Conservatives defend Rep. Barton’s suggestion that Obama administration shook down BP

Conservatives defend Rep. Barton’s suggestion that Obama administration shook down BP

By Chris Moody – The Daily Caller   06/19/10 at 12:45 AM

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Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton may have prefaced his apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward by saying he was only speaking for himself, but it has become increasingly clear that other prominent conservatives at least partially agree with his statements.

Despite efforts by House Republican leaders to distance themselves from Barton, a number of conservative pundits, bloggers, and even members of Congress have defended his accusation that the White House is guilty of a $20 billion “shakedown” of the oil company.

“Barton should have been apologizing to the American people, not BP, but other than that, he is 100% correct,” wrote blogger Conn Carroll of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. In a post titled “Joe Barton Was Right: There Was a $20 Billion Shakedown in the White House,” Carroll called BP’s decision to establish a $20 billion fund to aid victims of the spill a “shakedown of Godfather-like proportions.”

Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative community blog RedState.com, wrote, “Let’s be honest. The White House meeting with British Petroleum was a shakedown.” Erickson added, however, that the United States does not owe BP an apology.

A number of other influential conservative bloggers posted their own defense of Barton’s Wednesday remarks, including Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit: “Of course it was a shakedown,” he wrote Thursday. “It’s the Chicago way.”

Hoft embedded the video of Barton apologizing to the BP executives that included the caption,Well said, Congressman.”

Defenders of Barton’s comments did not remain exclusively within the conservative blogosphere. While the Republican House leadership wrote press releases Thursday condemning Barton’s remarks, influential conservative pundits took to the airwaves to defend and extend the “shakedown” meme.

Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh called the situation “outrageous” and “unconstitutional”; Fox News contributor Stuart Varney described the arrangement as “Hugo Chavez-like”; and Newt Gingrich accused the White House of “extorting money from a company.” Meanwhile, MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan praised Barton’s statement as “courageous,” and conservative radio host Laura Ingraham agreed that Barton “had a legitimate point.”

On his show this week, radio host Mark Levin called Republicans “cowards” for threatening to remove Barton from his seat on the committee and said President Obama was acting “like a dictator.”

Even Republican members of Congress voiced agreement with Barton’s statement. Despite the reports that members of the House Republican leadership had coerced Barton to apologize publicly for his remarks to the BP executives, some Republicans on Capitol Hill agreed that Barton was not wrong to call what occurred between the White House and the oil company a “shakedown.”

“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 Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price in a statement.

Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess told CNN that he found the entire arrangement concerning.

“I don’t know if I would be quite as strong as Mr. Barton,” he said. “But I agree with him that it was unseemly to have the attorney general, perhaps holding criminal papers in his hand, asking them to sign on the line.”

As The Daily Caller reported, Texas Republican Senator and Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee John Cornyn also showed sympathy to Barton’s view.

“I think it’s good that there’s going to be some money there,” Cornyn said. “But I think the part that Representative Barton is expressing some concern about, that I share the concern, is that this has become a political issue for the president and he’s trying to deal with it by showing how tough he’s being against BP.”

Bending to pressure from the public and House leadership, Barton announced that he was sorry if his comments were misunderstood. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner declined to comment when asked about bloggers, pundits and members of Congress who have defended Barton’s comments

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2010/06/19/conservatives-defend-rep-bartons-suggestion-that-obama-administration-shook-down-bp/print/#ixzz0rJpsGluR

Will Obama Be the ‘Jimmy Carter of the 21st Century’?

06/17/2010 03:14 PM

The World from Berlin

Will Obama Be the ‘Jimmy Carter of the 21st Century’?

Can US President Barack Obama lead America away from fossil fuel dependency? German commentators don’t think so. Some say he is in danger of turning into an idealistic, one-term president like Jimmy Carter.

US President Barack Obama’s address from the Oval Office on Tuesday was supposed to be a moment of leadership during the worst environmental disaster in American history. But critics from across the political spectrum wondered afterwards whether he’d shown leadership at all. The geyser of oil in the Gulf of Mexico seems, technologically, to lie beyond anything either BP or the US government was prepared for, and Obama failed to mention any specific new ideas.

“The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now,” he declared, without offering policy details. Of course, it wasn’t a policy speech. But the fact that Obama failed to outline a clear path toward this clean-energy future seems to have disappointed a lot of people. “He didn’t boldly push an agenda,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, to Politico, the Washington-based news website. “I think a lot of people took that to mean lukewarm support for anything big.”

