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Tilting at Windmills

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June 17, 2010

WHY WOULD THE GOP TAKE BP'S SIDE?.... By any reasonable standard, things went pretty well at the White House meeting yesterday with BP executives. President Obama came into the meeting, and told BP how it was going to be -- and BP caved rather quickly.

The result was a $20 billion pot of money that will bring much-needed help to a devastated region. As one report noted, "The figure is not a cap on the potential damages, and the company received no liability waiver as part of the agreement." BP also scrapped this year's dividends payments, and agreed to set aside an additional $100 million to support unemployed oil industry employees.

It seems praise for the president isn't especially common right now, but for Obama, this was no small feat -- he got what he wanted, and gave up nothing. As one lawyer explained, "[The president] had no actual power to compel that aside from moral suasion and the threat of having an unhappy president. Legally, BP could have just waited for the lawsuits and drawn the whole thing out for years. As a lawyer, I find it a unique and mind-boggling accomplishment."

So, good news for the country, right? If only Republicans saw it that way.

The Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative members of the House, released a statement today calling the $20 billion BP escrow account a "Chicago-style political shakedown."

"BP's reported willingness to go along with the White House's new fund suggests that the Obama Administration is hard at work exerting its brand of Chicago-style shakedown politics, wrote chairman Tom Price (R-GA). "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."

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) called the escrow "a redistribution-of-wealth fund" that could serve as a "gateway" for "more money to government." A variety of right-wing media personalities -- Limbaugh, Hannity, and Oliver North -- all read from identical talking points, calling the independently-operated escrow account "a slush fund."

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) continues to whine about the money set aside for the Gulf Coast, inexplicably telling the AP, "If they take a huge amount of money and put it in an escrow account so they can't use it to drill oil wells and produce revenue, are they going to be able to pay us?"

I find all of this rather bewildering. Given the nature of the crisis, it stood to reason that politicians would be tripping over each other to appear "tougher" on BP than the next guy. What elected official in his/her right mind would want to side with the oil giant responsible for the worst environmental catastrophe in American history? Apparently, we're getting a clearer picture of the answer.

I don't think Republicans have thought through the politics of this. If they don't want to praise the Obama White House for its success with BP yesterday, fine. But the GOP is approaching the point at which Dems will reasonably be able to argue that Republicans are siding with BP over the country.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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Comments

But who else will look out for the wealthy? The horror, the horror I tell you, if my Lord must pay for his errors!

Posted by: Cataphract on June 17, 2010 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

The argument is a little like this:

First they came for BP
but I was not BP
So I did not protest...

And the next thing you know, the government controls 100% of the private economy!

Posted by: howie on June 17, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

"If they take a huge amount of money and put it in an escrow account so they can't use it to drill oil wells and produce revenue, are they going to be able to pay us?"

With. The. Escrow. Account.

Posted by: TR on June 17, 2010 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Steve, I think they've thought through the politics far enough to know that this won't have much affect on their standing in 2010. They know that nobody outside of their echo chamber is going to make a big deal out of it, and the people inside the echo chamber just hate anything the President does, no matter what it is.

Posted by: Kris on June 17, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Handy Wingnut Translator: "Chicago-style" = "Nigger! Nigger!"

Posted by: bikelib on June 17, 2010 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, you forgot Tea Party puppetmaster Dick Armey, suggesting that trial lawyers should be relied upon by to recover losses from BP, not the government: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/16/AR2010061603793.html

Posted by: John Dillinger on June 17, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

bikelib: Yes, I was wondering how they managed to miss the words "welfare," "tennis shoes, "homies" and "hood."

Posted by: T-Rex on June 17, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps because only the RepuGs recognize the BP contingency plans are working as no Walrus has been affected. Michelle B and Rush appear to hve such baculum envy, they believe in protecting any Walrus and, thus, laud any corporation which feels the same as they.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 17, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Of course the Republicans have "thought through the politics of it" - Obama is for it, therefore they're against it!

SATSQ.

