Republican congressman Joe Barton caused quite the furor yesterday when he apologized to BP CEO Tony Haywire for what he termed, in written remarks, a "20-billion dollar shakedown" by the White House. That sent the Repug spin machine into overdrive. While the BP hearing was still underway, Barton was yanked out of his seat and hauled off to the offices of Repub Minority Leader John Boehner for a little damage control.
Embarrassing as Barton may have been to Congressional Republicans, the Christian Science Monitor reports, he's by no means alone:
Taking back something that was part of your written statement at the hearing opening – not just some off-the-cuff blather to a reporter in the hallway? Whoa. That’s not just eating your words. That’s like having them cut up and fed to you one by one in front of an audience of interns on the National Mall.
But Barton has his defenders. There are people in Washington who believe that by using the pulpit power of the presidency to push BP in that direction the president did indeed exceed his authority.
This was the headline on an analysis posted Friday on the Heritage Foundation website: “Joe Barton is Right: There Was a $20 Billion Shakedown in the White House.”
Heritage analyst Conn Carroll notes in the piece that BP has, among other things, received no assurance from the White House that it won’t ask for more money, and no assurance that final damages won’t be higher. And by the way, the whole thing was negotiated in the presence of Attorney General Eric Holder, who has threatened BP with criminal prosecution.
The real victim was not even BP, writes Mr. Carroll. “It was the rule of law.”
At National Review Online, Daniel Foster says that Barton’s choice of words was awful, but that on substance, he was right. Establishing a fund over and above an existing claims process is, if not illegal, “then at least extra-legal,” writes Mr. Foster.
And prior to Thursday’s hearing, the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a group of conservative GOP members, used “shakedown” to describe the White House escrow-establishment process.
And let's not forget the Republican's Congressional Dipshit in Chief, Representative Michele Bachmann who condemned the $20-billion compensation fund a "redistribution of wealth" and earlier this week urged BP execs not to be "chumps" by giving in to White House demands. The Minnesota Independent reports that Bachmann has reconsidered her remarks given that 82% of her constituents think the fund idea is just fine. Now the big hair dimbulb has come out with this:
“I'm not here to shill for BP. That's not the goal. BP clearly is at fault here. They need to pay every last dime of damage and that’s what needs to be done. But at the same time, we don’t want these payouts to become political.”