WASHINGTON — Last week, Haley Barbour, the affable governor of Mississippi, became the first to drop out of the preliminary race for the Republican nomination for the presidency. He said he didn’t have the “fire in the belly” necessary to withstand the punishing rituals of the campaign trail, but political observers added other reasons, including his family’s resistance to having their lives upended.
There was also this: Barbour would have been hounded by questions about his awkward answers and inaccurate recollections on the subject of race and the civil rights movement. As a fellow Southerner, I was astonished that Barbour would be so clumsy — and clearly wrongheaded — on a subject that consumed the South for much of his life.
In a December interview with The Weekly Standard, for example, he defended the White Citizens’ Councils — an uptown version of the Ku Klux Klan — and downplayed the turmoil of the civil rights era. “I don’t remember it being that bad,” he said.