Joe Barton Just Wants to Have His Life Back

There are many ways to distinguish between the two major political parties in the United States, but one of the more obvious ways is in how they choose to implode. Democrats, for example, tend to implode in slow motion, when their own aimless, plodding inertia turns them into lugubrious and easy targets for the right wing media, which scurries around them, draping yet another thin, disingenuous stratum of “they’re socialist grandmother killers!” over them until the whole sludgy edifice collapses from the accumulated weight, and the Democrats are crushed underneath. Republicans, on the other hand, implode like old, fat, gassy stars, when the depleted fuel of their empty ideology can’t sustain further inward pressure from their personal idiocy, and the whole mess sucks down and then spectacularly erupts into a blazing display of abject stupidity.

And then you have something like what happened yesterday, when Texas representative and ranking Republican member of the house’s energy and commerce committee Joe Barton apologized to BP for having to endure the “shakedown” of agreeing to put $20 billion in an escrow account to help pay for the damages the company inflicted on the Gulf of Mexico. Shortly thereafter Barton was forced by the Republican leadership both to apologize for his apology and to retract it, which he did, in exactly the same manner a 10-year-old boy whose mother is standing behind him with a well-used wooden spoon apologizes to his sister for putting a dog turd in her bed. Barton didn’t apologize because he felt he did or said anything wrong; he did it because the alternative — losing his standing on the energy and commerce committee — would be more painful.

It’s this fact which is the real problem for the Republicans. The Republican leadership is righteously pissed off at Barton at the moment, but the question not answered is: Is it pissed off because he said something that does not reflect the Republican point of view on the escrow account, or is it pissed off because Barton, the House GOP point man on energy, was stupid enough to say it out loud at a congressional hearing? The phrases “shakedown” and “slush fund” as regards the escrow account didn’t come out of nowhere — other Republicans and right wing media were already using the terms before Barton made an ass of himself with them. The major difference is that when Michelle Bachmann and Sean Hannity punt the terms about, they’re part of the GOP “socialist grandmother killer” strategy of dinging the Democrats over the long term, and the Republican leadership doesn’t have to engage with it directly and can distance itself from it if need be while still benefiting from getting the meme out there.

But when Barton, poster boy for the House GOP energy policy, used them, there was nowhere for the GOP leadership to hide. It had to either disavow the statements and step on Barton’s head, or hand the Democrats a really thick board to smack Republicans with from here to November. So the leadership disavowed the statements and in doing so killed off any benefit they get from Bachmann or Hannity burbling on about shakedowns and slush funds because now they are explicitly contrary to the GOP position, and any further leakage of the phrases from backbenchers and right wing media is going to be used by the Democrats as further proof of the GOP’s utter insincerity on the matter. But some folks won’t get the memo, which is to say the Democrats probably still have a nice thick board to use between now and the elections, which Barton didn’t just hand to them but personally engraved and then dropped trou and bent over to receive his beating.

I don’t want to suggest the GOP isn’t going to pick up seats in the House and Senate in November — I suspect it will — but I don’t think it will pick up enough seats to take the majority from the Democrats in either chamber and I suspect that a large part of that will be because of the complete mess the party is currently making of its Oil Spill messaging, and in particular its association with and affinity for BP. One, I’m not at all sure why any Republican would want to be seen taking the side of a massive foreign corporation over the American citizens and small business owners whose livelihoods are now threatened by that massive foreign corporation’s neglect and ineptitude. Two, in particular, I’m not at all sure why the Republicans would want to be seen doing that in the American South, where the majority of its political base lies. Three, nobody who isn’t stupid and/or reflexively partisan would pretend that if a Republican president had negotiated the exact same escrow account with BP that Bachmann, Hannity, Barton et al, wouldn’t be falling all over themselves to point out how it’s an example of how Republicans work with private business to solve problems rather than trying to have government be the solution in itself and forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.

Basically there’s little in the GOP oil spill positioning that isn’t a) initially following the mantra of “Whatever Obama does is Socialist,” b) a confused and hasty backtrack from that position when the GOP realize that most people are not interested in blaming Obama, they’re interested in blaming BP, which to be fair is responsible for having its oil rig blow up, killing 11 workers, and gushing millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Part of the reason for this is that I don’t think the GOP as it is currently intellectually constituted is able to handle getting off the script regarding point a), or doing anything but responding petulantly and defensively regarding point b). It and its members (and media) are so used to their “socialist grandma killer” talking points, and in trying to help the Democrats do their slow motion implosion that they just don’t notice that when it comes to BP and the gulf, they’re setting themselves up for their own implosions of supernova magnitude.

Joe Barton had to go up like an oily Roman candle for this to impinge in the GOP consciousness. I wonder how many more GOPers will have to go up for it to really sink in.

163 thoughts on “Joe Barton Just Wants to Have His Life Back

  1. Oh, thank you John.

    Watching the Congressional Hearings yesterday was like watching a train carrying wounded soldiers broadside a school bus for “special needs” kids on Christmas Eve.

    And, it was entertaining.

  2. I’m fairly liberal, but even more than that I’m a fan of politics and the U.S. in general. It really disturbs me that the supposedly conservative party in this country has been so co-opted by these crazies. I don’t necessarily believe in a lot of conservative positions, but I see a value in the debate, and in having a check on the excesses of my fellow liberals when they’re given too much freedom to act.

    I live in Oklahoma, and I really get chills when I talk to a seemingly normal and intelligent person who actually believes Michelle Bachmann makes sense, or that Pres. Obama should be deported to Kenya. A student in a business law class I teach said last night that politicians were the problem and that businessmen could be trusted to solve problems and run things in the best fashion. This was during a discussion about tort law in the context of the BP oil spill.

    Don’t know if I was trying to make a specific point. Just that there’s something really wrong with the right, and it’s kind of frightening.

  3. …I suspect that a large part of that will be because of the complete mess the party is currently making of its Oil Spill messaging, and in particular its association with and affinity for BP.

    Hey, BPs association with the Democrats and the President in 2008 hasn’t hurt them none, so I think it just possible Republicans might escape this particular bear trap.

    The big problem for Democrats, and the President in particular, is the fact that they keep telling everyone Government is the solution.

    And the other problem is they keep trying to spend money….

  4. A question raised by this:

    At what point will disavowals, public apologies, retractions, walk-backs, and rethinks cease to lose any meaning in public life?

    Whenever a public figure engages in one, it seems so obviously facile and disingenuous that I don’t know how anybody could take it seriously.

    So what function do they really serve?

    If Barton said these things in public, they’re clearly a reflection of the values and ideas he uses to make policy. Period. No amount of forced apologizing or restating changes this for me.

    Anybody else feel the same?

  5. Baloney. It’s another damn bailout. It’s unnecessary. It actually works to shield BP from the economic consequences of its negligence.

    Normally, if a company’s liabilities from an accident exceed its assets, the solution is simple – the company files for bankruptcy, and it either works out a payment plan with its creditors (i.e. the victims), or the company is shuts down, its assets sold off, and the proceeds used to pay the claims. But what Obama is doing (he did something similar with Chrysler) is to write his own ad hoc exceptions to the business and corporate laws that apply to everyone else, and to do so in a way that leaves maximum discretion for the government to do whatever it wants. Hell, they had a LA Times columnist on the Diane Rehm show this morning on NPR who basically admitted that the escrow fund was about propping up BP’s stock prices and bond ratings, not about making sure people injured by the spill get paid.

    Barton said it in the most ass way possible, but the man had a point. This is not how you handle a business crisis. If a company is failing because of its own stupidity, let it fail! It’s cheaper in the long run, it respects the law, and, to borrow from Voltaire, it “encourages the others.”

    Oh, and let me not be remiss in reminding everyone that not only was BP’s former CEO, Lord Brown, the genius who came up with “cap and trade” – a complete scam, BTW – BP was formerly the darling of environmentalists because it threw money at “alternative energy products” while racking up 760 OSHA safety violations, and just barely avoided being prosecuted for a refinery fire in Texas that killed 15 people in 2005. (The hated ExxonMobil, by comparison, had one OSHA violation).

    Why in the bowels of hell is Obama cutting ANY deal with BP? No, this isn’t socialism. It’s corporatism, which is even worse.

  6. The consequences of speaking truth to power do not always include success. I understand the tactics involved in the $20B thing, but it was still a shakedown. I think that BP is still going to go into bankruptcy.

    Someone told Obama that drilling was “absolutely safe”? And he believed this?

  7. Frank:

    So, I was thinking to myself just before I clicked through, “huh, four comments, I bet one of them will be an attempt to move the conversation off the Republicans and on to how bad Obama and the Democrats are.” So thank you for being completely predictable in that regard.

    How, this entry is about Republicans and their messaging re: BP, not “Bwah! Teh Democratz is bad!” So I’d appreciate staying on topic, if you can manage it.

    Masterthief:

    “It’s another damn bailout.”

    And thus Masterthief disqualifies himself from serious consideration by confusing a private corporation choosing to use its own money to address legal issues its actions precipitated with the government purchasing a share of a corporation to keep it running.

  8. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of crazy-talk. It’s going to be one hell of an interesting summer in terms of politics.

  9. Actually, the part I am having the biggest problem with is the term ‘shakedown’.

    We don’t know what happened in the White House. It’s entirely possible BP (because it makes sense for them as well to try to at least get a handle on immediate outlay AND gets them clear of the claims payment mess) came in and said ‘Hey, we think this fund is a great idea!’.

    If I was Heyward, I would have basically said something along the lines of ‘there was no shakedown, we simply agreed that this was the best way of making sure that people were protected while BP focuses all efforts on stopping the lead.

    Now, IF it turns out there was some kind of Quid Pro Quo, especially regarding any criminal investigations, that’s another matter, but no one has provided anything to even suggest that might be true.

    Which leads to my bigger problem with Republican (primarily – but Dems do this too), which is the presenting of unsupported allegations as ‘facts’ that get recycled in the right-wing echo chamber. The ‘Birther’ controversy is an example of that, or the ‘he’s coming to get your guns’ meme.

    IF it turns out the president used undue pressure to force an agreement, then Barton is well within his rights to say what he did, if he has any proof a shakedown occurred.

  10. “…in exactly the same manner a 10-year-old boy whose mother is standing behind him with a well-used wooden spoon apologizes to his sister for putting a dog turd in her bed.”

    Hmm, spoken like someone with personal knowledge… I recall that John has sisters; anyone know if he had a dog growing up?

    (I’m reallllly hoping John’s mom or sister weighs in on this in the comments…)

  11. Scalzi

    So thank you for being completely predictable in that regard.

    You’re welcome.

    Your positions, on the other hand, are always unpredictable and unique. It’s what keeps me reading. Just never know what you are going to say next.

    For instance, I would be surprised if you repeated your call for divided government this election cycle.

    Its always something new and fresh with Scalzi.

  12. Hey, BPs association with the Democrats and the President in 2008 hasn’t hurt them none, so I think it just possible Republicans might escape this particular bear trap.

    The Democrats received $60,000 from BP in the 2008 campaign. Barton has received $146,000 from Anadarko Petroleum in the last 10 years, his single biggest contributor…who holds a 25% stake in the Macondo Prospect, where Deep Horizon is located. Barton’s position on the House energy committee has resulted in three of his five biggest contributors being energy companies (the other two being AT&T and Lockheed Martin).

