Obama Takes Godfather Approach to BP

Josh Marshall passes along a note from a reader hailing President Obama’s success in coercing BP to put up $20 billion that it didn’t have to:

The 20 billion fund should be viewed as a huge accomplishment for Obama. He had no actual power to compel that aside from moral suasion and the threat of having an unhappy president. Legally, BP could have just waited for the lawsuits and drawn the whole thing out for years. As a lawyer, I find it a unique and mind-boggling accomplishment.

It reminds me a little of something that happened during the Hurrican Rita evacuation. It was going to slowly and endangering the evacuees. Houston Mayor Bill White got on the phone to the Texas Department of Highways. He said, “make all the lanes of I.H. 45 one way north for the first hundred miles from the coast–the southbound traffic can find another route.” He had no power to order that. But the officials just complied. He acted like a man in charge.

So, Obama comes along, says “set up a 20 billion fund, have an independent administrator in charge, and start paying damages.” He had no power to order that. But BP said, “yes, sir.” And it was done.

We shouldn’t be nitpicking the particulars of it.

Andrew Sullivan, in a post titled “Getting Shit Done,” concurs:

What are the odds that Obama’s huge success yesterday in getting BP to pledge a cool $20 billion to recompense the “small people” in the Gulf will get the same attention as his allegedly dismal speech on Tuesday night? If you take Memeorandum as an indicator, it really is no contest. The speech is still being dissected by language experts, but the $20 billion that is the front page news in the NYT today? Barely anywhere on the blogs.

James Carville, the Clinton loyalist and Louisianan so famously irate at Obama’s earlier response, is downright stoked:

It looks as if President Obama applied a little old-school Chicago persuasion to the oil executives.

The problem with all this is that, while being “tough” and “kicking ass” and “twisting arms” may well be politically popular, especially when the target is so unpopular, it’s well beyond the legitimate power of the presidency.   As Conn Carroll puts it:

Making “offers you can’t refuse” may be a great way to run the mob, but it is no way to run a country.

BP is being forced to assume liabilities to which it is almost certainly not legally obligated and doing so outside the judicial process by which such things are supposed to be decided.   Presidents have enormous power, though, because they can threaten to harm a company’s business.

FILED UNDER: Politics 101, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Darcy says:

    Thank you. Yes.

  2. wr says:

    Yes, God forbid the government be allowed to hold a multinational corporation responsible for the almost unimaginable harm they’ve done to this country. Since we all know that government is always bad and corporations are always good, this is clearly a case of a mobster kicking a puppy.

    Has the “conservative” ideology become so corrupted that there’s nothing left but knee-jerk defenses of corporate behavior no matter what it is or how much harm it causes?

  3. Darcy says:

    What a silly comment, WR. Most conservatives just believe in the rule of law. I know that’s frustrating and perhaps gauche for you, but that’s it, in a nutshell.

    Not defending. Not calling anyone “good” or “bad”, just wanting the process to be fair. Our government “holding a multinational company responsible” through a shakedown, *feels* good, I know.

    Electing Obama also felt good, I’ll bet.

  4. ms says:

    note to wr:

    sounds like you have the “knee-jerk” reaction here. The reason the harm is “unimaginable” as you put it, is because it is a figment of your imagination. Good luck sleeping at night with that kind of mindset…

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    There are established ways to hold BP responsible and BP has said it will be responsible so the President’s strong arming of them is politics. The problem I have is who gets strong armed next? We should not be celebrating a president who works outside the law to accomplish his goals. No, he hasn’t broken any laws but he hasn’t shown respect for the ones we already have in place.

    No one is defending BP per se but there is a right way and a wrong way to get things done. While getting a promise of $20 billion (that they likely would have paid anyway) is getting lots of cheers the leak is still not fixed. It’s like a magician directing our attention away form where the action is at.

  6. Davebo says:

    “BP is being forced to assume liabilities to which it is almost certainly not legally obligated”

    No, they are agreeing to. Big difference.

  7. I’m no fan of BP, but this doesn’t sit well with me. Pemex paid nothing to Texas after Ixtoc 1, and BP is already beyond its liability cap. Furthermore, we have no assurances that this fund will be spent wisely–it looks like a blank check to the White House, rather than to the residents of the Gulf States.

  8. sam says:

    Besides, Obama is in extremely good company, if one thinks he’s done anything extra-constitutional. Louisiana Purchase ring any ironic bells. Presidents, including the patron saint of limited government, sometimes feel they must act in the national interest, and act in ways that some people, usually in the other party, will find godfather-like. I submit that there is an an inherent ambiguity in our constitution as regards these exercises of presidential initiative, such actions being neither expressly proscribed nor expressly allowed.

