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Scarborough: "Why is Joe Barton being allowed to keep his job?"

"Why is Joe Barton being allowed to keep his job, when Joe Barton apologized to a corporation that is destroying my home town's economy, and is destroying the environment across the Gulf Coast?"

That's Joe Scarborough this morning, posing a very well-framed question to Eric Cantor. The ensuing verbal skirmish between the two men is the day's must-watch video:

Cantor put up a good fight, repeatedly claiming that Joe Barton is "not the issue," reiterating the Republican line that the real issue that matters is stopping the spill. When Cantor compared Barton's BP apology to gaffes issued by Joe Biden, Scarborough repeatedly pushed back hard, pointing out that Barton's apology came from prepared remarks.

And Scarborough wondered aloud in a mystified tone why Republicans weren't axing Barton:

"This hurts the Republican Party. This hurts the Republican brand. Joe Barton is the most powerful Republican on the Hill when it comes to energy policy, and that shows his mindset. Does it not?"

The question is, Why haven't Republicans removed him? As best as I can determine, Republicans believe there's no political percentage in doing so because Dems will continue attacking them as stooges for Big Oil no matter what they do. Republicans don't appear to think the Barton attack is as effective as, say, attacking them for taking Big Oil's campaign contributions. They think attacks featuring the unknown Barton will sound like so much Beltway white noise.

Republicans appear to think that any discussion of oil has a downside for Dems, because it allows Republicans to keep pointing out that Obama has failed to stop the spill. But judging by the pressure on Cantor, Scarborough, for one, appears worried that Barton is damaging to the GOP.

UPDATE, 12:31 p.m.: DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan responds:

We don't say this often, but Eric Cantor's right -- Joe Barton's not the issue. The issue is a broader Republican culture of not just apologizing to the oil industry, but defending them and their other corporate benefactors at every turn and at the expense of middle class families and small businesses. They proved that in their opposition to the President holding BP to account and in their opposition to the President's call for a new energy policy that ensures we are never again in a position where we are solely reliant on oil and oil companies.

And just as Republicans showed their allegiance in taking the side of oil companies in the wake of the BP disaster, they proved it taking the side of the insurance companies in the health reform debate and big Wall St banks in the financial reform debate. So, Eric Cantor is right -- Joe Barton's not the illness, he's a symptom.

By Greg Sargent  |  June 24, 2010; 11:49 AM ET
Categories:  Climate change , House Dems , House GOPers , Political media  
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Next: Sarah Palin is toxic

Comments

BP is LESS POPULAR than O.J. Simpson, less popular than Philip Morris and only SLIGHTLY more popular than Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat!

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/right-now/2010/06/why_republicans_needed_barton.html

"""[O]nly 6 percent have a favorable rating of BP. In the history of the NBC News/Journal poll, Saddam Hussein (3 percent), Fidel Castro (3 percent) and Yasser Arafat (4 percent) have had lower favorable scores, and O.J. Simpson (11 percent) and tobacco-maker Philip Morris (15 percent) have had higher ratings."""

As Dave puts it, this is why the GOP needs/wants Joe Barton to STHU!

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 24, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

This is how Scarborough fools people all the time. You know what he did in that clip in all reality? He confined all the damage to Joe Barton. Now when the GOP cans him the problem will be solved amirite? Except that Cantor himself is a part of the RSG which put out literally the same "shakedown" language the day before. Instead of Joe pointing it out check out how he instead makes it seem like Cantor totally disagrees with Barton but just can't say so. This is the coldest bait and switch in the game and it goes down on the regular on Morning Joe. Now joe gets to beat his chest about being "tough" on members of his own party while Cantor escapes having to answer for the RSG. So predictable...

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla | June 24, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

The whole Barton thing shows that words don't really matter when it comes to soundbite politics.

Barton:

"I'm speaking now for myself, I'm not speaking for anybody in the House of Representatives but myself, but I'm ashamed... There is no question that British Petroleum owns this lease. There is no question that... B.P. made decisions that objective people think compromise safety. There is no question that B.P. is liable for the damages.

"...So I'm only speaking for myself, I'm not speaking for anybody else, but I apologize..."

No matter how emphatically one says that the viewpoint expressed is only their own and does not reflect on the party as a whole there will be those who claim exactly the opposite.

But that's politics!