    This, in and of itself, is hardly noteworthy in terms of donations. BP itself donates a LOT of money to politicians, though Republicans used to get much more than Democrats. Politicians receiving donations from PACs who are actually shell-companies of large businesses is not really shocking or new.

    The issue here is that Barton is a direct beneficiary of a partner of BP and is acting as if he is beholden to them MORE than the American citizenry who are suffering from BP’s mistakes. More importantly, he seems to have misread the room, somehow, and seems to be convinced that his constituency is more concerned with keeping government out of business practices than with resolving and paying for an environmental crisis that BP is accountable for.

    It could be argued that BP is getting grilled unfairly or that the opportunists in politics are looking for an easy scapegoat and BP is an easy target. I don’t agree, but I can see a case to be made. Certainly, there is the danger of ‘mob justice’. But people aren’t coming after BP with pitchforks…they just want their beaches cleaned without having to bankrupt the region to do it.

    The American people, still smarting from last years $3-$4/gallon gas prices are NOT feeling terribly charitable towards large oil companies. Especially not after we get reports of record profits last year and the knowledge that BP is sitting on tons of cash and is in no danger as a company for such a monumental blunder.

    People don’t want government interfering in their lives…right up until they point they do. This is a situation that is simply to big for individuals or even individual states. If the federal government isn’t going to help solve the oil spill at Deep Horizon….who is?

  13. Oooh, I can already tell this one is going to hit at least 300 comments.

    Well said, as usual.
    Looking at his wiki-page is eye opening. This guy opposed the extension of the voting rights act?
    Classy.
    (Rant)
    More broadly, I think Chris Mathews had it right (as he rarely does) when he said that the new right (including old right members with new bumper stickers) seems to see the American government as an occupying enemy rather than, say, their duly elected government. Nothing it does can be right, even if it’s what you would choose for it to do if you had the choice. It’s job is to whither and die, except the parts that enforce property rights, and bomb 3rd world countries into 5th world countries.
    (/Rant)

  14. I’m no fan of Republicans, but Barton’s response and his cohorts’ response to his response, such as it was, reminds me of a comment my brother made a while back: “This is the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt? They’re like bees buzzing in a jar!”

  15. Frank:

    “Your positions, on the other hand, are always unpredictable and unique.”

    The issue, however, is not whether my issues or yours are unpredictable or unique, Frank. The issue is that rather than engage on the topic at hand, your first impulse is to attempt to hijack the discussion into something completely different, as you did by trying to make the conversation about Obama and the Democrats, and as you are now trying to do by getting me to talk about divided government.

    What I’m saying to you, Frank, is that not only is it obvious when you try to change the subject on political discussions, I also find it slightly disrespectful, since it means that you either think I’m too stupid to notice what you’re doing, or that it’s more important for you to redirect the discussion for your own purposes than to have consideration for either your host or the other participants in the thread.

    Neither of these is the case, and I wish you would stop giving the impression that you believe one or both.

  16. MasterThief, the only parties that will benefit from BP filing for bankruptcy are the attorneys representing BP and the victims. The victims won’t see but a small fraction of their damages after all the (inflated) attorney fees are paid from whatever assets are sold. And it will take YEARS to find and liquidate those assets. Then it will take YEARS for all the court cases to wend their way through the American and probably British court system (BP is a foreign company).

    It seems to me that BP could use the $20 billion for PR by saying “We take responsibility for our f***up and instead of making you wait years to see any compensation and using most of that compensation to pay all the attorneys you had to hire to represent you when we filed bankruptcy, we’re doing this to get money to you, the people we really damaged through our ineptitude, if not criminal actions.”

  17. And this is pure speculation on my part, but for those of you who suspect the White House of “shaking down” BP, when I heard the $20 billion figure, I wondered if BP execs breathed a sigh of relief. Although the $20B figure is not a cap (yeah, I intended the pun, very much so), I can only imagine how high things could (and may) go with the class action lawsuits, especially if Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama really get rolling. Not to mention, well, you know, Mexico.

    The damn well is still leaking oil, so it’s not inconceivable that the fishing and tourism industry in those states will not only be “affected” for a generation or two (or three), but “devastated.” And putting a dollar amount on that might be significantly higher than $20 billion.

  18. The reason I think it’s a shakedown is because the money is given into the control of the government. BP is entirely capable of hiring an independent commission to make awards; the money doesn’t need to be washed through the government’s hands. The escrow account does nothing to protect BP from any lawsuit by anyone.

  19. @Htom:

    Actually, from what I heard on TV, the Federal Government, other than appointing the claims administrator, will not have much to do with the fund.

    It will be handled by an independent entity (probably a non-profit corp), which will subcontract out some of the claims processing to a private company. All of the judges adjuticating claims will be retired, with no governmental involvement.

    All funds will be held in Escrow, spread over several major financial institutions.

    Now, there are a lot of details to be worked out (if this thing is up before the wells are capped I will be amazed), but at least at a formal level, government influence will be limited, and the federal government will have no access to funds.

  20. I rather suspect the $20 billion is a down payment on what’s more likely to be a $60 – $80 billion clean-up.

    More, it would seem to me that, far from being a shakedown, this was an outstretched hand to a company that — lacking the president’s assistance and good offices, and despite its immense capital and revenues — could slide into ruin and failure and as a result not be able to meet its entirely reasonable obligations for environmental cleanup.

  21. @htom

    Without being privy to what the conversation at the White House consisted of, you can hardly claim one way or another. It’s possible that BP came to Obama and offered up an escrow fund which makes the shakedown argument…well, shaky.

    Hardly the point though as the topic is how Barton talked himself into a corner. Pretty hard to deny that, isn’t it?

  22. In terms of the Republican brand and messaging, I’m not sure it really matters anymore what they say or do.

    When you are allowed to wantonly make things up and force the nation to take the addressing of those, say deathpanels, seriously, is there really any accountability anymore?

    I mean, look at the line about being the Party of Lincoln. Today, being a Republican is about being as pro state’s rights and as anti federal government as possible. And yet these same people speak reverently of the party of Lincoln where it seems relevant. The party of Lincoln fought a real Civil War on the side of the Federal government against states rights.

    What do you say to people that think forcing BP to be held accountable and limiting some of their ability to tie up payouts in courts for two decades by making them fund an escrow account with their money is a bailout?

    Obviously we have the answer for Scalzi’s site. But, elsewhere in the world fair reporting has come to mean splitting the difference between imagination land and political positions based on facts.

    If deathpanels talk didn’t cost anyone, how can apology to anyone go wrong?

  23. @ Scalzi:

    If BP wants to use its own money to pay claims, that’s fine. But why is Obama appointing the person in charge of paying out the claims? It smells of quid pro quo.

    I hate to break it to you, but it is the same thing – corporations running to the government sugar daddy to stay in business after screwing up. Chrysler was just the biggest and most visible example. But it’s happened before – GM, AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup: government stepping in with no basis in law (e.g. “GM’s a bank, right? Just throw TARP funds at it”) and using government authority – and on occasion taxpayer money – to prop up companies that should rightfully go out of business, the sooner the better. Bush did it. Obama did it. Damn them both for it.

    @BarstoolBabe:

    BP Bankruptcy is not a matter of if, but when. And it’s not going to take years and years. Exxon Valdez only took 20 years to resolve because of all the punitive damages issues. With BP, punitive damages are irrelevant, the compensatory damages alone ($400+ billion) will easily exceed BP’s market capitalization ($80 billion). The question is how much of that $80 billion will BP get away with keeping. So far, signs point to “a lot.”

  24. @18:
    I have a theory that some people can not talk politics in good faith. That is, that their primary instict in talking about politics is not what is good for the country, their state, or even for society. They make the arguments that they do in order to benefit themselves and their ideology.

    I’m not entirely sure its a conscious action. They’ve fully associated contemplation with indecision and questioning with weakness.

    I don’t think its a fully Republican trend, but conservative politics tend to feature simple answers to complex problems, and simple answers argue themselves.

    @21:

    “The reason I think it’s a shakedown is because the money is given into the control of the government. ”

    Congradulations, you just insulted one of the best mediators in the nation
    (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/17/us/17feinberg.html). You’ve also managed to lie about the president’s intentions (http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/06/13/obama-wants-independent-third-party-to-administer-bp-oil-claims/).

    This disaster is not only unprecidented, it also is having an immediate impact. Faster mediation means less overall damage. Its a smart move for all involved: Obama looks reactive, BP will probably pay less money the faster the process can start, and people’s lives will be slightly less destroyed if their concerns are addressed faster.

  25. Masterthief:

    “I hate to break it to you, but it is the same thing”

    Oh, what complete nonsense. If you can’t tell the difference between the government buying a corporation’s stock with taxpayer money and a corporation setting aside its own money to pay out for future claims against, the problem is not that there’s no difference but that you refuse to acknowledge the the difference exists, is material and real.

    What you’re objecting to, it appears, is government having any role at all these processes, but your objection to the government role does not make the BP escrow equivalent in any meaningful way to the GM bailout.

    I find the vapors of Obama appointing the administrator of the fund stupid, especially in light of the fact that Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator in question, had been appointed to a similar role by the Bush Administration with the 9/11 victim compensation funds. As far as I can see this is a non-political pick with the primary factor being Feinberg’s experience in the role.

    That, however, is getting off track to the general discussion here.

  26. MasterThief has the right of it. Especially since the probablility of the relief wells being finished before the substrate collapses under the BOP is scarily low. As in probably somewhere under 50%. If that happens shutting down the leak will be quite impossible given current tech levels. Which will make this officially the greatest man made disaster ever.

    BP will of course go bankrupt, but you can bet your ass that given the cover of the escrow account as much money will be suctioned out of BP by the executives and major shareholders as possible.

  27. @MasterThief:

    Do you even read the posts you attach to your posts to setup strawman arguments? Apparently you didn’t on your BP bankruptcy link because it’s merely speculation.

    Not only that, your knowledge of other spills is lacking. Exxon kept appealing the spill damages award until it was a mere pittance (from 5.3 billion to 500 million) and managed to delay any awards payout for 19 years. Getting BP to pony up money in an escrow account for victim damages seems like a pretty nice result for government.

    Regardless, you don’t seem fond of reading anyway seeing that today’s topic is how Barton imploded yesterday and then started backpedaling faster than a circus performer on a unicycle.

  28. Ravenshrike:

    “given the cover of the escrow account as much money will be suctioned out of BP by the executives and major shareholders as possible.”

    Yes, because the most effective way for the executives and shareholders to do this is to guarantee at least $20 billion in the escrow account, as opposed to guaranteeing paying nothing except under a court order.

    I’m finding these arguments unconvincing, and I’m also (yet again) finding that we’re drifting away from the actual discussion at hand in an attempt by some to talk about anything other than the actual topic of the entry.

    Thus, the Mallet of Loving Correction is now in play.

  29. Aet @27
    “I have a theory that some people can not talk politics in good faith.”

    This is an excellent observation. If you’re reaction to criticism of “your team” is to get out in front and try to run up some points by lashing out in the opposite direction instead of engaging with, and discussing those criticisms, then you are arguing in bad faith.

    The point in Scalzi’s piece here is not that Barton screwed up, so score one for the democrats. The point is that Barton seems to be extremely disconnected with events and with any semblance of a reasonable response to the situation.

    It shows a crack in what might be the edifice of a very-old-indeed boys club that worries far more about making political hay, stock indices and keeping powerful friends happy then a few redneck fisherman in some lake-or-whatever

  30. @Masterthief specifically but as a more general point..

