The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports that Republican Congressman Joe Barton apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward today for all the trouble the United States has put him through lately:
I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy in 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 American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history, which has no legal standing, which I think sets a terrible precedent for our nation's future. I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for anyone else, but I apologize. I do not want to live in a county where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, [it is] subject to some sort of political pressure that, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown.So what we have here is an American Congressman apologizing to BP rather than the other way around. The absurdity of this is mind-boggling.
Let's be clear about what Barton is saying. To shake someone down is to commit extortion. And to extort someone is "to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power." A slush fund is defined as "a fund for bribing public officials or carrying on corruptive propaganda" and "an unregulated fund often used for illicit purposes." Is paying reparations to Gulf Coast residents harmed by the spill "illicit"? Does Barton have evidence that a crime has been committed? Or is he making some lame attempt to blunt the potential political windfall for the president of actually holding BP accountable for their horrific, almost unimaginable mess in the Gulf?
Even if we grant that the escrow account "has no legal standing," it doesn't follow that it is illegal. (I'm not a lawyer, by the way.) There would be nothing wrong, for example, with the president reminding BP of its moral obligation to make those harmed by the spill whole again, or as whole as is possible. There would be nothing wrong with reminding BP that it is in their own long-term self-interest to do that. It seems to me that persuading BP to agree to the escrow account is akin to settling out of court. If Barton has his way, however, my neighbor and I would have to get the authorities involved if she ran over my dog; it would be wrong of us to handle it on our own.
What would Barton say if I, acting as a private citizen, were caught somehow spewing 24 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every minute, and the president had hauled me into his office and demanded that I make everyone affected whole? I doubt that he would be apologizing to me. I haven't given him any campaign contributions, after all. Could all the money Barton has received from oil and gas have something to do with this? Who at BP has he been sleeping with?
Not only are Republicans embarrassing themselves by kowtowing to BP, their own party can't seem to agree on how to address the problem. (To be fair, Rep. John Boehner appears to have distanced himself from Barton's apology.) We are told in the same story that Rep. Tom Price has written, "These actions are emblematic of a politicization of our economy that has been borne out of this Administration's drive for greater power and control." And yet Minority Whip Eric Cantor seems to think that the president ought to plug the leak himself:
I don't want to, nor does anybody want to pile on the president, but what people need right now is leadership. And this speech just did not demonstrate that there is a plan to help the people right now who need it most. . . . We've got a real environmental catastrophe right now, and there is no demonstrative thing to point to where this president says, "We've got a plan. We're going to get it done."When reminded about the escrow account, Cantor said:
What we did not hear last night . . . is a fix to the problem. . . . Why isn't the president calling our allies, calling sources that he's got to go in and bring the necessary equipment in place to do everything we can to stave off this environmental disaster of epic proportions?Well, which is it, then? Is the president obligated to take greater control of this thing as Cantor suggests, or would that be wrong, as Price claims? Whatever he does, the Republicans aren't going to like it. There is no way for Obama to win, because it is so important to Republicans that they themselves win in November.
This just in: Sen. John Cornyn says that he shares Barton's concerns about the escrow account. "I think it's comforting to know that there will be resources set aside and available to pay for legitimate claims," but "this has really become a political issue for the President and he's trying to deal with it by showing how tough he's being against BP." So perhaps it's good for the president to be tough against BP, as long as he's not showing how tough he's being against BP? Let us know when the results from the focus group are in, Big Bad John.
And take off that fucking cowboy hat, poseur.
(Oh, and by the way, responsibility-free talkers and bloggers, support for the new health care reform bill has hit a record high. Assholes.)