Leaving a mark on Barbour

LEAVING A MARK ON BARBOUR…. There was a fair amount of media coverage yesterday on Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s (R) ridiculous remarks regarding race and Southern history, which should do some lasting damage to the lobbyist-turned-politician’s reputation.

The next question, I suppose, is how much damage we can expect to see. Steve M. expects this to “pass relatively quickly,” regardless of whether or not Barbour “ever shows genuine contrition or evidence of soul-searching.”

We know this because, four years after his “macaca” moment, George Allen is preparing to run for the Senate again, and will probably be the favorite in the Republican race to take on Jim Webb two years from now.

We know this because while the revelation of GOP operative Fred Malek’s role as “Jew counter” in the Nixon White House cost him a prominent position in the 1988 campaign of George H.W. Bush, Malek was back working for Bush two years later as coordinator of plans for an economic summit. He subsequently became Bush’s ’92 campaign manager; more recently, he’s been a top advisor to John McCain’s 2008 campaign, the chair of a government reform commission for Virginia governor Bob O’Donnell, and a top advisor to Sarah Palin.

Oh, and after making racially charged remarks, Trent Lott didn’t become a Beltway pariah — he became a lobbyist, within weeks of resigning his Senate seat, and there isn’t a shred of evidence that his remarks have hurt his new career.

I find nearly all of this persuasive. Time and again, we’ve seen Republicans take heat for controversial, racially-charged comments, and it tends to leave a mark, but the scar invariably heals.

Indeed, when it comes to Barbour in specific, this isn’t a hypothetical — he’s made racist comments before, but he’s managed to persevere politically anyway.

The only angle to this on which I disagree with Steve is that Boss Hogg is looking for a very specific kind of promotion. Allen, Lott, and the other examples are entirely legit, but none of those GOP figures ever tried to run for president. The scrutiny at that level is a different animal.

More to the point, if Barbour were seeking another term in Mississippi, I could see him easily overcoming this most recent controversy. If he were setting up another lobbying shop or angling for a job on Fox News, it’s safe to assume his praise of white supremacist Citizens Councils would be forgotten.

But if/when Barbour launches a campaign for national office, he’ll be “that guy with racial problems” — and that’s a tough reputation to shake, even for a candidate political reporters love.

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