Thursday, June 17, 2010

Knee-Jerk Conservatives Defend the Indefensible...Again

Simply astounding.  Just as it was entirely bizarre for Cheney's shotgun victim to apologize to Cheney for the hassle he caused by putting his face in the way of Cheney's blast, I find it unthinkable that a politician might not only side with BP after they ruined the Gulf of Mexico, but would actually apologize because they were asked to set aside money for the damage they did.

And make no mistake, this isn't just because Congressman Barton (R-Big Oil) is some corporate lackey, though he most assuredly is.  This is about Obama.  Had this happened while Bush was president and Bush demanded that BP set aside $20 billion in escrow (yes, as unthinkable as that is), it's entirely unlikely that Barton or anyone else would have blasted him for it.

Because the thing is, there isn't really anything particular egregious about this escrow account.  Not only was BP given a timeline that is more than fair to fund the account, I think it's odd that they didn't just decide to do this on their own.  And if the stock market is any indication, it actually looks like investors like the idea; as it removes much of the mystery about how all this would be handled.  Because if there's one thing investors hate, it's uncertainty.  They can take bad news, just as long as they have an idea of how bad it'll be.

The Political Cut is the Deepest

And really, BP knew that it was in for a world of hurt, so I can't imagine why they'd be particularly upset about the deal.  While many progressives insisted that BP was secretly working to bankrupt their company to avoid liability claims, BP knows how the world really works and realizes that they're not getting out of this easy.  For as much as they're still trying to play PR games to underplay the seriousness of this, their best shot is to act above-board and like they're not trying to screw us over.  And this escrow account helps with that.

But for Republicans, this deal hurts them dearly.  Not because they're such dire supporters of Big Business (though they are), but because it showed Obama flexing muscle and looking effective.  And that hurts them most of all. 

And so they end up screwing themselves over in ways that Democrats could never do; not because it helps them politically, but because it's their only way of hurting Obama.  And that's the biggest reason why they haven't been able to gain traction with voters despite their dislike of Democrats, because they're so willing to hurt Obama even if it hurts themselves more.  It's like they're cutting off their faces to spite their nose.

A Political Issue for the President

Oddly enough, after I wrote this, I happened to see Senater Cornyn's remarks on Barton's apology, in which he said:
But the part that Representative Barton is expressing some concern about, that I share the concern, is this has really become a political issue for the President and he's trying to deal with it by showing how tough he's being against BP. The problem is BP's the only one who really is in control of shutting down this well, and he's trying to mitigate, I think, his own political problems.
And that's exactly what I'm saying.  It's not that they're against BP having an escrow account, or even that they were forced into having one; it's that Obama forced them to have one, which helps him politically.  And anything that helps Obama hurts them.  So they're going to attack the escrow account as a "slush fund," not because it makes any sense at all, but because it's an attack on Obama.

And that's what it's all about.  They decided early last year that their political fortunes rested upon them being the anti-Obama, and that requires them to strongly denounce everything he does, no matter how sensible it is.  And that was an absolutely moronic strategy, as it gives Obama almost complete control over their agenda, and all he has to do is propose sensible policies and they're stuck taking the insensible ones.  Obama could proclaim today Kitten Day, and Republicans would attack him for supporting bird murder, while insisting that this was a kickback to the Big Cat Lobby.

And even worse for them, if he takes the politically strong position, they're stuck taking the politically weak one.  And so they're stuck apologizing to a foreign company that they admit did something wrong, and their best defense for doing so is that they need to score political points against Obama.  Somehow, I doubt voters will find this particularly compelling.

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