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Joe Barton: Who is defending him?

Rep. Joe Barton apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward Thursday for what he termed a '$20 billion shakedown' of BP by the White House. The Texan was forced to recant, but he has his defenders.

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The real victim was not even BP, writes Mr. Carroll. “It was the rule of law.”

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At National Review Online, Daniel Foster says that Barton’s choice of words was awful, but that on substance, he was right. Establishing a fund over and above an existing claims process is, if not illegal, “then at least extra-legal,” writes Mr. Foster.

And prior to Thursday’s hearing, the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a group of conservative GOP members, used “shakedown” to describe the White House escrow-establishment process.

The president has no legal authority to compel a private firm to set up an escrow account, noted RSC chairman Rep. Tom Price (R) of Georgia in a June 16 statement.

“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,” wrote Representative Price.

As for the White House, officials there have been treating Barton’s comments as a gift that keeps on giving. Administration officials continue to denounce the Texas lawmaker’s apology to BP despite the fact that he has in effect taken it back.

“What we saw here was an example of what some folks in the Republican Party truly believe, which ... was BP was the wronged party,” said deputy press secretary Bill Burton on Friday. “And this is just not what the president thinks.”

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