I wasn’t the only one shaking my head in disbelief when the news broke around mid-day today that Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton apologized to BP executives for President Obama’s demand that the oil company set aside a large reserve to make restitution to Americans whose livelihoods have been ruined in the Gulf disaster.
“I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,” Barton said in his opening statement. “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown — in this case a $20 billion shakedown.”
By the end of the day, Barton was apologizing for his apology, with the wrath of his own party leaders raining down on his head like tarballs of fire. Barton is the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and members of his own party, realizing how toxic his remarks were politically, called for his resignation.
Meanwhile, the Democrats had a field day, thrilled at the way Barton’s outrageous remarks would make it possible for them to tar the entire Republican party with the “Big Oil” label.
Even as this sideshow was going on, BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward was in full denial mode before Barton’s committee, saying at one point that, “I wasn’t part of the decision-making process on this well. . . . I am not prepared to draw conclusions about this accident until such time as the investigations are concluded.”
So. Lawmakers with clear financial and political ties to oil companies first decry, then retract, the hope of some financial salve for the people so badly hurt by this mess, and then the leader of the company most responsible slides all over the hearing room in his desperate effort to elude blame. “I wasn’t part of the decision-making process,” are words that echo through history in some of the most egregious human disasters ever recorded.
All the while, down in the murky depths a mile below the surface, that angry broken well continues to belch its toxic stew, looking worse than ever, actually, on the mesmerizing live video bearing the word “Neptune.”
Earlier this week, BP Chairman Svanberg said that the company “cares about the small people” harmed by the disaster. The smallest people on the planet right now are those who just don’t seem to get it about how monstrous the Deepwater Horizon disaster has become.
Neptune is raging on; the smallest people just keep blathering.
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