Was That "Apology for an Apology' Really an Apology?
When you've got nationally syndicated conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer calling something that you've said ""the most politically stupid statement of the year," and you're also a conservative, you know you've screwed up.
That's what happened to Texas Congressman Joe Barton. In a House subcommittee meeting convened to hear BP CEO Tony Hayward apologize to Americans on behalf of the company he heads, for the worst environmental disaster in history, Barton felt compelled to apologize to BP. He said he was ""ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," referring to President Obama's high-pressure tactics to get BP to agree to setting up a $20 billion escrow fund for the people of the Gulf Coast who have suffered financial losses due to this epic oil spill that is still gushing its poison into the waters just off the Louisiana coast. "He called it "a tragedy of the first proportion, that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, a $20 billion shakedown." (msn.com)
"Rep. Joe Barton was forced to recant by House minority (Republican) leaders outraged at the vision of an American lawmaker apologizing at a congressional hearing to a foreign head of a corporation that had caused great hardships for millions of Gulf Coast residents." (msn.com)
Not surprisingly, Barton has been the single largest recipient of political contributions from big oil over the last several years. His apology for his apology went like this:
"I want the record to be absolutely clear that I think BP is responsible for this accident," he said. "If anything I said this morning has been misconstrued, in opposite effect, I want to apologize for that misconstruction."
Is that really an apology? That's about as good as it's going to get though, because he and many other Republicans really do believe that his initial statements were accurate. Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, former Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and Rep. Tom Price of Georgia chimed in on what they were calling "shakedown politics," questioning the legality of the escrow fund and calling it a "redistribution of wealth fund."
Even prior to this incident we had Republicans coming to the defense of poor ole BP. Republican Rand Paul, recently nominated Kentucky Senatorial candidate, called Obama's handling of the crisis "anti-business" and "really un-American." Then we have Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska saying, "This is not an environmental disaster, and I will say that again and again because it is a natural phenomenon." WHAT?!!! Tell that to the brown pelicans covered in oil on the Louisiana coastline.
Do we need any more proof that this new version of the Republican Party cares more for corporations than people? This is the party that crucified the low-income family advocate ACORN for their "foot in mouth" moment when they were set up and caught on video discussing mortgage opportunities for a brothel. Even though ACORN was subsequently cleared of breaking any laws, Republicans fiercely sought and won complete defunding of the $3.5 million given annually to the non-profit organization. At the same time, Republicans continue to seek increased funding for private security firms like Blackwater, whose employees are known to have committed murder while on duty in Iraq and are paid with American tax dollars from the over $1 billion paid out to their employer.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that there have been no calls from Republicans to stop the billions of our tax dollars going to BP (and others), in the form of tax breaks and "royalty relief," even though their actions, possibly criminally negligent, have resulted in the deaths of 11 people. Instead, they are APOLOGIZING TO BP!!!
Should such arm-twisting of corporations by a U.S. President be standard operating procedure? Of course not. But extreme conditions call for extreme measures.
To publicly feign real concern for the damage done by BP, Republican leadership forced Barton to apologize for his apology but their true colors can't be hidden. Too many others have come to Barton's defense.
Republican apologists are saying that this whole mess would be better handled by the Justice Department. (This is the same Justice Department that they claim can't properly prosecute a terrorist.) If we let the courts handle it, we might see a settlement--eventually. Americans who have lost their livelihoods need help NOW. That is what the escrow fund, funded with BP dollars, not taxpayer dollars, will do.
Democrats have called Barton's comments "incredibly insensitive, incredibly out of touch." They have observed that Barton seems to have more concern for the big corporations that have caused this disaster than the fisherman, business owners, and communities whose lives have been devastated. And, once again, let's not forget that eleven men died in the Deepwater Horizon explosion.