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Tilting at Windmills

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June 18, 2010

GOP SCRAMBLES TO CONTAIN BARTON MESS.... By all appearances, no one knew in advance what Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) was poised to do yesterday morning. The right-wing Texan hadn't told his colleagues he would apologize to BP CEO Tony Hayward, and Barton hadn't advertised the fact that he would side with the foreign oil giant over the White House.

A Republican staffer told Newsweek that "there was almost an instant admission that what [Barton] said could turn into a huge problem."

And that it did. By yesterday afternoon, Republican leaders weren't just bordering on panic, they were also hauling Barton to a private meeting, issuing very specific threats.

Under fire for appearing to shield BP from criticism Thursday morning, Rep. Joe Barton was told by House GOP leaders later in the day to apologize "immediately" or lose his position as the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, several Republican sources tell CNN.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, delivered the pointed demand to Barton, a Texas congressman.

"He was told apologize immediately or you will lose your position immediately," said a Republican leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Wait, GOP officials were using a job opportunity as leverage to get a congressman to cooperate in a political plan hatched behind closed doors by party leaders? Why aren't Darrell Issa and Fox News comparing this to Watergate?

Regardless, Politico's report accurately noted that Barton "handed Democrats just what they wanted: a Republican villain in the oil spill crisis."

It would have been bad enough for the GOP if a backbencher had accidentally strayed wildly off message, but Barton, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is the face of the party on energy policy -- and his comments were intentional. So rather than talking about BP's culpability and the Obama administration's response, Washington was fixated on a Texas Republican's seemingly tone-deaf comments. [...]

"Whether Mr. Barton realizes it or not, he certainly did no favors to every member of our conference, his Republican colleagues in the Senate, candidates out running and a lot of our vulnerables," a Republican aide said. "What he did certainly did not help anybody."

Well, except Democrats, that is.

Steve Benen 8:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

Hee hee, hee, hee

Posted by: carolinagirl on June 18, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Every so often those whom live under rocks crawl out and with sublime stupidity speak their minds exposing not only their priorities but the priorities of their ilk.

Pass the popcorn. What fun...

Posted by: stevio on June 18, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Barton's comments will be the turning point for the 2010 midterm elections. Look for Democrats to destroy the GOP over this, and actually expand their majorities in November. The Republican Party just committed suicide. Just imagine how the GOP will implode when they LOSE seats in November after actually thinking they had a decent shot at taking the majority.

Posted by: Keith on June 18, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Wait1 Barton didn't come up with these talking points by himself. the Republican Study committee pretty much said the same thing yesterday, and if you listened to talk radio for even 5 minutes yesterday i'll bet you hear the word "shakedown" at least 5 times.

This was a Republican talking point. Barton just took it a little too far by actually apologizing to BP. Notice he only took back the apology, not the rhetoric he used before that.

Posted by: atlliberal on June 18, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Let's be honest -- the Dems won't go for the jugular.

And the media won't cover it much. Blumenthal says "in" instead of "during" once, and it is endless news. Kirk lies and lies and lies, and it isn't news.

Posted by: dems lose nov on June 18, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

It's downright scary how many of these mental midgets are a "heartbeat away" from power. Joe Barton=Ranking Member/Chairman. Sarah Palin=VP Candidate/President. And in the Senate: the mind is boggled by the consequences!

Posted by: DAY on June 18, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Wait, GOP officials were using a job opportunity as leverage to get a congressman to cooperate in a political plan hatched behind closed doors by party leaders? Why aren't Darrell Issa and Fox News comparing this to Watergate?

You know as well as I do, Steve: IOKIYAR.

Posted by: Gregory on June 18, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

...and actually, the comparison isn't exact. The Republicans used a specific threat to get that transparently insincere apology ("misconstrued," my eye!) from Barton.

In other words, it was a shakedown.

Posted by: Gregory on June 18, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Politico is so in the tank for Republicans, it's pathetic. Seemingly tone-deaf? Geez, you mean Barton's disgusting apology to BP wasn't enough to warrant a straight "tone-deaf" Politico? They just had to qualify it, didn't they? Plus, "tone-deaf" is a pretty innocuous, anodyne way to describe this gaffe, which was thought-out and written in advance.

