Grand Old Petroleum

| A remarkable thing happened this last week: Republicans finally found a level of cynicism they could not tolerate. Rep. Joe Barton (R-BP) began his remarks at a House committee meeting to grill Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, about BP's disastrous oil leak in the Gulf by apologizing to BP for having been subjected to what he called "a shakedown - in this case a $20 billion dollar shakedown" by the Obama administration to create a $20B fund to pay damages caused by the leak. "I am ashamed of what happened at the White House yesterday," declared Barton.

Joe Barton, Republican representative of Texas' 6th district

This was no gaffe, an inadvertent statement, a slip of the tongue — these were prepared remarks, composed in advance and printed out on black and white to be read at the hearing. This was a premeditated statement — albeit not a well-thought-through one — that bared for all too see the Republican view that big business is a victim of government. The belief that business should be free to do whatever it wants, with no restriction by government whatsoever, is so deeply embedded in Republican DNA that Barton, and presumably his staff who must have helped prepare his remarks, was blinded to the obvious political blunder of being seen as on the side of the "bad guys" in this debacle.

Tom Price, Republican representative of Georgia's 6th district

Surely Barton, ranking Republican on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, thought he was helping the party cause; after all, he was echoing talking points in a press release issued by the House Study Committee, chaired by Tom Price (R-GA), the "policy arm" of the Republican party, that called the White House/BP negotiations "Chicago-style shakedown politics." Price said the White House actions reflected "this Administration’s drive for greater power and control. It is the same mentality that believes an economic crisis or an environmental disaster is the best opportunity to pursue a failed liberal agenda."

Sorry, Congressman Price, this environmental disaster is a reflection of a failed Republican agenda to totally deregulate and detax business.

But back to Barton. The words were hardly out of his mouth but House Republican leader John Boehner(R-OH) and whip Eric Cantor (R-VI) called Barton on the carpet and told him to apologize for his apology, or else!

Barton, back at the microphone later in the hearing, wished to make clear that no one misconstrue his misconstruction:

If I might take a small point of personal privilege I want to be absolutely clear that I think BP is responsible for this accident, should be held responsible and should in every way do everything possible to make good on the consequences that have resulted from this accident. And if anything I said this morning has been misconstrued to the opposite effect I want to apologize for that misconstrued misconstruction.

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Oh, yes. Let's note that Barton has for the last 20 years received over $80,000 per year from the oil and gas industries, and this year has raised more than $100,000 (theledger.com). Talk about a shakedown!

Let's applaud the Republicans for having gotten in touch with their inner shame.

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018



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