Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) finished his remarks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference a few minutes ago. The chairman of the RGA and another in the parade of potential 2012 contenders to take the podium in New Orleans today, Barbour led his remarks by thanking the Bush administration for the way it handled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which slammed Mississippi’s coast as it did New Orleans.
To say the least, it was a surprising position for any politician — much less one from the Gulf Coast — to take.
“Candidly I want to say thank you to the federal government,” he said. “The federal government gets a very bad rap about what happened after Katrina. The federal government was very generous to us after the storm and I want to say thank you for that.”
Barbour had more surprises in store, relating his appreciation of the Bush administration’s handling of Katrina to a discussion of fiscal responsibility.“One of the problems we’ve got in our country is people don’t thing there’s any need anymore for stewardship of the taxpayer’s money,” he said. “I’m proud to tell you that in Mississippi where we received twenty something billion dollars of your money, that the federal government’s auditors state the error rate is less than 1%. Now, wouldn’t we love to see the federal government do something where the error rate was less than 1%?”
“I apologize for digressing to talk about that natural disaster,” he continued, as he pivoted from the horror of the worst natural disaster in American history to the politics of 2010. “But let’s face it, today we’re here because we know we need to deal with a man-made disaster.”
Barbour then launched into a discussion of the “disaster” of the Democratic regime in Washington. The main problem Barbour said, is all the unchecked federal spending.
“Think about since this administration has been in — stimulus, omnibus, Fannie, Freddie, of course health care reform,” he said. “Every month they were spending trillions of dollars.”
Barbour, in charge of putting Republicans into governor’s mansions since South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was forced to resign the chairmanship of the RGA in June, urged his fellow Republicans to keep their eyes on the November prize, rather than focus on who among the speakers at this year’s SRLC will face President Obama in 2 years. He called on Republicans to welcome the tea partiers and other “people that think like us” into the fold, and not let the internal GOP squabbles cost the party victory in seven months.
“We can’t wait until 2012 to take our country back,” he said.