Posted by: sbj3 | June 24, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I read elsewhere earlier this week that if the Republicans retake the house, Barton is unlikely to chair Energy & Commerce because the Republicans rotate chairmanships. Anyone know if this is true? (I should have bookmarked the page, but didn't.)

Posted by: suekzoo1 | June 24, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

"Why haven't Republicans removed him?"

One reason might be that the statement Barton made was likely cleared by leadership, at least implicitly. It was only when the strategem of blaming Obama backfired that the GOP cared at all about Barton's comments. In other words, Barton WAS speaking for the GOP only the GOP now wants to deny it. Tough to remove a chairman for toeing the party line. Plus Big Oil might get mad.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I've often wondered the same thing about cable "news" personalities.

Posted by: CalD | June 24, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

So SBJ, he lies about the escrow fund being a "shakedown" and a "slush fund" but we're supposed to believe him when he (the highest ranking member of the GOP on energy) says that he speaks only for himself?

I have a handful of bridges to sell you, cheap.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 24, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

sgwhiteinfla: Good analysis. That Scarborough thing was a bag job all the way. Notice that Scarborough never asked Cantor about the substance of Barton's comments or, as you noted, the fact that this wasn't Barton off the reservation, it was GOP policy. Now Cantor is just a good guy taking the heat for one of his soldiers who "misspoke". Total BS.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

dkos:

Eric Cantor spent five minutes on MSNBC this morning explaining that in his view, Joe Barton isn't the issue. Cantor was right, but not in the way that he thinks.

The real issue isn't Joe Barton. It's the entire Republican Party, and the fact that in their view, the only thing Joe Barton did wrong was say out loud what they all believe in private: that President Obama acted like a "Chicago-style" thug in his "shakedown" of BP. I put those words in quotes because they come from a statement issued by the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of 100 congressional conservatives in which Eric Cantor is a leading member. The statement:

""However, in an administration that appears not to respect fundamental American principles, it is important to note that there is no legal authority for the President to compel a private company to set up or contribute to an escrow account.

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. These actions are emblematic of a politicization of our economy that has been borne out of this Administration’s drive for greater power and control.""

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/6/24/878953/-Eric-Cantor-is-right:-Joe-Barton-isnt-the-issue

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 24, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

BTW: RealWorld Rahm played right into the GOP's game by labeling Barton's statement a "gaffe." It was no gaffe; it was a written, planned policy position by Republicans. Barton was the mouthpiece.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Here is the reference I mentioned about about Barton not chairing from Dave weigel:

Rep. Joe Barton not in line to become energy chairman again

When Democrats demand that the Republican Party take away Rep. Joe Barton's (R-Tex.) ranking member status on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, they might be pushing on an open door. While Democrats prioritize seniority in assigning committee chairmanships -- Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Ca.) had to win an historic battle with Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) to get the top job on the committee -- Republicans rotate chairmanships every three terms. If the GOP wins the House in 2010, Barton's rotation will already have come and gone, so another member, such as Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) or Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), will be in line to run the committee.

Republicans can appeal for exceptions to this rule, and occasionally, they get them. But as of Monday, based on the conversations I've had with Republicans, there's no appetite for waiving the rule to protect Barton. It's possible that Barton, who is 60, could lead this committee again someday. But the odds of him leading it if the GOP wins in November are very, very slim. And that's one reason you're seeing Democrats try to move their focus from Barton to other Republicans, including members of the Republican Study Committee, who agreed with the "shakedown" part of his comments.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/right-now/2010/06/joe_barton_may_not_become_chai.html

Posted by: suekzoo1 | June 24, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

@sue

From Weigel: "Republicans rotate chairmanships every three terms. If the GOP wins the House in 2010, Barton's rotation will already have come and gone, so another member... will be in line to run the committee.

"... There's no appetite for waiving the rule to protect Barton. ... That's one reason you're seeing Democrats try to move their focus from Barton to other Republicans, including members of the Republican Study Committee, who agreed with the "shakedown" part of his comments."

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/right-now/2010/06/joe_barton_may_not_become_chai.html

Posted by: sbj3 | June 24, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Scar could have made a broader case. But nonetheless, Scar did repeatedly point out that these were prepared remarks, and that it reflects a mindset as opposed to a gaffe...

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 24, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

BTW: Supposedly street-smart Rahm played right int the GOP's hands by labeling Barton's statement a "gaffe." It was no gaffe; itis GOP policy. Now tell me again why Rahm is still COS. What value does he bring to Obama?

