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Is Obama a patsy, or a thug?

Which is it?

It's almost too obvious to point out, but there's a glaringly comic contradiction at the heart of the various GOP messages we keep hearing about Obama's handling of the oil spill and his treatment of BP.

Is Obama BP's patsy, quietly stuffing his pockets with oil money (he's the largest recipient of BP campaign cash) while he focuses on politics, even as he meekly fails to halt the spill? Or is Obama seizing on the spill to shake down BP in a back alley behind the White House with his band of lead-pipe-wielding Chicago thugs?

We've heard versions of both these arguments from various Republicans. The GOP leadership's message is that Republicans support holding BP fully accountable and that Obama's criticism of Republicans is not legit because he's awash in more oil money than an oil-soaked pelican.

For instance, an NRSC spokesman is making this case in response to stepped-up Dem criticism of Sharron Angle's description of the BP escrow account as a "slush fund." The NRSC spox retorts that Obama has taken "more money from BP than any other politician in history," adding that it's "laughable and embarrassing that the DNC would attack any Republican on this issue."

Yet it's a simple fact that Angle, Rand Paul, and Joe Barton have shown extreme solicitiousness towards BP. Paul did decry Obama's boot on BP's neck as "unamerican." Barton did issue his apology. And Angle did seem to agree with a caller who likened the escrow fund to extortion. These things smack of alleging thuggery on Obama's part, and it's fair for Dems to say they reveal a protective streak towards the company.

In fairness to GOP leaders, they've largely refrained from this kind of thing, and have repeatedly supporting holding BP fully accountable. John Boehner supported lifting the Big Oil liability cap, and GOP leaders forced Barton to retract his BP apology. National GOPers are not defending Angle's latest.

Still, the fact is that their message keeps getting stepped on by high profile Senate candidates and lawmakers.

The effusions from Angle, Barton and company give Dems an opening to try to tar the whole GOP as BP's chief institutional defender in Washington. I have no idea whether this strategy will be effective or successfully take the focus off of Obama's handling of the spill, as Dems hope. But they aren't going to stop trying.

It's a bit like Whac-A-Mole: GOP leaders keep reiterating that BP must be fully held accountable and that Obama himself is awash in BP money. But then individual Republicans keep popping up and showing solicitiousness and pity towards BP for Obama's thuggish treatment of the put-upon company, earning themselves a quick smackdown before the next one pops up.

By Greg Sargent  |  July 9, 2010; 10:52 AM ET
Categories:  Climate change , House GOPers , Senate Republicans  
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Next: How do you sell Obama's policies in the state with highest unemployment?


"It's fair for Dems to say they reveal a protective streak towards the company."

The Dems can say whatever they want, but Barton's point was about protecting the judicial process.

Posted by: sbj3 | July 9, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

sbj -- how about Angle's agreement that it was extortion and her claim that we shouldn't do this to a private company?

How about Rand Paul's claim that keeping the boot on BP's neck is unamerican?

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 9, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

It's interesting too how this mirrors some of the critiques from the left.

I'd like to see more lead pipe wielding thuggery in the form of toughness on corporate welfare and tax breaks to people who don't need them and who wrecked the economy. Unfortunately there's been some patsy-esque behavior towards these groups.

The difference here is that the critique from the right is entirely self-serving. What are its principles? Corporations solve everything. From the left this is at least, for the most part, substantive and based on the complexity of the issues.

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 9, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

sbj, I can see the hook in your mouth all the way from NE IL.

If you believe Barton is about "judicial process" you are more gullible than I thought possible.

Do NOT respond to any emails from Nigeria regarding investments!!

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 9, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

sbj: "Barton's point was about protecting the judicial process."

In what way has the judicial process been harmed? Where is it written in the law that the courts must be consulted in every dispute? Aren't parties allowed to come to agreements outside of the judicial system? Isn't the purpose of the courts to be the arbitrator of last resort when agreements can't be reached without them?

Posted by: suekzoo1 | July 9, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

"Is Obama a patsy, or a thug?"

Well that's a trick question.

