The GOP has forgiven Joe Barton, but here are six reasons not to forget him
Rep. Joe Barton’s latest apology paid off big-time. Wednesday, the Texas Republican groveled before House GOP leaders behind closed doors, telling them that his impassioned act of contrition to BP CEO Tony Hayward last week was a mistake. All was forgiven and Sorry Joe was allowed to keep his post as lead Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Tweet revenge: But you had to wonder just how contrite Barton really was when later in the morning he tweeted a link to an American Spectator article by Peter Hannaford titled “Joe Barton Was Right.” The tweet didn’t stay up long, and as The Washington Post‘s David Weigel explained, Barton spokesman Sean Brown claimed responsibility. So far Barton hasn’t apologized either for the tweet going up or coming down.
Liberal thugs run amok: One reason House Republicans were able to find it in their hearts to forgive Barton is that privately many of them agree with him. Thomas Frank, writing in The Wall Street Journal, lays out the GOP philosophy of government regulation as “shakedown”:
According to this way of looking at things, regulation is really a form of extortion, a political maneuver to which liberals are partial not because regulation works — heavens no! — but because the threat of regulation allows liberals to demand payoffs from the affected businesses in exchange for walking back their grand, public-minded ideas. Campaign contributions are the tribute exacted by Washington in exchange for allowing business to do its innocent thing.
But even if some people are willing to forgive Barton, there are plenty of reasons not to forget him. Here are six:
1. Take the money and run: No one in the House has benefitted more from the largesse of oil and gas companies — Barton has received almost $1.5 million since 1989. In the current election cycle, electric utilities and oil and gas firms have already tossed more than $250,000 his way.
2. And you’re totally crazy: At a 2007 House hearing, Barton explained to Al Gore that global warming increased greenhouse gases, not the other way around. He added: “You’re not just a little off. You’re totally wrong.” At a hearing in 2009, Barton dismissed Gore’s warnings about climate change as “alarmist predictions.” See Barton in action:
3. So there are stupid questions: At a hearing last year, Barton, with six seconds remaining in his questioning time, asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu: “How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?” While Chu rushed into an explanation on plate tectonics, Barton suggested that it must have been a lot warmer in Alaska in times past. He later tweeted that he had “baffled the Energy Sec.” Watch the exchange:
4. Breaking wind: At a hearing last year, as Time‘s Jay Newton-Small and Katy Steinmetz remind us, Barton suggested that wind is a “finite resource” and that trying to harness it could “slow the winds down” and in turn “cause the temperature to go up.”
5. First, we kill all the turtlenecks: At another hearing a few weeks later, he argued that the best way to deal with global warming is to adapt to it, like the Brits and Vikings did when the Ice Age came along. Here, thanks to Aaron Wiener, writing for the Washington Independent, is more pure Joe.
I think that it’s inevitable that humanity will adapt to global warming. I also believe the longer we postpone finding ways to do it successfully, the more expensive and unpalatable the adjustment will become. Adaptation to shifts in temperature is not that difficult. What will be difficult is the adaptation to rampant unemployment — enormous, spontaneous, and avoidable changes to our economy — if we adopt such a reckless policy as cap-and-tax or cap-and-trade.
6. Funnel of love: Barton is the person behind a political action committee called the Texas Freedom Fund that funnels campaign contributions from oil execs and lobbyists to candidates who’d rather not be seen taking money from Big Oil. One recent recipient of Texas Freedom cash is a Republican named Tim Griffin, who’s running for Congress in Arkansas. Howie Klein, writing for The Huffington Post, provides some background:
Most of us became familiar with Griffin around the time of the 2000 election when he worked as an opposition research director for Bush. His job, to smear Al Gore, was covered in Peter Marshall’s BBC documentary Digging the Dirt, and viewers got the impression, which over the years has proven correct, that he is one of the slimiest and least trustworthy rogues to mount the political stage in our lifetime.
Hey, look over here! Democrats, for their part, will be working hard to ensure that Barton and his choice remarks aren’t forgotten:
Get Grist in your inbox