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, sbj. I found it as soon as "submit" was hit.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | June 24, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

But Greg: Scar focused only on Barton's mindset, not the GOP's mindset. Like Ethan says, the GOP is the issue; not Barton.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are, as usual, relying on their faithful low-information base and the sluggish, passivity of the democratic segment of the electorate--and they are probably right.

But, as usual, too, I'm also disappointed in "the media" (Joe Scarborough in this instance) for failing to ask the right questions or use the right language to clarify issues for audiences.

#1. Each time Cantor said "Barton is not the issue," someone should have piped up that neither HE nor the Republican party get to determine what the issue is--or, for that matter, how many issues there ARE. Scarborough was, as usual, ineffective for failing to point out Cantor's efforts to change the subject.

#2. Scarborough also kept saying that Barton's words were "in writing," which they were, but the real piece of information he should have included in his criticism what WHAT that writing was: guidelines from that 100+ group of Republicans (I can't recall the name of it) which specifically introduced the word "shakedown" into the discussion. As a result, if you ask people why Barton said "shakedown," they'll say because HE chose that word. The connection between the Republican congressional group, its missive and the use of that word has--yet again, "as usual"--not been made by the media.

The American media is far, far, far more of a problem that the American political scene because it is the former which enables the dishonest and disgusting tactics of the latter (both parties included there).

Posted by: pasc1 | June 24, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

WHY? Because he doesn't belong to you. HE belongs to the Big oil/Gas, cement and chemical industries of Ellis County, TX.

Posted by: dot_snowden | June 24, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

See the DNC's response, added above: It tracks with what some of you are saying in here.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 24, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I think a lot of you are missing the real point.

When Scarborough kept pressing Cantor on why The Republicans have not removed Barton from his position, Mr. Scarborough was actually being highly critical of the entire Republican Congressional Caucus.

He was not containing his criticism to Sorry Joe Barton. He was widening his criticism, to include the entire Republican Caucus for failing to demote Sorry Joe Barton.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 24, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

"Joe Barton's not the illness, he's a symptom"

Bullseye

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Liam, but Scarborough's issue was that the GOP wasn't punishing Barton for his "gaffe." The problem is that it wasn't a gaffe at all; it was GOP policy that bombed PR-wise because of the venue. No discussion of substance or content, which is just the way Republicans need it to be to sell their snake-oil.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see Joe Barton stay right where he is, at least until November.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | June 24, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Hari again?

Wow - his statement is breathtakingly disingenuous.

"The issue is a broader Republican culture of not just apologizing to the oil industry"

Only Barton apologized.

"But defending them and their other corporate benefactors at every turn and at the expense of middle class families and small businesses."

The RSG and Barton questioned the unprecedented manner in which the slush fund was obtained - that has nothing to do with favoring oil at the expense of the middle class.

"They proved that in their opposition to the President holding BP to account."

Huh?

"And in their opposition to the President's call for a new energy policy that ensures we are never again in a position where we are solely reliant on oil and oil companies."

We aren't in a position NOW where we are solely reliant on oil.

"And just as Republicans showed their allegiance in taking the side of oil companies in the wake of the BP disaster."

Huh?

What a load.

Posted by: sbj3 | June 24, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I'd like Barton to stay where he is - at least until November.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | June 24, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"slush fund"

Do you realize that you lose all credibility when you say that?

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"Do you realize that you lose all credibility when you say that?"

I had credibility?

I was using shorthand. Call it by its proper name then - what is that?

Posted by: sbj3 | June 24, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Wbgonne,

That is nit picking, and also highly inaccurate. Everyone knows Mr.Scarborough is a Republican. He was taking his own party to task, for keep Sorry Joe Barton on as the Poster Child of Republican Energy Policy.

Scarborough did not call it a gaffe. He said the exact opposite of that. He pointed out to Cantor, that the apology to BP was not a gaffe, but was instead a prepared opening remark, form Sorry Joe Barton.


Honestly; it is absurd to complain about Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman, not tearing Cantor to shreds, in a manner that a Partisan Democrat would have.

I give Mr. Scarborough a lot of credit for having called out the leadership of his own party, for their failure to demote Sorry Joe.

One other thing; that the Media, as usual, is letting the Right Wingers get away with.

