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Post Partisan
Posted at 02:43 PM ET, 08/19/2011

Haley, You Can Do Better

I confess to having a soft spot for Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Haley Barbour. Yes, I disagree with him on all sorts of things – probably most things -- and I wouldn’t want conservatives ever to suspect him of harboring secret liberal thoughts. But I have known him for a long time (we first met when he was working on the first President Bush’s presidential campaign in 1988) and he really is a shrewd southern charmer with an excellent sense of humor. As a rule, I like politicians who can laugh.

So I offer the following from disappointment, not animus. Barbour was just interviewed by Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC and Mitchell asked him about criticisms of Gov. Rick Perry’s many shoot-from-the-lip comments from fellow Republicans. Barbour ignored the part of question about Republicans and attributed the critiques of Perry to the “liberal media elite.”

He also said this: “When you are a conservative, Christian southerner, Republican, you have to expect that.”

Come on, Haley. Aren’t conservatives supposed to be against the idea of people casting themselves as victims? Isn’t this multiculturalism of a conservative sort? You ignore the actual criticism and say it’s motivated by prejudice, in this case against “conservative, Christian southerners.” For example, I don’t think that people who disagree with me offer criticism because I’m a liberal in the media who is Catholic and proudly hails from Massachusetts. They just disagree with me, and that’s their right no matter who I am.

Mitchell to her credit held her ground and pointed out to Barbour that the criticism of Perry was coming from such well-known liberals as John Podhoretz and Karl Rove.

Barbour likes Perry, and I understand politicians of a like mind standing up for each other. But people aren’t criticizing Perry for being who he is. They’re taking issue with him for what he has said and how he has said it. And the criticisms are coming from far outside liberal circles. As conservatives would put it in a different context, please don’t play that southern Christian conservative card, Haley.

UPDATE: I’ve corrected the Barbour quote to how it appears in the transcript, adding the word “Republican.”

By E.J. Dionne  |  02:43 PM ET, 08/19/2011

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