The other day, Rep. Joe Barton really put his foot in it:
Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its ranking Republican, used a congressional hearing on the spill to accuse Obama of engineering a "$20 billion shakedown" of the company.
Barton's reference was to an agreement struck Wednesday that requires BP to set up a $20 billion compensation fund for economic victims of the gusher. The fund will be managed independently.
"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House," Barton said in reference to the compensation fund.
As we've noted before, a gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth. Joe Biden, for example, is notorious for his truth-telling gaffes, everything from complimenting Obama's personal hygiene habits to his observation that crowded, enclosed spaces are best avoided when swine flu is rampant.
The fun thing about gaffes is watching everybody, gaffer included, writhe around trying to repudiate and excoriate the awkward statement which everyone knows to be factual. What, is it not true that "if you're in a confined aircraft and one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft" and you might catch the flu? Is Barack Obama in fact not "bright, articulate, and clean?"
If Barack Obama's White House demand that BP cough up $20 billion into an escrow fund to be distributed by a government-appointed czar as he sees best is not a shakedown, then what is it?
BP is guilty as sin. They drilled the well; they sprung an appalling leak; their actions have led to the most gargantuan mess in American history. It's only right that they pay all the costs even if it bankrupts them; Barack Obama, as President and Chief Executive Officer of the United States, is just enforcing what is right and just. Right?
Well, OJ Simpson was manifestly guilty. Why didn't the President simply decree that he be locked up?
For that matter, police catch criminals that are obviously guilty all the time. The higher reaches of cable TV channels are replete with video shows in which the cop pulls someone over and a bag of drugs visibly comes flying out the window. Drugs retrieved; guilt obvious. Why waste time and money with courts and lawyers; wouldn't it save a lot of bother just to summarily pack the drugheads off to the slammer?
In fact, given that Barack Obama was legitimately chosen by a majority of voting Americans, he is the very embodiment of governmental legitimacy. During his proper term in office, why do we worry so about things he is not supposed to be doing? He won; let him do whatever he thinks right, and answer for it in 2012. Doesn't this make sense?
Sure it does - if we were a monarchy, and Barack Obama were King. We are not a monarchy and he is not our king! The very purpose of our Constitutional form of government is to establish the highest authority as being the written law, not any individual person no matter how powerful.
It is not enough that every person with the brains that God gave geese knows OJ to be a murderer. He must be convicted in open court, by a jury of his peers, free from political influence - which he wasn't, and so he walked free until convicted in a different court of a different crime. The same is true of the lowliest druggie.
Why not of BP? Have we no judges available to consider lawsuits for damages?
If Barack Obama is to have the authority to decree whatever he sees fit, why do we have a Congress? Why do we have courts? Why bother to have laws at all? Does Barack Obama's America operate by Nixon's rule: "When the President does it, that means it is not illegal"?
The law defines BP's responsibility in the Gulf. The law says that BP's first obligation is to do whatever's necessary to stop the flow and clean up the mess, which it's doing.
Beyond that, the law says that there is a limit of $75 million on the economic damages which BP should be obliged to pay. Now that may be a stupid law, and perhaps it should be changed, but it is the law; by what right does Barack Obama override it? How dare he intrude into the proper domain of the courts?
In the real world, Obama can make life awfully miserable for BP and its executives in the usual manner of government shakedowns. He can send in inspectors to shut down operations, he can audit everything, and he can press criminal charges. It's perfectly rational that BP should prefer to cough up the dough than submit to that kind of roughhousing.
The question isn't can the President do it - obviously he can. The question is, should he? Is it right? In a nation supposedly of laws, it is not.
As the great Thomas Sowell wrote:
Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere.
And yet that is precisely what is happening with a $20 billion fund to be provided by BP to compensate people harmed by their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Barack Obama may not wear a crown on his head - yet - but he's clearly got one on his mind. The whole point of having a justice system is to protect everyone, innocent and guilty, popular and unpopular, loved and reviled, from the ebb and sway of politics and allowing justice to be done. Clearly, Obama doesn't want justice for BP, only cash.
BP should pay what is right as determined by a court in accordance with previously enacted law, and in no other way.