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Tea Party using oil spill to advance agenda

By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
June 21, 2010

Tea Party centerfold Sarah Palin: Mining a tragedy (AP)

A tea party favorite running for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky says President Barack Obama is using the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to advance an energy tax.

While Democrats denounce BP for the spill, a Republican congressman from Texas accuses the White House of performing a $20 billion “shakedown” by pushing the company to create a compensation fund for spill victims. Rep. Joe Barton also apologizes to BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward at a Capitol hearing, although he is later pressured by GOP leaders to apologize for his apology.

In the two months since BP’s underwater well ruptured and started belching millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf, many conservatives have expressed fears that Obama and his allies will use the spill to make government bigger and intrude more into private enterprise.

Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul of Kentucky said Friday that he was disturbed by Obama’s promise to find out “whose ass to kick.”

“I’ll move past the obvious problem with the appropriateness of the comment to just say this: Look in the mirror Mr. President,” Paul said in a statement. “This crisis has been a case study in failure to lead, failure to act, and using a crisis to advance your own agenda rather than solve the problem.”

Erin Ryan, a tea party activist in Redding, Calif., said Barton was correct to use the word “shakedown.”

“Wow,” Ryan said. “Somebody finally said it out loud?”

Conservative talk show host Mark Williams, chairman of the California-based Tea Party Express, said the White House went too far by pressuring BP to create the fund while the Justice Department is conducting criminal and civil probes of the spill.

“I’m accustomed to mobsters behaving that way, I’m just not accustomed to it from the president, especially when he’s standing there with the attorney general threatening legal action,” Williams said. “Where I come from, they call it extortion.”

Even in the Gulf states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, where people’s daily lives are affected by beach closures, tar balls and the endangerment of the seafood and tourism industries, some say they’re not angry at BP.

“I think BP is being extremely generous and they should be commended for that. They’re going above and beyond, as far as I’m concerned,” said retired civil servant and tea party organizer Charlie Purchner of Long Beach, Miss., where booms are floating less than a mile offshore in case oil approaches.

Mississippi’s Republican governor, Haley Barbour, said he expects BP to pay all legitimate claims but he believes making the company set aside $5 billion a year over four years could hurt BP and, ultimately, the coastal residents and businesses who are supposed to be compensated for losses.

“If they take a huge amount of money and put it in an escrow account so they can’t use it to drill oil wells and produce revenue, are they going to be able to pay us?” Barbour said.

Donn Janes, an independent running for Congress on a tea party platform in Tennessee, said he considers the Obama administration to be “anti-oil,” but doesn’t think BP is being mistreated.

“I don’t see that as shakedown on big business,” Janes said. “BP is definitely not blameless in this — they’re the cause.”

In Oklahoma, where oil and natural gas drive the state’s economy, tea party favorite Randy Brogdon, a Republican candidate for governor, said federal involvement in the BP disaster is only making the situation worse.

“This is a perfect example of why government should never be involved in the private sector,” said Brogdon, a state senator campaigning on limited federal government. “Government is not the solution. It’s the problem. The more government tries to get in and regulate the free market, the worse things become.”

Many conservatives believe, like Paul, that Obama is using the oil spill to push a climate change bill they believe will raise the cost of energy and kill jobs.

“Why the hell are you bringing up cap and trade and increased carbon taxes in the same breath as dealing with this emergency?” asked Mark Falzon, who’s active in three New Jersey tea party groups and is state coordinator for the national Tea Party Patriots.

Seattle blogger and tea party activist Keli Carender said Obama should focus on controlling and cleaning up the oil spill by marshaling the National Guard and other federal resources to the Gulf Coast.

“Nobody’s asking him to close the hole. We understand he doesn’t have a secret weapon, like the presidential lock box that he could unleash,” Carender said. “But there are many things that he could do.”

Trent Humphries, co-founder of a tea party group in Tucson, Ariz., said Obama has spent too much time criticizing BP and not enough using the government’s vast resources to stop the leaking oil.

“Goodness knows they deserve it, but bashing BP is not a solution to this problem,” Humphries said.

Republicans and tea partiers aren’t alone in being wary about the federal response to the oil disaster. Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat and early Obama supporter, said he’s concerned the Gulf spill could prompt an overreaction from federal regulators. Wyoming is among the top states in natural gas and oil production and leads in coal production.

Underwater drilling is occurring at depths that exceed technological capabilities, Freudenthal said. “It’s one thing to drill at 300 feet, it’s quite another to drill at 5,000.”

Freudenthal said he doesn’t want the federal government to impose strict drilling regulations that would hurt Wyoming: “We’ve kind of got it figured out here on land.”

