Maybe Haley Barbour should visit a bookstore sometime

MAYBE HALEY BARBOUR SHOULD VISIT A BOOKSTORE SOMETIME…. Fresh off his bizarre and widely-mocked version of Southern history, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has turned his attention to President Obama’s history.

Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi flirting with a presidential bid in 2012, told reporters today that Americans know less about President Obama than “any other president in history.”

Reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor this morning asked Barbour why so many voters wrongly think Obama is Muslim. Barbour said it’s surely no “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and that he has no reason to doubt Obama’s Christian faith or his citizenship.

“I accept just totally at face value that he’s a Christian,” Barbour said. “He said so throughout the time he’s been in public life, that’s good enough for me.”

But Barbour pointedly mused about where the false rumors have originated.

“I don’t know why people think what they think,” Barbour said. He paused and then added, “This is a president that we know less about than any other president in history.”

He went on to say — just as “an observation,” of course — that “there’s not much known” about the president’s youth. “We don’t know any of the childhood things,” Barbour argued.

I guess the follow-up for the governor is, “Who counts as ‘we’?”

I have a strong hunch that Haley Barbour doesn’t spend a lot of time in bookstores, but there’s an entire book about Obama’s upbringing. Obama wrote it. It was a best-seller.

“We” arguably know more about this president than any in modern times — his life has literally been an open-book that “we” can read.

The larger point remains the same, and it remains ugly. Far-right leaders, most notably those with problematic backgrounds on race, are obsessed with characterizing the president as some kind of foreign “other” to be mistrusted and seen as illegitimate. It’s absurd and offensive, but it remains at the center of conservative thought.