The Bigger Picture
Published on December 1st 2011 in Metro Éireann By Charles Laffiteau
In my last column I discussed the impact Tea Party activists and Christian ‘values’ voters had on the 2012 presidential campaign aspirations of three Republican governors who were held in high regard by the GOP establishment, but who are also no longer involved in the 2012 Presidential campaign. This week I will pivot to a discussion of the markedly different reasons why two other Republican governors declined to run for President in 2012.
The current Governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, surprised many Republicans when he announced he had decided not to run for the GOP nomination on April 22nd of this year. Although Barbour cited the physical strain of a 63 year old man running for president as well as the family and duties as governor concerns expressed by Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie, Republican insiders claim his real reason was a more pragmatic one. Despite his fund raising prowess and numerous political and business connections, Barbour concluded that he simply couldn’t win the General election because of his racial segregationist past.
Barbour grew up in Yazoo City Mississippi during the 50’s and 60’s. In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s 1954 decision to overturn state laws favoring racially segregated education, a Citizens Council led by William Barbour, Haley Barbour’s father figure uncle, was formed in Yazoo City. So when 53 African-American residents signed an August 1955 petition in favor of desegregating Yazoo City’s local schools, the Citizens Council retaliated by publishing their names and asking whites to stop dealing with them. Over the next four months 51 of the petition signers asked to have their names removed from the petition due to their loss of jobs and business.
But in an August 2010 interview with the Weekly Standard Barbour ignored this fact and claimed that the Citizens Council was an organization of town leaders that facilitated integration in Mississippi because “they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the (violent white racist) Ku Klux Klan would get their ass run out of town.”
Mind you, Haley Barbour had other political liabilities as a lobbyist for business special interest groups in Washington DC and Mississippi’s ranking as the worst of fifty states in a wide range of areas including, economic development, education and healthcare. But even though Barbour had been able to develop persuasive arguments for why those things shouldn’t be held against him, the fact is he was never able to come up with a satisfying response to charges about his segregationist past.
Much more surprising to this political commentator was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s May 14th announcement that he would also not run for President in 2012. Huckabee is an ordained Baptist minister who had used his Christian ‘values’ credentials to become a favorite of the Republican Party’s anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage Christian social conservatives. Despite John McCain and Mitt Romney’s huge cash advantages, he used their support to win the first Republican primary in Iowa and then ran a surprisingly close second to the eventual winner of the 2008 Republican nomination, John McCain.
Unlike Romney and most of the other Republican presidential candidates, Huckabee, is was very personable candidate who used his quick wit and self-deprecating sense of humor to good advantage with audiences out on the campaign trail as well as on the TV tube. His affability subsequently led to his current jobs as ABC’s replacement for legendary radio commentator Paul Harvey and as the TV host of Fox News weekend show “Huckabee”.
Huckabee was a consistent leader in polls of Republican voters so I was surprised on May 14th when he announced on his TV show that he would not run for President saying “All the factors say go, but my heart says no. But after further reflection I think he was telling the truth, just not the whole truth. Huckabee’s heart wasn’t in it because he has always hated trolling for campaign funds and he preferred drawing a seven figure annual income from a few hours of TV and radio work every week to the rigors of campaigning for President.
I will discuss the real reasons why three other Republican hopefuls decided not to run, including my favorite Republican diva Sarah Palin, in my next and last column of 2011.