    Point one, the US Government has zero legal authority to force BP to agree to this plan without court action. They can ask, they can barter, but they can’t compel (that is not something that can be done by executive order, at the very least Congress would have to pass legislation).

    Given that, it is likely, if not probable that BP agreed to the choice of the plan administrator. I know if I was in there, that’s one thing I would insist on, having a say in who is giving away my money.

    This goes back to the whole messaging scenario, when people (pundits, radio commentators, politicians, blog commenters) cite facts not in evidence to make their case.

    Barton claims a ‘shakedown’ but offers no evidence. THIS is why he had to walk it back (or try to). If he could have proven a shakedown, he would have been right at least in content.

  31. One, I’m not at all sure why any Republican would want to be seen taking the side of a massive foreign corporation over the American citizens and small business owners whose livelihoods are now threatened by that massive foreign corporation’s neglect and ineptitude. Two, in particular, I’m not at all sure why the Republicans would want to be seen doing that in the American South, where the majority of its political base lies.

    No? Not at all?

    I’m not an American, but even I can see why a politician from Texas would be so immersed in the POV of an oil company that he would forget that he’s talking aloud where everybody can hear him.

  32. @28: “I find the vapors of Obama appointing the administrator of the fund stupid,”

    It makes sense, from the perspective of wanting to delay the mediation process in order to discredit the government.

  33. Irène:

    Oh, I agree it can happen if that politician is stupid and forgets that what he says will have national implications, and apparently Barton is indeed that politician. I do wonder why they don’t think these things out beyond the immediate next step, however.

  34. The escrow account does nothing to protect BP from any lawsuit by anyone.

    It protects them from lawsuits by the US Government, who basically said, “Set up the escrow account on your own or we’ll sue your ass, then set up the account with what remains of your carcass.” Which is neither invasive, illegal, a shake down or anything but one of the few smart moves Obama has made so far.

    And I’m wondering just how many shares of BP MasterTheif has. I picture him crying himself to sleep every night in the realization that his retirement plan has been coated in crude and set ablaze by the company’s venal incompetence. Because that’s the only excuse for his selfish and weird ranting.

  35. To emphasize that this is not the right-wing fringe doing this, one of the groups noted by TPM is the RSC (Republican Study Committee), a group of more than 100 Republicans in Congress, whose chairman used the word shakedown just the day before.

    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.

    http://rsc.tomprice.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=191125

  36. Republicans generally have a unified message, down to the same phrases and words chosen that are repeated ad-infinitum till they stick in the brains of the GOP faithful. I would say that Barton got the memo about the Republican message but messed up his delivery (especially about the apology) during the hearing rather than hitting up the reporters after it and continuing their incessant drumbeat.

  37. @Keith:

    Re “It protects them from lawsuits by the US Government, who basically said, “Set up the escrow account on your own or we’ll sue your ass, then set up the account with what remains of your carcass.” Which is neither invasive, illegal, a shake down or anything but one of the few smart moves Obama has made so far.”

    Again, is there any verification this is what actually happened? If so, it does change the dynamic a little for this discussion.

  38. @37: “I do wonder why they don’t think these things out beyond the immediate next step, however.”

    Because the authority behind the party is utterly lockstep. Barton didn’t spout off a wild point: he repeated the point already spoken by other party representatives (http://thinkprogress.org/2010/06/17/bp-shakedown-barton/). He just repeated it before people really understood what they were saying.

    It also has something to do with Barton having ties to donors who are partners with the Deepwater Horizon (http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/06/top-donor-to-barton-is-partner-of-bp-on.html).

    Barton is well and truly owned by the industry he supposedly oversees. He might honestly believe what he originally said.

    Barton had a lot of reasons to say what he said. The problem was that his ideology effectively blinds him

  39. Masterthief, I’m afraid your comments at #s 7 and 26 have left me a little confused: is it your understanding that the $20B escrow fund is being sourced from US tax (and/or treasury bond) revenues as in the cases of the earlier bailouts? I ask because that’s what you seem to be saying. If that were the case then I can understand a certain amount of rage toward such a “one-note-wonder” response.
    It’s my understanding, however, that the escrow fund is being sourced from BP’s own assets and available credit (which as you say in #26 “is fine,” hence part of my confusion). Personally, I think this is the appropriate thing for BP to do. I’m rather a fan of the “you break it, you fix it (or otherwise make amends)” ethic. Always have been.
    As to “why is Obama appointing the person in charge of paying out the claims?” I don’t even have enough necessary background to ask who else would make that decision. I haven’t read the White House’s announcement from Wednesday but from the WSJ article I’m inferring that the choice of Kenneth Feinberg was probably part of the agreement. If Feinberg really is an impartial and honorable administrator (and I have no idea whether he is or isn’t at this time) surely it is obviously better that control of the escrow fund be in his hands than in the hands of either a BP stakeholder who’d have an interest in holding onto as much of that money as possible or a career politician of some stripe who’d have an interest in staying in office.
    Side note: I’m not a fan of politics (if you can’t tell by that last bit), I think the whole system has become rather rotten over the past couple of centuries. A career politician in control of that $20B could do an awful lot of favors. Just sayin’. . .
    Rep. Barton and all the other talking heads can say whatever they want. I don’t really care because I really don’t think it matters what any of them say. Only what eventually gets done.

  40. Democrats probably still have a nice thick board to use between now and the elections, which Barton didn’t just hand to them but personally engraved and then dropped trou and bent over to receive his beating.

    –>Alas, I am feeling all pessimistic this afternoon and assume that the Democrats will do exactly as they have done the last six times they were handed a golden brickbat with which to beat on the Republicans; to wit, they will wave it around until they hit themselves in the head with it. Obama is more savvy that that, but he’s not running the campaigns of his fellow Democrats.

    I am also feeling pessimistic enough that I really, really, really want to go buy some cheap-ass BP stock, because I’ll bet on Evil Corporate Empires winning every time.

  41. Why would the South continue to vote for Republicans? Because, you know, the Democrats are going to take their guns and force them to get gay married.

    As for the oil leak, I’m still waiting for the invisible hand of the marketplace to tidy things up. Should happen any day now.

  42. –E:

    “I am feeling all pessimistic this afternoon and assume that the Democrats will do exactly as they have done the last six times they were handed a golden brickbat with which to beat on the Republicans; to wit, they will wave it around until they hit themselves in the head with it.”

    As I’ve noted before, I have always been impressed with the Democrat’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This is part and parcel of their slow-motion implosion ability, in my mind.

  43. And I see that the dogpile ramped up to full swing while I was composing my post (among other things). Ouch. Honestly, was just confused!

  44. Preston –

    “I don’t really care because I really don’t think it matters what any of them say. Only what eventually gets done.”

    I definitely understand that sentiment. But, how we talk about our politics and the rhetoric we use to describe potential outcomes affects where we place our goalposts for what constitutes a favorable or unfavorable outcome.

    Besides it isn’t just talking heads. Mainline elected officials are just as involved in much of this nonsense. Neverminding that even talking heads are actually driving the politics of the republican party at this point.

    Which is why inthink Bartons BP apology will make people who have decided to vote for the democrats angry and people who’ve decided to vote tea party republican agree more heartily on the evils of government. I think there is some flexibility to that in coastal areas, but by and large I think the lines are pretty well drawn and entrenched at this point.

  45. I know I’m running the risk of a malleting here, but I have to respond to some of these.

    @28 Scalzi (and also @44 Preston): @38 Keith nailed it – if the escrow account was offered in trade for protection from lawsuits (or criminal investigations, which are likewise under Obama’s direction via the DoJ) or with the purpose of helping BP’s stocks and bonds keep value (as the NPR report I heard this morning implied), then it was a quid pro quo, perhaps even a “shakedown.” Nothing worth Barton’s apology to Ken Hayward over, but distasteful nonetheless. I’m not saying this is definitively what happened, but it would fit the pattern established by earlier bailouts. Money is not the only currency that governments and corporations can trade in. That’s the reason that I think this escrow deal is shady… that and the fact that $20 billion will not be near enough. (In fact, I think Keith has the better suggestion – get the U.S. government and the affected states to aggregate their claims for cleanup costs, file a suit with a big enough price tag to force a BP bankruptcy while there are still assets to be identified, and then let the judicial process – as opposed to the executive process – take over from there. Also, I own precisely 0.0 shares of BP stock, I’m just sick of seeing government playing footsie with large corporations. If BP needs a whacking – and they do – then just whack them and get it over with.)

    @30 Tim B: The Exxon appeals were about the amount of punitive damages (money ordered by the court as additional punishment), not the amount of compensatory damages (money that goes to the victims as compensation for losses). Those are two different things and two different legal issues.

  46. …implode like old, fat, gassy stars, when the depleted fuel of their empty ideology can’t sustain further inward pressure from their personal idiocy, and the whole mess sucks down and then spectacularly erupts into a blazing display of abject stupidity.

    You, sir, are my hero.

  47. MasterThief-

    “then it was a quid pro quo, perhaps even a “shakedown””

    When you get “shaken down” you do not get something in return. Those things are mutually exclusive.

    A trade, quid pro quo, and a shakedown are fundamentally different things.

    And this why how we talk about things in our day to day politics matters. Quid pro quo has been a republican buzzphrase since governor quid quo pros trial started. Tie that phrase to anything that Obama does. And government shakedown goes handily with the idea of too much government power. Same with government over reach with the bailout phrase.

    But, in this instance these three buzzphrases don’t go together in any meaningful way. You can not have a government bailout, where the government gives something away only at expense to someone else, in order to shake them down with super G Government power force BP to something, in order to arrange a quid pro quo, where thyley come to an amicable agreement on a mutually beneficial solution.

  48. OtherBill @ #25 “If deathpanels talk didn’t cost anyone, how can apology to anyone go wrong?”

    Preston @ #44 “I don’t really care because I really don’t think it matters what any of them say. Only what eventually gets done.”

    Scalzi @ #37 “Oh, I agree it can happen if that politician is stupid and forgets that what he says will have national implications, and apparently Barton is indeed that politician.”

    Barton isn’t stupid, he’s just contemptuous, and no less careless than most of his peers in his contempt. The press just grabbed on to this gaffe for some reason.

    All this public apologizing and back-walking or whatever term you want to use is so sloppy and disingenuous that I can’t believe it really matters to anybody.

    So what’s its real function?

    Once you start arguing about “shakedowns,” and who said what, you are NOT arguing in 1) environmental 2) ethical 3) large scale economic-political terms. Perhaps that’s the real goal of the efficient Republican message machine. Create a public apology scandal, and people are no longer talking about the real damage the oil spill has done, and the deeper questions that raises.

    The argument in this thread shouldn’t be about whether or not the BP fund really is the result of a “shakedown,” but the profoundly devalued vocabulary for talking about this catastrophe that is implied by the word “shakedown,” and our readiness to accept it.

    Shakedowns, gaffes, and “dumb-ass” politicians are a whole lot easier to spin that a dying ocean, a ruling class that sees common resources as plunder, and a reminder of the violent, unsustainable way our civilization currently powers itself, just to give three examples.

    As long as the Republicans spin everything as free markets v. Obama-socialism, they win, even when it seems like they are reprimanding one of their own for being too emphatic.

  49. Evan:

    “As long as the Republicans spin everything as free markets v. Obama-socialism, they win”

    However, I don’t think this particular tactic is working for them this time around, and it’s confusing the hell out of them.

  50. @55: If it doesn’t work for the Republicans, it’s because none of them actually know what a “free” market is. They forgot somewhere around the year 2000, if I remember correctly…

  51. Scalzi –

    I think that’s because this time it’s really very easy to see the issue being discussed. If we are arguing about deathpanels instead of sick people needing coverage, it’s easy to muddy that issue and make it hard to really relate to. In better words maybe, if you hadn’t ever been ripped off by an insurance it’s a fairly abstract issue for you.

    But, with the BP spill in the Gulf, it’s damn easy to look at the size of the oil slick from space and appreciate the seriousness of the issue. And that makes it a lot harder for tricky rhetoric designed to obfuscate an issue to work.

    But, I think that the momentum of the last 18 months of the Republican train to Toontown may well carry it across the finish line, even with the weight of BP apologists. Voters are used to tuning out rheotric from politicians, so now they just listen to the ones who already agree with them.

  52. John@55, in my opinion, that’s not the root cause of the confusion here. There’s a fairly large minority in the Republican Party base (not the leadership, though), that’s not particularly thrilled with the idea of using this as a wedge against Obama. It wasn’t fair to blame Katrina on Bush, and it’s not fair to blame the oil spill on Obama. Republicans, in general, don’t think the government should be nanny, or responsible for every single thing in life from cradle to grave.

    But a certain class of Republican activists has taken to heart the Alinskyite teachings. “Make your opponents live up to their own rules, even (especially) if they aren’t your own.” Me, personally, I hate this – because it’s conceding the ground over which you’re fighting.

    Now, as to the original topic, of course it was a shakedown, and a fairly blatant one. The conversation most likely went like this:

    Obama administration: Pay us!
    BP: The law caps our liability at $75 million.
    Obama admin: Oh look, here’s a nice shiny leak of a DOJ investigation. Better hope nothing in your email can be misread. I hear Club Fed is nice this time of year.
    BP: OK, here, have shovelfuls of money for your handpicked guy to hand out to cronies, just leave us alone!

    So I’m going for b) stupid enough to say it out loud, because the public at large wants BP punished harshly. That’s certainly my opinion on the matter.

  53. @59:

    That only holds water if the investigation was stopped or scaled back. There has been no evidence of that.

    Again, while I recognize the above scenario as a possibility, how about some proof? Anything?

  54. Mr. Scalzi,

    First, I’d like to say that while I generally fall on the other side of the political spectrum than you on political issues, I do enjoy reading your opinions and generally find them well thought-out and expressed.

    I have to say though, I’m a little disappointed. Unless I missed a post along the way – is this really your first post regarding the oil spill??

    I think everyone, regardless of political party, can agree that this mess has been poorly handled from the get-go.

    There are three aspects to this thing:

    1. Stop the leak (aka “plug the d*mn hole”). It is here that BP and Obama have been focused, with very little positive results. I know – deep waters, difficult environment, etc. I’m hard-pressed to believe that we’ve really had our best and brightest working on this one.

    2. Contain the oil. This was terribly mismanaged – there are so many ideas and possibilities out there, from skimmers, hay, giant wet-vac type systems that can then separate the oil for refining, etc. Let’s friggin’ get creative and try something, anything. This was the government’s responsibility in federal waters, and we majorly dropped the ball.

    3. Protect the shorelines and marshlands. Again, epic fail. This is more properly a state issue, however the states in declaring emergencies, require federal assistance and monies in order to make this happen.

    As far as the ‘shakedown’ or not goes, I really wish the government (both legislature and executive of both parties) would shut up about the legalities and money of this issue – that can come later, and get down to the business of handling the spill! BP promises to pay for the cleanup, great. It’s their fault, and that’s right. I don’t really care if it’s an escrow fund or what. Let’s just get it done.

    Leave the lawyers at home for awhile, there’s plenty of time for all that crap.

  55. Isabel:

    “Unless I missed a post along the way – is this really your first post regarding the oil spill??”

    You missed a post.

    Although this is actually not about the spill, per se, it’s about imploding politicians (and how they implode) with the oil spill being the context of the particular implosion.

  56. BP: for the love of god, our stock has lost fifty percent of it’s value in 2 months.

    Obama: yeah, well, people don’t like the idea of owning a share of a ruined gulf.

    BP: Look, we were thinking about working with you to set up a payout fund, so that people know we’re going to have money left over to payout.

    Obama: well, that certainly might ow the freefall in stock price. That’s as much because people don’t know how bad it’s going to be for you. That fund might at least give them some way to measure it in dollars instead of fear.

    BP: so, you’ll help out?

    Obama: you realize that it wouldn’t let you off the hook legally for anything?

    BP: yes.

    Obama: okay.

    BP: the little people are saved!

    Obama: you guys are dicks.

  57. The thing that scares/annoys me the most is the idea that BP will find some way to weasel out of having to pay for their egregious carelessness. They’ll buy off enough politicians, declare bankruptcy, or some other method of not having to clean up the mess they left, both ecological and economic. Then the public/government really will be left holding the bag, and BP will reconstitute itself Terminator-like elsewhere with most of its money intact. I do not favor capping their fiscal responsibility for their epic fail.

  58. @MasterThief

    Two things: I will concede that it was the punitive damages, but there was a larger point I was trying to make and I’m not sure that was clear.

    Secondly, I am not going to engage you on your trolling about what you consider a bailout. You do not seem to grasp what a bailout is, what an escrow account is or able to understand that the government isn’t funding the 20 billion nor is in anyway able to prevent civil action short of an act of Congress. Regardless, this is just a strawman argument diverting from the basis of this friendly conversation.

    The point being that Barton seemed to unwittingly hit the Republican message at exactly the wrong time. Actually, I don’t think it will mean anything because most American’s memories on things like this are far too short.

  59. Mr. Scalzi,
    My apologies, I missed your previous post. I tried to go back and find it, but was unsuccessful. Any chance you could link it for me? Or tell me the title of the post itself??
    Thank you!

  60. I don’t have to much to say with regards to this issue as I’m Canadian and truth be told i’m slightly confused by the whole thing but if I could sum up John’s agrument is that Barton is an IDIOT!! What morron would think that he isn’t in the wrong when he is MADE, made!! to applogize by his own party members!!

    Does it matter who pays out to the victims aren’t we all in agreement that this man-made disaster is going to have far-and-wide reaching concequences!!

  61. Other Bill @ 64: I wonder if Obama felt he needed to nail down SOMETHING from BP, lest they vanish before covering any share of the responsibility.

    Barton seriously missed his cue in the Great Republican Song and Dance Number. Not just missed his cue, but fell headfirst into the orchestra pit and got jammed in the tuba.

  62. Nobody is paying for this but us. Period. There is no one else available.

    Government? Through taxes (that we pay), or writeoffs (that we pay in higher taxes elsewhere), or inflation (the really invisible tax). That’s it Oh! Funds the government has already collected (oh, from us.)

    BP? Profits (from sales to us.) Capital (from stockholders, directly or indirectly — those are us, or people investing our money for us.) Resources (owned by stockholders, ….)

    Subcontractors of BP? As above.

    We’re paying, and paying everyone; the only question is the mechanism.

    As far as I know, Feinberg has an enviable reputation; I mean no disrespect to him. The process that led him to this job (and that he took it) is not the shiny example of transparency in government that Obama claimed to want.

    Don’t own any BP as such. Might be some in the funds, I don’t watch that. I wish I’d started buying gold a year ago, or shorting BP within a week of the fire.

  63. Jeff L@60, proof? Of course not. Just Occam’s Razor. If the liability is capped at 75 million dollars and they cough up over 250 times that, do you really think it’s out of the goodness of their hearts? There are going to be huge shareholder lawsuits over this, and BP is going to lose them, badly, or settle out of court for a ton.

    In a year or two, when we look back on this, we’re going to see two things, I bet. One, there will be no criminal liability of anyone anywhere near the BP leadership. Maybe a designated scapegoat somewhere in middle management, but even that’s doubtful. And two, this twenty billion dollars in escrow will be used as a slush fund for handouts to preferred constituencies.

  64. @73 – I’ll go with #1, not so much because of preferred treatment, it;s just too easy for executives to distance themselves from an act to avoid criminal liability.

    #2 – not so much, and it goes to the whole message debate. I suspect they are going to be really careful how this money is doled out, simply because its too good of a political advantage to keep it widespread an open. Voters will remember who arranged the check, the more checks = more voters.

    This is the next great message – regardless of whether they support or oppose it (a la the stimulus), watch politicians of every stripe appear at ceremonial check presentations. There will be little or no big blowback when Barton shows up for his, I am willing to bet.

  65. Exxon Valdez only took 20 years to resolve because of all the punitive damages issues.

    “The punitive damages issues” being Exxon’s endless appeals of the punitive damages award against it. Please don’t bother telling us that it was their right to file appeals, because of course it was, but I’m a little surprised at the euphemistic whitewashing of the reason for the delay.

    re Barton, his apology was also one of those “I’m sorry you were such an idiot that you didn’t like what I said” non-apologies, to the point that the GOP leadership made a second apology for him. And of course his comments really implied that the translation of his comments was “Please continue to make donations to my campaign fund, Big Oil. See the pretty dance I am doing for you in front of everyone?”

    re Bachmann et al, I think they’re missing the point that ivory-tower theories tend to go out the window when people are truly suffering. Blathering about the good of business is not going to cut much ice with people who are being directly and perhaps permanently damaged by the particular business you’re defending.

  66. MadLibrarian –

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. Pushing for a meeting to get a commitment on a fund before they decided to pay out a dividend and dry up their cash position makes a certain amount of sense.

    And, considering Barton’s job is largely as a speaker of words I’d agree that it is a collassal misstep on his part.

    Htom –

    your argument is descriptive of the function of an enconomy, or the nature of money, not evidence of government overreach and a bailout funded by us. All this does is secure some of the money innadvance that everyone knows is likely to be paid out in settlements.

    Skip –

    occams razor tells me that BP is conducting a very expensive PR move in order to mitigate some of the market reaction loss in their stocks. That’s certainly not out ofthe charitable good of their hearts, but it also isn’t outside their own self interest. Particualrly the way they spread their commitment to the fund out over the next few years.

    I think the fund is a good return for Obama at minimum cost.

    Hence the republican campaign to tar, pun intended, any work Obama is doing that is accomplishing anything.

    And, some republican mid level players like Barton just can’t keep their message strategy straight. Nit mouthing of like that in an actual congressional hearing is so obviously bad it probably wasn’t listed in the advice memo from his leadership.

  67. Yeah, I think I’m in the “I can’t believe he said it out loud” boat. Maybe he’s one of those folks with no internal monologue?
    Isn’t this guy a seasoned politician? He really should know better, whether you disagree with him or not.
    The funny thing is, he may not even suffer for it. I’m not sure what part of TX he covers, but if the locals are largely employed in the oil industry, this might go over just fine back home.
    For comparison, Delta is the big(ish) dog here in Atlanta. The idea of Northwest employees getting screwed in the merger would have gone over like a turd in the punchbowl had it been Southwest or United doing the screwing. Seeing as how Delta and Atlanta where going to benefit from the screwing, there were simply some local mumbles about “those damned unions” and a general shrugging of shoulders.
    All things being equal, folks will look out for number 1 first, and if you and everyone you know has their livelihoods tied to BP and the like, Barton’s statement will fly just fine.

  68. #76 OtherBill — the number of people who’ve told me that they are not going to pay a penny of this cleanup indicates that many do not understand this basic bit of the economy!

  69. What happened?
    A failure of the safety systems resulted in the deaths of 11 workers, the sinking of a drill platform and the release of oil from a drill hole.

    How was this allowed to happen?
    A corpration had people make decisions that allowed for system failure. Their safety and environmental protection systems failed.

    With a system failure the most critical question I ask (equivalent to an OSHA inspector) is why?

    Why did the safety systems fail?
    Short-cuts and lax standards on the Internal Responsibility System that is considered part of corporate operations /governance.

    The role of a regulator (am one) is to review and ensure that these internal responsibilities are in place and functional. If they are not in place, the regulator becomes an External Responsibility System.

    Well. Look at the safety record of BP. Who was responsible as regulator? MMS, which are corrupt (proven in court/investigations) and need to be reformed.

    Do you trust BP – proven to have a failed internal responsibility system?

    Do you trust the regulator – proven to have been corrupted by the industry they regulate?

    The critical question in this debate is who do you trust?

    If you say that the government should not have acted by getting the escrow account, do you trust BP (failed internal ethical corporate culture – major safety and environmental violations) to protect the current and future claimants?

    If you say that the government acted responsibly by getting the escrow account, do you trust the Government (failed as regulators, but failure had been identified and was being corrected) to deal in open public view regarding the moneys involved?

    The ultimate question is not partisan (RvD) but ethical. Who do you trust in action, corporations or government?

    If the principle thrust of your political philosophy is that we must let the “marketplace” rule, that pre-supposes a fair and open ethical marketplace. We know that BP is an ethically broken company (safety history). Trusting the unethical is the act of fools.

    There are checks and balances in government. Good idea. Regulatory enforcement is a primary check and balance on corporations. It is(optimally) the primary preventative check on the acts of a corporation. Market forces are a lagging enforcer, occuring after the failure. This is when bankruptcy and fines /penalties come in.

    Where the problem is that failure is catastrophic (massive death, destruction, economic loss), prevention is the only economic / ethical option. That requires rigorous regulatory compliance, effective and up-to-date regulations and, where internal responsibility fails, strict regulatory enforcement.

    If your political philosophy is that government is the problem and should get out of the way of business, you are by default trusting the ethics of the corporations. You are limiting the primary force for prevention of disaster. Unless there is a good internal corporate culture of ethical responsibility and rewards for un-economic prevention as well as rewards for economic advantage, without government disaster is probable.

    Here is the partisan part:
    It seems to me that one party is highly anti-government and pro-business. They do not see that government is there in a preventative role, and when it is missing from that role, devastation can occur.

    Government is not a business. It should not act as one, nor should it be subservient to business. The proper role of government is to get in the way of business doing it wrong. That is what I do for a living. I know that there is one guy alive today because I get in the way of business. I also know that when people work with me and my agenda (safety), then they can still make profits. On a macro scale (long time periods / large operations), safety pays for itself. To the little guy, I am an expense and hassle. They are not working in the macro scale but building things etc. here and now. They hate me. Fine. I know what I do is important.

    Every regulation we have has dead and maimed bodies behind them. Every one.

    Government is not the problem, contra St. Ronnie of Rayguns. It is important in prevention of disaster. That is a primary responsibility, along with responding to those disasters which do occur.

  70. #72 JPR
    Thanks for the link.

    Mr. Scalzi,
    If that’s all that’s been said on the issue, I reiterate my original complaint. Surely, commentary on the handling of the situation is appropriate? I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue.

  71. I’m thinking that maybe Joe Barton is the GOP’s sacrifice in this.

    They all wanted to apologize to their corporate masters, but to do so would be political suicide. So they pick someone to deliver the apology publicly, after which they can lambaste the guy and possibly pick up a few points with their constituencies.

    Maybe it works, maybe not, but all it costs them is Joe Barton, and after this, who’d miss him?

  72. Isabel:

    “Surely, commentary on the handling of the situation is appropriate?”

    Not really, no. Per the title of the site, the site’s about what I want it to be about, not what other folks think it should be about. I do take requests from time to time, but I don’t under any circumstances feel obliged to write on a topic. So what’s “appropriate” here is what I feel like writing on.

  73. Sinister Duck @83: Barton is a ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (and former chair). His loss could hurt the GOP in the House and could cause loss of GOP standing in Texas.

    The reaction here in Texas seems to have been a little more mixed as opposed to mass repudiation. Energy is a huge segment of the economy. It’s not something we can dismiss lightly.

    Note I’m not defending Barton. I’m just saying that from a GOP standpoint, he might not be a good sacrifice.

  74. Sinister Duck @ 83:

    I’ll believe the GOP has sacrificed Barton when a few of them have a quiet talk with, after which he throws a press conference to give his “spend more time with my family” speech. Or, at the bare minimum, they kick his sorry ass off of the House Energy Committee.

  75. “Yes, because the most effective way for the executives and shareholders to do this is to guarantee at least $20 billion in the escrow account, as opposed to guaranteeing paying nothing except under a court order. ”

    BP is going bankrupt over this, there is almost no doubt about that. The escrow account will shield them from further monetary drain until it runs out. During that time you can bet that as much money will be pulled out of the company as possible, so that when the bill comes due, the remaining resources of BP will be a shitload less than they are currently. The escrow account buys them TIME to do so. They are writing that 20 billion off now as unsalvageable in order to take out as much as possible from their remaining assets

  76. @ Skip #59: While I agree that it isn’t fair to blame Obama for the spill just as it wasn’t fair to place all the blame on Bush for Katrina, that did not stop the media or the Democrats from pushing that meme non-stop and without remorse. They saw it as a perfect opportunity to hammer him both politically on domestic and foreign policy, notwithstanding the fact that, aside from FEMA’s kludges in getting aid to the disaster area, the people who screwed up the maintenance of the levees and the initial evacuation were the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans. In my view, it is simply fair game to hoist the Dems on their own petard when they whine it’s not fair to allocate all the blame for the spill to Obama. Obama’s responsibility for the spill is the same as Bush’s for Katrina; ie the trudging pace of government bureacracy and intervention. Had Bush gotten on Brown’s, the state of Louisiana and the city of New orleans collective ass post-haste as soon as the storm passed, help would have gotten there sooner. Likewise, had Obama ordered an immediate response with booms, containment gear, etc and responded to Jindal’s request for permission to build the artificial barriers faster, the disaster might not be so epic as it is now. Either way, Obama is learning the first lesson of disaster response that Bush learned. Dammed if you do and Dammed if you don’t.

  77. @89 Ravenshrike – you make it sound like the senior CEOs and shareholders of BP are going to pull all the remaining assets and money out of the company and hide them in secret bank accounts and go on the lam. Where exactly do you think they will able to run to and not be extradited? Yeesh.

  78. I was very surprised when the GOP sat all over Barton. I understand Scalzi’s reasoning on this, but I was still surprised, as it runs counter to all their other maneuverings.

    Ravenshrike: As has already been explained, they don’t need a 20 billion escrow fund to do this. Executives and shareholders of BP are already draining it of funds and creditors are calling in their loans. If BP goes bankrupt, they will have endless time to continue this raiding while the company is tied up in bankruptcy court and any assets paid off will again be to their creditors first, not claimants. The claims will be tied up in court and appeals for at least a decade, probably more. And at the end of it, other than possibly some clean up costs, claimants will get nearly zero, same as they did with Exxon. Or they can get at least 20 billion because it’s in an escrow fund. BP will be devoured by its executives no matter what happens to it, even if it avoids bankruptcy. That’s a given, because that’s how businesses operate now. What’s not a given is how much claimants can pry out of the company in a massive legal battle. The 20 billion improves their chances and gives BP execs no more time than they would have had without it. Even without the escrow fund, BP would claim that it didn’t have the resources to pay claims and it has all the time in the world due to bankruptcy and claimant law. It’s ridiculous to say that the escrow fund is a time buying strategy. A possible strategy to try and limit their damages payout maybe, but as a time strategy, it’s utterly unnecessary.

  79. Nice observation on Joe’s apology for his apology, as he definitely seems to be sorry he got caught and not sorry for what he did, although such apologies aren’t exactly unique to politicians.

    And because it’s Friday, some further apologies from Joe Barton. Refresh the page to see further apologies.

  80. and responded to Jindal’s request for permission to build the artificial barriers faster, the disaster might not be so epic as it is now.

    The repsonse to Jinadal’s request to build artificial barriers is due to the fact that they may cause far more damage than they remediate.

  81. Nothing to do with the subject(I’m doing all I can to stop from rocking in a fetal position in the corner of my room over this)… but I just need to ask… do you have a water stamp on your site of your person on the site or am I just seeing patterns in a 7 year old LCD monitor?

  82. @Ferd #80: I think I’m in love. I work, or should say worked, in the quality and continuous improvement department for a very large German conglomerate. They took their goddamned governance systems far more seriously than it seems BP does. There were audits. Dang, the Germans do love formal audits. We all knew the disaster recovery plans and failover systems and were made aware of them constantly. Now, I know the stakes for my company weren’t as high, but they most certainly were for some of the clients we supported.

  83. @92: I love that site.

    The GOP has a beautiful media machine going. The talking heads spout loud, inflammatory, exaggerated fluff but the elected officials are actually fairly moderate in their delivery. There are a few extreme crossover examples – Sarah Palin, Joe Barton, Joe Wilson – but mostly they stay on script. (Granted, it’s an easy script, and not a particularly agile one when it doesn’t apply, as you pointed out.) I hear GOP supporters parroting the talking points that are fed to them, and whether they understand them or not is irrelevant – the signal is loud and clear. Most of the message is anger or fear right now, but it’s five by five.

    Which makes me mad all over again at how terrible Democrats are at both message and delivery. It’s like we all know where we want to go but we have NFI how to get there. Hell, we can’t even agree where to start or the mode of transportation. Democrats need some strong leadership, ASAP.

  84. May I just say thank you? For this post, and the rest of the blog, and for writing some of the funniest, freshest stuff I’ve read in years? And for Unicornpegasuskitten?

    Seriously. Thanks.

  85. What Digby said.

    Shorter Digby:
    “Shakedown” may have come out of Barton’s lips, but it was put into his head by a GOP group specializing in language demonizing Democrats. Black Democrats especially, using a blaxploitation film taxonomy. Google “Shakedown artist” and “Jesse Jackson” and you get over 5,500 results, starting with the listing for a fine Regnery tome.
    Gotta love a book where the publisher’s listing includes the following: “Publishers note: The San Francisco Oil Company referred to on page 310 and in endnote 61 of Chapter 10 was never involved in the oil transactions described in the book and was not a “front company.””

  86. “Which do you trust, corporations or government?”

    Neither. I reserve my trust for individuals of demonstrated integrity.

    They’re rather sparse on the ground of late. (Thank you, Ferd, for understanding that you are the primary defense for workers, and acting accordingly.)

  87. I agree with Joe Barton.

    While no one disputes that this escrow account BP is setting up is a good thing, the ends do not justify the means. Under what law or authority does the President have to demand a private company pony up $20bil to pay for secondary damages of a companies admittedly stupid and reckless mistake?

    BP should be responsible for the damages they cause, but the remedy for this should not be extra judicial. They should have been sued, or a new law should have been passed, or pressure should have been applied from people who DON’T have a swarm of sticks to hit BP with. Now that BP has caved to this demand, will the Justice department pull punches as a quid pro quo?

  88. ravenshrike @29 “Which will make this officially the greatest man made disaster ever.”

    We might also mention the other contenders for the title: the Holocaust, various Japanese warcrimes, Changsha fire and Yellow River flood of 1938, Dresden firestorm, Chernobyl, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the whaling industry, 9/11, gold-mining poisonings (current Nigerian lead poisonings for example), Aberfan, Bhopal chemical leak, slavery, Tasmanian genocide, smog, automobiles, the Dust Bowl, wars, etc.

  89. @101:

    Again, assumes facts not in evidence. While you are correct there is no law that allows the president to compel such an action, there is absolutely nothing preventing him from suggesting it, saying it is a good idea, and offering his assistance in executing it.

    There’s lots of talk of quid pro quo, shakedowns, whatever, but absolutely zero backup. When you make statements like that without backup, thats when you get ‘off-message’.

    In the event that some form of illegitimate QPQ was offered, then I will agree with Mr. Barton. Until then, its an unsubstantiated claim that even his own party won’t support other than unofficially.

  90. I would advise more imagination in your worst-case scenarios, Gilmoure @ 103

    http://www.xkcd.com/748/

    I would add the catastrophic subsidence of the sea floor causing a tsunami that hits the entire Gulf coast and tips the Canaries landslide into a tsunami that destroys the East coast of the US. These shifts then trigger the slip of the New Madrid Fault Line causing major earthquake damage from Illinois and Indiana to Mississippi. Yellowstone and Bermuda volcanoes then erupt catastrophically, interrupting flights between the two remaining Disney theme parks (Japan and Paris).

    Not very likely, I admit.

    Sorry for going off-topic. Those politicians need to get another reason for living than making money for themselves. I find it strange that the US claims to be democratic when plutocratic is more appropriate.

  91. @103 i’ll go farther… even if there was a shakedown in the form of threats (freezing assets, etc) *I don’t care*. Is anyone here really suggesting we feel sorry for BP? That we pat them on the back and tell them it will all be OK? They were negligent, made decisions that valued lower cost over more safety and the people and environment of the Gulf Coast are paying for it. I could care less if BP was strongarmed into this.

  92. Regarding BP responsibility, financial chicanery, and the likelihood that the company’s top brass will escape scot free; all I can say is that there are times when I think the only rational response is the decimation of everyone involved. In the original, Roman sense of the word.

    Regarding Barton’s gaffe, political doublespeak, and the Republican Party’s ideological drift into madness and irrelevancy; all I can say is that there are times when I think the only rational response is the decimation of everyone involved. In the original, Roman sense of the word.

    If America can’t fix its myriad political problems it not only deserves but needs to lose its World’s Number One Superpower label. Unfortunately, the fact that many of those problems are consequences of the way the Constitution is set up regarding elections – and the fact that many Americans treat the Constitution as infallible scripture second only to the Bible – means that it’s unlikely to happen until that label is already lost and the political system reaches crisis point.

    And unfortunately, the runners-up for the title of World’s Number One Superpower aren’t exactly shining beacons of hope either.

  93. @104

    The real problem is the elastic regulations that leave drastic amounts of discretion to the regulators. (For an example, see the emergency plan waivers.)

    All these regulators serve at the behest of the president (or more likely their boss or boss’s boss does). This gives the position of the president entirely too much power in the first place, without even considering the discretion of the Justice Department.

    That being said, do you think the President, or any of his staff, should be the ones floating a plan by BP? Do you think BP would get the noose tightened on them more or less if they had refused? Granted, it will be tightened on them already, but we’re talking matters of degree.

    It may be weaselly to state those in question form, but I honestly don’t know. The fact is that because of the power of the presidency these questions are legitimate, and that is a problem.

    Obama should not have been so involved, he should have left the bargaining to people not part of the white house. If he had stuck to vague comments about how BP should make things right to those affected, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Instead he negotiated with a private company, who you can be sure was well aware of the sticks, which set off the “omg, potential abuse of power!!!!” alarm bells in the libertarian minded.

    Once again, money for those affected by the spill is a good thing, but the process was awful in my opinion. And now we have a precedent where a president can tell a company that they need to pony up XXXX amount of money (why $20b?) for their mess.

    Then there are a whole host of issues about this plan….will $20billion be enough? too much? fraud and abuse (I mean by random people)? I have several other doubts, but we really aren’t debating these issues yet, and the answers will probably only come years from now.

    In sum, too much executive power taints presidential “recommendations”* with the possibility of corrupt dealings. Regardless of whether there is or is not corruption, I think it is distasteful and beneath the office of the President.

    And now we’ll never know, but I’d have bet big money that one way or another BP would have ended up paying up for the damages they caused.

    *replace with w/e word you think has the proper connotations…tips, helpful suggestions, commands, demands

  94. And now we have a precedent where a president can tell a company that they need to pony up XXXX amount of money (why $20b?) for their mess.

    After the past ten years, that’s the precedent you’re worried about? Think carefully: we recently had a President who asserted that he could lock up American citizens for as long as he liked, without giving any detailed reason whatsoever.

    Among other things.

  95. silbey @ 110:

    I think that’s a reasonable point of comparison. But it should be noted that we currently have a President who asserts many of those same things, despite his having specifically campaigned on ending such abuses.

    I won’t quote The Who here because it’d be stupid — the new boss is not the same as the old boss. But there are some similarities that should be very disturbing to anyone paying attention.

  96. I think that’s a reasonable point of comparison. But it should be noted that we currently have a President who asserts many of those same things, despite his having specifically campaigned on ending such abuses.

    I won’t quote The Who here because it’d be stupid — the new boss is not the same as the old boss. But there are some similarities that should be very disturbing to anyone paying attention.

    Maybe, though I note that this resembles Frank’s earlier “But the Democrats are bad and eeeeevul, too!” response. Also note I didn’t specify which President I was talking about: you simply assumed that it was Bush.

    But in any case worrying about the BP case as a precedent for the imperial presidency is asinine, and suggests that the arguer is really more about opposing Obama for whatever reason than genuinely concerned with the abuse of Presidential power.

  97. silbey

    Maybe, though I note that this resembles Frank’s earlier “But the Democrats are bad and eeeeevul, too!” response.

    Actually, thats not what I said.

    What I said was this gaff by Barton will not be enough to overcome the structural political deficits the Democrats face in November. That the “mess” the Republicans are making of the Oil Spill issue is offset by the “mess” the Democrats have made, so its a wash on this issue.

    But this post is not about how the Barton will be able to be used by the Democrats to not do as badly in the Fall as they might have done had he not been so tone deaf, so lets just move along and stay on topic.

  98. Frank:

    “But this post is not about how the Barton will be able to be used by the Democrats to not do as badly in the Fall as they might have done had he not been so tone deaf”

    Actually, if you read the entry, that is in fact pretty much on topic. So go right ahead.

  99. silbey @ 113:

    Maybe, though I note that this resembles Frank’s earlier “But the Democrats are bad and eeeeevul, too!” response.

    Only if you squint hard enough.

    Also note I didn’t specify which President I was talking about: you simply assumed that it was Bush.

    Of course I did, because you gave enough information that naming him would be redundant. I didn’t name him either, but I wouldn’t be so inane as to pretend it wasn’t obvious who we were both referring to.

    But in any case worrying about the BP case as a precedent for the imperial presidency is asinine …

    It is. It’s also inane to criticize Obama for things like this when there are far better things to criticize him about. But few right-wingers are going to criticize him for continuing down some of the totalitarian roads that Bush trod … other than to tell him he isn’t going fast enough. And when left-wingers criticize him — for whatever reason, however justifiably — they’re jumped on for “helping Republicans get elected”.

    Screw that. In my own small way, I helped Obama get elected. So if anything I have even more of a right and responsibility to criticize him when he deserves it.

    To try to drag this kicking and screaming back to the actual topic, what Barton said was idiotic. Despite the twisty posturing various apologists have attempted, it’s still idiotic. Democratic dependence on the corporatocracy prevents them from taking full advantage of the fact that Republicans are even more dependent on it, but they should still be able to use that “really thick board” to good effect if they’re smart enough.

    I’m not making a false equivalence between Dems and Repubs here. I’m specifically noting that they’re not equivalent. But “not as bad” is not the same as “good”, and it’s not a get-out-of-criticism-free card. If valid criticism causes Dems to sweat about elections, good. It should.

  100. Of course I did, because you gave enough information that naming him would be redundant

    Actually, I didn’t, but you were so locked into the “Democrats are eeeeevul” mindset that you immediately assumed that I must be talking about Bush, even though I didn’t name him.

  101. I think that Rep. Barton was sincere in his apology to BP and probably doesn’t really understand why the Republican party leaders forced him to retract that apology. Twice.

    I think the Republican party agrees with Rep. Barton and only wish he had expressed his feelings in a less public and more appropriate way.

    So will this incident come back to bite Rep. Barton? Well, he probably won’t be the head of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee once his term is up, no exemptions on the term limit for you Joe.

    But will it have any effect on his constituents? Will he have problems getting re-elected again? I doubt it. They probably agree with him and he’ll be a big hero back home in Texas.

    Did “You Lie!” cause problems with Rep. Joe Wilson in his home state? Nope, they love him even more here in South Carolina.

    We all live in our own little world views.The Republican world view of Joe Barton and Joe Wilson think it’s a damn shame that BP has to kowtow to the Democrats over one little accident.

    The Democratic world view is outraged that the recklessness and greed of a corporation can destroy the lives and livelihood of so many people.

    Occasionally the Republican and Democratic world views overlap on certain issues. In the Deepwater Horizon incident the overlap is “this is a bad thing that we should be outraged by”. But what we are starting to get a glimpse of is that the reason Republicans are outraged may be a bit different than the reason why Democrats are outraged.

    As Harry Nilsson said in “The Point!”:
    You see what you want to see and you hear what you want to hear.

  102. Did “You Lie!” cause problems with Rep. Joe Wilson in his home state? Nope, they love him even more here in South Carolina.

    Rep. Wilson wasn’t defending a company that just permanently crapped all over the way of life of a chunk of his party’s base, though.

  103. I’m amused by the libertarian whinging over a *potential* abuse of power with the fund and the absolute insistance that it *has* to be a political slush fund. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

    Where were you people when Bush was stocking the MMS with industry flacks who were being literally bought off with hookers and blow? Obama is this giant boogeyman, but Bush wasn’t?

    You people have zero credibility.

  104. @ silbey

    True, Bush left many many awful precedents, but I don’t see what value that adds to this conversation.

    The reason why you haven’t seen me argue against them here is because Mr. Scalzi never pointed out Mr. Bush’s critics to mention how off the mark they were.

    I’m just arguing here than Barton was right, even if he did present things terribly (apologizing to BP is too far, and he picked a fight in a grandstanding chamber…er…”congressional hearing”).

  105. True, Bush left many many awful precedents, but I don’t see what value that adds to this conversation.

    The value it adds is that there are far far worse abuses of Presidential power going on than this one, and not acknowledging them gives a whiff of boosterism, rather than analysis.

  106. I think perhaps it is time for Barton to resign from Congress and express his core competency as a Big Oil apologist by becoming a hideously well-compensated lobbyist.

  107. Barton will not resign. His statements (ridiculous as they are) will not impair Republican prospects in November for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is that the more the Democrats point to Barton’s statement, they more they’ll remind the country of the government’s mishandling of the spill, which Obama and other Democrats will be tied to, as they control the government.

    For John’s theory to work, there would have to be a viable third party to vote for, as BP is perceived to be in bed with both parties. As there isn’t, the independents who swing these elections one way or the other will stay the course of “a plague on both your houses”, which will help the Republicans based on the number allocations.

    All in all, IMO the Republicans are still very likely take back the House this November, and could well take the Senate (and at a minimum will paralyze that body). In about 6 months, Obama’s ability to effect “change” will officially come to an end (though as a practical matter it came to an end when the health care bill based).

  108. “The value it adds is that there are far far worse abuses of Presidential power going on than this one, and not acknowledging them gives a whiff of boosterism, rather than analysis.”

    Once again true, but I’m trying to stay on topic and not write a 15 page essay about every abuse or the potential for/appearance of abuse. “Not acknowledging” something in a tangentially related discussion doesn’t mean I approve of it.

    Do you really mean to suggest that whenever I criticize Obama, I must also post a laundry list of the bad things Bush did (wiretapping, TARP, etc.)? I ask that because your comment seems to imply that anyone who thinks Obama is bad on these issues must think Bush was ok unless they are also actively inserting how Bush was bad too into the discussion.

    And for the record, we’re anonymous (or semi-anonymous) posters here, not people who know each other and talk any amount. You don’t have any idea what my positions on other issues are. Just because I disapprove of what Obama has done here doesn’t mean I’m some sort of Bush lackey. The “where were you when Bush did bad things?” charge is completely asinine when you don’t know the person.

  109. Well, you are a delicate violet, aren’t you? Hothouse getting a bit drafty? Shockingly, I’m not required to agree with either your evaluation or your opinion of bringing up the Bush issues (nice theft of ‘asinine’ by the way: in the future, come up with your own words).

    The fact is that, as Presidential abuses of power goes, this one ain’t even up with Harry Truman writing snotty letters to the music critic of the newspaper who panned his daughter’s performance in the 1940s. But there were people who vaporously sagged onto their fainting couches when that happened, and I suppose your vision is growing dim as well. This one doesn’t even rise to the level of the principal who calls in the truant who seems to have sprayed oil all over one of the classrooms, hands him a piece of chalk, and tells him to start writing. That this is your criticism is the equivalent of the parent who worries that little Johnny’s hand is getting tired from writing “I will not destroy the Gulf of Mexico” over and over again on the blackboard.

    I wasn’t aware that the Presidential Oath of Office that Obama swore (twice!) includes an admonition about not being mean to oil companies.

  110. One, I’m not at all sure why any Republican would want to be seen taking the side of a massive foreign corporation over the American citizens and small business owners whose livelihoods are now threatened by that massive foreign corporation’s neglect and ineptitude.

    Oh, dirty fucking FOREIGNERS. John, I guess it would be too impertinent to add on “neglect and ineptitude cheerfully aided and abetted by Republicans who further weakened piss-poor regulations, and Democrats who didn’t consider restoring them any kind of priority”. No mid-term attack ads for anyone in that simple statement of fact.

  111. Where were you people when Bush was stocking the MMS with industry flacks who were being literally bought off with hookers and blow? Obama is this giant boogeyman, but Bush wasn’t?

    Don’t be utterly ridiculous. Libertarians loathed Bush every bit as much as we loath Obama. There are dozens of columns published at WND by Ilana Mercer, Harry Browne, and me excoriating Bush in no uncertain terms. My very first op/ed column was published 9/12 and warned about how Bush would use 9/11 to infringe American liberties.

    It’s time for Obama and his supporters to grow up and stop pointing the finger at George Bush. It’s starting to look downright stupid. Yes, Bush was a terrible president, but he hasn’t been president for 17 months now. Sadly, Obama is showing signs of being as bad, and potentially even worse. As for Rep. Barton, there is no chance that the statement of a one Congressman is going to have any impact on the fall elections at all. I very much doubt it will help the Democrats in the June 31 Rasmussen Reports “Summary of Party Affiliation” report by so much as a single percent.

    Before anyone leaps to reactive conclusions, note that I’m not a Republican and have never voted for a Republican president.

  112. Republicans, on the other hand, implode like old, fat, gassy stars, when the depleted fuel of their empty ideology can’t sustain further inward pressure from their personal idiocy, and the whole mess sucks down and then spectacularly erupts into a blazing display of abject stupidity.

    Hunh. It’s almost like you wrote an astronomy book or somethin’.

  113. Past is prologue, how well did the TARP work, did it come close to solving the subprime ‘toxic assets’ problem, How about the stimulus what do we have to show for it. The auto companies that were bailed out with the remaining TARP funds, they are doing worse than Toyota, a company who’s breaks have a momentum problem. Given
    all this, do you think the escrow fund managed
    by the ‘pay czar’ will do any better. BP gave Obama and Rangel, the lion’s share of campaign
    contributions, because they along with Enron,created the cap n trade scam. The preoccupation with mythical ‘green energy’ is why
    Birnbaum never got around to reining in the MMS

  114. Excellent, excellent. I am in love with your brain and painfully envious at my own inability to write such a coherent, timely commentary. Also, I must say I adore the way you’re keeping the children on topic.

  115. How well did TARP work? Only $100ish Bn outstanding in repayments and no total collapse of the banking system as Jamie Dimon of Chase forecast.

    Auto makers? GM repaid the money last I saw and looks better too.

    Stimulus? Hard to say without 20/20 hindsight but the economy was losing almost 1m jobs a month in Dec 2008, gaining albeit slowly now.

    I’d say the government have a fair track record at the moment unlike a corporation who have a duty of care to their shareholders to fight and make any damages claim go away.

  116. Rep. Barton has an op-ed piece running in one of the local papers.

    This isn’t about big oil, but big pollution. The timing of publication may seen suspicious, but it’s tied to another event. Last week the EPA took over the permits of two power plants in my county. Given the date of publication, I strongly suspect it was written and scheduled for publication before the hearing with BP.

    I present it without further comment.

  117. Scalzi’s posts liberal-leaning reading of this week’s political events…Scalzi is president of SFWA…He must be leading SFWA towards socialism. NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

    (Also the first S and C are two of the first three letters of SCalzi and SoCialism. ZOMG!)

  118. I´m foreighner (aren´t we all one way or another) and I like your critical point of view. The world is small and today it´s the Golf tomorrow the Northsee and the multinationals bite everywhere. Good to see some of there lackeys going down!!!

  119. There was a libertarian criticism of Bush stocking MMS with industry flacks who were literally bought and paid for with sports tickets, hookers and blow? When did that happen? I’ll accept that there was criticism of the Patriot Act, but MMS? Not really.

  120. just because a couple of republicans say something stupid, does not mean all republicans think that. The governors of Mississippi and Louisiana are conservative republicans and they don’t think that.

    I see the governor of Louisiana out there every day managing as much of the response as he can. You may not like his politics, but you have to admit he is doing everything he can. Bobby Jindal’s management skills in a crisis impress me. Even if you don’t like his politics you have to admit he knows how to take charge. I do not think he is doing any of this just for political gain.

    I say that and I also say that I think Obama for the most part is doing what he can also. The one criticism I have is that he has not issued an executive order to allow foreign ships to help with the cleanup. This appears to be because he does not want to anger the unions. Other than that, I think he is doing as much as he reasonably can. I do think he cares. I think alot of the criticism of him from the right is just done to score political points.

    I also think the criticism from the left against him for not being emotional enough is unfair. Presidents really shouldn’t have a public temper. What good would him turning red and yelling do? He has to appear level headed in public. People who work for him should do the yelling.

    Liberals and conservatives always do this. One idiot on the other side says something stupid and that implies that everyone on that size believes that also.

    That congressman is an idiot, but it should not reflect on all republicans.

  121. @Guess: just because a couple of republicans say something stupid, does not mean all republicans think that. The governors of Mississippi and Louisiana are conservative republicans and they don’t think that.”

    Except for when Jindal asked a U.S. judge to lift the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-06-21/louisiana-governor-asks-judge-to-lift-deepwater-drilling-ban.html

    @Guess: “I see the governor of Louisiana out there every day managing as much of the response as he can. You may not like his politics, but you have to admit he is doing everything he can. Bobby Jindal’s management skills in a crisis impress me. Even if you don’t like his politics you have to admit he knows how to take charge. I do not think he is doing any of this just for political gain. “

    Yet, I’m still reminded of how Jindal panned the Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus), characterizing it as a total failure. [http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=951EB463-18FE-70B2-A8F6121708941817]

    While he was busy doing this he was also traveling around his state presenting jumbo-sized stimulus checks (and taking credit for them). [http://www.leesvilledailyleader.com/news/x488848492/Jindal-presents-parish-with-500K]

    @Guess: “I say that and I also say that I think Obama for the most part is doing what he can also.”

    If you can’t tell by now, I voted for Obama. I had high hopes for his administration’s ability (and willingness) to correct the travesty that was the Bush administration. Unfortunately my opinion of Obama’s administration, with the exception of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, has been one of opportunities wasted and a progressive base scorned. From Iraq and Gitmo, FISA, Health Care, and Wall Street reform, he and the Dems in Congress have failed us time and time again.

    @Guess: “Liberals and conservatives always do this. One idiot on the other side says something stupid and that implies that everyone on that size believes that also.

    That congressman is an idiot, but it should not reflect on all republicans.”

    The only problem with this is that the current congressional Republican caucus are actually idiots. That they have have yet to produce any meaningful solutions to our nations problems other than cut taxes (for the richest 1%), social security, medicare, and de-regulate, is telling in and of itself. Perhaps they are very smart people doing very stupid things?

  122. You can bet your sweet crude that Barton was given the task of making a statement/insinuation that the GOP wanted put out there.

    Not only did they get the message out they wanted, but they also got the opportunity to ‘take to task’ the messenger in front of the eyes of all Americans to show “whose side they’re on”.

    Unfortunately, there are people ready to buy into this tactic.

  123. Guess @141: I think part of the point of Scalzi’s post was that the GOP took their version of the Mallet to Rep. Barton for his remarks.

  124. Rahm Emanuel, as heavy handed as he might be in some ways, is right on the money:

    White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel sees a pattern in Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-TX) apology to BP. “That is a philosophy,” Emanuel told ABC’ Jake Tapper Sunday.

    “You can say it’s a political gift for [Democrats], and it is. But it’s dangerous for the American people because while the ranking Republican who would have oversight into the energy industry, and if the Republicans were in the majority would have actually the gavel on the chairmanship, that’s not a political gaffe. Those were prepared remarks. That is a philosophy,” said Emanuel.

    “That is an approach — they see the aggrieved party here as BP, not the fishermen. Remember, this is not just one person. Rand Paul running for Senate in Kentucky. What did he say? He said, the way BP was being treated was un-American. Other members of the Republican leadership have come to the defense of BP and attacked the administration for forcing them to set up an escrow account and fund it to the level of $20 billion. These aren’t political gaffes,” Emanuel continued.

    “The approach here expressed and supported by other voices in the Republican Party, sees the aggrieved party as BP. Not the fishermen and communities down there effected and that would be the governing philosophy. And I think what Joe Barton did is remind the American people, in case they forgot, this is how Republicans would govern,” he said.

  125. Well yeah, Barton’s not that important. The things that they say are not important. The only thing is if one party can get its agenda through legislation or block the other’s agenda. And the Republican agenda isn’t jobs and it isn’t fisherman and it hasn’t been for thirty years. (It’s not the agenda of the conservative Dems either, sorry to say, since they are basically just moderate Republicans, but they at least can be sometimes persuaded to vote for the Democrat agenda.)

    The Mississippi governor who so well manages things has now claimed that the moratorium on deep sea drilling is a much worse disaster than the oil spill. Never mind that BP has also had to set up a fund for compensating unemployed drill workers, that the spill is going to cost a million jobs, that the clean up costs are already in the billions, that the entire Gulf fishing industry is wiped out, that land property values are sunk, that tourism is dealt another blow. Putting any sensible safety restrictions on the industry after discovering wide spread crookery and serious danger concerns with profound economic consequences will cause horrible disasters — like these men not getting re-elected and getting funds from the oil companies.

    The Republicans, including Barton, are now cutting off unemployment benefits for spite, trying to kill the job bill, the financial reform bill — all things that their business buddies want, even though it threatens another recession, and thus, are part of the Republican platform. Barton was just apologizing to his bosses. The question is, why was he chosen to do it? How much pressure did members of his party and/or BP put on him to do it? It had to be pretty strong leverage on him. Or was it really just poor strategy?

  126. Political gift giving, yes. Slam dunk, no.

    Don’t highlight your incompetence, by pointing out the failures of others (real or otherwise). This administration has a bad tendency of doing this; Yes its bad, but without me it would have been worse, is not a winning strategy, and will only fool people for so long. I hope this stops all the cleaning metaphors Obama likes to use, cause I am really tired of hearing them.

    I wonder what type of fraud and abuse counter measures are going to be taken to prevent the typical 10% lose associated with government run funds. Cause 2 Billion dollars is a lot of money.

    Also Scalzi, how do I get the giant quotation marks? I want to be able to beat people up side the head with them, thanks.

  127. Did “You Lie!” cause problems with Rep. Joe Wilson in his home state? Nope, they love him even more here in South Carolina.

    Rep. Wilson wasn’t defending a company that just permanently crapped all over the way of life of a chunk of his party’s base, though.

  128. Thanks for addressing the issue. I’m glad to see Deepwater’s being discussed seriously by people outside the area.

  129. By some reports, those who were in the decision chain at BoOEMRE*(nee MMS) were all Obama appointees, not Bush appointees.

    *To be called BOE, according to the announcement.

  130. @150. htom

    Not sure what this has to do with Barton’s apology or how the statement he apologized for is an example of Republican policy, but some reports?
    BOE (MMS)
    Director: Liz Birnbaum, by was appointed 7/15/09. She stepped down on 5/15/10. (Obama)

    Associate Director for Offshore Energy & Minerals Managment: Chris Oynes. 2007-2010. Stepped down in May 2010, after coming under under fire for being too close to the industry officials he regulated. US DOI MMS PRess release 2007(Bush). He was initially appointed to the Gulf Coat Region by Clinton in ’95.

    MMS Deputy Director Renewable Energy: Mary Katherine Ishee (Jan) 2010 to present. (Obama)
    MMS Deputy Director Mineral Resources: Walter D. Cruickshank 2002 to present (Bush).

    I’m sure there are others…but one does not quite equal all, last time I checked.

    It took me all of five minutes to look up and find the top 4 MMS “Decision Makers” off the MMS (BOE) website, wikipedia, and press releases, so, seriously? Those “some” reports should probably be called some Reports Who Want to Make This all Obama’s fault.

  131. Barton has apologized to the GOP for his remarks — a I’m sorry I messed up the strategy apology presumably — and so is not going to lose his top post on the energy committee. (Were we really thinking he was?) And now he’s out there defending his remarks to BP that he apologized for, so I guess he’s going with the Pete Wilson “I was overcome with passion at this great wrong that does not exist” strategy.

    As long as Republicans remain in control of key committees, I don’t think we’re going to have a working Congress. That might not be so bad if they would stop all this cartoonish mummery in the press on top of the damage they do. Bad enough the people in the Gulf have had their lives taken away (a second time,) but they have to put up with these politicians moaning about how the poor oil company that did it is being picked on. Meanwhile, BP is getting rid of their one cap, due to problems, and the oil continues to destroy an enormous segment of the Atlantic.

    It will be interesting to see what happens in two months when gas prices go way up again.

  132. As long as Republicans remain in control of key committees, I don’t think we’re going to have a working Congress

    The Republicans aren’t in control of key committees. Barton’s the Ranking Member, but Henry Waxman,, Democrat of California is the Chair and the Democrats are in the majority (as they are on all House and Senate Committees)

  133. You don’t have to have the majority to be in control. Republicans are in key positions on key committees which allows them to royally screw up things even if they aren’t in the majority. Right now, they’re sinking the jobs bill, unemployment benefits, immigration reform, you name it. If we had the two party system we used to have, that wouldn’t be an issue. It’s the minority’s job to do this and you can develop better solutions from that give and take. But the Republicans have had to weld themselves to an extreme far right platform — having sold themselves to those groups the last thirty years — and have greatly increased the number of crazy people in their ranks, and have adopted a political philosophy of extreme partisan obstruction. This has worked well for them up until recently and they seem to think it will somehow work again and so even established, wheeler-dealer pols like Barton are behaving like loons and bringing committees to standstills.

    A lot of it is bluster and negotiation that we didn’t used to even hear about until the media turned it all into a sports match. But a good deal of it no longer is that, but instead a concerted campaign of destruction. Barton launched his bomb, took no damage and continues to be the ranking member of a committee that is supposed to be regulating the companies that he has stated he has no interest in regulating. Which again, would not be the worst thing in the world if better negotiation was possible. But the Republicans literally can’t negotiate much because of their platform. And so we do not have a working Congress and a lot of things will just be stagnant.

    If we had moderate Republicans, I’d be more positive, but all the moderates turned themselves into Blue Dog Democrats and so it’s a mess. We’ll see what happens over the next few cycles, but for the moment, all this hype over Barton ended up meaning absolutely nothing.

  134. You don’t have to have the majority to be in control.

    Yes, you do. Now, whether the majority _allows_ the minority to screw things up is a different question.

    Right now, they’re sinking the jobs bill, unemployment benefits, immigration reform, you name it.

    Oh, baloney. You know, the Republicans in the House and Senate are corrupt and horrible, but the Democrats have substantial majorities in both and need to handle their business. If they can’t get it done with the majorities they have, then I despair of the party (no; filibusters don’t count, as the Ds could get rid of the filibuster if they really wanted to). Blaming it on the Republicans is just a handwave over the Democrats’ ineffectiveness.

  135. Kat: Republicans are in key positions on key committees which allows them to royally screw up things even if they aren’t in the majority

    The R’s are doing their best to scuttle everything Obama and everything Democratic. However, there has been a bit of a myth that “the Dems are powerless” going around the left that fails to acknowledge what fault lies with Obama and the democrats:

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/06/22/impotence/index.html

    If I read Glenn correctly and if I remember the details correctly, Obama negotiated away the public option with the insurance industry at the beginning of health care reform, then Obama spent much of the debate saying among other things that he supported the public option, then when Blanche Lincoln voted it down, Obama responded by helping Blanche in her reelection.

    The more paranoid might even think Obama and Lincoln had an understood agreement that she’d play the bad guy (kill the public option) and then he’d help her reelection campaign.

    There is no one to blame for that but Obama.

    Not just once, mind you. the Obama White House unleashed its OFA Army to help protect a Blue Dog incumbent against a progressive challenger in Utah and helped defeat the progressive candidate there.

    Obama has continued and even expanded some of Bush’s lack-of-due-process-give-the-president-insane-amounts-of-power approaches. Bush considered targeting American citizens for assassination. Obama approved it. Bush greatly expanded due-process-less-indefinite-detention. Obama continues it.

    Obama has been working against the more progressive reforms in the financial reform bill.

    Whether or not there are obstructionist Republicans who are leveraging their positions and power to get Obama and the Dems to fail, no matter what the cost to the country, there is also a number of things which only Obama and the Dems own the responsibility for.

    And pointing out the blame that the republicans deserve without also mentioning the huge heaping pile of blame that rests on Obama’s own head is playing into the whole “Obama-Victim” myth.

  136. I expressed a view that the Republican platform has been tilted and turned destructive and that is causing fundamental problems in Congress which nowhere included statements that the Democrats are organized, effective or that Obama is a victim, yet that was the assumption. Which coming from you particularly, Greg, surprises me.

    I was not talking about Obama because our fearless leader said to concentrate on Barton and the Republicans. Incompetence is not the big issue, as incompetence is normal, as are backroom deals. The Democrats are being Democrats — i.e. useless — and a good chunk of them are actually moderate Republicans who have to go even more right in their districts and thus muck up the works. Individual politicians, like Barton, are not especially important except in terms of potential leverage as a voting block. What matters is the party’s platform and how they are getting that platform through. And the Republicans are not only now exceedingly far right and destructive, but self-destructive. They’re eating each other. And so the party doesn’t function even past the usual limits and we don’t have a working Congress.

    The entire Barton incident was meaningless. And the hearings so far are of course meaningless too. With luck there will be some regulation, but I’m not holding my breath. Barton was doing what he was told, and the problem is not him, for me, but the political platform that led to his instructions that Republicans all together are advancing.

    For me, the BP spill is pretty much a re-run of the Exxon Valdez mess, only worse. Having to listen to people like Barton blather is just salt in the wound.

  137. I expressed a view that the Republican platform has been tilted and turned destructive and that is causing fundamental problems in Congress which nowhere included statements that the Democrats are organized, effective or that Obama is a victim, yet that was the assumption.

    You said–at least what I reacted to–that Barton was in charge of the Energy and Commerce Committee. That was incorrect. He’s in the minority, and it is Democratic fecklessness that is allowing the Republicans to have sway.

  138. No, I said that the Republicans were controlling key committees, which is not the same thing as being in charge of them. This illusion that having a majority means you can do anything you want in Congress or with Congress as President is not very realistic, in my view. And whatever fecklessness you want to trash the Democrats for does not change the fact for me that the Republican party platform is fundamentally broken, and at the states level such as in Maine and Texas, seriously so. The ineptness of either party — and they both always have been inept — is not the issue that I was talking about. It’s the far right smashing that the Republicans are engaged in — with Democrats and with each other. Which means we’re seeing more extreme, brazen behavior from establishment Republicans like Barton, which caused a temporary media flurry.

  139. I said that the Republicans were controlling key committees, which is not the same thing as being in charge of them.

    Next, you’re going to get how many angels on the head of a needle?

    Barton is neither in control or in charge of the Energy Committee. There is not an eye-whisker of difference between the two words.

  140. Sorry, I forgot about this one. :)

    I can’t argue with you by espousing views I don’t actually hold just because you didn’t like my choice of words, silbey. I apologize if I was confusing. Obviously, we disagree about the controlling leverage of established Republicans on key committees, and about changes to the Republican platform and how they pursue it. We don’t disagree about the Democrats choking. But that’s not a new thing and wasn’t the problem I was looking at because Barton is not a Democrat. It does seem that the Republicans ricochet between being deeply divided and being united as an obstruction to an increasingly far right agenda, with the Blue Dog Democrats helping them out. To have Barton state his line as boldly as he did, and to have him be the one to do it seems to me to be symptomatic of what’s going on with the Republicans. But again, I also feel that the Barton incident was largely meaningless in the wider political arena.

  141. I can’t argue with you by espousing views I don’t actually hold just because you didn’t like my choice of words, silbey.

    It certainly might go better if you espouse views you actually hold, yes.

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