Joe Barton Retracts Apology: Being A Republican Congressman In The Pocket Of The Oil Industry Means Never Having To Stick To Having Said You’re Sorry

We know that the primary function of the Republican Party is to protect the interests of the ultra-wealthy and they know this, but they are not supposed to be blatant in demonstrating this. Joe Barton forgot this when he defended BP against what he called a “shakedown” by the Obama administration.

Barton apologized to BP for this “shakedown” to pay those who were harmed by the negligence of BP. This led to negative responses even even one Republican who realized that in such matters they should not really say what they are thinking. David Plouffe didn’t waste any time using this in a fund raising letter from Organizing for America:

When BP CEO Tony Hayward testified before Congress this morning, many expected to hear him apologize for the disaster his company has caused. Instead, GOP Congressman Joe Barton was the one saying he was sorry — to BP.

In his opening statement, Barton, the top Republican on the committee overseeing the oil spill and its aftermath, delivered a personal apology to the oil giant. He said the $20 billion fund that President Obama directed BP to establish to provide relief to the victims of the oil disaster was a “tragedy in the first proportion.”

Other Republicans are echoing his call. Sen. John Cornyn said he “shares” Barton’s concern. Rep. Michele Bachmann said that BP shouldn’t agree to be “fleeced.” Rush Limbaugh called it a “bailout.” The Republican Study Committee, with its 114 members in the House, called it a “shakedown.”

Let’s be clear. This fund is a major victory for the people of the Gulf. It’s a key step toward making them whole again. BP has a responsibility to those whose lives and livelihoods have been devastated by the disaster. And BP oil executives don’t deserve an apology — the people of the Gulf do.

Stand with us to show that the American people support holding BP accountable — and we won’t apologize for doing so.

Barton wound up retracting his apology today. I guess being a Republican Congressman in the pocket of the oil industry means never having to stick to having said you’re sorry. (Joe Barton meet Erich Segal.)

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Quote of the Day

“Even though I’m president of the United States, my power is not limitless. So I can’t dive down there and plug the hole. I can’t suck it up with a straw.”
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Context Is Everything, Including In Ass Kicking

There has been a lot of talk about an answer Obama gave to a question with the headlines decreasing it to limited sound bites such as “Obama looking for ‘whose ass to kick'” from CNN. Out of context this sounds too much like Bush-type bravado. It sounds much different when placed in context:

LAUER: Critics are now talking about your style, which is the first time I’ve heard that in a long time. They’re saying here is a guy who likes to be known as cool and calm and collected, and this isn’t the time for cool, calm and collected. This is not the time to meet with experts and advisers; this is a time to spend more time in the Gulf and — I never thought I’d say this to a president — but kick some butt. And I don’t mean it to be funny.

OBAMA: No, and I understand. And here’s what — I’m going to push back hard on this. Because I think that this is a — just an idea that got in folks heads, and the media’s run with it. I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick.

It would be one thing if Obama had planned to talk about kicking ass. It is different when he responds in such a manner to a question about kicking some butt.

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BP Oil Spill Provides Opportunities For Obama-Bashers Regardless Of Whether Warranted

The BP oil spill is becoming a litmus test for how people think about Obama. The ability to handle such a matteris hardly a key presidential function (unlike a natural disaster such as Katrina which is a direct responsibility of the federal government.) This doesn’t stop Obama’s critics from trying to find ways to blame him, while generally ignoring all that he has actually done so far in response to the crisis and spreading falsehoods.

George Will even admits that Obama is “being unfairly blamed” for the response to the oil spill but also says “it sort of serves him right.” Will simultaneously admitted Obama is doing all he can under impossible circumstances while also trying to use the issue to raise questions of competence.

I have already responded to other attacks from the right coming from Karl Rove and Peggy Noonan in recent posts. The attacks are not limited to the right. There were also recent attacks from James Carville which made him just came across as another sore loser among the Clintonistas.  It’s not the first time the ragin’ cajun mouthed off before thinking.

