Republican congressman Joe Barton of Texas made headlines around the world June 17 when he apologized to BP for the way the American government has tried to punish it for its negligence in the Gulf of Mexico. BP is responsible for a massive oil spill that may cause long-lasting economic and environmental damage to the country.
“I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is – again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize,” Barton said to BP CEO Tony Hayward in a congressional hearing.
Of course, sensing the direction of political winds, Barton apologized for the apology, but he has provided a rare glimpse at his party’s genuine belief: incompetence that results in such atrocities should not be punished.
“That’s not a political gaffe, those are prepared remarks. That is a philosophy. That is an approach to what they see. They see the aggrieved party here as BP, not the fishermen,” White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said June 20 on ABC’s “This Week,” referring to the now-devastated gulf fishing industry.
As recent obscenity-laden debates have shown, no one can argue with Republican logic – or the stubborn lack of it. The American people should not have to apologize to BP for its transgressions against us.
There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that BP’s incompetence has devastated the country. The Gulf oil spill now encompasses more than 3,500 square miles, an area that would stretch past Sarasota to Daytona Beach if it covered Florida. It is the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Barton apparently doesn’t care about the untold damage BP caused and believes the government has reacted too harshly.
Instead of protecting its citizens, through measures such as forcing BP to create a $20 billion damages fund, the U.S. government may find it easier to apologize to BP for giving them a hard time.
BP appears to care about the American people just as much as Barton.
“We care about the small people,” BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said June 16 after meeting with President Barack Obama.
But even small people can still make a stand for their livelihoods. Those in Washington should be looking out for the small people instead of the corporations.
Neil Manimala is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.