Haley Barbour's Actions Speak Louder Than His Words

I was recently at a party and when someone found out I was a Fox News contributor they said to me that I couldn’t be a real liberal. They were wrong. I am a true liberal and my ideas of interest include expansion of the safety net, access to health care for all, a graduated income tax and much of the usual views that liberals get tagged with. I am also a liberal in the dictionary definition of trying to be open-minded.

Sunday, while traveling in Mississippi I started to get e-mails from friends quoting Governor Haley Barbour discussing Virginia Governor McDonnell’s proclamation on Confederate History month. The proclamation did not mention slavery. Barbour said that people were making “a big deal out of it” and it “doesn’t amount to diddly.”

I must confess that if I were his press secretary and had been watching him say those words, I would have slapped my forehead and said to myself “I can’t believe he said that.” And I would have taken a wager on how long it would take my phone to ring for follow up comments.
However, Governor Barbour also said " I don’t know what you would say about slavery, but anybody that thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing—I think that goes without saying.”

He added that the Mississippi legislature (which is Democratically controlled) has adopted similar resolutions regarding Confederate soldiers.

While the e-mails were piling up on Sunday from folks asking me how I could like this guy, I thought of my four and a half years traveling to Mississippi since Hurricane Katrina. During his first election, Governor Barbour was not well liked by the African-American community because of his support for the Mississippi “Stars and Bars” flag. However, ask almost anyone on Gulf Coast -- black or white -- what they think of him now and he has almost universal support. He and First Lady Marsha Barbour did an amazing job during and after the hurricane. They made sure all citizens of Mississippi got services and support. Race was not a factor, need was.

I have also seen Governor Barbour many times up close and personal. I have been at the governor’s mansion and have seen him interact with his staff. Governor Barbour does not think race, he thinks citizens of Mississippi. In casual situations he talks to everyone, and unlike some liberal politicians I know, he is not looking beyond you for the next important person to talk to. I disagree with most of his political viewpoints -- beginning with the death penalty -- but I know that if there ever was a Southern politician whose actions I admire it’s Governor Barbour.

Actions speak louder than words.

Ellen Ratner is Washington bureau chief of Talk Radio News Service and a Fox News contributor.

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