Photo via TBO
The biggest splash in politics last week, at least 'round the blogoshpere and cable news circuit, was undoubtedly Representative Joe Barton's (R-Texas) surprise apology to BP. While many conservatives supported his sentiment, many others immediately recognized the political damage it could cause, and rushed to distance themselves from the apology. The whole debacle underscores the contradiction-laden tightrope that GOP leaders must walk: The party must attempt to appease the anti-regulation, anti-government wave of Tea Party enthusiasm while not appearing to be sympathetic to a reckless oil company that has just caused a major disaster.And there's no easy way to do it. Clearly, many in the GOP were testing their luck when they initially spoke out against the $20 billion fund Obama secured to help repay the ordinary residents in the Gulf whose lives were ruined by the spill. The Daily Show video below does a good job of showing the rampant opposition to such a fund -- before Joe Barton went and clearly vocalized how politically precarious such opposition really was: (pertinent segment starts around 2:40)
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Day 62 - The Strife Aquatic|
As you can see, such outspoken opponents reeled in their apparent fiscal libertarianism pretty swiftly after that -- the reliably ridiculous Michelle Bachman went so far as to directly condemn her previous stance, which she pretended never to have held. Rarely is such flip-flopping so rapid and widespread.
But it goes to show how tough the GOP has it in addressing this spill -- there's a direct conflict between Tea Party free marketeering and the grim reality that when left unregulated, private industry can engender massive economic and environmental disasters. And that's what we're seeing -- who really doesn't think that BP should be held financially accountable for this disaster? Who on "main street" really thinks that it's a tragedy that BP has to help repair the livelihoods it has destroyed?
Very few, that's who -- maybe a few diehard libertarians (who, coincidentally currently make up the most vocal segment of the GOP base). But Republicans can only go so far in its current mode of 'protect private industry at all costs' before they start alienating people who are outraged by the BP spill. Same goes for preventative regulation. It will be interesting, to say the least, to see what the long-term reaction to the spill in the party will be, beyond calling for more drilling and criticizing Obama's truly lackluster response.
More on BP Gulf Spill Politics
Inept Oil Companies and the Politicians Who Apologize to Them ...
The Political Impact of the BP Gulf Spill So Far