if he should have a cigar in his mouth at all times (and occasionally does).”
Barbour, one of the few pols “whose standing was enhanced by his response to Hurricane Katrina, has eagerly taken on the post of de facto director of tourism for the Gulf Coast, a task only slightly less daunting or thankless than heading” a PR campaign for BP. “He has complained bitterly about what he calls the news media’s exaggerations and distortions about the spill.” Barbour: “I’ve heard reports that this would be a threat to Europe. … That’s about the same as saying I’m going to grow wings and take flight.”
Unlike his counterpart in LA, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), Barbour “has mostly been spared the day-to-day incursion of oil along his state’s shores. That has allowed him to promote his bona fides on popular” GOP causes (“he remains enthusiastic about offshore drilling, an important source of jobs in his state) and bogeymen” (WH-backed “cap and trade” energy policies). Barbour “has been generally muted in his criticism of BP and was among the first” GOPers to object to the Obama admin.’s insistence on a $20B BP escrow account to settle damage claims. “He has also warned against efforts by the left to turn the spill into a regulatory cause célÃ¨bre.” Barbour: “A bunch of liberal elites were hoping this would be the Three Mile Island of offshore drilling.”
His “upbeat attitude about the spill reflects the happy-go-Haley persona that he adopted from his political idol” and ex-boss, Ronald Reagan. But his views have drawn criticism from local Dems, “assorted bloggers and late-night comedians, even inspiring ridicule in a Web video juxtaposing his beach-promoting statements with those of the mayor in the movie ‘Jaws,’ who urged tourists to enjoy shark-infested waters.” MS state Rep. Diane Peranich (D): “I appreciate him promoting tourism, but not to the detriment of reality.”
Barbour “exudes a throwback vibe harking to a time when politicians were unafraid to call themselves ‘politicians’ and could actually admit to being well-connected insiders who know people” in DC, “tell the occasional dirty joke and sip a cocktail or three after hours.” MSU prof. Martin Wiseman: “Haley is on a neck-hugging basis with more people in politics than you will ever see” (Leibovich, New York Times, 6/19).
Let’s Make A Good, Fair Deal
Barbour was on “Meet the Press” 6/20.
Barbour, on how the gov’t has handled the oil spill: “As I’ve said before and said to the President, I think the federal government’s done more right than wrong. I thought appointing Ken Feinberg, who’s got a great reputation that’s well-deserved is good for BP and good for the government.”
More Barbour, on Pres. Obama‘s promise that the Gulf will be in better shape after the cleanup: “The federal government can’t do that. The federal government can’t dictate that to the Gulf Coast, to Mississippi or Louisiana or Florida or Alabama. Those kind of decisions about how to rebuild are decisions for the local people. … And the government has talked like and I believe from this Mavis Commission (PH) that they’re gonna try to put in some— additional resources. But the local people gotta make the decisions about recovery.”
More Barbour, on the escrow fund: “Well, I thought that they were talking about taking $20B from BP all at once. And my fear was if you took $20B from them all at once, put it in an escrow account, then they wouldn’t have the working capital to generate the revenue to pay us. I think the President was smart. And I congratulate him and BP that they reached an agreement instead of $20B taken out of that working capital all at once, it’s actually gonna be $5B this year, $5B the next year, $5B the following year, and $5B the fourth year.”
More Barbour, on his message to the GOP: “My message always is, ‘Look, tell the truth. You know, put the truth out. Let’s let the public decide.’ The public’s decision right now is pretty bad for the President. But that— I’m not gonna pile on, as you’ve seen by the last 30 or 45 minutes of us talking.”
Barbour, on his message to the GOP: “My message always is, ‘Look, tell the truth. You know, put the truth out. Let’s let the public decide.’ The public’s decision right now is pretty bad for the President. But that— I’m not gonna pile on, as you’ve seen by the last 30 or 45 minutes of us talking.”
More Barbour, on whether Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) was right: “Well, I don’t think what he said was accurate. Because I think the way this worked out was it was dividing it up into $5B a year, instead of one $20B — lump sum. I think actually is a fair, good deal for everybody” (NBC, 6/20).
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