The Sciences

Joe Barton apologizes for your misconstrusion

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJun 18, 2010 11:33 PM


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I know I've been picking on Texas a lot lately, but c'mon guys, you keep electing people like this!

Joe Barton (R-TX) is the Representative for a landlocked (i.e., non-Gulf shore) district of Texas in the U.S. Congress, and happens to be the biggest recipient in that august body of money from the oil and gas industry ($1.7 million over the past 20 years). I'm sure that had no impact at all on his wanting to make the cringe-worthingly embarrassing apology to BP exec Tony Hayward when Hayward was getting his head handed to him by every other member of Congress yesterday. Barton said the $20 billion restitution fund was a White House "shakedown" and "a tragedy of the first proportion", and then clearly apologized to Hayward for it. It's hard to imagine a political low-point in this entire, vast environmental disaster, but I think Barton pretty much nailed it. In the most brain-asplodey way possible. But wait! There's less! Barton, after getting eviscerated online and in the media, decided to apologize again. And for what did he apologize? Basically, he apologized because we -- the public and the media -- misunderstood what he said.

"I want to be absolutely clear that I think BP is responsible for this accident, should be held responsible and should in every way do everything possible to make good on the consequences that have resulted from this accident," he said. "And if anything I said this morning has been misconstrued to the opposite effect I want to apologize for that misconstrued misconstruction."

[Emphasis mine] <sarcasm>Certainly, there was no way any rational person could possibly interpret what he said as Barton thinking BP wasn't responsible for the accident. I'm glad he made that clear. And I'm glad he apologizes for the entire planet having misconstrued what he said.</sarcasm> Sigh. Nothing makes insincerity more glaringly obvious than when someone says "I'm sorry you misunderstood me."* Politicians, let me help you out here: that's not an apology. In fact, it's the exact opposite of an apology. An apology, see, is when you say you're sorry for something you did. In a very real way, it's taking responsibility for that action. When you phrase it like Barton did, it's actually a shifting of blame, and therefore you are not taking responsibility for that action. I hope this helps y'all come re-election time. This has been a Public Service Announcement, brought to you by reality.

Tip o' the top hat to Fark.

^*To Barton's (minuscule) credit, he also said, "I regret the impact that my statement this morning implied that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident." He used the word "implied" -- which points back to his own words (had he said "inferred", that would again put the blame on us). However, saying he "regrets the impact" once again points to us, not him. So even here I'm not willing to cut him a whole lot of slack.

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