Posted by: Moonlight on June 18, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

There was no apology for the apology, even an insincere one. Barton was sorry if anyone misconstrued his comments. His comments were crystal clear. No one could possibly have misconstrued them.

Posted by: Nothing But the Ruth on June 18, 2010 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

“If anything I said this morning has been misconstrued, in opposite effect, I want to apologize for that misconstruction.” So it's our fault for misunderstanding him. Isn't that special.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on June 18, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP and its entire media-industrial complex went bonkers over this "shakedown". I can't help but wonder if Frank Luntz or some other Svengali grennlighted this construction. Barton isn't the one who's "tone deaf" in this instance. It goes from Drudge to Rush to Palin to Bachmann and out to every talk-radio hack in the heartland. They want a war? Give them one.

Posted by: walt on June 18, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of being tone deaf and covering ass, the first sentence out of Boehner's lips these days is always "I've always said, as I've said from the beginning, that BP should pay for every last dime of this spill", regardless of the context, to any conversation even tangentially connected to BP.

Posted by: Oh my on June 18, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

a Republican aide said. "What he did certainly did not help anybody."

First of all are dems really people ?

Apologee gate ? Really ? Comparing the great Richard Nixon to this middling brow rep from a third world state , Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) .

Darrell or his other brother Jesus ?

Because if you want to attack the solemn Christian nation our Fore Uns inherited from the Indians with a separate contract for Great Britain , you are stepping on the Great Spirit as represented by the exulted Rayghun Magnus , and a wurl of trouble .

So there you have it . Dems are the worst . The great republican spirit prevails because the Indians gave us a Center Right Nation through the workings of Great Britain , Hormel , and JP Morgan . Anything else is just propaganda from evil doers who escaped from Baghdad or Paris .

Posted by: FRP on June 18, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

I'll say it again: simply pretend the apology was never made. After all, everyone on earth knows that it was completely insincere. Then hammer the GOP RELENTLESSLY on this glimpse into their black heart.

Posted by: JD on June 18, 2010 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Wait, GOP officials were using a job opportunity as leverage to get a congressman to cooperate in a political plan hatched behind closed doors by party leaders?

Chicago-style politics!!!!!! Thugs!!!!!

(Seriously, the phrase "Chicago-style politics" is pretty much a sign to me to disregard what the speaker has to say.)

Posted by: anonymous on June 18, 2010 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

All Barton did was put a face on the GOP position.

Sure, he went a little farther than the rest of them did by describing "why" the escrow fund was a "Chicago-style shakedown" and effectively accusing Obama and Holder of committing an indictable offense. Plus, directly apologizing to Hayward and saying he doesn't want to live in a country that does things like this makes for a dramatic sound bite.

However, the basic theme and much of the language - "Chicago-style shakedown" and "slush fund" - came right out of the Republican Study Committee statement and had already been echoed by multiple Republicans officials and many right-wing media figures.

No amount of trying to walk this back should be allowed to obscure the fact that the Republican party almost universally disapproved of the President getting a $20 billion committment from BP until it blew up in the faces with Barton's comments.

Posted by: tanstaafl on June 18, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

It is unfair that the Honorable Congressman Joe Barton should be slammed for honestly stating the republican position.

Congressman Barton is truly serving the needs of his constituents, the oil industry.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on June 18, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, there's absolutely nothing funny about what's going on in the Gulf Coast but there's plenty of humor to be mined from Joe Barton and his self-serving apology to BP. (Maddow mentioned this site in passing last night.)

http://www.joebartonwouldliketoapologize.com/

NOTE: You have to hit REFRESH to get each new potential Barton apology.

Posted by: 3reddogs on June 18, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

All Barton did was put a face on the GOP position.

But this is exactly what the GOPers are mad at Barton about.

It's tough to attack a position paper or a faceless group in a campaign ad.

It's easy to put the ranking Republican of the House Energy Committee into a campaign ad that says "If Republicans win the House in November, this man will be in charge of watching the oil industry. Do you trust him to do what's right for America, or what's right for BP?".

The first requires nuance and explanation and exposition and all the kinds of things that Democrats try to do at election season and tend to fail at.

The second requires a 30 second campaign ad spot running in competitive markets during Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.

