Haley Barbour pushes back

This is smart politics. Barbour can’t allow himself to be so closely associated with racism that Republicans decide he’s an electoral liability, as some already have. But the optimal level of race-related controversy for Barbour is not zero. If he is seen to be under attack from the left on spurious grounds, this makes him a right-wing racial martyr, a powerful source of attraction on the right. And that is indeed the angle Barbour pushes here: They’re attacking me because they hate people like you — white, Christian, Southern. Barbour is not the perpetrator but the victim of bigotry.

And, of course, his claim isn’t totally ludicrous. Some critics are going to overreach. Cases of political correctness and oversensitivity can certainly be found. In the conservative psychology, these things tower far above actual racism, which is somewhat pathological, but Barbour’s martyrdom does not need to rely upon pure fabrication.

New Republic
2/28/11