JACKSON – Call it chutzpah, biting the hand that feeds you, or whatever else you might call it when the beneficiary of largesse disdains the one who made the goodies possible.
Gov. Haley Barbour goes on Fox News Channel’s (where else?) Sean Hannity show four days after Mississippi’s Legislature has handed him a balanced state budget without draconian agency cuts or big tax increases, thanks largely to money from President Obama’s $785 billion stimulus package, officially known as American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Does Haley tell Sean anything about how the Obama stimulus money plugged gaping holes in the Mississippi budget? He does not.
No, he tears into the stimulus package with all the pat phrases from the Republican Party playbook.
“Too much spending on social policy and not enough on infrastructure,” Barbour repeats, followed by the old GOP standby: “not enough tax cuts.”
Adding, of course, “It would make a lot more sense if they’d given states more discretion over how to spend the money.”
Translation: Give me say-so on where to put the money (we all remember how Barbour shifted $600 million in Katrina money intended to rebuild housing on the devastated Gulf Coast to the Port of Gulfport’s 10-year old expansion plan that includes creating casino-hotel sites.)
What were the “social policy” programs Barbour told Fox viewers were wrongly included in Obama’s recovery package?
Did that apply to the $160 million stimulus money that made it possible to fully fund Mississippi’s K-12 education program, saving 4,500 teachers’ jobs?
Or $133 million ARRA money for Title 1 to aid poverty students or another $122.3 million for school children with disabilities?
Or the $164 million ARRA money that saved the fiscally troubled Medicaid program and its 600,000 vulnerable clients?
Or the $177 million to the Department of Transportation for shovel-ready projects that will put hundreds of Mississippians to work?
At home, a different tune
Strangely, back home in Mississippi, Barbour whistled a different tune about the Obama recovery package in his Web site. It was saying “spending on all three levels of education will be the highest ever” and acknowledged that federal stimulus money made it possible.
On the Hannity show, Barbour sounded more like a hopeful to be on the GOP’s 2112 ticket, veering off into water over his head on foreign policy and military preparedness.
He roundly criticized President Obama’s recent meetings with Russia’s two top leaders, and his agreement that both U.S. and Russia would reduce to 1,600 their nuclear warheads.
The Mississippi governor charged “it is no time to dismantle our nuclear arsenal to have a charm offensive with the Russians.”
Barbour said that his hero, Ronald Reagan, would never have done such a thing, insisting that Ronnie “showed the world the Russians couldn’t compete with us” in nuclear weaponry.
Barbour forgets Reagan
Obviously Barbour didn’t know or conveniently forgot that Reagan, meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev at Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1986, stunned NATO allies and his aides by proposing both the U. S. and the Soviet Union scrap all of their nuclear weapons.
Reagan aides quickly went into damage control, attributing Reagan’s off-handed nuclear giveaway to a brief lapse of memory, and told the Russian team just to forget what he said.
Makes Obama’s nuclear agreement with the Russian leaders small potatoes by comparison.
Barbour’s Fox News sortie into the foreign policy minefield brings to mind his unmemorable 1982 Senate race against aging Sen. John Stennis when he tried to portray Stennis, then one of the hawkish of war hawks in Congress, as soft on standing up to the Soviets in the Cold War.
Mississippians then saw that Barbour was talking pure hogwash and soundly defeated him.
Bill Minor is a syndicated columnist who has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. His address is Box 1243, Jackson, MS 39215. Send e-mails to Minor through firstname.lastname@example.org.