At a time there is so much to concern progressive Americans -including the possible passage of Trump’s give-to-the-rich tax bill, the threat of war with North Korea, the judiciary being packed with unqualified conservatives and Trump’s continued lies and delusions – there is a reason to celebrate.
Rep. Joe Barton of Texas announced he is retiring.
For 16 terms, since 1985, representing a conservative district outside Austin, Texas, Barton has consistently been among the most right-wing, obstinate, regressive, bombastic and rude members of Congress, earning the titles of worst, most corrupt and stupidest Congressman at various times.
He voted so often to help the oil and gas industry in every way possible, and against any environmental controls or actions, that he earned the nickname “Smokey Joe.”
It would be nice to report his votes to enrich the fossil fuel industry, to refute scientific evidence of climate change, against humanitarian aid for hurricane victims and the rest of his alt right postures are the reason he is suddenly retiring, only weeks after announcing he would run for his Congressional seat for the 17th time.
No, what got Barton to finally quit is that he has been exposed as a pervert, an adulterer and a sexual exhibitionist at a time the harassment of women by men in powerful positions has become a hot topic, and unacceptable.
In recent weeks there have been a number of press reports and leaks on the Internet about Barton sending nude selfies of his penis, lewd texts, pictures of him masturbating and pornographic videos of himself to women.
Buried lede: Anti-gay right-wing conservative Rep. Joe Barton tried to silence the woman he was having a secret sexual relationship with after she discovered he was also engaged in other secret sexual relationships. pic.twitter.com/PMlUcNuWTm
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) November 23, 2017
The dam on Barton’s bad behavior broke earlier this year when someone on Twitter posted a nude, crude porno pic of the rotund Congressman showing his privates to a former sex partner.
If Rep. Joe Barton pic teaches us anything, it's the importance of viewpoint and perspective in photographic composition. Effective immediately, a basic photog class is a prerequisite for any and all nude selfies. #JoeBarton pic.twitter.com/HIqMKZwyLa
— Chris D. (@DeatonNOLA) November 22, 2017
The final blow came earlier this week when the Ft, Worth Star-Telegram published sexual text messages that Barton sent to a Republican activity in Texas while he was still married.
In one text, Barton asked the woman if she was “wearing a tank top only…and no panties.”
Although Barton was the fifth-longest-serving House Republican in a body that gives priority to those with seniority, that was no longer enough. In recent days, even Texas Republican leaders have been urging Barton to give up his seat.
Randy Bellomy, chairman of the Republican party in Ellis County, said Barton had become an embarrassment, adding that “His lifestyle is inconsistent with Republican ideals, and he has brought disgrace…to the people of Texas and this great nation.”
Barton finally has to listen.
“There are enough people who lost faith in me,” Barton told the Dallas Morning News, “that it’s time to step aside.”
That makes it an appropriate moment to look back on a checkered career, his rude, bombastic and dictatorial manner and his wrong-headed votes on many, many issues.
Most infamously, Barton is a climate science denier. In the years he ran a key House committee on energy and commerce – when there were hearings on Global Warming – Barton loaded the list of speakers with climate change skeptics and refused to take those using solid scientific data to prove human effect the climate a fair hearing.
As proof that the climate crisis is a natural event which no legislation can impact, Barton cited the great flood described in the Christian bible. He also denied carbon dioxide is a harmful gas in any way.
— Rene Sugar (@renesugar) August 17, 2013
He told people who believe the earth is getting warmer to look for more shade.
In 2005, Barton started an investigation into two studies from 1998 and 1999 that demanded the authors explain how they were funded, suggesting they were wasting government money. The Washington Post called it a “witch hunt.”
@thenation remember TX Rep Smokey Joe Barton former chair of Energy Cmt & climate change denier extraordinaire told Gore his movie was wrong
— Queen Myrina (@QueenMyrina1) May 7, 2014
In 2007, former Vice President Al Gore, who has made the global climate crisis one of his biggest missions, testified before a committee Barton chaired. Barton rudely told Gore during a discussion of climate science, “You’re not just off a little, you’re totally wrong…Global warming science is uneven and evolving.”
“Wind is God’s way of balancing heat,” Barton said during a Congressional hearing, adding: “Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperatures to go up?”
In 2009, Barton also responded to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after passage of global warming legislation, that “You can’t regulate God.”
When President Obama worked out a deal in 2010 with British Petroleum after a huge oil spill off the Gulf Coast for a fund to help victims, Barton called it a “shakedown” and accused the president of being a blackmailer. Barton apologized to the COO of BP at a hearing shortly after.
Barton also has voted for repeal of the minimum wage, repeal of ObamaCare (which in comments he made clear he did not really understand), to legalize the hunting of hibernating bears, to allow mentally ill vets to won guns, to allow Internet providers to sell users personal data, to lift regulations on big banks put in place after the 2008 recession, and every other regressive bill put forward by Trump and the Republicans.
On top of that Barton has a history of using his position and insiders knowledge to profit from actions that help the oil and gas industry, earning him a 2010 designation from CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) as one of the corrupt members of Congress, and from Esquire which made him number one on a list of the worst members of Congress.
In 2008, Barton was caught lying on his government financial disclosure form about his interest in oil wells he bought from a natural gas producer, which earned him huge profits. There was more to it, including the use of deception to hide the real owners.
They also cited ethics investigations of violations for paying his wife, mother and daughter salaries out of his campaign money, which is against the law.
So join us as we say a very welcome farewell to Smokey Joe. Even though his blood red district will probably elect another conservative, getting rid of Barton is like seeing a crack of sunshine on a stormy winter day.
The storm may not be over but at least there is a reason to hope a better day is ahead.