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Joe Barton's BP Apology: Revealing What the GOP Really Thinks

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It's hard not to enjoy watching Rep. Joe Barton (R-BP) squirm. As you must know by now, the Texas GOPer put a super-sized foot in his mouth at a congressional hearing on Thursday, when he apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward and said that he was "ashamed" of the Obama administration's effort to push the oil firm into agreeing to set up a $20 billion escrow fund that would pay out compensation claims. Within nanoseconds, Democrats were sending out press releases slamming Barton, the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This was great ammo, for the D's pointed out that Barton could become chair of this House committee, which oversees BP actions, should the GOP gain control of the House in the fall elections. The talking point was an obvious one: Do you want a BP apologist to be in charge of investigating and monitoring the oil company's actions in the Gulf and elsewhere?

This was an issue ready-made for the Dems to use in the 2010 congressional elections. (The attack ad virtually writes itself.) The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party arm in charge of House elections, immediately launched Facebook ads and a petition calling on Barton to apologize. At a White House briefing, Vice President Joe Biden and press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted Barton, with Gibbs suggesting other GOPers should ask him to leave the Energy and Commerce Committee. Toward the end of the afternoon, Barton apologized for his apology -- sort of.

That won't -- and shouldn't -- end the matter. Because Barton had not committed a gaffe. With his initial remarks, he had merely shared with the world what he really believed. More important, he had said what other Republicans believe. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a Tea Party darling, derided the account as a "redistribution-of-wealth fund" and "one more gateway for more government control." The Republican Study Committee, a collection of over 115 House conservatives, dubbed the fund a "Chicago-style political shakedown" -- terminology Barton used during his apology to BP. Barton's quasi-retracted remark was no accident; it was an airing of strong partisan and ideological sentiments shared by his GOP comrades. They really see the Obama administration as the evildoers in its face-off with poor, transnational BP. Are they motivated by an infinite love of the marketplace and corporations or driven by a knows-no-bounds hatred of Obama? Ultimately, it doesn't matter, because they end up in the same spot: in sympathy with the biggest despoiler of the environment in U.S. history.

Here's what Jack Kerouac called a "naked lunch" moment: when you see what's really on the tip of the fork. Barton and his colleagues were expressing the pro-corporate perspective long nurtured on the right. Look at how the Heritage Foundation's blog put it: "Joe Barton is Right." Barton, it noted,
is 100% correct. What happened in the White House yesterday was a "shakedown" of Godfather-like proportions. . . . All of this was "negotiated" while Attorney General Eric Holder, who has already threatened BP with criminal prosecution, stood in the corner. And what did BP get in return? A single statement from the President saying he did not want to drive BP into bankruptcy. Of course he doesn't. The mob can't collect from a bankrupt business. . . . Yesterday's White House victim was not BP. It was the rule of law. Just as the Obama administration junked the bankruptcy code last year to protect their union allies, they are doing the exact same thing this time for their environmental ones.
So BP is a "victim," and the Obama mob nailed the company only to "protect" its environmentalist pals -- not to help the people of the Gulf region whose lives have been ruined by BP's recklessness. This is truly an alternative reality -- but one held by a party that is close to gaining control of the House this November.

At the end of the White House daily press briefing on Thursday, I asked Gibbs to go beyond bashing Barton's comments and "speak to the larger theme here of Republican and conservative opposition to this [fund] as yet another Obama socialistic, big-government initiative." Admittedly, this was a softball. But there's a bigger issue than Barton's blunder. Gibbs replied:
It's hard to tell what planet these people live on. It's hard to understand -- it's hard to understand their viewpoint, but it may explain their votes on financial regulation; it explains how they view whether or not the banks ought to be able to write their own rules and play the game the way they played it in -- several years ago that caused our economy to crash. It's understanding how we got an MMS that was handing out drugs in favor of drilling permits. . . . It certainly sends an awful message to any company around the world, particularly one as large as BP, that they can come here, do what they've done to our economy, the environment, and as the vice president so eloquently said, a way of life for so many -- and if you listen to Congressman Barton, Congressman [sic] Bachmann, Congressman [Tom] Price [the chair of the Republican Study Group], you'd think somehow BP was owed a handkerchief and a crying shoulder.
This is a clash of worldviews. After Republican House leaders distanced themselves from Barton -- they didn't want this story to stretch into several days -- the congressman didn't have the guts to stand his ground. But this fundamental divide is not going away. And it would be to the Democrats' political advantage to emphasize it as much as they can before the coming elections. After all, the bottom-line issue in politics is always: Whose side are you on? If the sides are BP or the U.S. government, that's a stark choice.