He's obviously BOTH. ;)

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 9, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Consistency has never been the Republican's strong suit. In fact inconsistency has always served them well.

Posted by: Frazil | July 9, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Depends on the issue, but I'd go with pastsy.

Posted by: obrier2 | July 9, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

@BG: "Do NOT respond to any emails from Nigeria regarding investments!!"

Have you seen this?

"Who is Babatope and why is he eating a loaf of bread while holding a dead fish on his head?"

Posted by: sbj3 | July 9, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Our President is a wimp. Look no further to recent meeting with Israel's PM.

Posted by: jhpbriton | July 9, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

@Greg re Angle and Rand:

I'd have to agree that their words were inartful, however, Barton's comments - when reprinted in full - were quite thoughtful and reasonable and really blown out of all proportion. I do not think his remarks should be considered in the same category as the two non-politicians.

Posted by: sbj3 | July 9, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

"It's fair for Dems to say they reveal a protective streak towards the company."

SBJ doesn't actually believe what he writes.

He is trying to goad us into taking the bait by changing the subject AWAY from the GOP and towards the generic process arguments.

Greg's sentence that I have re-posted is absolutely a fact and nothing SBJ does or says can change that.

Right SBJ?

The Dems have FULL LICENSE to expound on this issue as it hits directly to that core ideology of the Republican Party which governs their principles:


Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 9, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Is Obama a patsy or a thug?

Obama is a DLC corporatist.

This harms the ability of Democratic candidates to state that Americans have a plain choice between GOBPers who represent large corporatations and the tycoon class that controls them only, and Democrats who represent the common good.

If you examine the last 3 decades, you'll find that there has not been a problem of big government and excessive taxation. Quite the opposite, in fact. Our problems stem from the power of big corporations to capture the political and regulatory processes with their money. And they also control the supposedly liberal MSM, which should be more accurately called the corporate media (note Ceci Connolly's coverage of HCR, for instance).

Recall Dick Durbin: Banks "Frankly Own The Place."

DLC corporatists are part of the problem, not the solution. All Democrats have to run on is, "sure we're corrupt, but we're not nearly as bad as the GOBPers."

Which is true. However it is not a very compelling message for midterm elections, when a low turnout means the party with the more energized base is likely to prevail.

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | July 9, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Obama should give some of that campaign money he took from BP and help the people of Louisianna to build protective burms and clean up the oil spill.

Posted by: scrtaznmn | July 9, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse


I know we've read a lot about Sharron Angle. But THIS is just unbelievable. Now she's making a concerted effort to claim that Reid is attacking her BECAUSE SHE IS A WOMAN:

* Angle: Reid 'trying to hit the girl' *

GOP Senate nominee Sharron Angle claimed that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) aimed to “hit the girl” in the pair's competitive race for his Senate seat, using the phrase in two separate interviews on Wednesday.

"It is also the corruption in Washington, DC that is characterized by Harry Reid, lets-make-a-deal cronyism, politics as usual, and so we're saying dirty tricks Harry is up to his dirty tricks one more time and he’s just trying to hit the girl," Angle said on the Alan Stock Show.

"You know, isolate that Sharron Angle, marginalize her and then demonize her," she said in a separate appearance on the Heidi Harris Show. "And he has been doing that to me and what we need to do is say, 'you know Harry, it’s not going to do you any good to hit the girl.'"

Absolutely OUTRAGEOUS that she would stoop to such barbaric, patently false, and sexist rhetoric.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 9, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Clearly, the President is in the role of the Peoples' Advocate re his relationship with BP and this ongoing oil gusher at the bottom of the sea that spoils our environment and robs people of their livelihood and way of life. As an Advocate, in order to achieve the best advocacy, there are actions and manners of interaction, that appear to be one way or another at any given time during the process of advocacy. But the bottom line of advocacy is to intervene for those offended with negotiation and reason.

