If former Mississippi Gov. and RNC Chair Haley Barbour really wants the GOP to "stick to the issues" maybe he should start by not invoking Rev. Wright to attack President Obama.
February 22, 2015

If former Mississippi Gov. and RNC Chair Haley Barbour really wants the GOP to "stick to the issues" maybe he should start by not invoking Rev. Wright to attack President Obama. Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked he thought about Rudy Giuliani's remarks that President Obama supposedly doesn't love America, and Scott Walker questioning whether or not the president is really a Christian and Barbour just couldn't stop himself from doing exactly what Giuliani did and playing the Rev. Wright card.

You've also just gotta' love the fact that NBC and Chuck Todd decided the best person to turn to in order to get advice on the GOP's is the likes of Boss Hogg Barbour given the amount of times he's stuck his foot in his own mouth on the issue of race.

I also don't buy the argument that "sticking to the issues" is good for them either. If they think taking care of the 1 percent, lowering taxes on the wealthy, gutting public education and our social safety nets while invading a few more Middle Eastern countries are winners for them, by all means, keep talking Republicans.

CHUCK TODD: I'm joined now by Haley Barbour. He's, of course, the former governor of Mississippi, but also the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. And, so, he's had to give advice to every now and then to Republicans running. Governor Barbour, welcome back to Meet the Press.

HALEY BARBOUR: Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD: I'm going to start with something you wrote in your book, in your afterword. You said this, "I have always advocated that we manage our party, our coalition, in a way that 60% of voters would feel welcome in the party, or at least be open to consider vetting for the GOP nominee." You also write, "Be polite to the 40%, but make sure that the 60% super majority is welcome and feels welcome." Does Giuliani prove that he wasn't being polite to the 40%?

HALEY BARBOUR: Well, you know, we got 60% of the vote twice in my lifetime. And we ought to run our party--we can still 60% of the vote. I wouldn’t characterize my views of President Obama the way Mayor Giuliani did. I think the problem with Barack Obama is his policy, bad policy that produced bad results. And that's what we all want to talk about. The Democrats are loving not having to talk about that. They prefer to talk about Rudy Giuliani until the cows come home.

CHUCK TODD: Should we care what Rudy Giuliani thinks right now? You know, he's not in office. He's not running for anything. Should it even matter?

HALEY BARBOUR: Well, if he's like me, his political future is behind him. Look, to make this such a big deal is partially being fed by people that want to change the subject. I thought a couple of Republican candidates for president. You had Marco Rubio on your screen a minute ago. He said this is all about policy. Jeb Bush said we ought to be talking about policy. If I'm going to criticize the president, it's going to be on his policies and the bad results that produce those policies. I agree with that. That's how you run your party so the 60% of the people will be willing to consider voting for a Republican.

CHUCK TODD: I know a lot of Republicans ask you advice, sort of how to handle this day and age. And from what we've seen, it seems like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is wondering what it's like to be considered a front runner. He's been in town for the National Governors' Conference. And he was asked about the president's religion. And we can debate whether that was an appropriate question or not. But here's how he responded about whether the president's a Christian. He said, "I've actually never talked about it. I haven't read about that. I've never asked him that.” "You've asked me to make statements about people that I haven't had a conversation with about. How can I say if I know either of you are a Christian?" referring to the two reporters from the Washington Post. I guess what's your advice to him, though? It seems that he left it open. You can call it a gotcha question, but he chose to answer it and he left it open. Was that a mistake?

HALEY BARBOUR: Well, look, Scott Walker has been a good record as governor of Wisconsin. He's run three times in four years in a tough state. He shares with Chris Christie the fact that he's won in a state it's hard for Republicans to win in. But he shouldn't take the bait on this kinda stuff. I don't think it's any kind of glaring problem. I think the Post is trying to make a lot more out of it. There's a lot less here that meets the eye.

CHUCK TODD: They did respond, full disclosure here, that after this story appeared and there was a little dust-up last night, his office put out a response that said this, "Of course the governor thinks the president is a Christian. He thinks these kinds of gotcha questions distract from what he's doing as governor of Wisconsin and make sure the state is better, make life better for the people in the state." But I guess you've got to be nimble if you're running for president. Do you not?

HALEY BARBOUR: Well, it's about how you can match up the opportunities. And I remember Jeremiah Wright, who is very unpopular among the people who would be voting in the Republican primary. Now, if someone were asking me about that question, that's the way, if wanted to be political, I wanted to take the question. I think Scott Walker's probably just being truthful, you know. He is a son of a preacher. He is a Christian. And he may have taken that question the way I did the first time I heard about it, do you believe he's really a Christian, or do you believe he just professes to be a Christian? But I don't know the answer to that, either.

CHUCK TODD: Well, what does that mean?

HALEY BARBOUR: A lot of people say, "I'm a Christian," but deep down inside they're not. That's what I thought the question was. You think he really is--


CHUCK TODD: I understand that. But this is how it comes across to some folks when suddenly there's a debate about this, which is why is it Barack Obama, the first African-American president, has had questions about his religion pop up in the political conversation? It didn't happen to Bill Clinton. It didn't happen to George W. Bush. A lot of his supporters hear that and think this has some racial overtone. What do you say to that?

HALEY BARBOUR: I don't know that race has anything to do with it. I would bet a higher percentage of African Americans in the United States are Christians than of whites. I mean, of course, I've come from a place where I'm very familiar with that. Religious leaders are very powerful leaders in the black community in my state. And they're good Christians. So, I don't get the race question about Christianity.

CHUCK TODD: But I understand how other people hear it. And that's, I guess, what I'm going through, is how does the Republican Party deal with that larger issue here, how the vast middle, this 20% extra of this 60% that you wanna get, what do they hear when they hear Republican candidates questioning things like this, the president's patriotism or his religion?

HALEY BARBOUR: Well, it's not where we want to be talking. We want to be talking about policy. We want to be talking about results. That's our strength. That's Obama's weakness. His bad policies. Have produced bad results. At the Governors' Conference yesterday, Democratic governors were talking about the weakest recovery since World War II, were talking about a lack of confidence in the future of the country. That wasn't the case two years ago. But it's the case now. Those are Democratic governors talking about that. That's where we ought to be focused, not on personal characteristics. You mentioned I was chairman of the Republican National Committee when Bill Clinton was president. And our rule was we never talked about Clinton personally. We never talked about anything except Clinton's policies.

CHUCK TODD: You think that should be the rule?

HALEY BARBOUR: That's exactly what the rule should be that’s our strength.

CHUCK TODD: Do you wish Rudy Giuliani would apologize?

HALEY BARBOUR: Look, Rudy Giuliani has been a great mayor. And a hero at a terrifically hard time on September 11th. I admire what he did. So, that's up to him.

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.