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76 Comments

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hider51210

This administration shakes down every industry that it can. Autos, Banks, Big Oil, Investment firms. They look like the most corrupt administration ever. Fargedaboutit!

June 21 2010 at 11:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hider51210's comment
Sally

Shekes down industry? That is ridiculous! The banks, auto's and finance had a complete meltdown. They came to the government for help. Otherwise, it folds.
What you wanted, was a complete fold right? Thousands out of jobs as Bush was leaving office? That would have really had a bite on the Republican party image.

June 22 2010 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris

WHERE IS HALIBURTON IN ALL OF THIS? It angers me that Haliburton constructed this oil well, yet everyone has failed to go after Haliburton. There has to be some kind of back room hush deal. Haliburton should be fined the equal amount that BP has been fined, if not more.

June 18 2010 at 9:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
paulacelestem

I think Joe Barton is right to apologized. You are a very great person to do that and I would love to pat you on the back. The one who should be apologizing is the one in the White House who caused all of this. Has anyone heard of the word SABOTAGE.

June 18 2010 at 5:29 PM Report abuse -10 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to paulacelestem's comment
wood5440

Good lord, paula. How far backward are you going to bend in order to protect your fantasy that the Right is flawless and the Left the source of all evil? Do you have any single shred of reliable evidence to hang your SABOTAGE charge on? Did some oil-coated sea turtle whisper into your ear that he saw Obama in a SCUBA outfit hanging around the well 5,000 feet down smoking a cigarette just minutes before the explosion?
Please, please, please stop this nonsense and start thinking about the real world problems we all face as Americans.

June 19 2010 at 9:27 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Sally

Oh yes yes, you have been reading tabloid garbage again havent you?

I wish the other president who had his ties in oil, was in office to handle this mess. He would have just let the oil companies handle it any way they wanted. We never would have learned of the incompetance, and we wouldn't have to see those ridiculous birds covered in oil
or the other sea creatures. Nobody would have to be bothered by all this silly oil. He would have been on tv right away to tell us its a shame, we have to settle down and let them do their job. Just shut it he would say. Right? You would feel safer. Profits are more important than human life after all.

June 22 2010 at 10:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
joe

Joe Barton just got tired of sitting through all that fake concern and expertise of the Democrats and lost his cool. It was not necessary for him to wimp out and apologize. Such apologies only increase the movement towards the Tea Party and soon the Republicans will have to apologize to Joe Barton.

June 18 2010 at 4:47 PM Report abuse -11 rate up rate down Reply
Ricky

Hmm let's see the area and people Affected by the hurricane ,Have been a major drain on our government resources,Wonder if we can get someone else to foot the bill for awhile.Thank you bp

June 18 2010 at 4:46 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ricky's comment
joe

Really? My home was flooded and damaged by Katrina and I repaired it myself without a dime of your government resources. You should know what you are talking about before you include thousands of people in your knock against Katrina victims.

June 18 2010 at 5:34 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
tnickerson08

I think BP should receive an apology. Henry waxman has been using these hearings for political theater. Henry waxman has accused BP of stone-walling, but BP dosen't even have to answer their questions since there is a criminal investigation going on. They could hide behind the 5th amendment if they wanted to, but they haven't. They already agreed to pay all LIGITIMATE CLAIMS, so why did obama need the "escrow account"? I still would like for one of you liberals to answer how obama can claim that having the pay czar (feinberg) in charge is an "independent third party" of the 20 billion dollar fund? Henry waxman is asking BP how did this occur, when they are still investigating the cause; I wonder how he would like it if BP claimed that they still can't rule out a terrorist act?

