Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) defended the original Virginia Confederacy History Month proclamation — the one that omitted the mention of slavery — and said that the whole kerfuffle about it didn’t “amount to diddly.”
“I don’t know what you would say about slavery, but anybody that thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing–I think that goes without saying,” he said, adding “Maybe they should talk to my Democratic legislature, which has done the exactly same thing in Mississippi for years…I’m unaware of them being criticized for it.”
As for the criticism McDonnell faced, including from President Obama, Barbour said: “It’s sort of feeling that it’s a nit, that it is not significant, it’s trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn’t amount to diddly,” he also said.
The problem for McDonnell, of course: He’s been saying for several days now exactly the opposite, apologizing repeatedly for leaving slavery out of the proclamation and calling it a “major omission.”
A few points here. First, a Democratic legislature in Mississippi is not to be confused with the same in a place like Massachusetts or Minnesota. Southern Democrats are a wholly different breed, and when the right-wing pipes up and says that Democrats in the South stood in the way of desegregation and it was the Republicans who voted for Civil Rights over the filibusters of Sen. John Stennis and Richard Russell, that’s who they’re talking about; they may be fewer in numbers after Nixon’s Southern Strategy and Reagan Democrats, but they’re still there.
Second, Mr. Barbour is doing Mr. McDonnell no favors here by standing up for the original resolution, especially since the Virginia governor practically broke the three-minute walk-back last week when he admitted that leaving out slavery was a “major omission.” The best thing that Mr. McDonnell can do now is distance himself from Mr. Barbour and tell him, “Stop helping me.”
Third, and this is purely based on a personal reaction, Mr. Barbour’s style of delivery — a combination of televangelist and Boss Hogg — sounds like all of the good ole boys who used to tell us about “outside agitators” and people who “don’t know their place” back in the days of the Civil Rights movement. I know that bigotry can be expressed in any style — I’ve heard people who speak in the best manner of the Queen’s English spout racist and bigoted crap, too — but if the Republicans hope to reach out to minorities and independents who think that slavery does amount to more than just “diddly,” they need to get a better spokesman.