An Awfully Loud Dog Whistle

by Patrick Appel

2012 Republican hopeful Haley Barbour is rightly being pummeled for his praise of 1950s and 1960s era segregationist Citizens Councils. Weigel suggests the comments were politically calculated:

Barbour is not dumb. If he's being a revisionist about race in Mississippi, he's not alone, and he's fighting back against a media standard that all conservatives hate -- this idea that Southerners and conservatives can never stop atoning for Jim Crow. Why should he have to apologize for this, after all?

Sargent isn't so sure:

There's a lot of talk on the Internets to the effect that Barbour fully intended to make his claim about the Councils, as part of some sort of "southern strategy." Whether or not that's true, this kind of skirting of the line on race makes GOP establishment figures very nervous these days. When Michael Steele recently acknowledged that the GOP had been pursuing a "southern strategy" for four decades, GOP insiders were privately furious about Steele's lapse.

So if the narrative takes hold that Barbour is undisciplined or sloppy about racial matters, and is unwilling or unable to keep this third rail at arm's length, this could seriously damage his standing among insiders as a 2012 presidential hopeful.