If the Republicans had a few more spokesmen like Haley Barbour, the political landscape might look a lot different. The Mississippi governor's down-home good humor and razor-sharp wit are a formidable combination. Barbour's killer combo of skills was on display on this evening's Hardball. When Chris Matthews challenged his criticism of Obama's tax credit plan, Barbour good-naturedly backed him down with an impressive disquisition on New Deal history. When he was through, Matthews had to admit that Haley was right.
I'd encourage people to view the video
, not only for the entertainment value, but as a case study of how to defeat a member of the liberal media.
HALEY BARBOUR: His redistribution of wealth ideas are well known, before Joe the Plumber. The idea that we're going to have refundable tax credits, where people who don't pay taxes get paid "tax refunds," they will take the money from the people that do pay taxes. I don't think most Americans, regardless of their race, I don't think most Americans want that. And I've got real concerns about some of his ideas about unionism, about protecting our state right-to-work laws, against things like card check. I am a whole lot less worried about his race. The fact is, to me he is incredibly dynamic, articulate, charismatic, and I think actually being an African-American with many people helps him because they think now is a chance for us to show that America is above this. I believe America is above this, too, but I don't think America should elect the most liberal member of the United States Senate to prove that we're not racist.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about a couple of points because I have to challenge you because you've made a very bold statement there. Let me ask you this about taxes. As I understand the Barack Obama tax program, it's to give people tax relief who are working people, who don't make much money, who pay a very high percentage of their income in payroll taxes. And that refund on the income tax which is, of course, new money back to them, is to offset the payroll taxes they're paying. They're not people who don't pay taxes. They're people who pay a high percentage of their income in payroll taxes and that refund as you call it is to offset some ofthat. Isn't that what Barack Obama is proposing?
BARBOUR: Some of them, in fact, do pay seven-point something percent of their income in payroll taxes because that's what the payroll tax is. It also is to fund what Franklin Roosevelt said could never become a welfare program. Franklin Roosevelt thought one of the ingenious ideas about Social Security is that everybody paid and that anybody that got Social Security it's because he or in some cases of minors who lost their parents, their parents paid in. It's not a program where -- and also we limit what gets paid out based on what you paid in. Now, that was a Rooseveltian principle that I think turned out to be very smart for preserving the sanctity of Social Security.
MATTHEWS: Touché. Haley, you gave the right answer. You're right. No, you are right. That's what I like --
BARBOUR: That was a French word, right?
Touché, indeed. But wait a second. In admitting Haley was right, didn't Matthews also effectively admit that he knew from the start that his challenge to Barbour's description of Obama's plan was wrong? Had he come up against anyone less able than Haley, Matthews might have successfully duped viewers into accepting his misleading depiction of Obama's plan.
In any case, Matthews' amiable reaction to being beaten by Barbour exemplifed that definition of a good politician: someone who can tell you to go to hell and make you look forward to the trip.