Did Barbour Hurt Himself In TWS Story?
In the Haley Barbour piece in The Weekly Standard that we touched on this morning, a couple comments seemed to have gained the most attention, both related to integration and the civil rights movement.
When asked why Yazoo City didn’t have the violence many other Southern towns did, Barbour responded with this: “Because the business community wouldn’t stand for it. You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”
And when Barbour was talking about growing up during the civil rights movement, he said: “I just don’t remember it as being that bad. I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in ’62. He spoke out at the old fairground and it was full of people, black and white.”
There are a couple issues here:
1) I think Barbour is guilty of apathy here. The “not bad” comment was probably geared toward what he saw in Yazoo City compared to what everyone else saw on the news (and what we read in the history books today). But at the same, Barbour was like a lot of other whites especially of his age. They might not have been marching with Martin Luther King, but they weren’t marching with the Klan either. Barbour admits it himself: when King came to town he was chasing girls. I honestly don’t think that’s too unusual, and don’t think Barbour can be knocked for that too much.
I imagine the “not bad” comments will be taken out of context to argue that’s how he was describing the entire civil rights era, but a thorough reading of the article should tell you otherwise.
2) The glorification of the CC is harder to explain. Politico’s Ben Smith used the phrase “soft mythologizing” to potentially describe where Barbour is coming from, and very quickly others dug up stories that paint a less than pretty picture of the CC in Yazoo City.
3) For Barbour, one of the best politicians in the game, it is very interesting- and curious- as to why he is still tripping over the issue. Race is going to come up with any Mississippi Republican who approaches a national level. But Barbour, someone who has spent many years in Washington, knows that things read differently in D.C. than they do in Jackson.