Senator Graham brought it up, and now Cantor has;

The suggestion that VP Biden has not been fired for some of the things he has said;

Where the hell is the Media on this;

Joe Biden can not be fired by The President. He is not an appointed Official. He was voted into Office, and can only be removed by an Impeachment trial, and conviction.

When are the Media going to stop letting Republicans get away with false talking points, such as "the president will not fire Joe Biden".

Posted by: Liam-still | June 24, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

wbg: "Yeah, Liam, but Scarborough's issue was that the GOP wasn't punishing Barton for his "gaffe."

Not really. Scarborough pointed out plainly that the were prepared remarks, a couple different times, and referred to it as "a mindset."

Posted by: suekzoo1 | June 24, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Greg,

Can you post a live link to this. It is hilarious.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/24/opinion/24collins.html?hp=&pagewanted=print

Gail Collins: NY Times

Posts General McChrystal's Twitters, while he was hanging out with the Rolling Stone Reporter:

Here is an excerpt:

Get short, timely messages from Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Twitter:

DAY 1

In Paris with my Kabul posse — Bluto, Otter, Boon, Pinto, Flounder. Plus some newbie. Guys call him Scribbles.

Suite’s getting pretty crowded. Good thing I sleep standing up.

Three hours of shuteye and back to work. Have to read every report — check the details! Like I told Scribbles. The little fellow’s a fan. :)

DAY 2

Stuck going to dinner w/ some damned French minister. Gang riding me big. Bluto says they will make me eat snails. Hell of a funny guy, Bluto.

Restaurant — ultra-Gucci. No Bud Light Lime. Damn. Wish I was on foot patrol in Kandahar. :(

Minister yammering diplomatic bull. I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people. As if they could. LOL "


"

Posted by: Liam-still | June 24, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

O/T Juicy details re the Al Gore groping "scandal"

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/06/prosecutor_al_gore_was_focus_o.html

Posted by: sbj3 | June 24, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Liam: I see it more in line with your second point: Scarborough's failure to ask questions re: the Biden comparison. To me, that is just what Scar did re: Barton. He pretended to be giving Cantor a hard time all the while sweeping the matter aside as an intra-party personnel issue. It isn't. Scarborough should have asked just what Barton was apologizing for. For stating GOP policy? No such questions. I think the interview was a bag job and fully consistent with GOP interests. I don't mean to pick on Scarborough; he's no worse than most "infotainment" talking heads. I just don't see the reason for praising him here. Now if Scarborough had asked Cantor truly hard questions, say about the Republican Steering Committee, then I WOULD be praising him.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

"Scarborough pointed out plainly that the were prepared remarks, a couple different times, and referred to it as "a mindset.""

Sue:

A mindset for Barton. Not for the GOP. That is the issue.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

BROKEN: Judge Martin Feldman has refused to stay his order overturning the deep-water drilling moratorium pending appeal.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2424963420100624

When asked to comment on Marty Feldman's extensive oil-company stock holdings, Gene Wilder replied, "Damn your eyes!"

Posted by: jzap | June 24, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Joe Barton spoke for himself and only himself? No he spoke for the interests of the republican base. You know, the one that always says its for fiscal responsibility and American family values? He and the other friends of big oil are looking out for their bottom line as they should. Just don't go trying to say it's one man, because even the actions speak louder than this jerks words.

Posted by: valerie14 | June 24, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

All, check out these hilarious poll numbers about Sarah Palin:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/right-now/2010/06/can_sarah_palin_claim_credit_f.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 24, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Wbg,

Scarborough put Cantor on the spot, and did not let him get away with trying to pretend that Sorry Joe Barton was not worth discussing.

You are just looking for any reason to bash Scarborough. He is a Republican, so of course he is not going to interview with your mind set. That does not mean that he was trying to spin it for his own party. Far from it, he called out Cantor repeatedly.

Kudos to Mr.Scarborough for his honest stand.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 24, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

wbg, okay, gotcha now.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | June 24, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

"You are just looking for any reason to bash Scarborough."

Nope. I don't care about Scarborough one way or the other.