The Washington Post has reviewed the politics of the issue and fortunately finds that others are being far more rational in their response. Ed Rogers, who worked in the Reagan and Bush I White Houses is more objective about the limitations on the president:

President Obama’s political managers are all being told that the president needs to “do something.” But when he does he becomes more closely associated with the ugly problem and more responsible for the nearly impossible task of stopping the flow and managing a cleanup that will leave most people unsatisfied…

This is a great American tragedy whose political consequences will linger for years. No one will emerge as a hero, savior or indispensable leader. Instead, the revelation of the limits of our technology, leaders, laws and energy options will leave us all frustrated and in a mood to blame everybody involved.

Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center has some more significant insights:

Until now President Obama has avoided serious political damage from the government’s handling of the spill, but this may be changing. Recent polling finds pluralities or majorities of the public disapproving of the administration’s response or giving it low marks for its handling of the situation. Even among Democrats, ratings of the administration’s performance have been tepid. The spill is unfolding at a time of exceptionally low levels of trust in government, which may make the public even less forgiving.

Still, unlike Hurricane Katrina, where the government had primary responsibility for dealing with the crisis, until now its role has been secondary to that of BP. And the public has been far more critical of BP for its handling of the crisis.

Although the spill may cause Obama political damage in the short run, it could help him in the longer run with key legislative priorities for his administration: the passage of a comprehensive energy bill and efforts to address environmental protection more generally. The spill has spurred an increase in support for environmental protection, which had declined over the past two years as concerns about the economy pushed aside many other public priorities. While polling by Pew Research and other organizations continues to find at least plurality support for offshore oil drilling, the level of support is much lower than before the spill.

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Peggy Noonan’s New Criteria For Presidential Competence

I’m never sure what to think of Peggy Noonan. Sometimes she sounds more rational than the typical conservative columnist writing for The Wall Street Journal. Other times she comes up with nonsense like in today’s column bashing Obama over the BP oil spill. Naturally many conservative sites are lapping it up as it attacks Obama.

It is amusing to see writers who normally claim that the role of the federal government should be limited to the functions specifically listed in the Constitution now arguing that the ability to handle an oil spill is the way to measure a president’s competence. The same bloggers who whine that health care is not listed in the Constitution don’t care that oil spills are not mentioned either. Of course they are totally oblivious to how Republican deregulation and hiring of political cronies and industry shills as opposed to competent regulators  contributed to this disaster as I noted yesterday.

If Noonan is going to judge the success of Obama’s presidency based upon this oil spill then she needs to review her own view after Katrina. Blue Texan provides this comparison:

Nooners, today.

I don’t see how the president’s position and popularity can survive the oil spill.

Nooners, after Katrina.

Is the Bush Era over? No, no, no. It has three more years. That’s a long time. History turns on a dime. There is much ahead, and potential for progress.

Andrew Sullivan has an excellent rebuttal of Noonan’s post:

The premise of Noonan’s moronic column is that the federal government, especially the president, should be capable of ending an oil-pipe rupture owned and operated by private companies, using technology that only deep-sea oil companies deploy or understand. And if such a technical issue is not resolved by government immediately, it reveals paralyzing presidential weakness and the failure of an entire branch of political philosophy. Again: seriously? It’s Obama‘s fault that under Bush and Cheney, government regulation of oil exploration was so poor and corrupt, corner cutting appears to have been routine? And this, Peggy, is what governments do, even when run by crazy-ass liberals. Governments do not dig for oil; they merely regulate those who dig for oil. That the government failed to do so under the previous administration does not seem to me to be proof that this administration has failed. (For a blast of common sense on this, see Clive.)

For Noonan, the American public is concerned only with spending, illegal immigration and the federal government’s inability to stop an oil leak. For Noonan, the steepest downturn since the 1930s never happened. For Noonan, the flaws of the healthcare system – like, er, millions have none – do not exist. For Noonan, the massive debt – almost all of which Obama either inherited or built in the emergency attempt to stabilize a global economy heading into an abyss – is evidence that government does not work and that Obama is incompetent. For Noonan, actual difficult practical tasks most adults understand are complex to grapple with – how to prevent a Second Great Depression, how to police thousands of miles of border, how to stop an oil leak deep in the ocean floor – are easy. Just do it. Or be labeled incompetent and doomed.

This is utterly unrelated to the reality I have witnessed these past two years, or the slow catastrophe of misgovernment that really did unfold in the last ten. Maybe that says as much about my cocoon as Noonan’s. But I doubt it. What I have also learned these past few years is that the right seeks merely a narrative to lead themselves out of the hole they dug for all of us. Reality be damned. The job of the rest of us is to insist that reality matters and that these fools be exposed.

