Another BP safety valve blew last week, and this time Republicans fought among themselves over whether the resulting gusher should be shut down immediately or allowed to flow until the Grand Old Party is turned into a dead zone. Yesterday, almost buried under the cover of Gen. McChrystal’s defenestration, they announced they were going with the latter.
We’re referring, of course, to Rep. Joe Barton’s gushing apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward for Obama victimizing the poor little oil giant by pressing it to create a $20 billion compensation fund for the real victims of BP’s disaster. This sort of Republican Crude—naked, knee-jerk support for corporate profits no matter what—has been poisoning democracy long before Joe Barton explicitly spelled it out. And the party has always tried to soft-pedal it as the American way, with the aid, naturally, of the corporate media.
But what really sets this episode apart is that it’s a relatively rare instance in which reason and unthinking emotion are on the same side. In politics today, they’re usually in conflict, with “What’s the Matter with Kansas” liberals like me yelling “Don’t they seeee? They’re only screwing themselves.” But this time the raw populist anger at BP (and at anyone who’d actually apologize to it) is allied with the simple logic that says if you cheat, lie, and destroy, you must pay for it.
Bill O’Reilly is one of the few media figures on the right who knows enough to stick with that good ol’ mob-inflected outrage even when it’s shared by libs. We need a Chicago-style shakedown, he told Michele Bachmann, who knee-jerked that Obama was “extorting” BP for the $20 bill. “Come on!” roared Bill. “I’d go in there with a machine gun if I were president and say, hey, you put the money in here or you’re not getting out of the room. So, I mean, I’m okay with it.”
That is one confused congresswoman! I’m all for an escrow fund, but I’m not. Obama should pressure BP, but he shouldn’t. Bachmann was trying her best to agree with O’Reilly—she assumes, after all, that he’s with her in yet another us-against-them battle—but she’s too ideologically brittle to even get his point. Their confrontation exemplifies a growing split among conservatives. Not just between fringers and establishment Repubs, but between those who believe extremist statements are the only way to demonstrate they are willing to “walk the walk”—“No-RINO-me” types–and those who realize that that walk leads off a plank.