____

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Roger Alford in Frankfort, Ky.; Robin Hindery in Sacramento, Calif.; Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles; Erik Schelzig in Nashville, Tenn.; Geoff Mulvihill in Philadelphia; Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City; Curt Woodward in Olympia., Wash.; Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix; and Ben Neary, in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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10 Responses to Tea Party using oil spill to advance agenda

  1. Guardhouse lawyer

    June 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Said of the President:

    “This crisis has been a case study in failure to lead, failure to act, and using a crisis to advance your own agenda rather than solve the problem.”

    What sort of drugs is that guy taking? This crisis is a case study of corporate greed and of a whole host of willing politicians who, over the past 10 years, have given free rein to profits at the expense of the environment in exchange for campaign dollars.

    • paulb6

      June 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

      Your drugs are saying you don’t drive a car, the corporate greed that any company in the US has used in the last 10 years has been made to look like penneys compared to your potus who rams thru the health bill that the public did not want by 78%, and now wants cap & trade and illegals made into citizens. Who would you rather have, mr liberal Obama lover?

      • Guardhouse lawyer

        June 21, 2010 at 8:58 pm

        I keep asking:

        WHAT THE F**K do you want Obama to do? If you think he is not doing the right things, tell us what you would do in his place?

        There are something like 1500 vessels out there doing various types of cleanup. BP is hiring people to clean the s**t off the beaches. People are mobilizing to do whatever they can at the local level. But what can the Feds do?

        If you know so damned much tell us what you would do. I am sick and tired of people sitting there saying, “But there are many things that he could do.” WHAT things? If you know there are things that the government could be doing, don’t keep us in suspense, tell us what they are.

        And then there’s this:

        “Obama has spent too much time criticizing BP and not enough using the government’s vast resources to stop the leaking oil.”

        What resources? Tell us what Government resources are available but are not being used or are being under-utilized? What expertise does the Federal Government have that can put a plug in a hole a mile under the surface, particularly when there is oil and gas spewing out at 10000 psi?

        All of these people are so quick to criticize, but words don’t mean a damned thing if they don’t stop that leak and clean up the environment. Talk is cheap and cheap shots are clearly in season.

        All of you, ALL OF YOU! know that the US does not have any resources or expertize that can be used to stop that oil from leaking, but it is so damned easy to say it’s all the current Administration’s fault. And it’s so damned incorrect.

        • griff

          June 21, 2010 at 9:09 pm

          Aside from Obama’s failure to allow foreign assets to assist, on this rarest of occasions I’ll have to agree with you, GL. Although Obama does walk on water, he hasn’t quite gotten around to walking on the ocean floor yet. Maybe next election, yes?

          Of course, that argument could also be made for much of what the government does these days.

        • Almandine

          June 22, 2010 at 10:26 am

          I find it interesting that 2 Florida counties sent reps to the Coast Guard oil spill command center so that they could get both information and the help they needed to work on their own local oil spill fallout. What happened thereafter? A command center rep was dispatched to their locations to provide previously lacking communication and coordination. That sounds to me like not much gets done without becoming the “squeaky wheel”. Why are there not more such coordinators, given the breadth of the porblem and the number of so-called “fixers” the administration has put in place? Why is there not a better comand and control structure in place? Why are individual states, communities, and citizens being shunned in making a positive difference? Why are the many clean-up “solutions” that have been profferred been turned away untested?

          It all sounds much like the situation in Afghhanistan, as described by Gen. McChrystal in Rolling Stone Mag, where the big O has been – and is – woefully out of touch with the events on the ground and the implications of all the machinations of his top policy makers.

          It is true that the oil spill will likely continue until the relief wells have been put in service, but the attitude of our organizer-in-chief seems pretty cavalier to me, as if the widespread realization that nothing can be done to staunch the flow provides exactly the political cover he needs to escape responsibility for the leadership necessary to overcome the disaster. Fore!

          Securing $20B to keep people fed ain’t enough.

          • griff

            June 24, 2010 at 6:11 am

            Exactly why the states shouldn’t be reliant on the federal bureaucracy, which has been proven time and again to be tortoise-slow and woefully incompetent.

  2. griff

    June 21, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    And who doesn’t use the endless parade of crises to advance their agenda?

  3. Pondering It All

    June 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I suppose you could call it “advancing their own agenda”, in the same sense that somebody trying to saw the tree limb they are sitting on has an agenda…

    Every time I read a Tea Party candidate’s statement of solidarity with BP, I crack up!

  4. Amy

    June 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Guardhouse lawyer, that comment stuck out to me as well. This oil spill was the culmination of YEARS of failure to lead, not months Barton’s apology, while receiving less than a third from BP than BO, just goes to show whose allegiance lies where.

    The Republicans want Obama to do nothing while doing everything; it’s amazing.