Pete Abel adds two additional points:

1. Yes, there’s an obvious and substantial difference between Katrina and Deepwater Horizon. The first was a natural disaster that required a relief effort tailor-made for government intervention. The second is a man-made debacle, requiring specialized expertise to fix; expertise that apparently no one has, although BP seemingly has more than any other entity. Regardless, the current situation makes me more sympathetic to the Bush administration’s travails with the former situation. Both are complex undertakings and those of us who are not directly involved are too damn quick to judge. At least once, possibly more, I suggested the “incompetent” label for Bush, et. al., in the context of Katrina. Noonan does the same for Obama, et. al., in the context of Deepwater Horizon. Increasingly, I believe both characterizations are unfair.

2. In the midst of the Gulf crisis, the President has performed a Solomonesque move. He has ordered “a suspension of virtually all current and new offshore oil drilling activity pending a comprehensive safety review.” He has also balanced that decision with an unflinching commitment to the fact that we must embrace these ventures until petroleum can be more voluminously replaced as an energy source.

“It has to be part of an overall energy strategy,” Mr. Obama said. “I mean, we’re still years off and some technological breakthroughs away from being able to operate on purely a clean-energy grid. During that time, we’re going to be using oil. And to the extent that we’re using oil, it makes sense for us to develop our oil and natural gas resources here in the United States and not simply rely on imports.”

Given the Republicans’ drill-baby-drill mindset, shouldn’t they be leaping forward to praise this instance of Presidential discretion?

To be clear: I’m not suggesting the GOP should muffle all criticism. To the contrary: Pointed questions — from both sides of the aisle — are appropriate and necesary to the functioning of the Republic, even (especially) in times of crisis. But wrecklessly fanning the flames of criticism — and yes, I believe, Noonan and like-minded Republicans are being wreckless — is irresponsible and potentially detrimental to one of the GOP’s pet positions.

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Rove Blaming Obama For Failing To Repair All Bush Administration Problems

After the major failures of the Bush administration it has been common place for Bush apologists to try to claim that Obama has committed acts of incompetence comparable to those which were commonplace under Bush. On recent effort has been to try to label the BP oil spill Obama’s Katrina. Karl Rove claims this in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

As Think Progress points out  the most remarkable thing about this op-ed is that after years of defending the Bush administration’s approach to Katrina, Rove is now admitting that this was mishandled. There are major differences between the events. Obama didn’t  ignore warnings even before the even occurred as Bush did with Katrina. The two events do have one key factor in common–both were related to the hiring of political cronies and industry shills as opposed to competent regulators during the Bush years. Think Progress notes:

Rove’s analysis would be sharper if he noted that “Obama’s Katrina” actually highlights some very real Bush and Cheney failures. By filling the Minerals Management Service — the government agency responsible for regulating off shore oil drilling — with industry shills who took drugs and had sex with the officials they were supposed to be policing, the Bush administration dangerously eroded the regulatory regime, and missed warnings that could have helped prevent the BP disaster.

If Obama deserves any blame it is for not having repaired all the damage which the Bush administration has done to this country in sixteen months.

Update: Responses to Peggy Noonan’s attack on Obama’s competence due to the BP oil spill.

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Jay Leno Sees Oil Spill As Consequence of Tea Party Views

Many right wingers have liked Jay Leno in the past primarily because he is not David Letterman. Leno might have reduced his standing on the right while Rand Paul has had a couple of days of really bad television coverage. It was bad enough when, after being only the third person in history to cancel an invitation to be on Meet the Press, David Gregory spent the first ten minutes of the show looking back at all of Paul’s gaffes. David Gregory then appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno Again. Leno got a couple attacks in on the Tea Parties:

Meanwhile Jay Leno wanted to know how come the Tea Partiers are showing up now and not back when the Bush administration was stomping all over the nation’s civil rights? Gregory thinks it’s simply because they’re more organized. But Leno persisted: “BP is the perfect example. BP seems to have done this on their own, they don’t pay attention, they essentially make their own rules, they pay off everybody…that’s what the Tea Party wants. That’s unregulated and look what happened.”

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