- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 20, 2010

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on Sunday portrayed Republicans as sympathetic to BP, saying that a House Republican’s controversial apology to the oil giant is emblematic of the party’s views.

Mr. Emanuel also dismissed Pentagon comments that a scheduled July 2011 withdraw of U.S. troops in Afghanistan might not be feasible - another attempt to reverse sagging poll numbers for President Obama and Democrats in advance of the November congressional elections.

Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican, on Thursday accused the administration of extortion after it secured a $20 billion compensation fund from BP for victims of the oil spill, calling the move a “shakedown.”

The lawmaker later apologized, but not before Democratic leaders painted the conservative Texan - and the Republican Party in general - as beholden to oil companies at the expense of the environment.

“That’s not a political gaffe, those are prepared remarks,” said Mr. Emanuel on the Sunday broadcast of ABC’s “This Week.”

“That is a philosophy. That is an approach to what they see. They see the aggrieved party here as BP, not the fishermen.”

Mr. Emanuel, while acknowledging that Mr. Barton’s comments were a “political gift” to Democrats, said that the congressman’s remarks are “dangerous for the American people,” because, if Republicans controlled the House, Mr. Barton would be chairman of the chamber’s powerful energy committee.

Mr. Emanuel also lumped Mr. Barton together with Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul of Kentucky, who recently called the administration’s treatment of BP “un-American.”

“They see that the government’s the problem,” Mr. Emanuel said. “I think what Joe Barton did is remind the American people, in case they forgot, this is how the Republicans would govern.”

However, top Republican leaders have been quick to distance themselves and the party from Mr. Barton, and every Republican lawmaker who appeared on Sunday’s political talk shows denounced Mr. Bartons words.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, whose state’s Gulf coastline has been hit by the spill, called Mr. Barton’s comments “dumb” and said they did not represent the party.

“He only spoke for himself, and then he tried to get away from that after there was pressure put on him” to apologize, said Mr. Shelby on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We don’t owe BP an apology. They owe the people of the Gulf an apology, the American people.”

Mr. Shelby added that Barton’s remarks are “not mainstream Republican thought.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, on Sunday called Democratic attempts to portray Republicans as caring more for oil companies than the environment as “nonsense.”

“I couldn’t disagree with Joe Barton more,” said Mr. McConnell on “Fox News Sunday.”

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