A Thank You Note to Joe Barton

June 17, 2010

Thank God for Joe Barton (R-Texas).  Tuesday night, Barack Obama gave a speech on the BP-Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster that I would generously call uninspiring.  Yes, he spoke of the need for new alternative energy sources that could, at long last, wean America from its dangerous and environmentally catastrophic dependence on fossil fuels.  But he didn’t do much else, and he certainly didn’t lay out a strong, definite plan for achieving his goals.  Everyone from Jon Stewart to Fox News gave the speech bad reviews, and for a day or two that’s what people were talking about.  The only thing the President did manage to do was convince British Petroleum to set up a $20 billion escrow account to help people in the Gulf region recover from the economic effects of the spill.  By Wednesday morning, that seemed like a small accomplishment.

But then Congressman Barton, in his opening remarks at a Congressional hearing on the Gulf spill, actually apologized to BP for what the White House had done.  Here are his remarks:

I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday.  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 with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the interests of the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20-billion slush fund. It is unprecedented in our nation’s history.

Never mind that BP has destroyed the Gulf economy for years to come.  Never mind that the company’s spokesmen have at least paid lip service to doing exactly what this fund is intended to facilitate, i.e. compensating people for their losses.  Never mind that BP is now more hated than any governmental institution or corporate entity.  Joe is ready to defend them, and to accuse the White House of “shaking them down.”  Talk about a political tin ear.  But wait, it gets better.  What makes this statement even more outrageous is that Texas Joe has received more campaign money from big oil since 1989 — some $1.4 million and counting — than any other member of Congress.  Who says money can’t buy you love…?

With one opening statement, Barton made the White House look strong in its treatment of BP, sympathetic to the people of the Gulf region, and sensitive to the public’s outrage at BP.  And he reminded everyone, as had Rand Paul and Sarah Palin before him, that Republicans will come to the defense of the world’s largest oil corportations no matter what they do and whose lives they destroy.

So on behalf of the President and Democrats everywhere, I just want to say, “Thank, Joe.”

2 Responses to “A Thank You Note to Joe Barton”

  1. Jeffrey Fischer said

    “Tin ear” indeed, yet a reasonable point. We’re supposed to live under rule of law. The government may enforce criminal statutes (as Rep. Barton acknowledged the AG is doing) or civil statutes (as I assume is or soon will be underway), but a demand to put a lot of money in a government-controlled slush fund is beyond the pale.

    The President is more concerned with scoring popularity points by looking for “ass to kick” and demanding billions of dollars than trying to work with BP to solve the problem.

    • davidbcoe said

      Jeffrey, many thanks for the comment. Sorry for the delay in the posting — I have to approve comments from new readers and I was away from my desk for a few hours.

      I couldn’t disagree with you more about what the President has done and his motivations for doing it. I think that BP should be counting its lucky stars that the Administration didn’t seize all of its assets and take control of its operations. BP’s actions throughout this mess have been criminal — and I mean that literally. They have lied from the beginning about the extent of the spill, they have been ignoring safety regulations and falsifying maintenance reports for years, and they have shown both incompetence and a complete lack of compassion in their response to the human and environmental costs of the spill. Before all of this is over, I am certain that they will face both criminal and civil penalties and they will deserve both. In the meantime, their negligence has created a need for a massive amount of cash, and what I find truly stunning is that many of the same people (and I’m not including you in this, since I don’t know you) who would be screaming about a government “bailout” if the Administration were to make payments on BP’s behalf, are instead screaming because the the President has found a way to assure that the payments come from the guilty party.

      Again, I thank you for the comment and I welcome opinions that differ from my own. I’m just not shy about arguing back. 🙂

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