Thursday, June 17, 2010

In Defense of BP

Rep. Joe Barton (R - Texas... shocker, I know) offered his heartfelt apologies today to BP in his opening remarks at the investigative hearing into the Gulf Oil Spill.  No, wait... let me clarify... he offered the apology directly to Tony Hayward.  Tony Hayward.  The Kaiser Soze of corporate insensitivity. Congressman Barton referred specifically to what most people have characterized as the fairly brilliant move on President Obama's part of convincing BP not to pay dividends this month, but to put the $20 billion dollars into an escrow account that would be used to fund clean-up efforts in the Gulf, and to compensate businesses and individuals who would bring claims against BP for business and personal losses suffered as a result of the spill.

“I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,” Mr Barton said, referring to President Obama’s announcement about the liability fund. “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown.”

A shakedown?  Really?  Apparently, Congressman Barton doesn't feel that BP has a responsibility here to clean up their mess.  Apparently, he'd just as soon use taxpayer dollars to do this, so that the oil money that he's accepted over the years to get himself elected to Congress (presumably because he's so stupid as to be virtually unemployable in any other field of endeavor) doesn't get spent now on reimbursing the losses caused by their carelessness.

As expected, Barton took immediate hits during the hearing from Democrats about his statements.  But certainly his fellow Republicans supported him and agreed with his comments, right?  Errr... uh... not so much.... Fellow GOP Representative Jeff Miller, who represents the Florida panhandle, an area likely to be very hard hit by this spill, called Barton's statements "reprehensible" and called for Barton to step down as ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  John Boehner (R-Ohio) (who took his own knocks last week by implying that President Obama was using the Gulf oil spill to make political hay at BP's expense) joined with Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) and Mike Pence (R-Indiana), calling Barton into a closed-door meeting during a recess in the hearings (for what one can only assume were a few well-chosen words beginning with the rhetorical, "Are you out of your fucking mind?"), and later released a statements saying Barton's statements were wrong and that BP should pay for all damages.

So, at the very least, BP supported Barton's characterization of the escrow fund as a "shakedown" or a "slush fund," right?  Nope.  Nope.  One of the few questions that Hayward actually answered was that he didn't feel that the escrow fund was a "slush fund" and would not have characterized the meeting as a "shakedown." 
Later, Barton tried to apologize, but seemed to lose his ability to speak English.  I guess his ability to speak operates in direct proportion to which ass he's kissing at the time he's talking.

Along with Michele Bachmann, who called the escrow fund a "redistribution of wealth," and the fifth incident today where Republicans blocked the lifting of the ceiling on BP's financial liability, it's become clear that the GOP is firmly on the side of the oil companies.  I'm curious how well that's going to play, come November.

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