In crunch, Gulf residents learn who their friends aren’t

NOTE: This includes material published in earlier posts. It is published here as the electronic version of today’s newspaper column.

Tom Price, the GOP congressman from Roswell, was impatient.

With oil still pouring into the Gulf and President Obama about to address the nation, Price wanted action. In fact, as chair of the 115-member House Republican Study Committee, Price demanded it.

“Tonight, President Obama needs to finally take charge of this disaster and show some real leadership,” Price said.

That night, when Obama laid out his battle plan in the Gulf, it included a demand that BP contribute $20 billion to an escrow account to compensate shrimpers, fishermen, motel owners, waitresses and others whose livelihoods are threatened.

The next day, in a meeting at the White House, BP agreed to the account, producing the first geniune good news that those in the Gulf have had for weeks. But rather than laud the step, Price and the RSC chose to condemn it, accusing Obama of “Chicago-style shakedown politics.”

“… in an administration that appears not to respect fundamental American principles, it is important to note that there is no legal authority for the president to compel a private company to set up or contribute to an escrow account,” Price complained on behalf of RSC members, which include Georgia Republicans Jack Kingston, John Linder, Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Lynn Westmoreland.

Another RSC member, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, then picked up Price’s “shakedown” language in a committee hearing the next day.

“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,” Barton said. He went on to apologize to BP CEO Tony Hayward, saying he was ashamed to see the company subjected to pressure that “again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown.”

Some Republican leaders have since tried to depict Barton as a rogue out of line with mainstream GOP thought, going so far as to force Barton to issue an apology for his apology. They also threatened his post as top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the oil industry.

Yet Barton’s first apology was the sincere one, the heartfelt one. And you can’t dismiss his sentiment as outside the GOP mainstream when it closely echoes that of Price and the RSC, which claims almost two-thirds of House Republicans as members.

In fact, Barton’s attitude permeates the conservative movement, from pundits to politicians.
Stuart Varney of Fox Business Network likened Obama’s action to those of Venezuela’s dictator, claming “it is Hugo Chavez-like, is it not, to seize a private company’s assets?”
Rush Limbaugh said the U.S. government “may as well be a branch of organized crime.”

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich also likened Obama’s actions to extortion. “What it says to the world is, ‘Be very careful about investing in the United States, because the political class may take the money away from you, if the trial lawyers don’t get it first’,” the former Georgian said.

That’s such a strange thought. “The political class” is not taking money from BP. The company forfeited $20 billion and more by endangering the livelihoods of tens of thousands of innocent people in the Gulf, and its executives know it.

Ken Feinberg, who oversaw the 9/11 compensation fund, has been named to handle the Gulf escrow account as well. “Do not underestimate the emotionalism and the frustration and the anger of people in the Gulf uncertain of their financial future,” he reported in TV interviews Monday. “It’s very pronounced. I witnessed it firsthand last week.”

For those in the Gulf, this is crunch time, the moment when you discover who’s really on your side and, in the case of Price, Barton and others, who’s not.

14 comments Add your comment

stands for decibels

June 22nd, 2010
7:29 am

It is published here as an electronic version of today’s newspaper column.

Would a discussion of why I no longer have the dead-tree version of the AJC delivered be considered on-topic?


June 22nd, 2010
7:40 am

Again Jay Bookman is way off base. The Obama’s actions against BP are illegal and immoral. When you demand a respected company set aside 20 billion $ without a court verdict, that is a shakedown. It’s a shakedown of investors who have put their savings in stocks like BP. There’ no proof this spill will do anything close to 20 billion $ damage.

At least BP is trying to do something about the spill. Fact is, I trust BP to do the right thing more than I trust this president. He apparently feels he is accountable to no one. At least BP is accountable to stockholders.

Plus, the people down on the Gulf need to quit whining. Fact is, the oil business has given them a good living. One setback doesn’t change that. They need to be allowed to get back to drilling wells so we don’t destroy what’s left of theObama economy by driving up gas prices again.


June 22nd, 2010
7:41 am

Well, Republicans are easy. You betcha.

stands for decibels

June 22nd, 2010
7:52 am

It’s a shakedown of investors who have put their savings in stocks like BP. There’ no proof this spill will do anything close to 20 billion $ damage.

Do you honestly believe that those 20 billion dollars are all placed in Monopoly-cartoon money bags and kept in the White House basement?

Smarter conservatives, please.


June 22nd, 2010
8:22 am

Does anyone remember the Exxon Valdez? That great “respected” American company, that also plays with billions of American stockholders dollars, spent as much on lawyers fees delaying claims than it eventually paid out. There was no justice for many who suffered; they just died. BP’s move was its own PR answer, not Obama’s shake-down.

How disingenuous for Republicans to demand court justice for corporations, when their highest priorities are blocking due process for terror suspects, advancing unreasonable search and seizure against immigrants and denying gay people equal protection under the law.

Southern Comfort

June 22nd, 2010
8:23 am

When you demand a respected company set aside 20 billion $ without a court verdict, that is a shakedown

And how do you know that the $20 Billion was requested? The administration could have requested $5 Billion, and BP could have upped it to $20 to make themselves look good. If you were not there and active in the discussions, all you can do is assume, and we all know what that means…


June 22nd, 2010
8:28 am

Most of us have always known that the GOP represents corporate America, not the American voter. For the GOP, main street USA is Wall Street NYC.

BTW, what was the administration going to do if BP didn’t set aside the $20 billion? The last I heard, the US Congress passes laws.


June 22nd, 2010
8:48 am

Anyone who doesn’t recognize that Tom Price is a hypocritical, partisan tool of the corporations who regularly bribe him just isn’t paying attention. He’s Theodore Bilbo with an M.D. degree.

Left wing management

June 22nd, 2010
9:47 am

Look at “Jimmy”’s post above at 7:40 if you want a perfect illustration of absolute (Southern, no doubt) know-nothing, cut-off-your-nose idiocy.

Well, one thing you can say for this position at least: these people will straight up tell you they don’t believe in anything but naked power. They don’t even pretend to hide behind nice ideas like justice and civility (such as Tom Price and others): they just flat out say it’s all about power.


June 22nd, 2010
10:09 am

I think it’s worth mentioning that Tom Price is under investigation by the House ethics committee for holding a fundraiser shortly before the House vote on the financial regulation reform bill. Who was he raising funds from? The financial institutions that would be subject to increased regulation if the reform bill became law.

Tom Price is a good example of what we don’t need in Washington.


June 22nd, 2010
10:50 am

joe matarotz

June 22nd, 2010
12:09 pm

Is it just me, or has it reached the point where politicians only see the issues as another reason to sling mud at the opposition? I honestly believe that the clowns in Washington don’t give a #### what happens to our country, as long as they get reelected.


June 22nd, 2010
2:32 pm

Why are there so many Republican Doctors in the Congress ??? These Congressional Republicans are completely incompetent as politicians. I wonder if they’re just as inept as medical doctors. The only medical degree Tom Price, Herr Paul Von Broun and other lap dog Republican doctors could possibly earn are degrees in voodoo and witchcraft medicine.


June 22nd, 2010
3:41 pm

does anyone remeber their history
when truman and roosevelt nationalized the mine
during wartim
this an emergency
he’s using powers of the presidency
that have used before