Q:And also, on another subject, what are your thoughts about Mr. Barton’s comments this morning?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, since you know I never say what’s on my mind — (laughter) — I probably shouldn’t comment on Mr. Barton’s comment.
Q Oh, come on.
Q Please –
Q Is it that bad?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: They’re encouraging me, what can I say? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Well, okay, you should –
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Look, look — (laughter.)
Q How big of a deal was it? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank God my mother wasn’t around. (Laughter.) Look, guys, I find it incredibly insensitive, incredibly out of touch. The reason why I got involved in politics, the reason why the President and I ran, the President got involved, is the one primary role for government is to protect people who are being taken advantage of; protect people who are in an extreme straits and not able to take care of the circumstances themselves.
I’ve been down in the bayou area off and on for the last 36 years. My daughter went down to Tulane — I was worried she was not going to come home. I think I know the area relatively well as an outsider. There’s an entire way of life in jeopardy. This is just not about jobs. This is just not about whether or not the waterfowl is polluted and you can’t — this is an entire way of life that’s in jeopardy. And to sit there and say that we’re being — in effect, as I understood the statement — that he was ashamed we’re being tough on an oil company who caused the problem — I mean, I — look, I just think that it’s pretty important to the people of Louisiana all the way through Florida and even in his home state of Texas that people disassociate themselves from that.
That’s not the role — there’s no shakedown. It’s insisting on responsible conduct and a responsible response to something they caused. And I find it outrageous to suggest that if, in fact, we insisted that BP demonstrate their preparedness, to put aside billions of dollars — in this case, $20 billion — to take care of the immediate needs of people who are drowning — these guys don’t have deep pockets. The guy who runs the local marina, the guy who has one shrimping boat, the guy who has one small business — he can’t afford to lose $10,000, $12,000, $15,000, $30,000 a month.
And so the thing the President did — and I was so proud of him — is when we had the meeting with BP — and they were cooperative in the meeting. They were cooperative. He said, look, what I want you to do is take care of those people now who, if they don’t get help now, are going to be under, gone. Gone.
And I might add, this fund is not a ceiling, and people can go back to it as many times as they can prove they have been damaged and they need help. And the cleanup costs are all BP’s costs, separate, apart and above that $20 billion.
What is wrong with that? How is that a shakedown? I mean, I just — I don’t know, I find it pretty astounding, the comment.