But here's how I see it. The RSC issues a report calling the BP escrow a slush fund resulting from a thuggish Obama shakedown. The next day Rep. Barton, Ranking GOP member of the House Energy Committee, apologizes to BP for Obama's thuggish shakedown. That doesn't go over well, PR-wise, so Barton issues an apology for the way his statement was "misconstrued." GOP says: end of story. A journalist interviews the GOP House Whip (Cantor) a couple of days later and asks Cantor why Barton hasn't been demoted. Cantor says Barton apologized. Journalist presses, saying that Barton's statement was bad for the GOP. Cantor mumbles. Journalist calls Cantor a good soldier. End of interview. End of story.

Nothing about the real issue: whether Barton's statement reflects GOP policy (which it does). Call me paranoid but I smell a bag job. (And just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean there isn't a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.)

Anywho, that's all I got on that item.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

sbj3 @ June 24, 2010 12:04 PM: Even assuming that Barton, who repeated what the Republican Study Group (a group of 115 Republican members of Congress) said, was speaking only for himself, the fact remains that the Republicans have kept him in a leadership position. A position from which he can affect legislation in favor of BP and the rest of that industry. That is where the Republicans dropped the ball, and proves that Barton was not really speaking just for himself.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | June 24, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

The link in Greg's comment above is to a Dave Weigel post that tangentially relates to the negative value of Sarah Palin's endorsements.

Greg probably meant to link to his own next post in which that subject is central:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/06/poll_majority_sees_palin_endor.html

Posted by: jzap | June 24, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

* Bush administration reversed Clinton requirement to model deepwater spills *

If you were developing a plan for responding to an oil spill caused by deepwater offshore drilling, it seems like you should be required to include a model in which you assume that the spill takes place below the surface in deepwater conditions, right?

Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, despite the seemingly obvious nature of that proposition, Federal regulators in the Bush administration eliminated that requirement. Instead of modeling deepwater spills in deepwater conditions, the Minerals Management Service -- the agency charged with regulating offshore drilling -- limited its models to surface spills, allowing the oil industry to develop response plans based on faulty data.

[...]

When that 2001 paper was written supporting the Clinton decision, the head of MMS was a Clinton-era holdover, Dr. Thomas Kitsos. By early 2002, the Bush administration had tapped a new head of MMS, a former GOP state legislator from Dick Cheney's home state of Wyoming named Rejane "Johnnie" Burton. Burton, you'll be shocked to learn, was in the energy industry and in her announcement touted the fact that she "began her career in the oil and gas industry." It was under her leadership that MMS began to rapidly deteriorate, failing to address even the most basic safety issues for new offshore drilling.

If the Bush administration hadn't reversed the Clinton decision requiring accurate models, companies involved in deepwater drilling would have been forced to develop a mitigation plan for undersea deepwater spills.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/6/24/878912/-Bush-administration-reversed-Clinton-requirement-to-model-deepwater-spills

Worth reading the whole article at dkos.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 24, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Ethan: Good cite. Also from the article:

"By early 2002, the Bush administration had tapped a new head of MMS, a former GOP state legislator from Dick Cheney's home state of Wyoming named Rejane "Johnnie" Burton. Burton, you'll be shocked to learn, was in the energy industry and in her announcement touted the fact that she "began her career in the oil and gas industry."

Know why Dick Cheney has gone to his undisclosed location since the BP Oil Disaster began? Two words. Cross. Examination.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 24, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Hari is absolutely correct and worth repeating.

""The issue is ..Republican culture of ... apologizing to the oil industry, ... defending them and their .. corporate benefactors at every turn ..at the expense of middle class families and small businesses. They proved that in their opposition to the President holding BP to account and in their opposition to the President's call for a new energy policy that ensures we are never again in a position where we are solely reliant on oil and oil companies.""

Republicans showed their allegiance in taking the side of oil companies in the wake of the BP disaster, ..taking the side of the insurance companies in the health reform debate and big Wall St banks in the financial reform debate.""

Posted by: thebobbob | June 24, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Hard to remove someone who stated what 115 (or 114 if he one of the 115) Republicans stated using the exact words. Are they going to strip the others of their positions - not likely.

Posted by: rlj1 | June 24, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans think Obama is failing us by not stopping the Gulf oil leak 5,000 feet below the surface. And just how would a President stop the oil from billowing out of this broken pipe? This is BP's pipe, BP's fault, and BP's responsibility.

It also may be the fault of federal regulations that aren't strong enough to have avoided this disaster. And we all know which political party most objects to regulations. This, and the economic crisis, is another case of Republicans reaping what they sowed.

Posted by: gparker1 | June 24, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

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