The President cannot cap this well; we are all reliant upon those who constructed and operate it. What he can do, he is doing, for now, and, I expect, there will be more done once the crisis is over. He can provide what resources are available to clean up, which is not going to be very effective anyway because the well is still gushing; he can extract compensation for immediate damages; he can negotiate for longer term damages; he can offer recommendations for conditions for this kind of drilling in the future, including safety measures that address risk factors; he can strengthen the oversight for compliance with the new rules; he can beg for development of the development of new energy resources and for the protection of our environment; and he can try to convince us all, even those whose livelihood is directly affected by this gusher crisis, that we cannot continue to drill as we have been to safeguard their incomes as they rant about the destruction of their lives and their livelihood because of this crisis, ie, that none of us can have our cake and eat it, too.

No matter how much he has received in political contributions, this is one President who will not sell his duties and his responsibilities to the people for a re-election. That is the best kind of Advocate to have, in any cause, and, especially in a cause like this one.

Of course, this crisis is proof positive that nothing was in place to mitigate something like this from happening. We can say that, perhaps, it should have been Priority #1 on his agenda; we can say that now, as if anyone, especially, the oil drillers, actually believed this could happen, since, according to them, "it never happened before" so they didn't have a Plan....but, faced with all of the Priority #1s, it is understandable to me that it took a back seat to the failing economy, and other issues, germaine to the viability of this country.

None of what this President has had to undertake has been "popular". Unfortunately for him, and for those of us who support him and believe in him, it has not been a time for fun and games and we have had little time to just enjoy and celebrate him. He has had to get into the down and dirty fast and deal with even more dirty characterizations that we have all endured with him. No solution has satisfied all of us and whoever believed that they would, is unrealistic.

Posted by: nana4 | July 9, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Is Obama a patsy, or a thug?


Neither. He is an inexperienced idiot.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | July 9, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

The real catering to big business comes through the subsidies, caps on liability etc. And BOTH of those are supported by Washington, both parties, but as applies to subsidies, mostly Dems. The entire 'green energy' program is more tax and subsidies, and BP has the biggest natural gas reserves there are. How NICE if government (us) would subsidize its use!

Rand Paul is against subsidies and against liability caps. He is merely FOR civility and not demonizing people. He has defended the President from being demonized on the spill just as he has defended BP, before the facts were in. He thinks the energy should go to fixing the problem, not pointing fingers, until what really happened is known, and the oil has stopped leaking into the gulf.

But I guess that is 'extreme'.

Posted by: sailingaway1 | July 9, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Greeting from central Vancouver Island (damned tropical right now, as it happens).

I've just had a chance to read the 25 page print out of Eric Alterman's Nation piece "Kabuki Democracy" that Greg linked previously.

If you folks read anything over the next few days, it ought to be this. It is as smart and as thorough an analysis of what Obama (and the rest of us) are up against and the sorts of actions and priorities that, unless we take to them with discipline and vigor, will almost surely lead to the reclaiming of power by those folks who will be more than happy to preside over a nation as paltry in human and civil rights, in equality and general prosperity as the sorts of nations which few of us ever imagined the US might become.

Read it.

Posted by: bernielatham | July 9, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Great comment Nana! I for one am so thankful that the American people have a strong Advocate In Chief. It was so evident that we did not during the Bush years. I also agree on his taking unpopular positions. I think everything he has done has been right on the money. I also second the comments of wbgonne (I think) from earlier when he said that we Dems might not love (or even LIKE) Rahm, but he is effective. I totally agree with that sentiment and I think the way the administration has shepherded difficult and complex legislation through the funny farm of Congress has been nothing short of brilliant. I say this, of course, as one who considers myself both a progressive idealist AND a practical pragmatist.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 9, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

With this headline, is Sargent simply a blogwhore looking for hits, or a true Fox wannabe?

Posted by: converse | July 9, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Two OT articles:

Egg Rules Could Prevent Thousands of Illnesses (yay for food safety!)

Biggest Defaulters on Mortgages Are the Rich (boo wealthy deadbeats!)