  9. James Joyner says:

    No, they are agreeing to. Big difference.

    An agreement made under duress is different from being “forced” how?

  10. Conn Carroll says:

    I am curious as to why you say The Foundry post is “unsigned.” There is a picture of me with my name right on it.
    http://blog.heritage.org/2010/06/17/morning-bell-an-offer-bp-couldnt-refuse/

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    Under duress? Really? What did Obama threaten? A drone attack? Did he threaten to waterboard the BP chairman? You’re using terms like “shakedown” and “strong-arming” because you can’t name an actual threat so you hide behind vague language.

    The “threat” was of a further public relations disaster. This was BP’s best way to try and run to daylight.

    Conservatives are being idiots on this. But I can only hope the GOP embraces BP as publicly as possible.

  12. Rick Almeida says:

    “An agreement made under duress is different from being “forced” how?”

    If you’ve got some evidence regarding this “force” or “duress”, I’d be very glad to see it. The Heritage blog acknowledges that “The exact conversation may never be known”, but nevertheless dubs the agreement “voluntary” (skeptical quote marks in original).

    If the President and AG used some leverage they have regarding, say, criminal liability (IANAL), this doesn’t see any different from negotiations undertaken by prosecutors across the country every day.

    So, can we see some evidence of force/duress?

  13. Darcy says:

    It comes after almost two months of constant demonizing (ex. “boot on the neck”) of BP by this administration. Yeah, I’d call that duress. Extraordinary pressure, at the very least for this extra-judicial arrangement.

    No Republican is defending BP. That the Obama administration and Democrats seize on the fact that conservatives would like to see due process and call it anything more than that is typical of their intellectual dishonesty.

  14. Darcy says:

    It comes after almost two months of constant demonizing (ex. “boot on the neck”) of BP by this administration. Yeah, I’d call that duress.

    No Republican is defending BP. That Democrats seize on the fact that conservatives would like to see due process and call it anything more than that is typical of their intellectual dishonesty

  15. Darcy says:

    Aww, crap. Sorry about that. I didn’t think it went through. 🙂

  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    Darcy:

    Demonizing? Excuse me? They’re killing the Gulf of Mexico. The reason they’re killing the Gulf of Mexico is that they wanted to maximize stock prices by cutting costs. They bought politicians and regulators at wholesale prices so that they could cut costs and laugh at environmental threats and now they’re killing tourism, fishing and the environment.

    Demonizing? Poor babies.

    Now, why don’t you explain just how asking them to put money into an escrow fund to clean up their own mess is a violation of due process? Where is the duress?

  17. Billy says:

    James, I’ve got to say you’re way off base. Nowhere in the constitution does it say the president can’t roll his terrible eyes and gnash his terrible claws and bluff someone into doing what he wants.

    There was no duress here. BP gave in because they felt the PR price to pay in not doing so was too high, not because their very well-paid lawyers didn’t know the president’s threats were legally toothless.

    Sully’s correct on this – in the eyes of his critics the man can do no right.

  18. James Joyner says:

    Under duress? Really? What did Obama threaten? A drone attack? Did he threaten to waterboard the BP chairman? You’re using terms like “shakedown” and “strong-arming” because you can’t name an actual threat so you hide behind vague language.

    The “threat” was of a further public relations disaster. This was BP’s best way to try and run to daylight.

    Do I know precisely what Obama threatened? Of course not. But even by your “further PR disaster” explanation, he’s threatening to use the enormous power of the presidency to damage them unless they submit to his demands. That’s a gross abuse of power.

    Conservatives are being idiots on this. But I can only hope the GOP embraces BP as publicly as possible.

    I don’t doubt that the politics favor presidential lawlessness. That was true with Bush and the war on terror, too. So what?

    As for myself, I think BP should be held fully accountable for any criminal malfeasance — and there’s evidence that there was some — and civil damages they legally owe. But that should come through a process supervised by judges, not elected politicians.

  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    FYI:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/17/gop-leaders-threatened-to_n_616374.html

    House Republican leadership threatened to strip Rep. Joe Barton’s seniority on the Energy and Commerce Committee if the Texas Republican didn’t immediately retract an apology he had issued to BP earlier on Thursday, a GOP leadership aide told HuffPost.

