Haley Barbour: Mum on 2012, Chatty on Cooking Frogs
With leading contenders for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination dropping like flies, an increasing amount of buzz has surrounded Haley Barbour, the cigar-chomping former Republican National Committee chairman and current governor of Mississippi. Speculation only crescendoed when Barbour visited Iowa and New Hampshire and met with top Republican strategists.
I caught up with the governor following his testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today. After chatting about energy policy (more on this below), I asked him if, given the shrinking pool of potential 2012 candidates, he was considering throwing his hat in the ring. He replied:
I’ve said, when I was chairman of our party in 1993 and , that in the first two years of a Democratic presidency, we need to focus all our attention on those two years — in this case, ’09 and ’10. And any Republican who’s thinking about 2012 doesn’t have his eye on the ball. I’ve told thousands of people that, and I’m taking my own advice.
“But you’re not ruling it out?” I followed. At which point he uttered a drawn-out “Uhh” and mumbled something about how he was “just seeing that clock.” Then he took his leave.
He was more loquacious on the topic of cap-and-trade legislation, though, where he had this folksy analogy to offer:
When you grow up in the country, like I did, when you cook a frog, you don’t drop him into hot water, cause he’ll jump out. You drop him into cool water, and then you turn up the heat, and it heats up slowly. And politically, the left has tried to protect themselves by pushing the effects off a few years. Because they know once the job losses start and the higher costs kick in, which they inevitably will, that will be bad for them.
When I asked him if he thought it was necessary to take action to address climate change, he distanced himself from many of his Republican colleagues in the Senate by replying, “I do. I do. I do.”
But he added:
I do not think that the need to address climate change is urgent, that it’s more important than the economy. I’m like most Americans. I don’t think we ought to sink our economy in the name of climate change.