John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Haley Barbour = Adult Supervision

Posted on November 4, 2009

Haley Barbour = Adult Supervision



In the fall and winter of 1998, I had the brief chance to work for Haley Barbour at his firm Barbour, Griffith and Rogers (before Speaker-elect Denny Hastert asked me to return to the Hill and serve as his spokesman).



Haley was the hardest working, smartest, most capable person I have ever worked with.



He was conservative, but in the memorable words of Mike Huckabee, he wasn’t angry about it. He was strategic and policy-oriented, but he also understood the politics behind the policy. He was always on message, but he never was dull when he talked to the press. Even back then, he was the total package.



Now, Haley Barbour is the governor of Mississippi and the Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. He played an important, if behind the scenes role, in the two elections that turned out well for Republicans yesterday. As the RGA Chairman, he helped the candidates with fundraising, with messaging and with turnout.



Interestingly, he played no role in the debacle in New York’s 23rd district. He didn’t pop off to trash the Republican candidate. He didn’t call for a purge of Republican leadership. He didn’t blame the moderates or the conservatives. When asked on a cable show when he thought would happen up there, he said he didn’t know enough about it, because he was focused on the governors’ races. Like I said, Haley is a smart guy.



Barbour had left Washington by the time the Bush Administration started seriously going off track. In fact, during the lowest point of the Bush tenure – Hurricane Katrina – Barbour was showing the world true leadership. He led neighboring state Mississippi with true distinction, helping it to through the crisis, responding quickly to the security problems, and then coming up with a plan to rebuild. The contrast to Democratic leadership in the neighboring state, Louisiana, couldn’t have been clearer.



There has been some talk about who the next leader of the party should be. I wrote late last year that the party needed another Haley Barbour, who as RNC Chairman helped rebuild the party in the early 1990’s, the last time Republicans were in the wilderness.



Maybe we don’t need another Haley Barbour. Maybe we just need the Haley Barbour. He provides some necessary adult supervision. He doesn’t pop off on things he doesn’t know about. He doesn’t play Republicans against one another. He doesn’t call for purges against the moderates. He is an adult. The party needs one right now.