  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    James:

    There can be no “lawlessness” where there is no law. What law denies the president the right to (as Billy above so pungently says) ” . . .roll his terrible eyes and gnash his terrible claws and bluff someone into doing what he wants.”

    What law forbids jawboning? Isn’t the use of the bully pulpit the essence of presidential power?

  21. PD Shaw says:

    Boy, I wish Obama found a way to do the equivalent of ordering rules to be violated to evacuate people who might die otherwise. Congress gave him that authority in the Clean Water Act. He can do what it takes to stop the release or stop its spread. He’s been pre-approved to blow things up.

    What we’ve gotten instead is Army Corps of Engineers stopping attempts to block environmentally sensitive bays to study the matter. We have disputants pre-approved for emergencies being reconsidered during an emergency by the feds.

    And we have a lot of effort to the litigation side of the Gulf problem. The lawyers in charge.

  22. Darcy says:

    Michael, I am loathe to reply to you, and didn’t in the first place for what it’s worth. I think you’re vicious and rude.

    You have decided that the Obama administration, the press, and the angry mob should determine what BP is responsible for and what they’ll pay. I simply would like to see a legal process. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see them pay. It means I trust the rule of law before politicians. That’s all.

    If you don’t see the duress involved, I won’t be able to explain it to you.

  23. Dave says:

    This is James Joyner falling victim to the cult of the presidency.

    If Obama’s duress is what caused BP to pony up $20 billion then he did them a huge favor; that’s the only smart long term move they have towards maintaining profitability. There’s no other way out of this PR disaster.

    And I’m pretty sure it’s that logic, rather than any threat of huffy puffy Obama bluster, that pressured BP into making this decision; it was a corporate calculation based on the best interest of its share holders, not an act of presidential heroism/terrorism (depending on your view.)

  24. drew says:

    Darcy –

    You must be new here. Michael is not just vicious and rude, more importantly he is myopic and arrogant. He’s actually a very respected and accomplished author of children’s books. This is indisputable.

    But that expertise and success leads him to believe he has worthwhile things to say on economics, politics, business etc., even though his relevant experience in nonexistent.

    I try to tolerate his gibberish. (Actually I don’t, I point out his idiocy routinely.)

    You are now forwarned. BTW – Attack the Obama Administration and you are a racist pig in his eyes. Just so you know.

    Regards.

  25. Darcy says:

    Thanks, Drew. Yes, I’ve had one previous exchange with him. That was enough.

  26. steve says:

    One of the legal blogs (Volokh or Balkin?) had a post on this general topic a while back. The courts are not set up to handle litigation of this magnitude. We are talking thousands of individual cases. The courts can handle class action suits, where most of the money goes to lawyers and the idea is to punish and alter behavior. The courts can handle individual cases well, especially between litigants of fairly equal means and where time constraints are roughly equal for both sides. This oil leak does not fit.

    Those harmed, following the court model, are going to wait many years for flooded courts to work their way through this tangle. The legal representation is not even remotely likely to be equal in quality. TBH, the litigation costs are likely to end up close to the actual awards.

    Given the practical realities, the proposed system has merits, and may even be preferred by BP as they are likely to save on legal fees as they would likely have to go out of house. This out of the courts approach should/could offer faster resolution to those who are out of work now. Who need money soon, not 20 years down the line.

    WE certainly have precedent for going outside of courts to mediators in other areas. If a mediator who is acceptable to BP and to the litigants and the government can be found, it should work faster, be no more or less susceptible to political influence (ever voted for a judge?) and deliver a higher percentage of monies to those harmed. If you have ever paid legal fees, this would be readily apparent.

    Steve

  27. Darcy says:

    Steve, that’s an interesting point.

    Even if I do believe this was a shakedown, I’d like to hope that the money in the escrow fund is distributed fairly and directly to the victims and cleanup effort. I have huge worries that it won’t, but if it does, then I’ll say “well done” then.

  28. steve says:

    Oops, forgot. I still have not seen anyone post on how this is illegal. Suppose, as suggested by some, that BP intends to honor its commitments to pay for harm caused. One way to do that would be to make each individual go to court and prove their case. This would be an ongoing PR disaster for years as all of these cases drag through the courts. OTOH, maybe BP is insincere and intends to get out of paying everything they can, in which case the courts are the ideal venue with their resources.

    Or maybe the skeptics are wrong (that would hurt to admit to) and they intend to pay as expeditiously as possible. If so, this $20 billion fund makes a lot of sense.

    At any rate, I await any evidence of illegality.

