Congressman Joe Barton’s apology to BP was a political gift for Democrats, one the president will use in coming weeks to contrast his governing vision with Republicans. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel announced this on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.
Barton publicly apologized to BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward for the $20 billion escrow fund negotiated in conjunction with the White House last week. The Texas congressman described the action as a “shakedown.” According to Emanuel, this was not a political gaffe. “That is a philosophy. That is an approach to what they see. They see the aggrieved party here as BP, not the fishermen.”
Emanuel described Barton and Rand Paul, recently nominated to fill Kentucky’s open Senate seat, as reflective of the Republican Party’s governing philosophy. “They think that the government’s the problem,” he complained. “And I think what Joe Barton did was remind the American people, in case they forgot, how the Republicans would govern.” Indeed, it would be “dangerous” for the GOP to hold a lock on power in Washington, Emanuel warned.
The chief of staff’s remarks are a far cry from the repeated calls to bipartisanship espoused by the White House since Barack Obama took office. The administration’s schizophrenia with regards to the opposition — once urging them to work together only to accuse them of being in bed with big business next — now appears to be the result of a split within the White House staff between Emanuel and the more idealistic inner circle who one campaigned with the president. Reportedly, Emanuel will leave his job after the midterm elections of this fall, frustrated with the lack of pragmatism on the part of the rest of Obama’s advisors.
Emanuel’s resignation has been rumored for months. Senior Democrats complained about his aggressive political tactics while the administration was trying to pass health-care reform. He singlehandedly brought controversy to the administration when The Wall Street Journal reported last January that Emanuel had scolded liberal activists for wanting to run television ads against moderate Democrats wavering on health care. He called them “fucking retards” which prompted many, Sarah Palin among them, to demand his resignation. The White House won’t comment but Emanuel’s antagonists, both left and right, may soon get they wish for.