Updated 1:30 p.m.
Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour responded Tuesday to the furor over his remarks in The Weekly Standard that life during the Civil Rights era in Mississippi wasn't "that bad" and his apparent suggestion that the pro-segregation Citizens Council was a force for good in his home town of Yazoo City. His statement:
When asked why my hometown in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns' integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn't tolerate it and helped prevent violence there. My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the 'Citizens Council,' is totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country, and especially African Americans who were persecuted in that time.
Whether or not the statement will be enough to quell the furor over his words or a forestall an exhaustive examination of his record of remarks on race and the civil rights struggles of African Americans in the South remains an open question.
(My gut instinct is that the answer is no -- not in this partisan environment, and not given the level of scrutiny to which all candidates are subjected during presidential campaigns, should Barbour chose to run. More likely is that the controversy will appear to die down, his Republican and Democratic opponents will begin deeper digs on his record and the history of Yazoo City, and then the controversy will re-erupt with new force and fresh details at some later moment when those diggers decide it can do more political damage to Barbour or the Republican Party as a whole.)