Jillian Bandes
Rep. Joe Barton called BP's $20 billion Gulf oil spillcompensation fund a "shakedown" during the House Energy and Commerce Committee's show trial of the company. Barton also apologized to BP for the harsh consequences the Obama administration had imposed on the company since the start of the disaster. In doing so, Barton incensed a number of his fellow Republicans — most importantly, top leadership. They demanded Barton retract his statement about the ordeal being a "shakedown," or lose his position as the ranking Member of the Committee.

Barton had initially joined Sarah Palin and Rep. Michelle Bachmann in his criticism of BP, and his apology has sparked a bit of a controversy. Barton put himself on the side of the oil company when he made his statements, which isn't what Republican leadership wanted going into the November elections. After all, the Obama administration is capitalizing on the disaster by using every opportunity to excoriate British Petroleum, and position himself as the sole savior of an oil-plagued marshland. That's a convenient, convincing narrative for voters.

Why shouldn't Republicans, then, use the same narrative, as top leadership is apparently suggesting? Why shouldn't Republicans position themselves as being against BP, and for the poor Gulf residents plagued by this disaster? Rush Limbaugh explains why, telling listeners to "keep a sharp eye on who gets the money."
We have a legal system to ensure that corporations are held accountable. We have free market aspects that ensure that in civil and criminal matters. We have a legal system to deal with it. Now the executive branch has just said the legislative branch, the judicial branch, neither matter. We're just going to come in and we are the law. Take over a private industry, the auto industry. If they want to, they can do it. I'm not defending BP here. I'm trying to defend the US Constitution, the American way of life, American exceptionalism, what it was that made this country great.

Jillian Bandes

Jillian Bandes is the National Political Reporter for Townhall.com