OK, which strategic genius in the Republican Party thought it’d be a good idea to have Haley Barbour out in front talking about politics and race?
[Former] Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, one of his party’s elder statesmen and leading strategists, today accused Democrats of playing the “race card” in accusing Republicans of making race a subtext of the campaign.
Democrats have argued heatedly that Mitt Romney’s unexpected new focus on welfare policy, his reference to President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, and his embrace of Donald Trump – who campaigned on the latter subject – represent thinly-coded appeals to working-class white resentment of a black president.
“Name a campaign in the last 25 years where the Dems didn’t play the race card,” Barbour told BuzzFeed. “Surprise!”
I suppose this was inevitable. As Romney, feeling as if he has no choice, begins to incorporate racially-charged attacks into his campaign plan, it was only a matter of time before his allies started this style of pushback.
Indeed, the rules of the discourse are simple: Republicans are allowed to exploit racism for political gain, Democrats are not allowed to notice. If Dems do notice Republicans playing the race card, Republicans will respond by accusing Democrats of playing the race card.
But for a moment let’s put all of that aside, It’s one thing to try to defend Romney’s racially-charged attacks, but the party’s “race-card” messenger is Haley Barbour?
This is, after all, the former Mississippi governor who kept a Confederate flag autographed by Jefferson Davis in his office. In 2010, Barbour told the Weekly Standard he doesn’t recall the segregated Mississippi in the midst of the civil rights revolution as being “that bad,” and he praised the white supremacist Citizens Council in his hometown of Yazoo City for keeping the community calm during the civil rights era. (Citizens Councils were known for touting “racial integrity” and fighting for segregation through economic coercion.)
This is the arbiter on the propriety of racial politics? Seriously?
Update: Long-time Maddow Blog readers may recall our previous coverage, including this fact-checking item that underscores Barbour’s poor memory when it comes to race relations.