On the offensive — and in campaign mode

ON THE OFFENSIVE — AND IN CAMPAIGN MODE…. Shortly after Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) half-hearted walk-back — he wished to “apologize for that misconstruction” — White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs turned to Twitter to say, “MICONSTRUCTED?!” Less than a half-hour later, Gibbs tweeted again: “Who would the GOP put in charge of overseeing the energy industry & Big Oil if they won control of Congress? Yup, u guessed it – JOE BARTON.”

The mockery is a reminder that today was the first day in a while that we’re seeing the White House in a very different posture — on the offensive. The president and his team had an exceptionally good day yesterday, when Obama secured $20 billion for victims of the BP oil spill, and Barton’s public apology to BP’s Tony Hayward this morning has helped keep a spring in White House’s officials’ steps.

Note that Barton’s groveling remarks to BP’s chief executive started around 11:01 a.m. (ET). The White House statement calling Barton’s apology “shameful” came at 47 minutes later. That’s not just quick; that’s campaign-mode speed.

The Obama team seems to see this week as a chance to change the larger political argument about the Gulf crisis, and Barton and his GOP cohorts are making that easier.

“It’s hard to tell what planet these people live on,” Gibbs said, when asked about the litany of attacks on the White House’s treatment of BP coming from multiple Republicans.

“It’s hard to understand their viewpoint but it may explain their votes on financial regulation,” he continued. “It explains how they view whether or not the banks ought to be able to write their own rules and play the game the way they played it several years ago that caused our economy to crash.”

Gibbs ripped BP for doing untold damage to our economy, environment, and “way of life,” and added that if you listen to Barton, Michele Bachmann and other Republicans, “you’d think somehow BP was a handkerchief, a crying shoulder.”

Notice, it’s not just Barton’s apology that’s drawing the focus; it’s building on that to make the case that Republicans are the Party of BP.