Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex) featured an article on his own website Wednesday morning, in which a conservative author defends the Texas Republican for apologizing to BP for the "shakedown" it received from the Obama White House.
Normally, lawmakers are all in the business of promoting their positions. So a flattering piece on the Barton site wouldn't be out of order -- except for the fact that Barton has since apologized for making the remarks. In fact, just minutes before the article was posted the Texas Republican was reportedly groveling in front of a House GOP gathering, acknowledging that his comment was dumb and asking to retain his position as ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The piece highlighted on Barton's website was penned by Peter Habbaford of the American Spectator, a conservative publication which ran the article under the headline "Joe Barton Was Right."
Rep. Joe Barton of Texas broke an iron law of Washington last week. He described the elephant in the room that no one was supposed to see. In this case, it was the strong-arming Obama & Co. applied to BP to get it to "voluntarily" set up a $20 billion fund to compensate Gulf citizens adversely affected by the oil spill. Barton used the inelegant term, "shakedown." He was promptly made to eat humble pie by his party's Congressional leaders, fearful that if they didn't clamp down, the Democrats would use it to tie the entire party to an unpopular company.
Shortly after the piece made the rounds and caused an uproar, Barton's staff took down the page featuring the link. HuffPost was able to obtain a screengrab of the page:
Considering that Barton's office not only linked the article but tweeted it, it stands to reason that they vouch for the premise. But contrast the message that sends with what happened this morning, per Politico:
House Republicans who condemned Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and threatened to yank his position atop the Energy and Commerce Committee have backed off and will let Barton remain the party's top lawmaker on the panel.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who rebuked Barton for his BP apology last week, told the House Republican Conference Wednesday morning in a closed door meeting that it's time to move on.
"Joe has done the right thing by apologizing -- it's time to move on," Boehner told his Republican colleagues, according to multiple sources in the room.
Not surprisingly, Democrats are having something of a field day with the story -- which presents them with yet another bit of ammo to claim that the GOP (and Barton in particular) are BP apologists. Within half an hour, the DNC sent out the link to the Barton website as well as an article describing the bizarreness of the whole episode.
"It's not just Joe Barton who thinks 'Joe Barton is right' in taking the side of oil companies instead of our families, Republicans have repeatedly proven that they agree with him," emailed DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan. "They proved it by making him the top Republican overseeing oil companies in the first place and allowing [him] to keep that job now... This says everything you need to know about the sincerity of Republican protestations about the behavior of BP and the oil industry. This is how they truly feel."
UPDATE: Barton spokesman Sean Smith claims responsibility for the incident:
Guilty as sin, your honor. Without thinking about it much, I added a headline from one of the daily news clips to a website that is, in turn, linked to the congressman's Twitter account. I won't be doing that again.