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 9, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

BO is a pretty face being used by a bunch of thugs,ie Pelousy, Rahmbo, Axelgrease Andy Stern and on and on!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | July 9, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

bernie, thanks for the head's up on the article, I'll give it a read for sure. Enjoy your vacay, sounds beautiful. I've never been to VI, but have wanted to go. What's not to love about the PNW.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 9, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

This is a picture perfect example of what is known as a "false dichotomous argument". When you argue an either or proposition they must be exhaustive and mutually exclusive or the entire premise is false. Since this meets neither of the above requirements it is a false agrgument. All conclusions based on false arguments are invalid. The entire article is invalid. Who taught these people?

Posted by: kchses1 | July 9, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"When you argue an either or proposition they must be exhaustive and mutually exclusive or the entire premise is false"

I think that's the idea, kchses.

BOTH propositions fail the simple test of logic.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 9, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse


Why doesn't Joe Barton, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, qualify as one of the "GOP leaders"?

Posted by: QuiteAlarmed | July 9, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

What I don't understand is why a long term politician from Colorado was appointed as Secretary of Interior when the problems with the Minerals Management Service --accepting prostitutes and other gifts paid by the oil industry -- happened in Colorado.

Ken Salazar's record as a 6 year Attorney General in Colorado shows, to me at least, that he has no commitment to abide by the law as a regulator. For instance, simply by searching Colorado's on-line Department of Insurance and AG state law databases anyone can verify that all government risksharing pools are required by CRS 24-10-115 to file annual claims handling policies and the state is required to annually review them yet Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency has never ever filed them despite selling large amounts of insurance in the state while Salazar was AG.

I don't understand why Colorado's U.S. Attorney Gaouette is still investigating the Denver Players records with no arrests two years after former U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said ""It's a substantial investigation and there's lots of investigating still to do."

Posted by: kay_sieverding | July 9, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

All, check out how Obama tried to sell his policies in the state with highest unemployment today:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 9, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Pres. Obama is still the world's #1 mystery man. As elections approach, it's a good time to spend time scoping his checkered past. Find out how deep his rabbit hole goes free with the Historyscoper at

Posted by: tlwinslow | July 9, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

"It's fair for Dems to say they reveal a protective streak towards the company."

The Dems can say whatever they want, but Barton's point was about protecting the judicial process.

Total BS..
BP could have said no, they folded because for once Obama did the right thing.

Posted by: newagent99 | July 9, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Are Republicans thugs, patsies, or idiots?

Yes. That's what the exchanges above demonstrate!

Posted by: jkrogman | July 9, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

What do the attacks by Republicans mean?

That our democracy is not living up to its principles.

Where did our racist Americans go?

They joined the Republican party.

Posted by: jkrogman | July 9, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Says Congressman Inglis (R-SC) who was denied renomination by racist Republican radicals:

Inglis, 50, who calls himself a Jack Kemp disciple because he has emphasized outreach to minorities as the late Republican congressman did, thinks racism is a part of the vitriol directed at President Barack Obama.

"I love the South. I'm a Southerner. But I can feel it," he said. (via DailyKos)

Posted by: jkrogman | July 9, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

From the AP:

Inglis' refusal to join in on the Obama-bashing of the far right played a big role in his landslide defeat on June 22. Leading up to the election, he frequently challenged voters who questioned the president's citizenship or patriotism. At one town hall meeting, he was jeered for saying that Beck, a Fox News Channel host, is a divisive fearmonger.

It is a great pity for the US that the Republican Party has been seized by its radical racists.

My father was a liberal Republican for much of his life. For Republicans who are aghast at the hate speech of the current Republican party, they have a choice.

Stand up for America and join the Democratic party.

Posted by: jkrogman | July 9, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse


Agreed re: Salazar. There was a devastating piece on him in Rolling Stone a month or so ago. Whatever else, it is plain that Salazar simply did not get MMS up to speed before the Gulf Oil Disaster. For a president who emphasizes responsibility and accountability, it is difficult to see why Salazar is still the Secretary.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 9, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

@kay_sieverding: I am just glad that Salazar is out of the senate. Either Bennett or Romanoff is better. Why couldn't he be ambassador to Chile or something? He is as bad at interior as he was in the senate, but he does less damage there.

