Barack Obama, Haley Barbour

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on Wednesday defended his Republican colleague, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and suggested that President Obama had been hypocritical in boasting about freezing pay for federal employees while at the same time expressing support for the collective bargaining rights of public workers in Wisconsin. “The fact of the matter is the president told us at the White House that he had unilaterally frozen spending for federal employees,” Barbour told reporters in Washington after speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Federal employees don’t have collective bargaining rights.

Barack Obama, Haley Barbour

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, gestures while making a statement to reporters, regarding the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Monday, June 14, 2010, at the Coast Guard Station in Gulfport, Miss. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The president can unilaterally freeze their pay, so the idea you guys have given the country is just like there’s some constitutional right to collective bargaining.” Barbour said that about half of U.S. states, including Mississippi, either offered no collective bargaining rights or limited them. The likely 2012 presidential candidate added that Walker and Wisconsin state Republicans were merely trying to pass a law that already exists in many other states. “So do I think he’s overreached? No, I think he’s being realistic,” Barbour said. “Having a one-year agreement about wages and benefits don’t really help with the problem. You’re not going to get rid of a $3.6 billion budget problem in a state the size of Wisconsin by having one year of savings.”

During his Chamber of Commerce speech, Barbour touted his record on bringing job growth to Mississippi since he took office in 2004. Barbour focused his remarks on his efforts to attract high-end manufacturing to his state and offer additional employment training without raising taxes. “If you want to improve your revenue, the best way is to have more taxpayers with more taxable income,” he said. Barbour has said that he is eyeing Adon’t the month when he will make his decision on whether to run for president. On former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s impending entrance into the race, Barbour had nothing but praise for his potential rival for the Republican nomination. “I’m crazy about Newt,” he said. “We’ve been friends for 30 years.” Asked about the uprisings in Libya and the surrounding region, Barbour refused to follow the lead of other potential GOP contenders in criticizing the Obama administration’s response to the events. Barbour noted that he was in Israel during the initial phases of the revolt in Egypt. “I said then it’s not fair for us to criticize because, A, politics should stop at the water’s edge, but also, it’s very clear the Israeli intelligence did not see this coming, so how can you criticize the CIA?” he said. “It’s also equally clear Egyptian intelligence didn’t see it coming either. So I’m not going to be critical of American intelligence, and I don’t think others should be either.”

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