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One House Republican’s epic fail

The “Tone-Deaf Politician of the Year” award might go to Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who – during BP CEO Tony Hayward’s testimony to Congress today – apologized for the Obama Administration’s “shakedown” of the oil giant for a $20 billion escrow account to cover some of the costs of the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Joe BartonAn apology. For a “shakedown.” Of a company that caused the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history. Which also is wrecking an entire region’s already-fragile economy. Riiiiiiight.

This from a guy the Wall Street Journal once called the “House GOP’s leading expert on energy policy.” But, hey, can you guess what industry he worked in before his election to Congress? Oh, I just KNEW you could.

Even his own party’s House leadership wasted no time in hanging Barton out to dry today. Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio; Republican Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va.; and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence, R-Ind., issued this statement:

“The oil spill in the Gulf is this nation’s largest natural disaster and stopping the leak and cleaning up the region is our top priority. Congressman Barton’s statements this morning were wrong. BP itself has acknowledged that responsibility for the economic damages lies with them and has offered an initial pledge of $20 billion dollars for that purpose.

“The families and businesspeople in the Gulf region want leadership, accountability and action from BP and the Administration. It is unacceptable that, 59 days after this crisis began, no solution is forthcoming. Simply put, the American people want all of our resources, time and focus to be directed toward stopping the spill and cleaning up the mess.”

Fine, but… wait a minute. “Natural disaster?” Seriously? Perhaps they meant “disaster for nature,” but that’s not what “natural disaster” means. This is a man-made disaster, one very likely born of negligence and greed, and nobody should forget it.

UPDATE @ 4:26 P.M.: Well, THAT was quick. Unfazed by the GOP leadership’s disapproval of Barton’s comment, the liberals are on the warpath:

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.