While Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) has been mostly lampooned for apologizing to BP for the White House’s alleged “shakedown” of the company to create a $20 billion escrow fund, some conservatives have been willing to defend the congressman.
Today, Kentucky Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul — the tea party darling who has himself faced criticism for defending BP — offered his sympathies to Barton, saying he knows “what it is like to be piled on.” While Paul stopped short of endorsing Barton’s point of view, he suggested that the criticism of Barton was “over the top,” and said that Barton “should be given the chance to explain himself”:
“I don’t know about that,” Paul said, when asked about Barton’s statement during an appearance on WVLK-AM radio on Friday. “I don’t want to pile on him. … I know what that feels like. What I will say is I have never liked the tone of the president when he said things or his administration says things like he is going to put the boot on the throat of BP.” […]
“I’m not really in a position to know about what they should do to [Barton] personally. I do know what it is like to be piled on,” he said. “I do know that people sometimes can go over the top and I think he should be given the chance to explain himself.“
Paul joins a host of conservative pundits who have come to Barton’s defense, praising his “courage” and “legitimate point[s].” Meanwhile, the right-wing media’s fearless leader, radio host Rush Limbaugh, threw his weight behind Barton yesterday as well. As the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel noted, “Discussing Barton’s comments, Limbaugh repeatedly called the fund a ‘shakedown,’ [and] worried that it was a plot by Obama to ‘redistribute that money to ACORN.'” Limbaugh said the “shakedown” showed the Obama “regime” was behaving like “a branch of organized crime”:
LIMBAUGH: Joe Barton apologized to BP executives on behalf of himself, the American people, for the shakedown. … The United States government may as well be a branch of organized crime the way that it is being conducted and the way it’s doing business, and the way it’s looking out for itself and no one else. … Organized crime. It’s the closest thing I can think to analogize what’s happening here. And even these guys that are being shaken down, they’re paying protection money, and it isn’t enough. It isn’t enough.
Though Barton eventually apologized for his apology, Paul and a large swath of the right’s punditry appear set on defending Barton’s outrageous position. Responding to callers who challenged him for “defending BP,” Limbaugh explained that he was “trying to defend the US Constitution, the American way of life, American exceptionalism, [and] what it was that made this country great.” Many Gulf residents would likely disagree that apologizing to the company that ruined their economy and ecology made this country great.