One immediate result of White House talks with the American arm of BP, though, was a series of concessions on Wednesday. BP Plc agreed to set aside $20 billion (€16.1 billion) in escrow to cover damage claims by shrimpers, restauranteurs and other Gulf-Coast residents hurt by the spill. The energy giant also said it would suspend shareholder dividends until 2011, when it expects to have a clearer notion of the catastrophe’s costs. Another $100 million (€80.8 million) will be set aside for compensation to BP workers hurt by the spill.

These gestures from the energy giant are the most tangible form of good news local residents have heard in the two months since the spill began. German commentators on Thursday think BP’s concessions are genuine as well as worthwhile — but they warn that Obama will need to paddle harder to realize the shining future he promised in his speech on Tuesday.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Obama wants to lead the US out of its dependence on oil. Absolutely right. In fact it’s the very thing people have been wanting to hear from Obama for weeks.”

“But how cautious he seems, and how vague his suggestions. In 1961 President Kennedy declared a national mission to place a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Obama has chosen not to name concrete goals. No numbers, no time frame. He doesn’t dare mention how things will have to change to favor the climate. Professor Obama waits for new ideas and looks forward to a public debate. He doesn’t dare push the Senate to settle on a climate-change bill. This president won’t lead America out of a crisis this way — and he certainly won’t usher in a new era.”

The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung argues:

“International markets have started to take environmental problems seriously. BP stock has fallen by almost 50 percent since the start of the oil catastrophe. Ratings agencies have downgraded its creditworthiness to near-junk status. And banks have stopped sealing long-term contracts with BP.”

“This situation is new. When oil companies in the past soiled the Niger Delta or the Amazon, markets tended to reward them — because corporations that skimped on security also increased their profits, to the detriment of the environment and the public interest. Now the costs of environmental damage have started to weigh on the balance sheet, with consequences extending to the possible bankruptcy of a multinational.”

“This new environmental sensibility has been possible not through a sudden display of reason on the markets, but through political decision-making. President Barack Obama made it clear (in early June) that BP won’t be exempt from criminal investigation. He’s also maintained a moratorium on new oil exploration on the deep-ocean floor, and looks determined to end corruption in federal oil agencies.”

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

“The oil company could be prosecuted by shareholders for paying billions upon billions into a fund for damages without being legally required to do so … It’s therefore a good thing that the US government has not asked for a blank check to cover damages. With the high sum (of $20 billion), the government can now offer quick and unbureaucratic First Aid (to people living near the Gulf).”

“But the firm can’t just run free now that an arbitrary sum has been set. What the final cost for damages might be, and which mistakes were made by whom, have yet to be determined. Civil and criminal complaints against BP have to remain an open possibility. This fund is just a first step toward stopping the holes that the oil catastrophe has ripped in the finances of many affected people.”

The conservative daily Die Welt writes:

“When Obama surprised people by lifting his opposition to offshore drilling, just before the , he meant it as one part of a package deal: Citizens who worried primarily about high fuel prices were meant to be placated by expanded domestic oil production — as a gambit to win more acceptance for the core of his new-energy agenda. This strategy is marked by a typical American pragmatism, unlike Europe’s forces of climate protection. The emphasis rests on incentives to save energy, on building more nuclear-energy plants and on developing new ideas in renewable energy.”

“This is the right way to make America independent of problematic nations. Going forward, the mix will also have to include exploitation of (America’s) domestic energy resources, even if it also means heavier regulation to avoid a new disaster. But if this oil shock accelerates America’s shift to new energies, and moves the West away from a dangerous dependency on fossil fuels, then the catastrophe will have at least one positive outcome.”

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

“If Barack Obama isn’t careful, he will become the Jimmy Carter of the 21st century.”

“In his speech, Obama tried to make a virtue of an emergency. He said a shift to new energy sources was now a ‘national mission.’ Just as the nation once mobilized its powers for World War II, now it needs to conquer its devilish dependence on fossil fuels … If Obama wins this debate, and achieves a true shift in energy dependence, then his name will perhaps be mentioned again in the same breath with great American presidents.”

“Politically, though, it’s fraught with risk. His opponents have already charged Obama with using the Gulf catastrophe to advance his climate agenda in Congress. Republicans rely on the tendency of Americans to prefer cheap fuel and big cars with a certain level of power. Over 30 years ago, after all, another president called for smarter American energy policies in a televised speech from the Oval Office. He wanted to know, ‘Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?’ That president’s name was Jimmy Carter.”

— Michael Scott Moore

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2010