The way the Republicans reacted to Congressman Joe Barton's "apology" to BP at the hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee reminds you of what happens when a group of teenagers find out that a member of their "secret club" has revealed the secret handshake to the school principal.
Barton had the audacity to say out loud a secret that everyone else in the Republican fraternity knows very well -- that the Republicans are a Party of, by and for Big Oil. From Cheney's secret oil executive populated "Energy Taskforce" to "drill baby drill" -- and for decades before - the oil industry has held the Republican puppet strings.
When the Republicans controlled Congress and Joe Barton chaired the Energy and Commerce Committee, the CEO of BP himself might has well have sat in the big chair at the head of the hearing room. As the Ranking Republican on Energy and Commerce, Barton would be likely to reprise his chairmanship of Energy and Commerce were the Republicans to retake control of the House. That would make the apologist-in-chief for BP the guy in the House who "oversees" the oil industry.
Since Barton came to Congress in 1984, he has received $1.4 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry as a whole -- $27,350 of it from people and political committees associated with BP. Barton has received $100,000 in contributions from the oil industry this cycle alone.
Far from being an outlier in the Republican caucus, Barton simply articulated the point of view that most of the caucus shares. Just a day before Barton labeled the $20 billion escrow fund -- negotiated by President Obama to guarantee that money is available to cover the losses caused by their pollution of the Gulf -- "a shakedown scheme," the Republican Study Group, representing 112 Republican House Members said:
"BP's reported willingness to go along with the White House's new fund suggests that the Obama Administration is hard at work exerting its brand of Chicago-style shakedown politics."
In their statement distancing themselves from Barton after his outburst, House Republican Leader John Boehner and his team referred to the spill as a "natural disaster." Of course oil is a product of "nature," but the fact that it exploded into the Gulf was caused by the drilling bit deployed by BP and its contractors -- not by some "act of God."
Since Obama was elected, the Republicans, with very few exceptions, have been steadfast against passage of a clean energy bill that would begin to wean America from its addiction to oil. They have stood firmly behind the oil industry's desire to force the world to depend on its increasingly scarce and expensive fossil fuels.
Then there is Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski who recently fought tooth and nail in a failed attempt to get the Senate to prevent the EPA from enforcing pollution standards against green house gases. Had it passed it would have represented another bonanza for the oil industry. She was joined by all of her Republican Senate colleagues.
And Republican fealty to the oil barons goes back decades.
John Weaver, a former strategist for John McCain, is quoted in the Friday's Washington Post as saying that the oil industry "has deep pockets, and they have a long history of supporting Republicans.... Like any kind of addiction, it's a terribly difficult thing to break."
Well, like most addicts, the Republicans would much rather indulge their compulsion in private. Barton's blurted apology at Thursday's hearing shined the light on the Republican's oil habit. It was as if someone suddenly turned on the lights in the back room of a darkened "crack house." There were all those Republicans rubbing their eyes and trying to get a steady footing. That includes the Republican "oil queen" herself --Sarah Palin -- who blurted out on Twitter - with almost drug-induced incoherence:
"Extreme Greenies: see now why we push 'drill, baby, drill' of known reserves & promising finds in safe onshore places like ANWR (the Alaskan Natural Wildlife Refuge")? Now do you get it?"
Of course -- that's it -- the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon had nothing to do with the fact that our dependence on oil drives companies to drill in ever more remote and difficult places - at ever greater cost and risk. It has nothing to do with the fact that BP would rather cut corners to make even more money than to prepare for the consequences of their recklessness. It has nothing to do with the lack of regulation engineered by Republicans who think that big corporations can do no wrong. The Deepwater Horizon exploded because we aren't drilling for oil in ANWR. Right, Sarah.
If Sarah Palin believes that, then she must be addicted to something more mind-altering than oil money.
Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.
Follow Robert Creamer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rbcreamer