June 18 2010 at 4:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Gil Maxwell

It seems to me that there are three things at work regarding the Gulf oil spill.
(1) Getting the well capped.
(2) Cleaning up the damaged environment.
(3) Taking such steps as necessary to try to prevent future "accidents."
Notice I said "try." It will never be possible to assure such accients
will not happen again.

BP clearly has the resposibility to stop the oil flow, and to compensate
people & businesses damaged by the spill.

The Federal Emergency MANAGEMENT Agency is responsibe for supporting "...
our citizens and first responders to ensoure that as a nation we work
together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for,
protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate ALL hazards"
The quote is taken from FEMA's Mission statement.

FEMA is part of Homeland Security, (headed up by Janet Napolitano),
and is clearly responsible for MANAGING the the cleanup of the damage
caused by the spill. Notice I said "managing." FEMA only has about 3700
employees, but their job is to acquire people and equipment to get
the job done, and to plan and manage the effort.

Where is FEMA in this effort? I can't recall any media mention of FEMA,
nor have I seen any news conferences involving FEMA.

Step (3) above can only be addressed after it is determined, absolutely,
what caused the spill, and right now, we do not know that. However, that
does not stop our elected officials from ACTING like they know, and from
trying to gain a political advantage from this horrific event.

June 18 2010 at 4:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gil Maxwell's comment
Sally

I do not believe that fema is large enough to handle such a gigantic disaster. Nor do they have the expertise. I feel that all this finger pointing does not favor anyone but the opposition out of office. I do not feel that all this attacking people is productive. It seems to me, no one in the republican party has offered any new solutions, none have given constructive advice, and none have any idea what to do further, that has not been done. All the past, doesn't matter in the issue except in a court of law later. IF they can stop it, IF they dont cause any further damage. The idea that oh they can plug it up and thats it, we're in business again? I do not think so. This isn't the big ocean, this is a large swimming pool. The o2 is quickly being destroyed in the gulf by methane. Fishing will be destroyed for years to come. We do not have all the answers, its not a democrat or republican issue. Its an American issue.
I also want to point out, that BP could fold up and walk away for spite, or for lack of interest. At least our President was smart enough to get the 20billion to cover any losses by the people..the American people. Sometimes big advocates of business, forget the industries they destroy along their path, do matter to someone such as the man we elected to run the country for the people.

June 22 2010 at 10:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gonzmay1

As for big oil funding Joe Barton, $22K over the course of 22 years. Compare that to MoveOn.org and SEIU, to democrats. All the mickey mouse, untraceable and overseas donors to Obama's campaigns. No investigations. He got away with it. He is getting away with everything. No Republican could do what he has done and gotten a pass from the media. No comparison.

June 18 2010 at 4:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gonzmay1's comment
Sally

Joe Barton was paid one million by BP. sorry your misinformed.

June 22 2010 at 10:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kev

ONE MINUTE THE REPUBLICANS SAY OBAMA SEEMS TO BE NOT MAD ENOUGH???????? NEXT MINUTE HE'S TO MAD???????? YOU WILL JUST TWIST IN THE WIND TO TRY TO MAKE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAPPY!!!!!! DRILL BABY DRILL LOL

June 18 2010 at 4:01 PM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply
tnickerson08

jimstngry:
BP gave obama a million dollars to his campaign, why dosen't he give the money back? I wonder if obama made another backroom deal with BP on their criminal investigation by putting up the 20 billion? Obama and the media want to make it look at if BP was forced into putting up the money, but they already agreed to pay for all ligitimate claims. I still want to know how obama can call putting the pay czar (feinberg) in charge of the fund is "an independent third party"?

June 18 2010 at 4:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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