After a recent meeting with Boehner and Cantor, Joe Barton took back his apology to BP and his accusation that Obama had shaken them down for $20 billion. The transcript of the conversation was just released**, and I print it here without alteration.
Boehner. Joe, you know why I’ve asked you to meet with Eric and me. We want you to apologize to the people of the Gulf coast for apologizing to BP.
Barton. No, I don’t understand. Yesterday, both of you accused Obama of shaking down BP by asking them for $20 billion. You told me it was perfectly OK for me to apologize to BP for Obama’s actions. You even encouraged me to do it. Why is today different from yesterday?
Cantor. Joe, you missed the most important part of the message. We said, “Apologize in private.” The point was to make BP believe that you cared more about them than you care about the citizens of the Gulf Coast.
Barton. But I do care more about BP than the citizens of the Gulf Coast.
Cantor. And so do we, but that’s not the point. We also like winning Congressional seats in those states. You can believe what you want, as long as you vote and talk the way that we want. And we want you to apologize to the Gulf Coast for apologizing to BP.
Barton. I hate apologizing. If I had to apologize every time I said something stupid or offensive, I’d spend all day every day apologizing. Besides that, I’m no good at it. What if I refuse to apologize?
Boehner. You know how you are the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee. It would be a shame if you lost that position. You might no longer be the top recipient of donations from oil companies in the Congress, and you wouldn’t have nearly as much political power.
Barton. This sounds like you are “shaking me down.”
Boehner. We never shake anyone down. That’s for bad people or Democrats. But I repeat myself. (Audible laugh from all three). We just reason with people, and occasionally make them offers that they can’t refuse. That’s why Republicans almost always vote the way we want. And that’s why businesses give us so much money. We’re very persuasive.
Cantor. Anyway, it’s easy to apologize. All you need to do is to apologize that people are too stupid to understand what you said. It helps if you say it in a way that is confusing.
Barton. How about if I said this? “And if anything I said this morning has been misconstrued to the opposite effect, I want to apologize for that misconstrued misconstruction.”
Cantor. It’s a start, but I’d get some help from a speech writer. After all, you don’t want to sound like a complete idiot.
** For international readers, it is worth noting that this is entirely made up, with the exception of Barton’s last quote, which is accurate.