News & Election Videos

Interview With Haley Barbour

Chris Wallace

xfdfx FOX-NEWS-SUNDAY-02

Show: FOX NEWS SUNDAY>

Date: February 13, 2011>

Time: 09:00>

Tran: 021302cb.250>

Type: Show>

Head: Interview With Haley Barbour>

Sect: News; Domestic>

Byline: Chris Wallace>

Guest: Haley Barbour>

Spec: Politics>

WALLACE: Most potential 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls came to Washington this weekend to address a gathering of conservative activists, and one of the contenders is Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.Governor, welcome back to FOX NEWS SUNDAY.

BARBOUR: Hey, Chris. Thanks for having me back.

WALLACE: You said last year you're the governor of a poor state, you have a distinct drawl, and you have been -- were a big time Washington lobbyist for a decade. You said some people would consider those handicaps for running for president. You don't. Why not?

BARBOUR: Well, when you -- I'm a lobbyist and had a career lobbying. The guy who gets elected or the lady who gets elected president of the United States will immediately be lobbying. They would be advocating to the Congress, they'll be lobbying our allies and our adversaries overseas. They'll be asking the business community and labor unions.

You just -- that's what presidents do for a living. Presidents try to sell what's good for America to others in the world, as well as to Americans.

Ronald Reagan was the -- he was the ultimate lobby wrist, the great communicator.

WALLACE: CPAC, the Conference -- Conservative Political Action Conference, that you were at this weekend, they did a straw poll last night, and we want to put up the results.

WALLACE: Ron Paul got 30 percent, Mitt Romney got 23 percent, everybody else was in single digits, and way back, quite frankly, in last place was Haley Barbour at one percent.

I want to get your reaction to that and also, as you look at, for lack of a better term, we would call the frontrunners at this point, Romney, Huckabee, Palin, Gingrich. What do you offer that they don't?

BARBOUR: Well, let me say first of all about the straw poll, you'll notice that Sarah Palin got three percent, Mike Huckabee got two percent because they weren't there.

WALLACE: You were there.

BARBOUR: But the straw poll was taken before I spoke. They shut down the straw poll on Friday. I spoke Saturday. And so I was in the position of Palin and Huckabee. I didn't -- for the purposes of the straw poll, I didn't get to speak which is fine. I mean, they got to have rules and that's fine with me.

I enjoyed getting to speak to that audience. It's an audience of a lot of young people, some of whom came up to me after and said, gee, I tried to vote for you today, but they told us we couldn't vote any more.

WALLACE: OK. What about the frontrunners though, as we mentioned, Palin, Huckabee, Romney, Gingrich. What do you offer that they don't?

BARBOUR: Well, they're good people and all good friends of mine. I have a record as governor. I have a record of cutting spending. And I talked yesterday not only about we ought to cut spending, I talked about how we've cut spending in Mississippi and how if you did the same things in the federal government, you would save tens of billions of dollars a year.

I talked about how we've cut the biggest entitlement program in Mississippi. And we've done it in a way where the people who are on Medicaid haven't been hurt. We've squeezed out of the system through management and by making sure that everybody who's on Medicaid is actually eligible.

We have saved in Medicaid hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of my time as governor. That would be hundreds of billions of dollars if you applied the same reforms to the federal government. WALLACE: I'm going to follow up on the question of your record as governor. As you say, you say you've cut spending by hundreds of millions of dollars and that you've balanced the budget without raising taxes. But the Cato Institute, certainly a conservative group, gives you only a C on its fiscal scorecard saying, His 1/8Haley Barbour's 3/8 tax and spending record over seven years as governor has not been very conservative.

They say you've reinstated a tax on hospitals, increased taxes on cigarettes 50 cents a pack and that spending rose 43 percent during your first term.

BARBOUR: Chris, what they said was, mistakenly, that I created a new tax on hospitals. Then they found out --

WALLACE: But you did reinstate it.

BARBOUR: -- but then they found out, no, that that was wrong and they scored me down because they said I created this tax on hospitals. Of course, the tax on hospitals existed while I was there. It existed when I became governor. The federal government --

WALLACE: But you did reinstate it.

BARBOUR: -- the federal government made us change the way we collected it. They said we were cheating essentially and a bunch of other states. It wasn't just Mississippi. Said y'all have got to collect this a different way. We did reinstate it after four years. The hospitals got a $360 million tax cut during those four years.

And then, when we reinstated it, instead of it being a $90 million tax, it's a $60 million tax. But the Cato Institute wrote initially and told my staff, we thought this was a new tax. We didn't know it had been a tax that has existed since 1993.

