Petroleum Club—Republicans claimed to be shocked by Texas Congressman Joe Barton’s apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward. Democrats (including White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel) claim that Barton simply went public with the Republican Party principles at the wrong time. Rahm’s right. So are the Democrats, as the Democratic National Committee is running ads keeping Barton’s criticism of Obama’s $20 billion “shakedown” of BP in the public eye.
Barton is not an extremist within the House Republican conference. He is an establishment Republican whose positions reflect the values of his party. In 1998 he was drafted by Bush advisor Karl Rove to run for state party chair in Texas. Rove cited Barton’s conservative record and conservative values as what were needed to keep the party out of the hands of the Christian Right. (The Christians prevailed.)
Barton is a climate-change denier and fierce opponent of government funding for research on global warming. In 2005 he subpoenaed the work of three American scientists working on climate change, insisting that if they were taking federal money they were working for the federal government. Barton has argued that climate change is a natural phenomenon to which man will adapt. “During the Little Ice Age, both the Vikings and the British adapted to the cold by changing,” Barton said at a March 2009 committee hearing.
In April 2009 he ridiculed Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu. “You’re our scientist,” Barton said. “I have one simple question for you in the last six seconds [of testimony]: How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean? … It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas and shipped it up there and then put it underground so we can now pump it out.” (After his exchange with Chu, Barton sent a Twitter message celebrating getting the best of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist.)
Barton is also a perennial advocate of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other parts of Alaska that have been closed to drilling. What made this engineer from Texas reject science? Oil. More specifically, oil money. In the current election cycle, oil and gas interests have provided Barton $100,470, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Since 1990, he has received $1.67 million, making him one of the leading Congressional recipients of the industry’s largesse. Republicans have taken in more than $188 million in political contributions from oil and gas since 1990, three-fourths of the industry’s contributions.
Right Angle—Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got lucky when Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle won the Republican primary in Nevada. Republican establishment candidate Sue Lowden lost her momentum, her lead in the polls, and finally, the primary, after suggesting that people unable to pay for doctors’ visits might offer chickens or services to doctors in exchange. Reid polls better against Angle, whose extreme positions—ending Social Security and shutting down the Internal Revenue Service—might be a hard sell, even among Nevada conservatives.
Since the primary, Angle has been on the defensive. Through a press consultant working for her she admitted that she is an “oath keeper,” but not a member of Oath Keepers. Oath Keepers is a national political cult organized by a former Ron Paul staffer, which requires its adherents, mostly military personnel and police officers, to take an oath to disobey 10 governmental orders that they deem unconstitutional. (Example: We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people. …) Angle was a member of the far-right Independent American Party after she left the Democratic Party, but before she was elected to the Nevada Legislature as a member of the Republican Party.
She appears to be completely unprepared to deal with the media beyond a few right-wing outlets, and has been almost invisible since the primary. When contacted, her campaign staff was poorly informed and unpolished, probably because it is staffed largely by volunteers. I was twice referred to her campaign media director, on the same day a reporter for the Hill identified him as a Washington, D.C., political consultant. No response yet to my question about one of Angle’s loopy disquisitions on Second Amendment rights, the prospect of armed revolution, and the urgency of “taking out Harry Reid.” In mid-June she was quoted in the Las Vegas Sun as saying, “I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. … I hope that the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.” Angle speaks a national Tea Party Unity Convention in Nevada July 15-17.