Wednesday, June 23, 2010

All Shook Up for BP

by Eugene Robinson

Congressman Tom Price of Georgia. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Joe Barton is not alone. The Texas congressman's lavish sympathy for BP -- which he sees not as perpetrator of a preventable disaster but as victim of a White House "shakedown" -- is actually what passes for mainstream opinion among conservative Republicans today.

The GOP leadership came down hard on Barton after he apologized to the oil company for the beastly way it was being treated by the White House, saying he was "ashamed" that BP was being pressured to put $20 billion into a "slush fund" to compensate victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Barton was reportedly threatened with losing his powerful position as ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee if he didn't retract his words, and pronto.

But Barton was only echoing a statement that Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., had issued a day earlier in the name of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of House conservatives whose website claims more than 115 members. The statement groused that there is "no legal authority for the president to compel a private company to set up or contribute to an escrow account" and accused the Obama administration of "Chicago-style shakedown politics."

Just to review: A group comprising roughly two-thirds of all Republicans in the House takes the position that President Obama was wrong to demand that BP set aside money to guarantee that those whose livelihoods are being ruined by the oil spill will be compensated. In other words, it's more important to kneel at the altar of radical conservative ideology than to feel any sense of compassion for one's fellow Americans. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how today's GOP rolls.

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