WALLACE: What about the increase in cigarette taxes --

BARBOUR: We did that.

WALLACE: -- and the fact that spending increased 43 percent in your first term.

BARBOUR: When I became governor, spending actually increased 28 percent my first term. Revenue increased 42 percent my first term without raising anybody's taxes. We did it because we had more taxpayers with more taxable income. That's how you get the revenue up.

We did that without raising anybody's taxes. Revenue increased 50 percent faster than spending increased. Spending went up 28. Revenue went up 42. That's a 50 percent difference without raising taxes. I did my second term raise the cigarette tax. I had said when I ran the first time, we are not raising a bunch of taxes.

When I ran for reelection, I said, look, before you vote for me, know we are going to consider raising the cigarette tax. We had the second lowest cigarette tax in the country. We didn't raise it to raise revenue because raising taxes is enemy of controlling spending. And what we've done is control spending.

We raised it because our cigarette tax was too low. We were very out of line with the rest of the south. We raised it to 60 cents, which is the average of all the southern states. We did it for health reasons, not budget reasons.

WALLACE: OK. I want to go back to this question of a lobbyist because it's clearly, if you do run, something you're going to have to deal with. And, you know, you say, well, any president's a lobbyist. But it has a kind of bad connotation. It's kind of a dirty word for a lot of people out there because they think it means you're part of an inside game here in the corridors of power.

As we mentioned, and you were one of Washington's biggest most successful lobbyists for more than a decade. Not only did your company represent more than 50 major U.S. corporations, it has also done work over the years for the governments of Kazakhstan and Eritrea which, quite frankly, both have terrible human rights records.

BARBOUR: Well, not while I was there. And once I left the firm, other than getting paid my retirement, I don't have anything to do with what they do. I can tell you what we did when I was there. We represented Switzerland. We represented Macedonia because the Clinton administration asked us to because of what was going on in the Balkans.

But I am perfectly glad to look at the clients that I worked with when I was there. But let me just make this very plain. I'm a lobbyist, a politician, and a lawyer. You know, that the trifecta. And I am willing to have my record in front of everybody. I don't intend to be responsible for what other people did that I have no control over, which is not to criticize them. It's just I got no way of defending or criticizing the things that I wasn't involved in.

WALLACE: Finally, there was, as you well know, a (INAUDIBLE) involving you about a profile of you in The Weekly Standard in December when you talked about growing up in the south during the Civil Rights Movement. You said, I just don't remember it as being that bad. And you said you went to see Martin Luther King speak one day. We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do. We paid more attention to the girls than to King. Question. Any regrets about those comments?

BARBOUR: Well, it was just the truth. You know, I asked about my childhood. And my childhood was a very great childhood. My daddy died when I was two years old. My mother raised my two older brothers and me. And we couldn't have had a better situation. I mean, she was the -- ran the concession stand at the Little League, and she was the first woman president of The Touchdown Club, the booster club for the high school football team. And so, I had a wonderful childhood. And that's the truth.

As far as the deal about when Martin Luther was passing through Yazoo City and stopped at the fairgrounds to speak, I was in high school and two carloads of us, boys and girls, went out and sat on the -- sat on our cars on the street while the -- we really couldn't even hear very well.

But I was interested in seeing what was going on. It wasn't any big major event, as I say.

WALLACE: But you understand, people are saying you're insensitive or were insensitive.

BARBOUR: Well, look at -- look at my record. You know, we can talk about my childhood if people think that's a requirement for running for president of the United States which I may do.

But if you look at my record and you look at the fact that after I was elected we have had more minority business contracts. We have more African-American elected officials in Mississippi than anywhere in the country. I've had outstanding African-American members of my administration. You know, I'm proud of that record and I'll put it up.

WALLACE: OK. Thirty seconds left. Serious -- how serious are you about running for president?

BARBOUR: Well, I'm not going to make a decision until April, but I am very serious about it. But I understand -- having been political director of the White House for Ronald Reagan, have been working campaigns, have been chairman of our party, I understand that this is a decision to dedicate the productive -- remaining productive years of my life, the next 10 years, to the most consuming job in the world. And it is a 10-year commitment because if you win, it's a 10-year commitment. I take that very seriously.

I'm not somebody who has wanted to run for president all of my life. But right now, I think the country is in such straits, we've got to have a huge change.

WALLACE: Governor Barbour, we want to thank you so much for coming in today, and we will also be watching as the Republican presidential race heats up. Thank you, sir.

BARBOUR: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: Up next, the 18-day revolution topples Egypt's president. We'll ask our Sunday panel what it means for that country and for U.S. interests in that part of the world.

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