MS Governor: Slavery Omission No Big Deal

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Last week, we covered the outrage over Virginia governor Bob McDonnell's failure to mention slavery in a speech commemorating "Confederate History Month." McDonnell quickly apologized for the oversight, and the story began to slide out of the news cycle. Days later, as it was beginning to be forgotten, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour brought it back, defending McDonnell's original statement on CNN's State of the Union. Considered a possible presidential candidate in 2012, Barbour didn't see what all the fuss was about.

I don’t know what you would say about slavery, but anyone who thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery's a bad thing--I think it goes without saying. [...] To me it's a sort of feeling that it's just a nit. That it's not significant. It's trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn't matter for diddly.

Barbour's comments brought the same bloggers who thrashed McDonnell back for more. Outrage at the pattern of GOP governors diminishing slavery was mixed with amusement that Barbour had pulled an unwilling McDonnell back into the no-win story.

  • McDonnell's Worst Nightmare  At Firedoglake, Teddy Partridge manages to be irate and smug at the same time when pointing out the collateral damage of Barbour's remarks.
As Bob McDonnell, the new faux-moderate face of the oh-not-so-racist GOP, hoped that the whole controversy over his slavery omission that he’s serially apologized for and re-edited his Confederate History Month proclamation to accommodate, had gone away, here’s the guy Central Casting would send any movie director who asked for a “Southern Sheriff” type, despite being a megamillionaire after inventing pay-to-play K-Street lobbying and a stint as Chairman of the RNC.
  • Worst Kind of Hypocrisy  Disgusted at Barbour championing Confederate History Month while pooh-poohing the historical importance of slavery, the Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart calls out his blatant hypocrisy. "Funny how people who want their "culture" and history be respected -- and who get quite offended themselves when folks make a fuss about honoring those who fought against the Union to preserve a morally corrupt and barbaric system -- have no problem belittling those offended by McDonnell's insensitivity," he writes. "Then again, they don't care what those people think in the first place."
  • Doubling Down on Ignorance  The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates offers an insightful explanation of the root problem with people like Barbour. "The notion that slavery shouldn't be mentioned, because everyone knows its bad, but Robert E. Lee should be because, apparently, no one knows he was a great general, is, well, ignorant," Coates reasons. "But it's a naked emperor ignorant, an ignorant brandished by someone without the wits to know what they don't know, a kind of ignorance squared. And here is where you cross into plain stupid." Coates comes away from the situation confident Barbour's brand of "stupid" is not long for America.
Haley Barbour can get away with that sort of stupid--but only for today, and only in Mississippi. We are the future, not them.
  • This is a Reasonable Republican?  Barbour's comments reached across the pond, where the Guardian's Michael Tomasky shakes his head at the actions of a former RNC chairman who had been floated as a possible presidential candidate. Referring to the "conservative/Republican orbit," he declares: "When a nationally known former governor and possible future presidential candidate, and a sitting governor who is a former party chairman and another possible future presidential candidate, talk like this, then I find it entirely fair to say that these comments are emblematic." All that's left to say is: "Just wow."
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