Embracing an air of confidence

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
Dec. 21, 2003
Gov.-elect Haley Barbour enters a room with the assurance of a confident man not the arrogance of some politicians, but with a genuine interest in both politics and governing.
Working in daily journalism not to mention stints in federal and state government I've seen cases where good politics has sold bad policy, and good policy has been killed by bad politics.
Barbour is a master political strategist, having served as political director in the Reagan White House, chairman of the National Republican Committee and as founder of a very successful Washington, D.C., lobbying firm. He became a successful candidate for the first time this year, and his campaign was marked by techniques that were deeper and much more complex than discernible by a casual eye.
One might describe his campaign as a textbook example of how campaigns will be run in the future. It's a combination of money, media and message undergirded by scientific polling, defining the issues, staying on message, making adjustments and following up to get out the vote on election day.
Focus on governing
As Barbour prepares to stand on the steps of the state Capitol and take the oath of office he will be inaugurated as Mississippi's 62nd governor on Jan. 13 he now wants to put politics behind and focus on governing. Part of that transition took place last week at his Job Creation Summit, which drew a stunning array of Mississippi leaders.
All of us who ran for office this year were overwhelmed with the concern from the people of Mississippi about jobs. It was palatable,'' Barbour said. It's important to show the voters of the state we heard what they had to say.''
Barbour assembled business leaders, political leaders and community leaders of all stripes to listen and comment on this single major issue. The truth is job creation is a single issue with long arms that touch every facet of life in Mississippi from education to economic development, tourism to tort reform, agriculture to manufacturing, transportation to technology.
To this point, for all their valiant efforts, no one has brought these various elements with their diverse support groups under the same umbrella. Barbour aims to do so and he will need help from many of the 600 or so people who gathered at his Job Creation Summit, including key legislators.
Two keynoters set the stage:
Fred Smith of Marks, who founded what today is a $23 billion company operating in 214 countries. The concept was based on a paper Smith wrote while a student at Yale, one his professors pooh-poohed as fantasy. The company is FedEx.
Andrew Card, White House chief of staff under President Bush, one of Barbour's longtime friends. Card said three major tools will help restore economic prosperity: more cash in the people's pockets, educational initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, and good governance.
He alluded to a new-found confidence, the kind embodied by Barbour's inclusive nature and his willingness to be up front about identifying problems in order to find solutions.
Barbour was elected under the general theme "We can do better" and is converting that thought into policy initiatives.
It's what Aubrey Patterson, chairman and CEO of Tupelo-based BancorpSouth and co-chair of the Job Creation Summit meant when he said, "We need to talk about fresh ideas and develop long-term strategies with measurable milestones."
In our system of government, good politics can grease the wheels of governance. Barbour has been elected by the voters and now gets to focus on working with members of the Legislature, who will make or break his policies.
He's made a good start.