If more politicians were as forthright as Rep. Steven King (R-IA), Rush Limbaugh might have more friends in Congress these days. In fact, Republicans are so on-message with the idea that Joe Barton was wrong, and speaking for himself, when he apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward that they’re even willing to throw the conservative talk show host and noted GOP opinion-mover under the bus.
King says that’s mostly for show. Republicans, he suspects, are publicly distancing themselves from Tony Haward apologist Joe Barton while privately acknowledging that he was right to accuse the White House of shaking down BP.
“I think there will be a few that, like me, will agree with JB’s words, and his description, and there will be a lot of others that privately agree with what he said,” King told TPMDC yesterday.
Last night, TPMDC asked three separate House Republicans how they’d respond to Limbaugh, who’s aggressively taken Barton’s side in the BP flap. They all dismissed the conservative talk-show host out of hand.
NRCC Chair Pete Sessions brushed aside Limbaugh’s and King’s comments. “Those talk show hosts have hours to dissect it. I don’t,” Sessions said. “I would have said things differently [than Barton].”
What about Steve King? “I think everybody’s entitled to their opinion, just like Rush Limbaugh,” Sessions said.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was more aggressive.
“I don’t listen to Rush. He still thinks we [members of Congress] don’t pay into Social Security,” Issa said. “I don’t listen to talk radio. I don’t have the time.”
“The reality is that Mr. Limbaugh, whether you like him or not, has nothing to do with this oil well being plugged or not. Has nothing to do with the skimmers being allowed or not. Has nothing to do with the lack of action,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Limbaugh’s home state of Florida, whose district borders the Gulf. “…that’s the issue, not what Rush Limbaugh has to say.”
If Limbaugh’s feeling lonely, though, he has a friend in Steve King.
“I think that the White House didn’t have the authority to put the squeeze on BP,” King added. “I think when Joe Barton used the word ‘shakedown’ I think it’s accurate. When you get to the part of the whole series of apologies that have taken place I’d have rather that we’d have just let Joe Barton’s words stands. I agree with most of what he said. But when you get down to the point about using the word ‘apology’ it gets a little harder to agree with that.”
I told King that Barton himself had apologized for using the term “shakedown.”
“I didn’t know he did that,” King said, “but I thought he was accurate when he said it.”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.