Monday, December 27, 2010

What Does This Say About Us?, Pt. 4

Caption: If you ever want to run for President, I suggest you not be caught driving one of these.

Image credit: cliff1066/Flickr

Josh Marshall addresses the issue of whether Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour would make a viable Presidential candidate in 2012:
Any number of things would have to change to make Barbour a remotely credible presidential candidate -- starting with erasing the image of Boss Hogg from the cultural memory of every American over the age of 30. And that would probably be one of the easier tasks on the list.
There are substantive knocks on Barbour. But you don't even have to go there to realize that the presidency is simply not in the cards. Do you see Barney Frank as a plausible presidential candidate? Even if you're a big Barney fan, probably not because you recognize that a) he's considerably more liberal than the rest of the country and b) even with social change being what it is a portly Jewish gay guy from Massachusetts with an irascible streak probably just doesn't compute as a presidential contender. Turn the ideological and sectional hour glass upside and you've got Haley Barbour's prospects as a national candidate pretty much down to a tee. In his bearing, mannerisms, appearance, accent and style of politics Barbour embodies a lot people's caricature of the unreconstructed, good-ole-boy South. And the confederate flag signed by Confederate President Jefferson Davis near his desk doesn't help either. As Newsweek put it in a profile a year ago, "The cofounder of one of the nation's largest lobbying firms may or may not be the Good Ole Boy Republican Fat Cat his liberal critics make him out to be, but he certainly looks the part."

Can Haley Recover?
[link from original]

I should mention that this article actually does point out some "substantive knocks" on Barbour's chances for being President, things that ought to disqualify him in any sane society, but that's not the point here.

The point is that nearly everything in that paragraph is superficial nonsense.

Who cares what the guy looked like? Should it matter that a man happens to look like a foolish TV character? This was, after all, a not-particularly thoughtful work of fiction produced nearly a generation ago. While I remember Catherine Bach in cutoffs and the orange Charger named after a Confederate general, nothing much else made an impression on me at the time.

For that matter, you have to wonder why a portly Jewish guy would be out.

He speaks his mind? Should that count against someone? I suspect that depends on what that mind is saying.

He has a Confederate flag in his office? Why? If it's to remind him that his ancestors made a big mistake 150 years ago, then I'd say that's not a bad thing. Maybe it's nostalgia for antebellum society. Once again, the "why" has a heck of a lot more meaning than the fact itself. Taken with his recent remarks about the Citizens Councils of the Deep South during the Civil Rights era, it suggests a pattern of insensitivity to racial issues, or perhaps even full-on racism. What it doesn't do, in and of itself, is prove much of anything. We're the sum of our actions, not particular ones that have to do with office decorations.

Image credit: Library Of Congress/Wikimedia

Under the circumstances, it's hard to imagine this guy being elected President nowadays. Look at that nose, and did the guy ever shave?. He's not fat, but he sure is an ugly mug, isn't he? Couldn't he get someone to straighten that bow tie, and isn't that a clip on? No way was he going to make a good impression on TV.

He had this habit of speaking his mind, too. Ahem, excuse me, General McClellan, if you're not using that army may I borrow it? It's hard to imagine someone more divisive. Did he mean to suggest there was actual slavery going on here?

And wouldn't you know it, he was a Republican.

Taken altogether, what we know about Haley Barbour, his lobbying firm, his apparent attitudes about race, his whole life, actually, it's hard to imagine anyone I'd want in the White House any less. But that's based on a complete picture, not what he looks like or what he chooses to put in his office. No one who occupies the Oval Office is going to be even close to perfect. Choosing who goes there based on what they stand for, and what they've done in the past, is a lot more important. If resembling Boss Hogg were Barbour's principal imperfection, he'd be the best President ever.

I don't mean to suggest here that these aren't Josh Marshall's priorities, by the way. I think it's implicit that he doesn't think that way just based on what he wrote in that article. What he appears to think there are lots of us out here in the Land Beyond DC who do think that way. Given our recent history, I can't say he's wrong, either.

Afterword: No mention of The Dukes Of Hazzard and presidential politics would be complete without mentioning this little gem from the 2008 election:
[Democratic Presidential candidate John] Edwards announced his candidacy while helping to rebuild communities destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Somehow, that never seems to get the sort of attention that his support from Cooter did.

Lawrence O'Donnell Is A Wanker
As it happens, John Edwards had some serious character flaws, but they had nothing to do with his being supported by an actor who used to play a hick on TV.

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