In attempting to close the book on his controversial statements about the scope of the Civil Rights Act, Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul invited another round of intrigue and critique on an entirely unrelated front.
The Tea Party favorite, in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday morning, accused the Obama administration of being too tough on BP -- the oil company directly responsible for the massive spill in the Gulf.
"What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.' I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business," he said. "I've heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it's part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it's always got to be someone's fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen."
From a sheer political standpoint, defending an oil company that has caused a massive amount of economic and environmental damage along America's coast seems like a tricky proposition -- even for a candidate from a landlocked state. (Though at least two Kentucky residents have sued the oil company over the current spill).
Even BP itself wouldn't go as far as Paul, declining to comment on its relationship with the Obama administration except to say, through spokesperson Mark Salt, that it continues "to work with the government on every aspect of the response."
Substantively, Paul seems to be arguing that sharper regulatory oversight, or legislation that raises BP's liability cap, are both redundant. BP, after all, has pledged to make full payments. And as for future spills, well, "accidents happen."
It's an element of libertarianism that may be ideologically pure but probably doesn't prove all that comforting for those affected by the spill -- or, for that matter, the national Republican Party. On Thursday, GOP officials largely skirted the issue of Paul's controversial interpretation of the Civil Rights Act. In perhaps the comment that came closest to candor, National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn (R-Tex.) insisted that "Rand Paul, like every new candidate, is going to get better."
Candidates, Cornyn added, in an interview with Bloomberg's Al Hunt, "make mistakes and they misspeak."
As for the oil spill remarks, Paul hasn't taken much, if any, money from the oil and gas industry during his run for the Senate (under $8,000 total, according to Center for Responsive Politics). But it should be noted that BP does have major operations in his state.
"Our aluminium business is a non-integrated producer and marketer of rolled aluminium products, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, US. Production facilities are located in Logan County, Kentucky, and are jointly owned with Novelis," reads the company's 2009 annual report. "The primary activity of our aluminium business is the supply of aluminium coil to the beverage can business, which it manufactures primarily from recycled aluminium."
With Reporting By Lucia Graves