Care to go for a swim, Haley?

CARE TO GO FOR A SWIM, HALEY?…. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), for all of his faults, has taken the BP oil spill disaster as seriously as he should. “This oil literally threatens our way of life,” Jindal said this week. “Here in Louisiana, we’re going to do everything we can do. We’re going to do what it takes to protect our way of life.”

The AP reports today that his neighbor, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), a former energy lobbyist, is taking a different tack.

[Barbour] told The Associated Press the oil spill could be disastrous for Mississippi’s coastal economy. Then he added: “But it’s just as possible that what happens here will be manageable and of moderate and even minimal impact.”

Oil has not started washing up on shore in any large quantities, and Barbour likened much of the spill to the gasoline sheen commonly found around ski boats.

“We don’t wash our face in it, but it doesn’t stop us from jumping off the boat to ski,” Barbour said.

He added that the oil spill is “not Armageddon.”

Unless Haley Barbour is seriously prepared to go for a swim, William-Weld-style, he should probably scrap this line of argument.

To be fair, it’s not as if Barbour is blowing off the disaster. He’s taken the right steps on disaster response. For that matter, Barbour’s rhetoric downplaying the problem may be deliberately insincere — he’s worried about losing tourist revenue, making him more willing to fudge the severity of the crisis.

But given the scope of this disaster, and its devastating consequences, Barbour sounds pretty ridiculous comparing one of the worst oil spills in history to the gas sheen found around ski boats, as if this were no big deal. That Barbour was a corporate lobbyist for energy companies only makes this look worse.