Maybe someday Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty will quote a critic of Mississippi governor Haley Barbour in one of her profiles of the potential Republican presidential candidate. But not today.
Last week, I noted a variety of ways in which a Tumulty article about Barbour was rather friendly -- it quoted his attacks on President Obama without including a response from a Democrat and without making any attempt to assess the validity of the (misleading at best) attack and it downplayed Barbour's praise for the segregationist Citizens Councils.
Now comes another Tumulty profile of Barbour, this one checking in at almost 1,400 words -- and once again the lack of progressive criticism of Barbour is striking. Indeed, nobody, of any political persuasion, is quoted or paraphrased even mildly criticizing Barbour. Most striking is this friendly passage about Barbour's tenure as governor of Mississippi:
What makes some Republicans see presidential timber in the self-described "fat redneck" from Yazoo City, however, is not his political genius. It is his record as a governor who beat his state's trial lawyers on tort reform, who lured industry, who balanced budgets. And more than anything else, it is the way Barbour took charge of resurrecting a state whose coastline was nearly wiped off the map by Hurricane Katrina during his second year in office.
"He did a fantastic job during the crisis — and that's what we're in, a crisis," said former Iowa GOP chairman Ray Hoffmann, who has not committed his 2012 support to any possible candidate but held a dinner for Barbour at his Italian restaurant in Sioux City.
It's a little weird that Tumulty turned to an Iowa Republican for an assessment of Barbour's handling of Katrina, don't you think? More importantly, wouldn't it have been nice if she had found space to include some of the rather serious criticism of Barbour's response to Katrina that has been leveled over the past several years?
In 2007, Salon reported that Mississippi's recovery efforts benefited from receiving a wildly disproportionate share of federal recovery money -- and that observers ranging from Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to former FEMA head Michael Brown suggested this was because Barbour (unlike Louisiana's governor) was a Republican, and Republicans controlled the White House and Congress during the aftermath of Katrina. But despite that disproportionate federal funding, Salon reported, recovery efforts in parts of Mississippi were surprisingly slow:
Outsiders might be surprised to learn then, that despite the plaudits, and despite the fact that Barbour's GOP connections seem to have won him a disproportionate share of relief money from Washington, post-Katrina recovery in some of the hardest-hit areas of the Mississippi coast is moving as fast as molasses in winter.
For the residents of Hancock County, Barbour and Mississippi's ability to capture the lion's share of Katrina relief dollars makes the slow progress in their area all the more demoralizing. The county's 911 system still operates out of a trailer. Damaged wastewater and drainage systems frustrate hopes of a return to normalcy; earlier this month in Waveland, 16 miles east of Pearlington, a 9-and-a-half-foot alligator was found swimming in a drainage ditch next to a bus stop at 8 o'clock in the morning. Mayor Tommy Longo says the creatures freely roam throughout devastated residential areas.
Indeed, Hancock County was one of three Gulf Coast areas recently singled out as having "severe problems" by the Rockefeller Institute on Government and the Louisiana Public Affairs Council, with the towns of Waveland and Bay St. Louis flat-out "struggling to survive."
Bloomberg reported in 2007 that Barbour's friends and family benefited from Katrina recovery efforts:
Many Mississippians have benefited from Governor Haley Barbour's efforts to rebuild the state's devastated Gulf Coast in the two years since Hurricane Katrina. The $15 billion or more in federal aid the former Republican national chairman attracted has reopened casinos and helped residents move to new or repaired homes.
Among the beneficiaries are Barbour's own family and friends, who have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from hurricane-related business. A nephew, one of two who are lobbyists, saw his fees more than double in the year after his uncle appointed him to a special reconstruction panel. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in June raided a company owned by the wife of a third nephew, which maintained federal emergency- management trailers.
Meanwhile, the governor's own former lobbying firm, which he says is still making payments to him, has represented at least four clients with business linked to the recovery.
But readers of Karen Tumulty's profile of Barbour weren't given so much as a hint that there was ever any controversy surrounding his response to Katrina, instead learning only that "the way Barbour took charge of resurrecting a state" impressed Republicans, one of whom praised him for doing a "fantastic job during the crisis."