    Steve

  29. Darcy says:

    Did anyone say illegal? I didn’t read that. It is certainly outside a legal process, and could actually harm the rights of claimants eventually, according to Hugh Hewitt and some lawyers I follow on Twitter.

    I am not a lawyer.

  30. Darcy says:

    Unless! Will this escrow fund be overseen by the court system?

  31. An Interested Party says:

    Hugh Hewitt? Now there’s a reliable, unbiased source…I hope that wasn’t too vicious and rude to point out…

  32. Michael Reynolds says:

    Darcy:

    Michael, I am loathe to reply to you, and didn’t in the first place for what it’s worth. I think you’re vicious and rude.

    You have decided that the Obama administration, the press, and the angry mob should determine what BP is responsible for and what they’ll pay.

    So . . . you associate me with the “angry mob,” make broad and unsupported statements about my positions, and I’m the one who is vicious and rude? After I respond to your odd statement that BP is being “demonized.”

    And I express my viciousness and rudeness thus:

    Demonizing? Poor babies.

    Now, why don’t you explain just how asking them to put money into an escrow fund to clean up their own mess is a violation of due process? Where is the duress?

    To which you reply:

    If you don’t see the duress involved, I won’t be able to explain it to you.

    Would it be rude of me to point out that you don’t have an answer? Or would it be vicious?

    You don’t have an answer. That’s the truth. Sorry to put it so viciously.

  33. Darcy says:

    LOL. Not vicious or rude. Could he be right, though?

  34. Michael Reynolds says:

    Drew:

    You are now forwarned. BTW – Attack the Obama Administration and you are a racist pig in his eyes. Just so you know.

    That is a lie.

    Joyner attacks Obama on a fairly regular basis. So does Mataconis. So does Alex Knapp on occasion. So does Schuler. God knows Verdon does. So, on other blogs I read, do Rick Moran, Transplanted Lawyer and many others whose names I’m afraid don’t come readily to mind.

    And yet I’ve never accused them of racism.

    So your statement is clearly and indisputably incorrect. And of course you know it is incorrect. Which makes you what, Drew?

    As for expertise, I claim no expertise in any area outside of writing fiction for kids and young adults. But that experience — 150 books, about 22,000 pages give or take — plus experience in other types of writing does mean I’m probably pretty good at understanding character. For example, I have a pretty fair notion of the sort of character who consistently belittles the first minority president as a “community organizer,” and who denies the existence of racism as a factor either in current politics or in the history of the GOP since the 1960’s.

    And as an aside, I don’t think I’ve ever called anyone a pig. I realize that fits your stereotype, and I understand that you have a very hard time seeing beyond stereotypes, but I was never a hippie, Drew. During my brief college years I wore a suit to a job as a law librarian at a corporate law firm. Just so you won’t have to burden your brain with imagery of me in a flower power t-shirt.

  35. anjin-san says:

    It comes after almost two months of constant demonizing (ex. “boot on the neck”) of BP by this administration.

    So I take it you feel the administration is being unfair by “demonizing” BP, and you are generally opposed to unfairness.

    How do you feel about the rights demonizing of Obama? Jihadist, Marxist, Communist, not a real citizen, does not support the American way of life and so on and so on. After all, even if we are to stipulate for the sake of argument that Obama is, say a Marxist, it would then follow that there is just about zero chance that he is also a closet Jihadist. So, it is pretty clear that he is being demonized.

    Can you direct us to comments you have made condemning this unfair demonizing? Failing that, perhaps you will do so now. Or could it be that you could care less about fairness for BP and simply with to slam Obama with any Fox talking point that is handy?

  36. drew says:

    oooh-la-wee.

    Darcy –

    Smooth.

    And if I might be so bold. There is a related blogsite called “The Glittering Eye” run by Dave Schuler, who posts here primarily on foreign affairs.

    I, naturally, don’t always have the same worldview as Dave, but I think, based on the few of your posts I’ve seen, you would appreciate the site. Dave is a very sharp, well read and experienced, and insightful guy, and I rarely leave my morning read of his blog saying “that was a waste of time.” In fact, its almost a must read.

    And so I invite you. Unfortunately, I must advise that Mr Reynolds is a frequent commentor. Forwarned.

  37. anjin-san says:

    Joyner attacks Obama on a fairly regular basis. So does Mataconis. So does Alex Knapp on occasion. So does Schuler. God knows Verdon does.

