Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In one sense, this could be good news:

Just like that, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour is out of the 2012 presidential sweepstakes.
It would be good news, in part because, despite his initially low polling numbers (and as the above-linked article argues), Haley Barbour has much more going for him politically than many would guess. It would also be good news because Barbour is credited for engineering the 1994 Republican congressional victory, yet seems to have escaped any blame for that "revolution" completely dissipating.
Barbour became a large part of the Republican effort to oppose President Clinton, and helped craft a strategy to take back control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 40 years, working closely with Newt Gingrich and other congressional Republicans to establish the GOP as the "party of ideas."


In 1994, Barbour faced stiff opposition within the RNC for wanting to take out bank loans allowing them to maximize the amount of money they could spend on competitive House races. "His whole mantra that fall of 1994, was, ‘We've got to strike while the iron is hot,'" Nicholson remembered. "Haley prevailed, and it was the right thing to do. It helped us in key races."
Unfortunately, Barbour's notion of establishing the GOP as the "party of ideas" proved to be not what we needed (i.e., a fundamental shift in governing philosophy), but merely a cynical ploy, to be used merely to win an election. Get a load of the actual depth of his commitment to the idea of dismantling the welfare state brick by brick (as I recall some Republican putting it back then):
Barbour ... pushed back hard against the idea that Republicans were proposing cutting Medicare, emphasizing that they were merely slowing the rate of increase. He grabbed attention by taking out a series of ads promising to pay $1 million to anybody who could prove the following statement false: "In November 1995, the U.S. House and Senate passed a balanced budget bill. It increases total federal spending on Medicare by more than 50 percent from 1995 to 2002." While the ad produced a lot of claimants, and a series of lawsuits that dragged on for years (several Democratic members of Congress sued), ultimately they lost in court and the RNC kept the $1 million.
So, there you have it: Barbour's GOP came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, because it never really opposed the welfare state. Indeed, when push came to shove -- when it was time to at least say, "We need to cut back and eventually phase out all entitlement programs." -- Barbour's only idea was, "Why even try to beat them, when you can join them?" This is the last thing we need on the heels of George Bush and Barack Obama's dramatic escalation in the growth of the welfare state.

However, this could still be bad news. Politicians change their minds all the time, and Barbour could decide to run after all. To someone like him, Charles Krauthammer's three "axioms" could actually be helpful, for waiting to run could take the heat off, and keep the electorate in the dark until it's too late. So the danger from Barbour himself isn't necessarily over. Furthermore, I'd take his endorsement of any candidate as a warning.

-- CAV

No comments: