Video: Joe Barton apologizes to BP CEO; Update: Boehner distances himself from apology; Update: GOP Rep. calls for Barton to step down from committee

posted at 1:05 pm on June 17, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Well, no one will accuse Joe Barton of following the whims of political opinion. At a moment when the American public is debating whether to be more disgusted with BP’s failures to prevent the Deepwater Horizon blowout or Barack Obama’s inability to get engaged on the issue, Barton today took the unusual step of apologizing to BP’s CEO in Congressional testimony today. The White House now demands that the GOP repudiate Barton’s comments, and Republicans may need to decide whether supporting BP in a food fight is really worth the effort:

As the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Barton’s opening statement this morning during the hearing with CEO of BP Tony Hayward, he said he was ashamed at the deal made at the White House yesterday.

“It’s a tragedy that private corporation can be subjected to a shakedown,” Barton said of the compensation fund, “”a $20 billion slush fund unprecedented in American history.”

Barton concluded by apologizing to Hayward. …

“What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a strongly worded statement quickly after Barton’s remarks, “Congressman Barton may think that a fund to compensate these Americans is a ‘tragedy’, but most Americans know that the real tragedy is what the men and women of the Gulf Coast are going through right now.”

If Barton wanted to keep heat on the White House over its interactions with BP, this is a poor way of going about it. BP doesn’t require any apologies at the moment, at least not until we know what happened. There may well be some serious questions about federal overreach and interference with the due process of claims after the establishment of this fund, but it’s a little overdramatic to claim that BP didn’t get due process in creating the escrow account. They surrendered on that point without bothering to fight. Plenty of lawsuits and even criminal charges get settled without going to court when both parties agree on a settlement, usually one produced under some kind of duress to one or both parties.

It’s possible to oppose the White House’s actions here without begging forgiveness of BP and its CEO. This is a mistake.

What do you think? Take the poll:

Update: Boehner disagrees with Barton, putting focus on both BP and White House:

Top Republicans quickly distanced themselves from Barton. The House Minority Leader, Rep. John Boehner, asked if he disagrees with Barton’s apology, said, “I do.” …

“BP is responsible and is being held responsible,” said Boehner. “But the federal government failed the American people as well.”

And Tom Price, the Republican Study Committee chair, did a better job of not providing a distraction:

Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, used similar terminology yesterday when he described the process the White House used to get the fund as “Chicago-style shakedown politics.”

“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,” said Price in a statement. “These actions are emblematic of a politicization of our economy that has been borne out of this Administration’s drive for greater power and control. It is the same mentality that believes an economic crisis or an environmental disaster is the best opportunity to pursue a failed liberal agenda. The American people know much better.”

But Price didn’t apologize to BP.

Update II: On the other hand, it’s possible to overdo the “distancing” message, too:

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), whose Pensacola district is among the most-impacted areas in the Gulf by the oil spill, condemned Barton for apologizing to BP CEO Tony Hayward during a committee meeting on Thursday.

“I condemn Mr. Barton’s statement. Mr. Barton’s remarks are out of touch with this tragedy and I feel his comments call into question his judgment and ability to serve in a leadership on the Energy and Commerce Committee,” MIller said in a statement. “He should step down as ranking member of the Committee.” …

“I am shocked by Congressman Joe Barton’s reprehensible comments that the government should apologize for the ‘shakedown’ of BP,” he said. “BP has caused the greatest ecological and environmental disaster our nation has ever seen. They are the responsible party and they should pay for losses and damages, not the taxpayer. I am optimistic and hopeful that BP acted in good faith by opening the $20 million escrow account, as several of us have requested.”

Miller’s ire is understandable, considering the damage BP did to his district, but Barton’s commentary doesn’t rise to a level that requires removal from the committee assignment.


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This White House Meeting with BP needs the H3LL FOIA’d out of it.

I won’t consider this anything other than a government extortion against a private entity until a Video, Audiotape or verified transcript of the meeting is produced.

There is no valid national security reason for the “most transparent administration ‘eva” to withhold an accurate accounting of that meeting from public view.

Jason Coleman on June 17, 2010 at 4:40 PM

When will the hearings start with MMS?

d1carter on June 17, 2010 at 4:41 PM

What the hell is the point of the $20b account?

CliveStaples on June 17, 2010 at 4:38 PM

It gives the impression that AKOTUS is actually doing something.

ladyingray on June 17, 2010 at 4:43 PM

What the hell is the point of the $20b account? If someone wants to sue BP for damages, they can file a lawsuit like everyone else. I don’t see why all of a sudden with BP the rule of law isn’t enough, and the government has to “ask” for BP to establish this account.

That’s just pure bullshit.

CliveStaples on June 17, 2010 at 4:38 PM

I believe that BP ran their analysis. Obama ran his analysis.

And this amount seemed a fair and square kind of deal, given the real cost outlays on the side of BP and the political outlay on the side of Obama.

The only problem is that nobody will have recourse now, which is guaranteed, unless you go up against the government.

This pretty smart decision will reduce citizen rights.

But it’s for the good of people, you know.

AnninCA on June 17, 2010 at 4:43 PM

ladyingray on June 17, 2010 at 4:43 PM

LOL; good one!

Keemo on June 17, 2010 at 4:44 PM

If this actually satisfies people, then worry.

AnninCA on June 17, 2010 at 4:44 PM

Haywood just declared, when questioned, that the $20 billion was not a shakedown and was in BP’s best interest. That’s the risk that Barton ran with his stupid remarks.

Now those who push for moderation and fairness will be cast as siding with BP, by BP’s own words.

Barton blew it on your behalf.

The Race Card on June 17, 2010 at 2:39 PM

Of course, the payoff was “in BP’s best interest.” This was a downpayment for pushing BP’s tax and cap plan to make even more money, this time at the taxpayers’ expense.

The bottom line? The executive branch does NOT constitutionally have the right to negotiate with or coerce, using “sweeteners or not,” a privately owned corporation. The WH acted above the law.

onlineanalyst on June 17, 2010 at 4:44 PM

I think people have lost complete faith in civil courts.

That’s an even bigger issue.

AnninCA on June 17, 2010 at 4:47 PM

Barney Frank who supported Fannie and Freddie as fiscally responsible when they were going under gets a pass.

Until such time as he steps down from his committee, that bar of pure offensiveness stands high enough to let just about anyone short of an axe murderer pass under it. There are far, far worse on committees… particularly those that have INVESTMENTS in the industries they OVERSEE. All of those should step down due to conflict of interest against the public. But we never hear of that, do we?

ajacksonian on June 17, 2010 at 4:47 PM

Beached Petroleum

Akzed on June 17, 2010 at 4:50 PM

onlineanalyst on June 17, 2010 at 4:44 PM

Exactly right on my friend! This must stop, and also must be looked at real closely. We have three branches of government for a very good reason; checks and balances. We have epic failure right now.

Keemo on June 17, 2010 at 4:52 PM

Hey, I’m sorry too that the president is way off the constitutional reservation. The further he goes, the further we go.

We’re approaching Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Akzed on June 17, 2010 at 4:54 PM

I believe that BP ran their analysis. Obama ran his analysis.

And this amount seemed a fair and square kind of deal, given the real cost outlays on the side of BP and the political outlay on the side of Obama.

The only problem is that nobody will have recourse now, which is guaranteed, unless you go up against the government.

This pretty smart decision will reduce citizen rights.

But it’s for the good of people, you know.

But it doesn’t make any fucking sense.

If there’s sufficient evidence that BP is liable for $X in damages, then the courts will compel BP to pay $X. What’s the point of the escrow account? To make sure BP doesn’t spend all of its money first? Does the President know enough about civil liability (he’s a Con Law guy) and any other relevant civil codes to justify this demand on BP’s–because it is still BP’s–money?

CliveStaples on June 17, 2010 at 4:54 PM

It seems that lawmakers are upset with Hayward because he ‘evaded’ their questions and insulted their intelligence……
The jokes just write themselves.

HornetSting on June 17, 2010 at 4:55 PM

A shakedown Jesse Jackson would be proud of.

gdonovan on June 17, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Virginia Shanahan @3:15–No you aren’t overlooking anything and we are in agreement.You just explained my point better than I did.
Terrye @3:23–I did not mean to imply that BP bears no responsibility,as I noted BP acted dishonestly.My point was that the MMS seems to be getting a pass,when BP does have a record of irresponibility when it comes to safety and environmental concerns.If the dairy that you worked had a record of violations,the inspectors then had a responsibility to be even more diligent in their work.After all, the consumer has the option of buying a product from unscrupulous producers or not.In the case of taxpayer funded oversight,the consumer has no options.
AshleyTKing@4:10–You do make very logical points about BP not jepordizing its investments,however BP does have a record of violations.I didn’t mean to suggest that the media should be in the business of oversight,merely that they balance their reportage.
I simply do not think the lack of oversight is being covered as much as BP’s irresponsible actions.Likewise,the emphasis has been on what BP is going to do after the fact,instead of what did the Government allowed BP to do before the fact.

DDT on June 17, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Barton has retracted his apology to BP.

rjl1999 on June 17, 2010 at 5:06 PM

He never said BP wasn’t at fault, just that they were being “had” by the administration.
They should stick with that line, BP is bad, and the administration in their utterly poor response is trying to cover it up by pouring it on BP and diverting attention from them to BP…
Come on Republican’s, are you going to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory?
The comment wasn’t stupid, the lack of backing him and defining the moment is stupid…BP should be held accountable, and the feds shouldn’t use them as a whipping boy for their piss-poor behavior.

right2bright on June 17, 2010 at 5:09 PM

So Barton needs to step down, but Ethridge is all good. Apologizing to BP is stupid, but assaulting a citizen is worse.

holygoat on June 17, 2010 at 5:29 PM

I think people have lost complete faith in civil courts.

That’s an even bigger issue.

AnninCA on June 17, 2010 at 4:47 PM

You have got to be effin’ kidding me!!! A woman can put a hot up of coffee between her legs and MILLIONS of dollars when she gets burned?

ladyingray on June 17, 2010 at 5:32 PM

We need more Joe Bartons in Congress!

GFW on June 17, 2010 at 5:44 PM

Though compensation is rightly due for valid claims, the end does not justify the means. Joe Barton, like Joe Wilson, is brave enough to speak the truth. This Chicago-style shakedown by the WH is unconstitutional and a power grab by the executive branch. The hole Obama is trying to plug is the enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats in the 2010 elections. $20 B in a slush fund ought to do it.

publiuspen on June 17, 2010 at 5:46 PM

I simply do not think the lack of oversight is being covered as much as BP’s irresponsible actions.Likewise,the emphasis has been on what BP is going to do after the fact,instead of what did the Government allowed BP to do before the fact.

DDT on June 17, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Gotcha, buddy. Well taken.

AshleyTKing on June 17, 2010 at 6:05 PM

Barton’s use of “shakedown” may have been politically naive. Maybe so, maybe not. I’m not sure. But one thing seems clear. His apology afterward just made matters worse. Should have just changed the subject and moved on (like the lefties do).

Repubs are such spineless wussies.

petefrt on June 17, 2010 at 6:19 PM

Beohner is a moron, lightweight, career politician and is one of the main reasons the GOP is continually emasculated by the left. I can’t think of a single thing he has spearheaded to fix our problems up there except meaningless pontificating and posturing. He will be one of the main reasons we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If this were the dems, they would be rallying around…. not so the re-pubics…….. God help us.

ultracon on June 17, 2010 at 6:26 PM

HornetSting on June 17, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Follow my bouncing balls.

The Race Card on June 17, 2010 at 6:34 PM

The WH acted above the law.

onlineanalyst on June 17, 2010 at 4:44 PM

Duh.

But they will say they acted within the interests of the people, which in liberal terms trumps all.

But, we’re stuck with that. That’s the problem when you accept bad behavior within your own party and the other party does the same. Everybody perceives themselves to be acting around the law rather than above it.

The Race Card on June 17, 2010 at 6:40 PM

No, he didn’t. YOU, with all the wit in the world, think, think, think. I know you can take a deep breath and conclude that there is more than one thought in this.

Tav, indeed. Fiduciary criminality – BP board and ‘leadership’.

How I hate illogical and emotional squishes. Do-gooderism and “perception” are for lefties. Join them, if you can’t follow a few thoughts at once.

Schadenfreude on June 17, 2010 at 3:15 PM

This is awesome. If only BP whistleblowers were half as diligent and convincing…

When you try posting with a sockpuppet you need to remember which nic you are using so you don’t end up responding to yourself and looking foolish. This is twice on this thread you’ve done this.

Virginia Shanahan on June 17, 2010 at 3:29 PM

You are so right.

I did try posting with my sockpuppet once. No matter how much I beat the thing I just couldn’t teach it to type.

The Race Card on June 17, 2010 at 6:56 PM

Did he go a little too far. Perhaps.

But BP is the wrong entity to give all the blame. Environmental policies are the real culprit here firstly. They would have never drilled in 5,000 feet had they been able to drill where they wanted to 500 feet. Then the spill would have never happened.

Obama then forced BP to make one bad decision after another. Firstly trying to shut the well down. Now making same mistake with many wells. Secondly by not allowing the burn to occur best possible way to limit damage. Thirdly by just taking BP’s word on flow of oil S T U P I D to the extreme. On and on and on. No ships to the rescue from foreign countries. Nothing bought unless Union approved. Nothing done unless thoroughly tested and approved by enviro wackos and SEIU.

Now this shakedown. Government has no business disbursing this money. Especially a political hack working in the Obama Administration. Talk about fox guarding the hen house.

This congressman should have gone further on second thought and asked for the impeachment of Obama over this.

Steveangell on June 17, 2010 at 6:56 PM

Barton’s right about one very big thing: this is supposed to be an independent third-party escrow fund, not one directed by either BP or the federal government. But who is heading up this “independent third party?” The new oil czar.

So yes, it’s really just a slush fund for the Obama administration. Forget all the rhetoric about BP (rightfully) paying reparations. The real purpose is to help get Democrats elected.

tom on June 17, 2010 at 6:57 PM

The bottom line? The executive branch does NOT constitutionally have the right to negotiate with or coerce, using “sweeteners or not,” a privately owned corporation. The WH acted above the law.

onlineanalyst on June 17, 2010 at 4:44 PM

The Whitehouse IS the law. All together now, “It’s good to be the king.”

While it lasts….

tom on June 17, 2010 at 7:01 PM

I wonder if the 56% understand this.

This is unconstitutional because it is not an independent third party. It is Obama’s chosen thug. Seems we are already the USSR where only the politically connected get anything.

I guarantee only SEIU will get this money. If you are not Union forget it. If Republican your application will be denied.

Ed you are just wrong. 56% agree with me.

Steveangell on June 17, 2010 at 7:02 PM

But BP is the wrong entity to give all the blame. Environmental policies are the real culprit here firstly. They would have never drilled in 5,000 feet had they been able to drill where they wanted to 500 feet. Then the spill would have never happened.

You realize that you would not accept similar logic applied to other situations, especially those within which you had a personal stake, right?

I can likely contrive nonillion situations wherein you would demand immediate and full accountability were you the wronged party.

Ignoring laws, regulations etc in protest thereof is rarely prudent for businesses.

The Race Card on June 17, 2010 at 7:03 PM

Beohner is a moron, lightweight, career politician and is one of the main reasons the GOP is continually emasculated by the left. I can’t think of a single thing he has spearheaded to fix our problems up there except meaningless pontificating and posturing. He will be one of the main reasons we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If this were the dems, they would be rallying around…. not so the re-pubics…….. God help us.

ultracon on June 17, 2010 at 6:26 PM

Yup…but it’s Boehner

MainelyRight on June 17, 2010 at 7:05 PM

The apology is owed to the American people, not BP. And it is owed by Obama for short-circuiting the Constitutional process as in the GM bailout.

This fund should have been set up by the courts or by Congress, as the 9/11 fund was–not by executive fiat!

The executive is already in charge of administration and of prosecution. They shouldn’t be demanding money from those it administers and investigates.

Noel on June 17, 2010 at 7:16 PM

Repubs are such spineless wussies.

petefrt on June 17, 2010 at 6:19 PM

I have nothing to add, I just thought that should appear again.

Bugler on June 17, 2010 at 7:24 PM

But BP is the wrong entity to give all the blame. Environmental policies are the real culprit here firstly. They would have never drilled in 5,000 feet had they been able to drill where they wanted to 500 feet. Then the spill would have never happened.

You realize that you would not accept similar logic applied to other situations, especially those within which you had a personal stake, right?

I can likely contrive nonillion situations wherein you would demand immediate and full accountability were you the wronged party.

Ignoring laws, regulations etc in protest thereof is rarely prudent for businesses.

The Race Card on June 17, 2010 at 7:03 PM

I’ll agree they should be responsible for any actual breach or laws or regulations, and any negligence. It’d be nice if Obama would be held responsible for ignoring the laws on the books about how to handle such disasters, but apparently that’s too much to expect.

But some of the risk involved in this type of drilling is purely because political considerations have eliminated the safer alternatives. It’s hard to blame BP for drilling dangerously when it’s the only kind of drilling the government permits them to do. And that situation was created by our government. And yes, the Democrats have been the party trying to disallow drilling at every opportunity. In this case, the Republicans primary responsibility is for letting the Democrats get away with it.

The one thing you could legitimately criticize the Republicans for is for being too cozy with big corporations, and the Democrats seem to be every bit as good at that.

tom on June 17, 2010 at 8:07 PM

It is a shakedown. That money will disappear.

Was wondering…is anybody out there on the coast vacuuming up this oil and selling it to refineries? Seems like they’d make a killing even if they sold it below market price?

There are hundreds of “mom and pop” oil operations in this country, so it’s not like a refinery would turn up there nose at a truckload or two of crude at a time.

Dr. ZhivBlago on June 17, 2010 at 9:26 PM

Repubs are wusses for not standing with Barton. Somebody had to bring attention to this shakedown and he gets lambasted for doing it? Time to remove all incumbents-dem and repub.

Alfresco on June 17, 2010 at 9:44 PM

I’m disgusted with these spineless wussy republicans like Boehner and McCcnnel! Come on republicans grow a pair!

MCGIRV on June 17, 2010 at 10:09 PM

Many are upset because, in their opinion, BP is not handing out money fast enough. Not only are they handing out money fast enough, they are wasting millions upon millions due to outright fraud.

This is only some the fraud Tony Hayward warned of and this is why BP is rightfully demanding proof of loss before paying out anything. Like he said, this is America. The fraud is going to happen and it is. But the politicians and mainstream media balked because of this. Let’s watch the paperwork increase, and the payouts slow, as the government now handles the money.

It’s a mess, but this continuous demonization of the only group taking responsibility and active measures from day one is too much. All of this in the name of politics. It’s a disgrace and they should all be ashamed.

Virginia Shanahan on June 17, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Thank you for that on the spot post. The same stuff happened in Alaska in 1989. People made a lot of money in the “clean up.” I know one guy who bought a 1/4 million dollar house after leasing his boat to Exxon.

AshleyTKing on June 17, 2010 at 11:44 PM

It’s not enough to be principled, you HAVE to be smart about HOW you communicate your principles. I don’t think Barton’s comments would have caused such an outcry if he limited his rhetoric to the “shakedown” meme. That keeps the anger directed at Obama. Unfortunately, Barton couldn’t resist the urge to add to the melodrama by actually apologizing as well. By doing that, he indicated to the American people that as far as he was concerned BP is a hapless “victim” of this tragedy. That apology was astonishingly stupid and tone-deaf.

MisterPundit on June 18, 2010 at 12:06 AM

I agree with Barton.

This was a Chicago thug shakedown, and the only way our unimaginative President knows how to look “busy” to the public.

scotash on June 18, 2010 at 3:36 AM

Republicans, if they win the majority in either legislative body, may not have the kahonas to do what they have to do. They are a party of wimps.

Barton is a man among wimps.

Ricohoc on June 18, 2010 at 5:46 AM

BP just gave a Chicago thug 20 billion dollars. Do you think for one moment that money will ever get to the people who are hurting? Do you think that it could go to entities that can actually help clean up the mess? Well, it could, but it won’t. BP is going down for the count and Barrack Hussein Obama has more money to spread around to his friends. Note: America is not his friend. We aren’t seeing any of that money.

BetseyRoss on June 18, 2010 at 7:55 AM

BP just gave a Chicago thug 20 billion dollars. Do you think for one moment that money will ever get to the people who are hurting? Do you think that it could go to entities that can actually help clean up the mess? Well, it could, but it won’t. BP is going down for the count and Barrack Hussein Obama has more money to spread around to his friends. Note: America is not his friend. We aren’t seeing any of that money.

BetseyRoss on June 18, 2010 at 7:55 AM

Waaaaaaah! Still throwing a hissy over Nov. 4, 2008?
President Barack Hussein Obama
You don’t have to like it and you sure as hell won’t stop whining, but when you wake up tomorrow morning, he’ll still be President!

Let ‘em rage…

chumpThreads on June 18, 2010 at 9:19 AM

chumpThreads on June 18, 2010 at 9:19 AM

wow, your sixth grade intellect never fails to show thru your enlightening, instructive, and tactful comments.

May you go in peace.

Inanemergencydial on June 18, 2010 at 10:06 AM

*facepalm*

ProudPalinFan on June 18, 2010 at 11:40 AM

Obama’s actions with BP..illegal, yeah. BP poor extorted victim. Uh..no. You’ve got a fight going between two crapulent entities. One, a incompetent administration trying to fit governing around his golf schedule, the other a company with shady practices that blew up in their faces and off our coast. The GOP could have cheerfully bashed both parties, scored points with multiple constituencies and stayed out of it. Instead, Mr. Barton grovels a bit to some oily bohunk who should be pelted with rotten fruit for what his company has done.

Should Obama’s actions be reported and commented on? Absolutely. Bang that drum.

Should the GOP make an apology to the shady a**holes who got this whole mess going? No. Stupid, as per GOP usual. Nothing gained with that apology except we’re taking the side of a scumbag company and living up to the caricature image the media hangs around our neck as corporate shills.

Barton should have kept his fat mouth shut. Defending him as a truth teller is stupid. Yes, he told the truth; but in such a way that he’s opened up the GOP for criticism that we didn’t need. On top of it all, he started a massive interparty food fight. So, butt kiss a brit slimeball..check. Make your party look stupid, check. Start a massive arguement with other party members who didn’t want to look stupid, check. Knee jerk party supporters defending truth teller, check. All that’s left is nominating this stupid turd in 2012 and we can look forward to another Obama victory. Keep ‘speaking the truth’ guys.

However seeing as the new GOP model is to lose and do stupid things, hence the nomination of John McCain in 2008, I’m sure we have even more to look forward to coming up to the midterms. Wouldn’t want to pull any power from the Democrats or anything.

austinnelly on June 18, 2010 at 1:06 PM

If Obama throws out the rule of law, declares BP guilty, proceeds to commandeer their assets, and you say nothing….

…Then what happens when he comes after you???

landlines on June 18, 2010 at 2:57 PM

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