Joe Barton’s conversion to conservative hero is complete
In the saga of Rep. Joe Barton, we’ve seen three key developments today.
First, the Texas Republican, who apologized to BP’s CEO Tony Hayward for the way the company was treated by President Obama in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, received confirmation that he would keep his post as top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to Talking Points Memo. That means that if the Republicans re-take the Congress next year, the man who just apologized to BP would be responsible for Congressional oversight of the company – his place is secure.
Then we saw that he took back his apology, tweeting a ‘Joe Barton was right’ article just after House Republicans announced he was secure. Dave Weigel has the screen grab – and notes that Barton removed the tweet shortly after posting it.
Last, we’ve got the event that wasn’t heavily reported, and that’s Barton’s conversion into a magnet for Republican fundraising. According to The Hill:
Unlike most lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) is not distancing himself from beleaguered Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). At least not yet.
While some GOP lawmakers want Barton removed as the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Stearns is set to appear with the Texas lawmaker at a fundraiser next week.
Barton last week apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for what he called the Obama administration’s “shakedown” of the company.
The Hill obtained a copy of the e-mail invitation sent to Stearns’s supporters late Monday afternoon for the June 30 lunch fundraiser. “With Special Guest, Congressman Joe Barton,” the invite states, in bright red letters.
This scenario isn’t exactly what I sketched out – Barton so far isn’t raising money for himself because he doesn’t really have a Democratic challenger in his safe red district. But just as we saw with Joe Wilson and Randy Neugebauer, Joe Barton spent a short period of time being an embarrassment before be became a conservative cause celebre. Rather than making him toxic to Republicans afraid that he’ll alienate swing voters, he’s another party man who can rile up the GOP’s fiercest, and most unreasonable partisans.
And the Republican leadership is too beholden to its fringe to distance themselves from a congressman like Joe Barton who is beholden to corporate interests. Hopefully it will damage them in key states and districts headed into November. Otherwise, the oversight that Congress is now exerting over risky environmental practices by profit-hungry oil companies will evaporate come January 2011.