WASHINGTON (AP) — The son of potential presidential contender Haley Barbour told a conservative columnist on Thursday that he hopes his father doesn't mount a White House bid.
In a personal e-mail to the columnist, obtained by The Associated Press, Sterling Barbour lashed into Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol over his criticism of Haley Barbour's criticism of the Pentagon's budget. The e-mail message suggests Kristol, a conservative leader who served as an informal adviser to 2008 vice presidential pick Sarah Palin, is more interested in dividing the party than defeating President Barack Obama in 2012.
"I am a private person and don't want him to run," Sterling Barbour wrote. "I'd prefer not to listen to people like you talk bad about any member of my family. But this decision is bigger than me. If he runs, I will be his biggest supporter.
"But it just makes no sense to me that a conservative man, such as yourself, would have such a blatantly obvious disdain towards my father," Barbour continued. "Despite your best efforts, if he decides to run, he will likely win the nomination."
Sterling Barbour's comments came hours after Kristol posted a blog item titled "T-Paw v. Hee-Haw" that compared former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — whom supporters call "T-Paw" — and Barbour, who has a strong Southern accent. Pawlenty has defended the Pentagon budget; Barbour told Iowans earlier this week that there could be cuts.
"Anybody who says you can't save money at the Pentagon has never been to the Pentagon," Politico quoted Barbour.
Kristol said the comments "certainly didn't constitute any kind of serious presentation of a foreign policy agenda." He said the comments were "childish, slightly offensive and raises the question of how much time Barbour has spent at the Pentagon — apart from time spent lobbying for defense contractors or foreign governments."
Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman and head of the Republican Governors Association, built a powerful lobbying firm in Washington and his critics view it as his biggest hurdle should he seek the Republican presidential nomination. A former political aide to President Ronald Reagan, he is one of the GOP's sharpest political minds.
Sterling Barbour fired off his missive accusing Kristol of trying to sabotage their shared party.
"My dad would tell me to leave this alone. And for the record, I have never heard him say an ill word against you. And he never will. He is the consummate team player. Maybe we should rename him the anti-you?" Sterling Barbour wrote.
"In these most desperate of times, you go around assassinating the character of a great conservative."
Asked for comment, a Haley Barbour political adviser didn't shy from the younger Barbour's take on Kristol.
"I have to say, he makes some good points," Jim Dyke said.
Kristol did not have immediate comment.