Saturday, October 18, 2003

A divider, not a uniter

From the Jackson Clarion-Ledger ...

GOP bigwig (and Mississippi gubernatorial candidate) Haley Barbour, refusing to ask the Council of Conservative Citizens to take down a picture from its Web site showing him gripping and grinning with leaders of the white-supremacist organization:
Barbour said in an interview Thursday that white supremacist and anti-Semitic views on the CCC site are "indefensible," but he does not want to tell any group it cannot use his picture or statements.

"Once you start down the slippery slope of saying 'That person can't be for me,' then where do you stop?" Barbour said. "Old segregationists? Former Ku Klux Klan like (Sen.) Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.? You know?

"Once you get into that, you spend your time doing nothing else," Barbour said. "I don't care who has my picture. My picture's in the public domain. It gets published in newspapers every day."

Barbour sounds more and more like one of those good ol' Southern sheriffs who trots out all kinds of reasons why there was only one guard at the jail when the lynch mob arrived. (And I love how Republicans wave the magical and transparent Robert Byrd wand whenever their own congenital racism comes bubbling to the surface.)

As anyone with a grain of decency knows, the real reason Barbour should ask to have his photo removed is to repudiate any association with the group. Of course Barbour can't choose his supporters -- but he does have a say in whether those supporters can use his image to promote their cause. If, say, the Council of Conservative Pedophiles endorsed him, would he be so blithe?

The problem, as Barbour well knows, is that by allowing his name and image to be associated with an apparent endorsement of this supposedly "indefensible" group, Barbour lends credence to furthering its agenda. His wink-and-nudge response only makes all too clear that none of this bothers him; he is too busy currying the votes of white supremacists -- and by doing so, giving them a level of mainstream credibility they would otherwise not enjoy.

None of this is terribly surprising. Barbour, after all, has been wearing a Confederate flag on his lapel and has otherwise generally been gleefully injecting the issue of the flag into the campaign. (Recall, if you will, the earlier revelations that the Barbour campaign was identifying potential supporters by asking poll respondents how they voted on the flag issue.)

As I've noted previously, the Confederate flag is quickly becoming a symbol of the deeply divisive national cultural war, one with clear elements of racial intimidation and white resentment attached to it.

Barbour is running like his commander-in-chief -- paying lip service to "inclusiveness," and doing everything he can to divide us. Of course, this should come as no surprise either, considering Barbour's well-established track record as a political scam artist.

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