Posted by: Jay C on June 17, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

We've long suspected that Republicans don't think, they just reflexively approve of corporations, no matter what. And that's what this is - a reflex reaction.
Oh, and ABO - Anything But Obama.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on June 17, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Ring-a-ring-around-The BP ,
A pocket full of posies;
Hush! hush! hush! hush!
We’ll all fall down.

Posted by: FRP on June 17, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Dick Armey - yes trial lawyers would be a good way to go, they could block payouts for years to come -just like the Exxon disaster when people died before they got a payout.
Having said that I am a little tired of the people of LA who keep shouting for the government to help and then shouting that the government is in the way and asking for the Coast Guard man to be fired.

Posted by: JS on June 17, 2010 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

The funny thing is - BP isn't really being strongarmed all that hard into this. It's not like BP has their folks out there raising a stink about this escrow fund. The President essentially threw them a PR lifeline - invest $20 billion dollars in this fund and take back some of the bad press that says that BP are incompetent dicks who are only thinking about profits. BP's been getting ripped to shreds because they haven't been paying out claims quickly enough - now they can point a finger and say "look, we've got the fund set up. Your problem is with the government." And make the government the bad guy for slow turnaround on payments or denied claims.

BP knows they're going to have to make restitution eventually, and by having the government manage the claims processing BP gets at least one area where they aren't the "bad guy" anymore. That's a win for BP, and a short term up front investment of $20billion (which is about 1-2 years worth of profits given how the company has operated the last few years) is expensive, but worth it.

So I'm not exactly sure who the GOPers think they're running to defend here. Probably they aren't - they're just pandering to their base again.

Posted by: NonyNony on June 17, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

What TR said, and if there was ever a situation that required the transfer of a large amount of wealth, this would be it. If this is "Chicago-style politics", it seems to argue greatly in favor of the same. However, I think I'd attribute it more to having a president who combines really really good community organizer skills and is good at poker.

Posted by: N.Wells on June 17, 2010 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

What if 200 billion is needed versus 20?

I don't think we can put a price tag on this beast yet.

The GOP stands behind BP....(great ad coming this fall to an election near you)

Right now nothing is more urgent than stopping this gusher.

Who gives a crap about our wars (which also don't have price tags) when a far greater enemy is poisoning the ocean and destroying livelihoods?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on June 17, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

"... the GOP is approaching the point at which Dems will reasonably be able to argue that Republicans are siding with BP over the country." Approaching? Really, you think its possible to get more obvious?

Posted by: Eric on June 17, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

It's astonishing to me that Barber was able to get himself through life this far without having a clue what an escrow account is.

Or does he believe the people of Mississippi, and the rest of the states, are too stupid to know what it is?

Either way, it's hard to wrap one's head around the level of stupid involved here.

Posted by: karen marie on June 17, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

Amazing! For days we've been hearing that Obama is a wimp who's not getting tough enough. So he gets tough, gets his way, and now he's Al Capone.

Posted by: Virginia on June 17, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe I'm just uncommonly cynical, but I expect the GOP to start showing off people who are dependent on BP dividends to make ends meet in their retirement. Then they can make the case that gulf residents are stealing food from the mouths of poor retirees so they can support their lifestyles without having to do any work.

Posted by: DrGail on June 17, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Why should the GOP "think through" the politics of this?

They are aiming at their base: the drooling dittoheads and teabaggers, for whom "1+1=2" is suspiciously elitist and a sign of creeping socialism.

it goes like this: whip up moron base with nonsense, moron base howls loudly and incoherently, Fox news covers howling moron base obsessively, sleeping voters go "WTF? Shuttup!" and pull whatever election lever is likely to result in quiet (GOP hopes).


Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on June 17, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

What do they call that phenomenon when the limbs keep twitching after the body is already dead? That's what this auto-pilot, anti-Obama reaction by the GOP reminds me of.

Posted by: Ted Frier on June 17, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

What Barbour spews don't mean diddly.

It's remarkable that the Republican Party has spent the last 50 years arming the American people to the teeth, but expects our weapons to be pointed the other way when the time comes.

It's coming.

Posted by: John Thullen on June 17, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Sludge fund, more likely.

