Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Sid Salter: Like Barbour, Florida Gov. DeSantis now finds himself squarely on Hurricane duty

When former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour announced his 2003 campaign for that office, he did so in his Yazoo City hometown. When he formally announced his re-election bid in 2007, he did so in Gulfport on the Mississippi Gulf Coast – a region still devastated in every way by 2005’s catastrophic Hurricane Katrina.

Katrina remains the most devastating and expensive hurricane in U.S. history, but Hurricane Ian that just slammed the Florida peninsula may well rewrite that bit of history based on the density of population and development there.

In his brief 2007 re-election bid speech, Barbour said he chose Gulfport as the backdrop because of that reality: “I’m on hurricane duty.”

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis might do well to study Barbour’s post-Hurricane Katrina performance as he confronts his own emerging tenure on “hurricane duty” by getting a copy of the 2015 Barbour memoir entitled “America's Great Storm: Leading Through Hurricane Katrina” (University Press of Mississippi, 243 pages).

Barbour — with an able assist from writer Jere Nash and a moving foreword by former Biloxi newspaper publisher Ricky Mathews — in that book tells a remarkable tale of resilience, determination, hardball politics and perseverance by the ablest politician I’ve personally known. 

The Florida governor is at once the country’s leading GOP alternative to another presidential bid by Donald Trump – and yet next to Trump is likely the most polarizing figure on the national political scene. DeSantis is a colder, more calculating Republican candidate than Trump. He understands public policy on much deeper levels and as a former Florida GOP congressman knows more about the actual daily mechanics of governing than does Trump.

But DeSantis is capable of political theatrics that rivals those of Trump. His recent decision to fly two groups of Venezuelan migrants from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts is one such instance that drew both international headlines and moral outrage. 

Looking back to Mississippi’s Katrina experience, there is irony in DeSantis’s immigration stunt since no one knows better than Barbour the critical role that Hispanic immigrants – documented or otherwise – played in helping Mississippi dig out and rebuild after the massive storm over the next decade. The same will likely be true in Florida given post-Covid labor shortages.

DeSantis is already drawing heavy fire from critics citing his 2013 congressional vote against a $9.7 billion storm relief package in the wake of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. DeSantis’s duty to do to Washington to seek federal help for his state will drag the political ball and chain of that vote with him. With only about a year before the 2024 presidential campaign cycle begins in earnest, it’s unclear as yet how much DeSantis’s future political ambitions will be impacted by his time on “hurricane duty” but it’s certain to be both significant and pervasive.

The political parallels between Barbour and DeSantis are not absolute. Before becoming Mississippi’s governor, Barbour had high-level White House experience during the Reagan administration, had served as the head of the Republican National Committee and had been an internationally prominent lobbyist.

And, as Barbour pointed out often, he had the distinct advantage of the late U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, serving as the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In short, Barbour knew how and where to turn on the faucets of federal spending and had powerful allies to help him turn them.

Barbour had more than his share of partisan critics. Yet the majority of Mississippians – a majority that twice elected Barbour governor – remember Barbour much as the rest of the country remembers him. They remember strong, decisive leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Mississippi was fortunate in the extreme to have Haley Barbour – the consummate Washington insider and one of the world’s best lobbyists – as our governor after Hurricane Katrina. Barbour’s understanding of the federal bureaucracy and his close relationship with former President George W. Bush put Mississippi ahead of the game in terms of relief and recovery from Katrina.

DeSantis does not have many of those same levers of power at his disposal – but like Barbour, he will for good or ill be judged by his home state and the rest of the nation on how successfully he navigates “hurricane duty.”

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at



Anonymous said...

Just try to imagine Sid Salter leading people in any sort of crisis.

Anonymous said...

Haley’s best moments as Governor.

Anonymous said...

I reckon we are all adults and we can use our own brains. I'm just I stayed and I would have stayed no matter what the government told us to do, said one HONEST Florida man when interviewer asked if he was angry that evacuations were not issued earlier.

Thank god there are still some rational people left.

Anonymous said...

Get your story straight. No immigrants were flown from Florida to Martha’s vineyard.
They were flown from Texas.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading Sid's columns for damn near 40 years now and within those many columns I have often largely agreed with the point(s) he was trying to make / the story he was trying to tell. But there have been many times that I have had serious disagreements with the column or his opinion he was expressing. That said, having some disagreement within 750 or so words is not unusual.

But, for all his columns, I can't think of any one that I agreed with damn near everything he said --- except this one. He is right on the markn in his comments about Barbour, and about DeSantis, his current situation, and the comparisons between the two individuals and their careers.

Anonymous said...

8:45 is lucky she is not one of the 135+ folks who stayed and died.

Anonymous said...

Sid should really avoid topics of which he has no clue.

I think most of the public would be more interested in an explanation about how his beloved State College makes cheese.

Anonymous said...

Run DeSantis run! We need you in the White House!

Anonymous said...

Ah, more piffle from this “journalist.” Just makes my whole day.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS