Opinion Brief

Will Barton's BP apology hurt the GOP in November?

Rep. Joe Barton's "political gift" to Obama keeps on giving — and now Dems are suggesting they want to capitalize on it in the midterm elections

Embattled Democrats see electoral opportunity in Rep. Joe Barton's public apology to BP. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel came out over the weekend and said that Barton's apology — the Texas Republican said the $20 billion victims fund set up with BP money amounted to a goverment "shakedown" — wasn't a "gaffe" but an outshoot of a broader Republican "philosophy" in which "the aggrieved party here is BP, not the fishermen." He also suggested the remark might influence voters in November. Will Barton's "political gift" to Democrats last that long? (Watch The Week's Sunday Talk Show Briefing about Barton's "political gift")

This is like Christmas for the Democrats: Barton's "wildly mistaken decision to defend the world's most unpopular oil company from a fictitious strong-arm assault" by Obama might just save Democrats from big losses this year, says David Broder in The Washington Post. His "foolish" unforced error lets them argue that all Republicans are "in bed" with Big Oil. At this rate, the GOP might want to "hand out muzzles.""Barton's BP comments highlight GOP's propensity for gaffes"

Republicans can win this argument: If the Republican Party "grows a spine," says Dan Riehl in Riehl World View, Barton's politically "imprudent" but substantively meritorious criticism won't resonate outside of the Democrats' "far Left base." The failures in the Gulf belong to "tree hugging" Democrats who won't allow drilling in safer areas, not "resistant Republicans, or a lack of regulations.""Targeting Barton won't help Obama, if the GOP grows a spine"

The GOP will do well, despite itself: The reason Barton's "bit of priceless buffoonery" stings the GOP so badly, says John Farmer in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, is that while "both parties have been on the take" from Big Oil for decades, the "modern GOP... has taken special pains to coddle the industry." The "odds are Republicans will still win pretty big this November," but "Barton’s boo-boo" isn't making "the GOP's road back any easier.""Republicans can be their own worst enemies"

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