Even though he tried to take it back, Texas GOP Rep. Joe Barton's apology to BP
has become what is known in politics and other pursuits as the "gift that keeps on giving," and the latest round came on Sunday's news programs where Democrats made the most of it and Republicans did their best to contain the damage.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was happy to keep the story going on ABC's "This Week" when asked if he had agreed with calls by Democrats and others to remove Barton from his post as ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"That's for the Republicans to decide," Emanuel said. "What I think is more important, you can say it's a political gift for us, and it is. But it's dangerous for the American people, because while the ranking Republican would have oversight into the energy industry, and if the Republicans were the majority, would have actually the gavel and the chairmanship."
On Thursday, with embattled BP chief executive Tony Hayward
appearing before the committee, Barton stunned even fellow Republicans when he said of BP's agreement Wednesday to Obama's demand for a gulf-cleanup escrow fund: "I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private company would be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown."
"That's not a political gaffe," Emanuel said. "Those were prepared remarks. That is a philosophy. That is an approach to what they see. They see the aggrieved party here is BP, not the fishermen."
Emanuel added for good measure: "And remember, this is not just one person. Rand Paul, running for Senate in Kentucky, what did he say? He said the way BP was being treated was un-American."
Paul had said on ABC's "Good Morning America"
last month that "what I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.' I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business."
Several administration officials, including Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
, have used the "boot on the throat of BP" quote.
On CBS' "Face the Nation," Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) chimed in: "I want to say about Barton's comment, that it's illustrative that the oil industry has ruled the roost. And in part, they still do."
Asked on "Fox News Sunday" about Democratic charges that Republicans cared more about oil companies than the environment, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said: "That's nonsense. I couldn't disagree with Joe Barton more. BP doesn't need an apology. They need to apologize to us, and they certainly need to cover all the costs of the cleanup and the economic damages as well. And they're going to."
He added, "I think it's important to remember the president of the United States, I believe, is the biggest recipient of BP political contributions when he ran."
The Center for Responsive Politics
said that Obama's 2008 campaign received $71,000 in contributions from BP-related sources, making him the top recipient.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said on CBS that Barton's statement was "dumb" and that the need for an apology was all in BP's court because the spill was "a man-made incident, a big mistake. They tried to do it on the cheap, I believe, made some shortcuts, and they paid for it, and now we pay for it."
"The congressman only spoke for himself," Shelby said. "That is not mainstream Republican thought."
Shelby added, " I would invite Congressman Barton, if he hadn't been to the gulf and also senator, I mean, Congressman Paul or his son, to come down here and see what's happening."