Posted by: srw3 | July 9, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

"In fairness to GOP leaders, they've largely refrained from this kind of thing, and have repeatedly supporting holding BP fully accountable. John Boehner supported lifting the Big Oil liability cap"

Yes, Boehner proposed something, but not as legislation that will be enacted. In other words, Boehner was yapping away as usual and said something. IT will be significant, or rather meaningful, if he actually proposes legislation and then pushes his party to vote for it. Till that happens, Boehner is just whistling Dixie, even though he is not from there.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | July 9, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

If you have to pretend Obama doesn't hate whites and is really pro-American, then you say he is a patsy. If not, you can say he does these things intentionally to harm us.

Posted by: OldAtlantic | July 9, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Gee, I wonder why OldAtlantic has this hostility towards Obama.

Since his comment doesn't make any sense, we should look for some explanation. Racism?

Why should we follow his direction and invective and "pretend Obama doesn't hate whites"?

Posted by: jkrogman | July 9, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

More Republican lies:

"In fairness to GOP leaders, they've largely refrained from this kind of thing, and have repeatedly supporting holding BP fully accountable. John Boehner supported lifting the Big Oil liability cap".

This is blatantly a lie:
"In fairness to GOP leaders, they've largely refrained from this kind of thing, and have repeatedly supporting holding BP fully accountable. John Boehner supported lifting the Big Oil liability cap".

Business Insider (and many other source) report the exact opposite on June 10:

Boeher said that taxpayers should pay for BP's disaster.

Posted by: jkrogman | July 9, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Here's the truth re Boehner's lies:

( from a Business Insider article By Brian Beutler)

Congressional Democrats and the White House are toying with different ways to force BP to cover the costs of damages from the Gulf oil spill. But they face stiff opposition from industry...and it seems leading Republicans. In response to a question from TPMDC, House Minority Leader John Boehner said he believes taxpayers should help pick up the tab for the clean up.

"I think the people responsible in the oil spill--BP and the federal government--should take full responsibility for what's happening there," Boehner said at his weekly press conference this morning.

Boehner's statement followed comments last Friday by US Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue who said he opposes efforts to stick BP, a member of the Chamber, with the bill. "It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game," he said. "Everybody is going to contribute to this clean up. We are all going to have to do it. We are going to have to get the money
from the government and from the companies and we will figure out a way to do that."

So today I asked Boehner, "Do you agree with Tom Donohue of the Chamber that the government and taxpayers should pitch in to clean up the oil spill?" The shorter answer is yes.

Read more:

Posted by: jkrogman | July 9, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Well that's easy.

He's a thug to America's citizens and our allies. (Kind of an incompetent one though.)

He's a patsy for our enemies. (On this, he is not at all incompetent, I'll give him that.)

Wouldn't be the first time in history an elected official has been both.

Nice try, Sargent, but FAIL again.

Posted by: etpietro | July 9, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Just when you think the race to the bottom is almost over, here comes etpietro with his unique brand of mindless drivel.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | July 9, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

@OA: If you have to pretend Obama doesn't hate whites

Like his mom, grandma, granddad, and all of the relations on his mother's side of the family not to mention the vast majority of his advisors and staff and the congress he works with?

I don't know if this comment is more offensive than stupid or the other way around. Either way, OA your comments show hatred that has no basis in fact, unless you are channeling your inner Glen Beck of the "Obama has a deep seated hatred of white people" quote. That would make your comment derivative as well as hateful.

Posted by: srw3 | July 9, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Just when you think the race to the bottom is almost over, here comes etpietro with his unique brand of mindless drivel.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 |
I generally agree with your assessment about epietro koolkat_1960 but I'd disagree that this drivel is unique to epietro. Every tea bagger that has access to that "puter machiney" spews the same nonsense.

Posted by: Observer001 | July 9, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

He's a wimp and a thug. A communist and a Nazi. Teabaggers can force themselves to believe anything.

Posted by: merlallen1 | July 9, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

He switch-hits

Posted by: WinstonSmith9 | July 9, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

and Greg: Manichaean much?

Posted by: WinstonSmith9 | July 9, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

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