The Washington Post

Barbour: Obama’s policies a ‘threat’ to economic future

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), taking another step toward an expected run for the 2012 presidential nomination, road-tested his economic message on Monday in a speech in which he blamed President Obama’s economic policies for failing to revive the economy and posing “an even greater threat to our economic future.”

Addressing the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce in Obama’s home town, Barbour mocked the president’s efforts to reach out to businesses.

“The recent election seems to have given the president the zeal of a convert who just heard the Gospel. Now he’s meeting with CEOs. Extending the Bush tax cuts. Even speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” Barbour said. “Talking to business leaders about the economy. Now that’s ‘change’ even I can believe in.”

But Barbour added: “Despite all the talk, there’s no change in policy. And the policies embraced by this White House show little understanding of how our economy actually works.”

He acknowledged that the Obama presidency had been greeted by “the worst economic conditions in decades,” but he said that the administration had made it worse, increasing uncertainty by pursuing “explosive spending, skyrocketing deficits, gargantuan debt, calls for record tax increases, government-run health care, out-of-control regulations and anti-growth energy policy.”

Barbour sketched out his own economic agenda, a series of four business-friendly proposals that are well within standard GOP dogma: boosting investment through corporate tax cuts and a reduction in lawsuits; expanding trade and foreign investment in the United States; improving education and expanding immigration policies to attract “the world’s most talented engineers, computer scientists, chemists, and inventors”; and increasing domestic energy production through more drilling.

Barbour’s greatest strength as a national candidate might be the extraordinary political network that he built as a longtime Washington insider — as an aide in the Reagan White House, a lobbyist and chairman of the Republican National Committee. But in the tea party era, that background might also be a liability — something that Barbour addressed in the speech.

“I spent much of my professional life as a political strategist and as a lobbyist in Washington. I ran the political office of the White House for Ronald Reagan. I am very proud of the work I did. I understood Congress and the administration. I saw the sausage factory up close. I started a business, which was deemed very successful,” he said. “But when I took the oath of office as governor, I got a new perspective on government and how it affects real people.”

It was evident that Barbour has also moved to address another potential stumbling block to his candidacy — a series of recent comments that have been portrayed as racially insensitive.

Seated at the front of the ballroom for Barbour’s speech was a table of African American community leaders. Among them was Andrea Zopp, president of the Chicago Urban League, who had initially planned to object to Barbour’s appearance here, because she had been offended by an interview last year in which the Mississippi governor had seemed to defend the South’s notorious segregationist Citizens Councils.

Zopp said, however, that she decided not to protest the speech after Barbour’s aides and the Chamber of Commerce put her in touch with a number of African American business leaders in Barbour’s home state.

They praised the governor for the measures that he had put forward to encourage minority business development, she said.

“Actions speak louder than words, and the minority business organizations that have worked with him are very positive,” Zopp said. “I’m here to hear what he has to say.”

As he concluded his speech, Barbour cited another president from Illinois — one who is a hero to civil rights leaders. But he gave Abraham Lincoln’s legacy a pro-business spin.

“Lincoln understood that entrepreneurial capitalism is the economic equivalent of political freedom,” the governor said. “In this 150th anniversary of his inauguration, we should rediscover the timeless wisdom of Abraham Lincoln.”

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The New Hampshire primary is today. See live results and get caught up on the race.
The Post's Philip Bump says ...
Since he proclaimed that he'd win New Hampshire last summer, Bernie Sanders has seen a swing of about 50 points in his direction. Impressive. But not as impressive as the guy on the other side of the political aisle. Donald Trump has led the Republican field in New Hampshire for almost 200 days, and has held a lead in 51 straight live-caller polls -- every poll stretching back to last July.
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.