Barton essentially handed the Dems an opening to drive narrative, and the GOPers know it. That's what they're mad about. They could care less about the content - it's all about the narrative.

Posted by: NonyNony on June 18, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

$20 Billion is nowhere near enough. A MINIMUM of $50 to $60 billion will be required for the cleanup. Obama is off to a good start getting the $20 billion, but he needs to make sure he gets the rest of the needed money from BP or the British government.

Posted by: Keith on June 18, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

BP

Forever associated with the horror in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nothing that anyone says will change what's happened nor what will happen.

Barton

Shining a floodlight on the GOP mindset, modus operandis, etc.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on June 18, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Barton is a Texas Aggie Engineer who was elected Congressman to replace the failed libertarian Economist and Congressman Phil Gramm when he left the House to run for Senate. Barton, having no other political experience, was clearly selected to replace the libertarian Gramm.

My suspicion is that we have just seen an outburst of Barton's innate libertarianism. He's been listening to Rand Paul and clearly doesn't like how Paul has been excoriated for his idiotic* libertarian views.

I can't find any public reports showing Barton's adherence to libertarianism, but the Texas Republican Party has sent Ron Paul [crackpot libertarian* and obstetrician], Dick Armey [a libertarian and failed economist] and Phil Gramm, [another raving libertarian* and failed economist], to the Congress. They all have a pattern of support for big oil companies and big business as indicated by their fund raising and by the jobs Gramm and Armey have gotten since they left the government. All are supporters of the libertarian idiot* Grover Norquist, too.

Is Barton some more of the libertarian infestation* of government that has been so common since Reagan was elected?

* Editorial comment intended.

Posted by: Rick B on June 18, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

This was a Republican talking point. Barton just took it a little too far by actually apologizing to BP. Notice he only took back the apology, not the rhetoric he used before that.

Important to note that this was a inside Republican talking point. Barton's sin was in speaking the words in front of non-Republican cameras, where the networks could not avoid seeing it and talking about it.

The Republicans, day after day, have separate talking points for their business constituents, their populist base, and a cover story for their golfing buddies at the networks. Barton used the wrong venue for his statement. If he'd said it away from the CSPN camera, the networks would have ignored it and most voters would never have known he said it.

Posted by: Midland on June 18, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Just give 'em enough rope. The GOP is living in Lala Land, many of them can no longer separate spin from reality. The more they talk in unscripted, public forums (e.g., not Fox News), the better.

Posted by: Jon on June 18, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Is Barton some more of the libertarian infestation* of government that has been so common since Reagan was elected?

Neither Barton or Graham are true libertarians. They are corporatists, dedicated to serving the business class that they consider the true heart and soul of America, the source of its prosperity and virtue. Their libertarian ideas are half scam, half rationalization for their actual political program, which is to keep the government and the voters out of the way of businessmen.

Barton was no doubt quite sincere in his apology to BP. He's a CEO fanboy and no doubt appalled that his corporate heroes should have to bear the burden of blame for sensible business decisions that went awry by what he probably considers a natural event.

Posted by: Midland on June 18, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

British Petroleum = the new Union Carbide.
The Gulf Gusher will be remembered alongside the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

You will notice that Union Carbide is now a subsidiary of Dow Chemical. But in 1954, following the coup in Iran that was instigated by Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, that company was merged with some smaller companies and renamed British Petroleum.

BP will not be an independent entity under that name for much more than another year or two.

Unfortunately, Joe Barton will continue to disgrace Congress with his presence. He won't even have to change his name.

Posted by: Rick B on June 18, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK
Neither Barton or Graham are true libertarians. They are corporatists, dedicated to serving the business class that they consider the true heart and soul of America, the source of its prosperity and virtue. Their libertarian ideas are half scam, half rationalization for their actual political program, which is to keep the government and the voters out of the way of businessmen.

I'll disagree that they are not true libertarians. They are what every libertarian is forced to become when they are elected to government and have to try to apply their idiotic ideology. They continue to use the language and appearance of libertarianism in order to scam voters into voting for them.

In the life cycle of a libertarian politician, you are looking at the early stage which is the pure ideologue and I recognize the later stage that they automatically drift into when they successfully scam enough voters to get elected and reelected. They are all libertarians and fools, while those who get reelected are also scamsters and crooks.

