Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared this past week that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar should have lost his job for saying that he was going to put the administration's boot on the neck of BP in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf.
"[I]t's very hard for the Obama White House to understand this -- you are not subjects," the perennial presidential candidate declared during a July 12 fundraising breakfast for Iowa Congressional candidate Brad Zaun. "The bureaucrats aren't supreme. They are supposed to be public servants, not public dictators. When the Secretary of the Interior said that they are going to put their boot on the neck of BP, I frankly thought he should be forced to resign that day because Americans [applause]. Any government official who believes they can put their boot on one neck believes they can put their boot on your neck, and that is fundamentally antithetical to the American model, and it starts with the Declaration of Independence."
The comments from Gingrich, which were passed to the Huffington Post by a Democratic source, are the latest in a lengthy line of GOP critiques of the administration's handling of the crisis in the Gulf. And, like the others, they seem likely to ignite further debate as to how willing the Republican Party has been to come to the defense of the oil giant.
Gingrich has aired similar criticism before. He insisted that the $20 billion escrow fund established for the benefit of spill victims was evidence that America had "degenerated into a Venezuelan style country." He also reamed Obama for golfing and fundraising while the spill was ongoing.
The call for Salazar's firing, however, represents a new, more aggressive attack from the former speaker. And it suggests that the pro-business (pro-BP) mentality that has been vocalized by several GOP figures is far more endemic than Republican leadership lets on. Recall that Kentucky Senate Republican candidate Rand Paul also criticized Salazar for his boot comment -- saying it was "un-American" -- only to moderate the remark after it was greeted by widespread criticism. And he didn't go so far as to call for Salazar's resignation.
"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,'" Paul said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America." "I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business."
UPDATE: DNC Press Secretary Hari Sevugan responds:
"Newt Gingrich's comments offer the latest glimpse into the torrid love affair Republicans have with big oil. Whether they are apologizing to BP or opposing energy reform that would ensure we no longer have to rely on reckless oil companies, Republicans have made it clear they are on the side of the oil industry that funds their campaigns, and not the middle class families they were elected to represent."