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What Joe Barton's Words Show Us About the Republican Party

Congressman Joe Barton exposed, for all to see, the "DNA" of the Republican Party -- not just that they have a cozy relationship with big oil, but that they were really one and the same.
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--And, I still remember, from just two nights ago, he is one of that great historic trio, who consistently votes against every measure designed for the relief of the American people, 'Martin, Barton & Fish'! --FDR, 1940

When Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), a former oil executive whose company was purchased by BP, read his prepared text apologizing to BP for President Obama's securing a $20B relief fund to pay the first part of damages from the Gulf Oil spill, he was following Republican Party orthodoxy, consistent with Republican National Committee banner ads.

But those same words on public television triggered an immediate backlash. (The medium is indeed "the massage".) Rand Paul, whose true persona was also exposed on television, referred to it as "piling on", and that he "felt Barton's pain".

Of course he did. Barton had committed the cardinal sin -- he had exposed, for all to see, the "DNA" of the Republican Party -- not just that they have a cozy relationship with big oil (and big business in general), but that they were really one and the same. Do their bidding in Congress and get re-elected. Lose an election and work for them in a lobbying firm or, if you need a more prestigious title, a belief tank that they fund to publish pseudo-scholarly pieces designed to provide excuses for whatever policy they consider best for them. Elected officials are the troops. Big business interests are their paymasters. It is one big, happy, loving family.

Usually, expressions of love and devotion occur behind closed doors. But, now, their Ranking Member put it out in the open. He had given them no place to hide.

It was like mobster Joseph Valachi breaking the Mafia's sacred code of silence (omerta) by squealing before a Senate Committee in 1963. Everyone had known there was a mafia (or Cosa Nostra). But, no one had ever admitted it before in the open. That last repository of doubt, that little 0.1% chance that everything that had been described might not be quite true or grossly exaggerated, was eliminated.

Similarly, with Rand Paul. He does not like the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. We know that. He told us. Whether he accepts the Supreme Court's ruling on its Constitutionality or not, he does not like it. Neither do most Republicans, especially in the South. That's how they win in the South. Not by doing anything for the people who live there, and certainly not its African-American citizens, but by giving 'winks-and-nods' to such sentiments, so the good ole boys know who their good ole boys really are, but not directly. That would alienate too many independents and even Republicans in the north and west who liked their low taxes/laissez-faire economics, but would not wish to associate themselves with the good ole boys.

The one thing I admire about the Republicans, though, is that they are more dedicated to their programs and power than they are to particular individuals. Remember former Majority Leader Trent Lott's fate when he associated himself with "how much better we would all be" if Strom Thurmond's (Dixiecrat) Party had won the presidency -- and turned back the clock on all civil rights in the United States. A good swift boot, and he was off to become a lobbyist.

Similarly, with Joe Barton. Minority Leader John Boehner -- still burned from having to pay 10% tax for his tanning booth sessions to help pay for healthcare reform -- told Barton he was going to strip him of his position as Ranking Member of the House Energy Committee if he did not apologize for the apology. Immediately(!).

Now, I must admit that I expected Barton to rely on Republican "crisis management" techniques: blame alcoholism, check into a rehab center, surround himself with concerned looking family members, pray to the Lord for guidance and strength, and then announce that God had told him to apologize to anyone who "might" have been offended by his remarks.

My expectations were dashed. Instead, Barton apologized that his remarks were "misconstrued". That is, others had misconstrued what he meant, or something like that. That technique is usually employed when a Republican has said something off the cuff, or only an excerpt has been replayed of a longer comment. Then, the "misconstruing" spin may work. But, Barton was reading from prepared text, and it was seen and heard in its entirety in real-time. For this one, I would advised the alcoholism-rehab center-family members-God technique. Perhaps God has been too busy trying to figure out how his divine creations--the corporation and a laissez-faire economy -- could have so miserably messed up his other divine creation, the Gulf of Mexico. [We do know that God is busy preparing for his February meeting with Newt Gingrich and his 3rd wife, Calista, when he is to tell Newtie whether to run for president.]

What does a deity say when two Divine creations collide? [Hint from a mere mortal: Newtie is not His solution.]

Although the Lord might not know what to do, John Boehner did.

If only the Democratic leadership were similarly inclined. Think, for example, of what health care reform might have looked like if Majority Leader Harry Reid had told Joe Lieberman the requirements for keeping his committee chairmanship included voting for cloture when asked. Or, told Ben Nelsen that he cannot block unemployment insurance extension and maintain his seniority.

Do the Democrats have the gumption to use the Barton comment over-and-over-and-over-and-over again, to expose Republicans' "DNA"? Past history would suggest they will "make their point" about the Gulf spill, Republicans will say "it is time to move on", and the media and Democrats will abide by it.

I hope I am wrong.

While they are at it, they might run YouTube ads in every Congressional district -- for months -- pointing out to people that their Republican Congressman voted for their own health care, but against their district's; for their own salaries, but against teachers, police, firefighters and private sector jobs in their own communities.

I doubt they will, but I hope I am wrong.

After this was written, but before publishing, Republicans metastasized over the media, distancing themselves from Barton's blunder, hoping to plug the gusher. But, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney -- i.e., the Republican Presidential hopefuls -- have come out against the $20B. I suspect the Democrats will let them get away with it as the media will, again, fall for their "we apologized, let's move on" nonsense.

I hope I am wrong.

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