Posted by: Rick B on June 18, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

How interesting that Barton's first employment after receiving a Masters from Purdue, was as a consultant for ARCO, which is now owned by BP.

However, it does not look as though Barton worked long enough to accumulate the wealth needed to run both for public office and have his entire family on his payroll. Lots of money flowing into his coffers. Looks as though he does know how to "shakedown" both the oil and nuclear energy industries.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 18, 2010 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Neither Barton or Graham are true libertarians. They are corporatists, dedicated to serving the business class that they consider the true heart and soul of America, the source of its prosperity and virtue. Their libertarian ideas are half scam, half rationalization for their actual political program, which is to keep the government and the voters out of the way of businessmen.

Don't kid yourself - that's pretty much what a "true libertarian" is these days. A selfish corporate apologist.

Any libertarian that can support indefinite detention of political prisoners (not to mention torture) while still calling an income tax an abuse of government power has revealed the emptiness of their beliefs in liberty. And that's what's left of libertarians - just a bunch of selfish, anti-tax Republicans who wish they could legally smoke some pot.

Posted by: NonyNony on June 18, 2010 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Here is your ReBPublican Party on oil money!
Get oil money away from the Demicrats too ....

NonyNony - today's "libertarians" are also libertine frauds as well, who like to indulge in affairs and kinky sex etc. Most are atheists who despise Christianity and other religions' concern for "the other" as did Ayn Rand - yet their party continues to milk clueless or apostate prosperity-gospel "Christians" for all they're worth.

Posted by: Neil B on June 18, 2010 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Barton should not be on the Energy and Commerce committee anyway, his links with the oil companies should make him ineligible.

Posted by: Joan on June 18, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

It's a real stretch to say that Barton's stupidity will be a turning point in the mid-term elections. Everyone with any brains knows Barton is a shill for the oil companies, and there are people who genuinely think BP is doing the best they can.

The media will be in the tank for the Rethugs, and Obama will be criticized for anything and everything he does, or for that matter doesn't do. What the public should be hearing is how Bush/Cheney gave carte blanche to the oil magnates at the very start of their ill begotten administration. The dividends of that still secret energy policy meeting in 2001 can now be found along the Gulf coast and in the Gulf itself. That connection needs to be made continuously.

And while we're at it, why isn't it a 24/7 media frenzy that the deep-drilling contingency spill plans for all the oil companies are not only all the same, but a fraud?

Once again the propaganda war is being won by the Rethugs, and the Dems are mute.

Posted by: rrrk1 on June 18, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

People who discount Barton's apology forget that the exact same sentiments were expressed in an HRSC statement issued the day before. Almost 2/3rds of the GOP caucus is a member of the HRSC.

If the Dems have any cajones, they will make this the GOP's oil-stained blue dress and will approach it with the same tenacity.

The story only dies if you let it.

Posted by: bdop4 on June 18, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

As someone else pointed out, Barton is an Aggie. Armey is an Aggie who taught Aggies.

it's not "libertarianism" that's the problem in Texas. It's that institution in College Station.

Here's the intellectual milieu Colonel Barton comes from:

What is the difference between an Aggie and a carp? One is a bottom feeding scum sucker and the other is a fish.

Did you hear about the Aggie terrorist who tried to blow up the Longhorn team bus? He burned his lip on the tailpipe.

How many Aggies does it take to screw in a light bulb? One, but he gets 3 hours credit.

What is the difference between the Aggies and Rice Crispies? Rice Crispies know what to do in a bowl.

An Aggie got a job at an east Texas sawmill. Just before lunch on his first day, he lost a finger. When asked how he lost it, he replied, "I just touched this big spinning thing here like thi...Damn! There goes another one!"

Did you hear about the Aggie that drove his pickup into the lake? His dog drowned while he tried to get the tailgate down.

How can you tell an Aggie is on location at a drilling rig? He's the one throwing bread to the helicopters.

How many Aggies does it take to eat an armadillo?
Two. One to do the eating, and one to watch for cars.

Did you hear that the A&M library had to close down this year? Somebody stole the book. That's not all... when it was returned it was all colored in.

Posted by: TCinLA on June 18, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK
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