Ben Adler: Haley Barbour’s Historical Amnesia

Roundup: Media's Take

[Ben Adler is a writer for Newsweek.]

As we mentioned in our guide to Republican presidential contenders, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is prone to making racially insensitive comments. This year alone, he dismissed complaints that Virginia’s Confederate History Month made no mention of slavery as “not amounting to diddly,” and he claimed, falsely that he attended integrated schools and that he befriended Verna Bailey, the first black woman to attend the University of Mississippi.

This tendency suggests a strong preference on Barbour’s part to revise the odious racial history of his home state, which he lived through. It has triggered a debate over whether Barbour is racist and if so, whether he can win the presidency. But both questions ignore the fact that any GOP president likely will have the same substantive policies on race.

In this week’s Weekly Standard, in an entertaining cover profile of Barbour, the governor says of growing up during the civil-rights revolution, “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.” He explains how school integration was carried out in his town without violence: “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.”...

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