Those Republicans sure are doing all they can to help the Democrats in a tough congressional election year. As Kate notes, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) this morning essentially apologized to BP and called the new $20 billion escrow account pushed by the Obama administration a "shakedown." In doing so, Barton, who would become chairman of the House energy committee should the Republicans take back the House, has made a political commerical for every House Democrat facing a difficult reelection. It could go something like this:
See this guy? [Photo of Barton; optional: ominous music]. He's a congressman who apologized to BP. Really. Why? Because he said forcing the polluter to set up a $20 billion compensation fund was nothing but a big-government "shakedown." Is this a big deal? It sure could be. Vote for [fill in the name of the Republican candidate] and this BP backer could take over the congressional committee that oversees BP. Then maybe he'll ask taxpayers, not BP, to pay for BP's mess. I'm [fill in the name of Democrat incumbent] and I approve of this message—and of forcing BP, not you, to pay.
Okay, tweak it a little. But I'm sure there are editing rooms already at work on something like this. If not, the Dems deserve to lose.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is counting on fear of Sarah Palin to motivate its grassroots funders. From its latest fundraising email, signed by commentator/consultant Paul Begala:
Between Sharron Angle, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin, I'm tearing out what's left of my hair. And I don't have much to spare. At this rate, I'm going to make James Carville look like Mitt Romney. (Say what you want about Mitt; his hair is beautiful.)
Angle wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare, and eliminate the federal Departments of Education and Energy. Paul thinks businesses should have the right to discriminate. And Sarah Palin? Well, she's out there raisin' money for 'em, just a-droppin' her g's and pushin' 'em further 'n' further off that right-wing cliff like they were lemmings instead of mama grizzlies - or whatever her latest mammalian metaphor is.
Now, here's the scary part. Candidates like Angle and Paul might actually win. Anti-government extremists and corporate special interests are teaming up to generate enthusiasm and big bucks for candidates who would have been on the fringe during the time of "mainstream" Republicans like Ronald Reagan.
Will Palin-mongering help the Ds? It might impress grassroots funders more than voters (which, at this moment, is the point). But the GOPers, with or without Sister Sarah, are handing the Democrats a lot of ammo—and they certainly need it this year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ought to send Barton flowers.
UPDATE: White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has put out a statement slamming Barton's apology:
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. 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. Members from both parties should repudiate his comments.”
The White House doesn't always respond in such an official fashion to dumb GOP remarks. This one is getting special attention.