Mark Bradley and I have been friends for 25 years, and we have worked together on more than a few Republican campaigns. He's the issues wonk; I'm the word guy. For years, Mark and I have been daring each other. I've been challenging him to put his name on a ballot — something I recommend all Americans do at least once in their lives (yes, I've had my turn) — while Mark has been daring me to change my political affiliation from Republican to Independent. I'm still waiting for him to run for something, but last Friday I made the leap from "R" to "I."
I don't remember which of the GOP congressional leadership's insipid, cowardly acts finally drove Mark from the party. For me, it was watching Rep. Joe Barton, R-TX, being thrown under the bus by House leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor during House Energy sub-committee hearings last week. They even threatened to strip Barton of his committee assignment. His crime? Telling the truth about the Obama extortion of a private company.
"I'm speaking now totally for myself…but I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," Barton told BP CEO Tony Hayward during the hearing. "I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown — in this case a twenty billion dollar shakedown — with the attorney general of the United States conducting a criminal investigation…participating in what amounts to a twenty billion dollar slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history, that's got no legal standing, and which sets what I think is a terrible precedent for the future.
"If I called you into my office…and said, 'If you put so many millions of dollars in a project in my congressional district,' I could go to jail — and should go to jail," Barton continued. "Now there is no question that BP owns this lease…BP made decisions that objective people think compromised safety…[and] BP is liable for the damages. But we have a due process system where we go through hearings and litigation to determine what those damages are and when those damages should be paid.
"So, I'm only speaking for myself…but I apologize," Barton concluded. "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 again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize."
I have no sympathy for BP. Eleven people died when the Deepwater Horizon exploded. There can be little doubt, whether due to negligence or pure bad luck, that BP is responsible not only for the original accident but also for the cleanup and the damages to coastal businesses. It was BP's rig pumping BP's oil for BP's profits. They took the risks for the profits, and there are penalties on the books for such calamities as this one.
But let us also never forget that this is not Venezuela and Barack Obama is not Hugo Chavez, much as he may thirst for that kind of power. To bring in BP's chairman and board members and order them to fork over $20 billion is exactly what Joe Barton called it: a shakedown. The President of the United States is tasked with enforcing the laws, not making up new ones as he goes along. We live in a constitutional republic, not a dictatorship nor an oligarchy. He has no authority to do what he has done. But then, that has rarely stopped him in the last year-and-a-half.
Obama's actions should outrage every American, but it should have the Republican congressional leadership absolutely up in arms. God bless Joe Barton and the handful of courageous House conservatives like Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota and Steve King of Iowa, who have defended him. Shame on the congressional cowards who are condemning him.
I believe passionately in the principles spelled out in the Republican platform, and I have been a registered Republican for most of my adult life, but until the GOP leadership stops tinkering around the edges and starts defending this nation against the Marxist tyranny of this president, I will remain a proud, independent conservative.