Posted by: johnnymags on June 17, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

NonyNony makes good points about the escrow funds being a lifeline to "Beepie". Their stock is already going up this morning; so much for "hurting them so they can't drill for oil", per Haley (what part of "escrow fund" don't you understand) Barbour.

Tom Nicholson asks "What if 200 billion is needed versus 20?" See paragraph 2 in the article:

"The figure is not a cap on the potential damages, and the company received no liability waiver as part of the agreement."

The President deserves unqualified praise on this one.

Posted by: Zandru on June 17, 2010 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

They'll be backtracking on this and fast. The American people aren't THAT dumb.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on June 17, 2010 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps we will learn more by listening to the questions from RepuG politicos when Tony Crawford has Mr Bean appear before them in his stead.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 17, 2010 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Er, Tony Hayward, not Crawford, but, Mr Bean might have handled this far better and with far more intelligence.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 17, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

"... the GOP is approaching the point at which Dems will reasonably be able to argue that Republicans are siding with BP over the country."

One hears this sort of thing a lot ("if the Democrats have any brains they'll hang this around the Republicans' necks in November"). But the Democrats never actually make any attempt to do this.

See also: "Troops, Failing to Support The."

Posted by: somethingblue on June 17, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

I like how certain parties throw out the term "Chicago-style" as if it's a bad thing. When I see "Chicago-style", I immediately think of pizza, which is a good thing.

Posted by: josef on June 17, 2010 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

A variety of right-wing media personalities -- Limbaugh, Hannity, and Oliver North -- all read from identical talking points, calling the independently-operated escrow account "a slush fund."

Really? Oliver North has a problem with government slush funds? But how on earth did he ever plan on using the arms illegally sold to Iran to then fund the Nicaraguan Contras?

Posted by: Oh my on June 17, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

I don't care how fast they backtrack.

The DNC should have ads out tomorrow and from here to election day saying, "When President Obama convinced for BP to contribute $20 billion to a fund to compensate those harmed by the gulf oil disaster, to be run by the same man who administered a similar fund for 9/11 victims, the first instinct of Haley Barbour, Michelle Bachman and the Republican Study Committee was to attack him for being too tough on BP."

Meanwhile, Fox News and right-wing radio are, as usual, outright lying by calling it a "slush fund". Cowardly scum.

Posted by: tanstaafl on June 17, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Per josef 'When I see "Chicago-style", I immediately think of pizza, which is a good thing', I'm going to order one tonight.

Posted by: Zandru on June 17, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Don't assume all this will hurt the GOP. They angle to use moratoria etc. as job-killing moves and have some success pushing that meme.

BTW, see http://theloop21.com/politics/timeline-how-dick-cheney-caused-the-bp-oil-spill

Posted by: Neil B on June 17, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Rep. Price is hard at work exerting his brand of Georgia-style cracker politics. His comments are emblematic of a politicization of our economy that has been borne out of the Republican Party's drive for greater power and control.

Posted by: biggerbox on June 17, 2010 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

tanstaafl on June 17, 2010 at 10:08 AM, why wait until tomorrow? Get the message out today. Big ads nationally with a special emphasis on Michelle Bachmann's district.

Force Fox News to explain "slush fund" in this context.

This is a fight every Democrat should want to have. We don't need to back off one bit.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 17, 2010 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Republican reps run over each other to apologize to BP during this morning's hearings:

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/6/17/876879/-Hayward-hearing:-Republican-apologizes-to-BP-CEO

These campaign ads write themselves.

Are you listening, Democrats?

You've been handed these on a platter. Will you use them?

Unfortunately, I think I already know the answer.

Posted by: DZ on June 17, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

the working assumption in the gop is that big corporations don't make mistakes.

it's quite remarkable, really.

Posted by: howard on June 17, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

@Dr.Gail- I think it was yesterday morning on CNBC when they had a sad tale of someone who relies on BP dividends. I had to put my head down on my desk, it was so classic.

Posted by: SBcardinal on June 17, 2010 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Question is it the exceptional thing that allows you US Americans to do hypocrisy so well.

Posted by: Pangloss on June 17, 2010 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Tamra Tibbits on September 22, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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