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Blog Buzz: The Barbour backlash

Bloggers on the left and right responded to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s statement today walking back his comments on the Civil Rights era.

NRO’s Jim Geraghty linked back to a 1982 New York Times article that quoted Barbour making a racially-charged joke:

But the racial sensitivity at Barbour headquarters was suggested by an exchange between the candidate and an aide who complained that there would be ''coons'' at a campaign stop at the state fair. Embarrassed that a reporter heard this, Mr. Barbour warned that if the aide persisted in racist remarks, he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks.

Geraghty considered Barbour’s recent comments in the Weekly Standard along with the “watermelon” statement, as well as several other comments made throughout his career.

Will this settle the issue? Perhaps it ought to, at least for the holiday season, and until Barbour makes a decision on a presidential bid.

But if Barbour runs, we will hear a great deal about the word "watermelon" and how it was used and why. He and his campaign had better be ready to handle the inevitable questions, fair and unfair, and predictable media firestorm. No presidential candidate wants to deal with this sort of thing when there are major, pressing issues facing the nation that they would rather discuss. But then again, most presidential candidates aren't quoted using the term in the New York Times.

On the liberal end, Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter noted that bloggers on the right seem to have dialed back their own defense of Barbour, suggesting that his comments may be enough to prevent mainstream Republicans from gathering behind a Barbour presidential bid.

Oh, right. African Americans were persecuted (but that was then, right? Mississippi is a bastion of equality, now). He almost forgot that part in his rewriting the history of Yazoo City in the 1950s. Will it wipe away Barbour's long history of glorifying the South's racist past? Probably not. Judging by how the Right ended up turning on him, and turning fast, they're apparently not ready for such blatant racism becoming the face of the GOP. They prefer a much quieter dog whistle.

Balloon Juice’s John Cole is “stunned” by the following Barbour commnent:

In interviews Barbour doesn’t have much to say about growing up in the midst of the civil rights revolution. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” he said.

Wrote Cole:

Everyone seems to be focusing on the Citizen Council and the other race hate groups of the day, but for me, but when I hear him say it wasn’t that bad, I just can’t get past wanting to scream “BECAUSE YOU’RE F***ING WHITE, A**HOLE.”

Sweet jeebus. The Holocaust wasn’t that bad for Hitler, either. Until the very end.

The Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen said the statement smelled purely of damage control, as the remarks were “wholly at odds with what he told the Weekly Standard, which, as a prominent Republican magazine, doesn't have any reason to misquote him or twist his words out of context.”

The second is that Barbour's chief spokesperson, hoping to defend his boss, took a slightly different line than the governor did yesterday. This makes today's statement look more like spin and crisis management than a sincere clarification.

And finally, let's also not forget that the published remarks became so instantly inflammatory this week precisely because of Barbour's atrocious record on racial issues. Today's statement more or less makes the right points, but it's not as if the governor has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to diversity and respect for minority groups.