Libs Divided Over Barbour

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Bad Joke or Serious Threat?

Most of the liberal commentators roll their eyes when they hear about Haley Barbour.  Alex Pareene at Salon wrote yesterday, “I can’t believe people are seriously talking up a corrupt, corpulent tobacco lobbyist’s chances at winning the presidency.”  A similar theme echoed from The Guardian‘s Michael Tomasky, “But Barbour is as southern-fried as they come. And deeply reactionary, and an old tobacco lobbyist, and porcine, and governor of a state that’s 49th or 50th in everything and perfectly happy about that, and just the kind of guy you can picture being most at home hanging around in a corporate hospitality tent at Augusta National during Masters week.”  Even Politico‘s piece which Tomasky called a “puff piece” was critical of Barbour in the same vein.  It’s authors wrote, “A portly Southern conservative who represented tobacco firms and made millions building a lobbying firm isn’t the ideal profile for a Republican nominee in this or any political environment.”

The Politico piece did however cover some of the good points of Haley Barbour.  It was probably because it wasn’t all negative that it was derided as a puff piece.  The strengths Barbour possesses were the focus of Susan Estrich’s piece at  Unlike the grade-schoolers at Salon and The Guardian, Estrich skipped the name calling and focused on Barbour’s long history in politics and his record in Mississippi.  The result was a piece that looked at Barbour as a potential candidate rather than a caricature.  Estrich summed up writing that, “If I had to pick a Republican I wouldn’t want to run against, it would be him.”

So which version of Haley Barbour is the real one?  The answer to that question can be found by looking at the writers of these articles.  Alex Pareene is gossip writer who knows about as much about politics as she hears on “The Daily Show”.  Tomasky doesn’t have any real political knowledge or experience either, but he probably gets his views from MSNBC.  Politico‘s writers are a little more experienced with Jim VandeHei having experience in the White House press corps and married to a former political staffer, Ken Vogel staffed House Committees, but Andy Barr pretty much just hangs out on liberal TV shows.  Susan Estrich clerked for the Supreme Court and was the campaign manager for the 1988 Michael Dukakis Presidential campaign.  Hmmm, which of these actually knows anything about Presidential campaigns and insider politics?

Right now, liberals are trying to salvage their self-esteem.  They got everything they wanted and things are worse than they were before.  The people are angry.  The Democrats’ approval ratings stink.  About the only thing liberal writers can do is call people names and hope that they can make the Republicans look even worse than the Democrats already do.  Some writers, like Estrich and part of the Politico team are looking beyond the current disaster the Democrats face.  They’re considering the 2012 election from the perspective of all the problems the Democrats will still face when that time comes.

No one can know who will win the nominations in 2012 or the general election.  Will the economy be better, worse or the same?  What will our foreign affairs situation look like?  What other issues could become important to the voters?  It is far too early to know the answers to those key questions that will greatly impact the outcome of the election.  A writer with some common sense, let alone experience, will recognize that fact and focus on potential candidates’ ability to adapt to changing political landscapes, weather criticism and maintain a solid network.  While those things don’t guarantee victory, they certainly have a lot more to do with it than whether or not Chris Matthews gets a tingle up his leg.

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