    I will second this. The contributors to this blog are generally fair and possessed of a reasonable amount of balance and intellectual honesty. They may falter from time to time, but so do we all. Of course there is Dodd, but then every class has to have it’s slow kid.

  38. Darcy says:

    @anjin-san

    I’m not sure what you want from me. What does the alleged demonizing of Obama have to do with this subject? Has his administration been making very accusatory statements toward BP for some time now? Threatened criminal prosecution? It may all well turn out to be true. I don’t know.

    We are getting very early information here. I’d like to trust that the information gathered is done so fairly, is all. I’d like the courts (if they possibly can) to handle the claims against BP. I really don’t trust the media or politicians. Is that so radical? So unreasonable?

    What that has to do with me condemning Obama’s detractors, I don’t know. You’ve lost me.

  39. anjin-san says:

    I need a little clarity here from the kids on the right side of the aisle. Is Obama an ineffectual Carteresque President nervously pacing back in forth in the rose garden while Rome burns, or is he a high-handed Chicago thug who punk-slaps Oval Office guests into submission and then bends them to his will? Inquiring minds want to know.

  40. drew says:

    Michael-

    “Drew:

    You are now forwarned. BTW – Attack the Obama Administration and you are a racist pig in his eyes. Just so you know.

    That is a lie.”

    No its not. And don’t make me go back and find and paste your racist screed, which you’ve posted here and at GE for months now. Better: just admit your emotional attachment to a political point of view and a desperate attempt to put people in there place based upon wild assed racist claims. Know thyself, Michael. Then heal thyself.

  41. Darcy says:

    Thanks, Drew. I’ll check it out!

  42. Darcy says:

    Maybe a little of both, anjin-san. I think he’s in over his head. I also think he is a high-handed Chicago-trained thug. Where is the contradiction?

  43. anjin-san says:

    Has his administration been making very accusatory statements toward BP for some time now?

    demonize – To represent as evil or diabolic: (courtesy of http://www.thefreedictionary.com)

    Perhaps you could share the actual quotes from the administration where they demonized BP.
    Not played hardball with them. Demonized them. Words mean things.

    And i am still curious about how you feel about the actual, not “alleged” demonization of Obama by the right. Because that is what they have done to him. Communisim and Jihadisim are anthical to the American way of life. There is zero evidence outside of mental wards that Obama is either of these things, yet both accusations are hurled at him regularly. You kinda ducked the question before.

  44. anjin-san says:

    I think he’s in over his head.

    Do you honestly think there has ever been a President who was not in over his head?

    Do you honestly think there are any politicians who hold real power at the national level who don’t know how to play it rough and are willing to do so when they deem it necessary?

  45. drew says:

    “As for expertise, I claim no expertise in any area outside of writing fiction for kids and young adults.”

    Yes you do, routinely.

    ” But that experience — 150 books, about 22,000 pages give or take — plus experience in other types of writing does mean I’m probably pretty good at understanding character.”

    OK.

    “For example, I have a pretty fair notion of the sort of character who consistently belittles the first minority president as a “community organizer,” and who denies the existence of racism as a factor either in current politics or in the history of the GOP since the 1960′s.”

    There you go, getting pretty close to racist taunts. I thought you had good notions of “character.” Get a clue, Michael: President Obama has called (his words, not mine) former IL State Senate leader Emil Jones his “political Godfather.” Michael, Emil Jones is a politcal thug by all accounts. He is becoming prominant in the former Gov. Rod Blagojevich trial. This is the cesspool from which Obama rose. WTFU. He’s a bad, corrupt man. WTFU.

    “And as an aside, I don’t think I’ve ever called anyone a pig. I realize that fits your stereotype, and I understand that you have a very hard time seeing beyond stereotypes, but I was never a hippie, Drew. During my brief college years I wore a suit to a job as a law librarian at a corporate law firm. Just so you won’t have to burden your brain with imagery of me in a flower power t-shirt.”

    ??? Say what, MF?? You are hallucinating now, Michael. So that makes me more of a “hippie” than you, because I swear, in college me and my roomates truley moved the GDP needle for Mexico and Columbia by a material amount. I really believe that. Further, I work in jeans every day. So I see your “flower power” (snicker) and raise you.

    I’m going to put on my stereo the Stones “Turd on the Run” right now, because its apt.

  46. Darcy says:

    Sure, anjin-san.

    May 2:
    So our job is to keep the boot on the neck of BP to ensure it meets its obligations. — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar

    May 15:
    The Obama administration warned BP in a strongly worded letter Saturday that the federal government expects the oil giant — and not taxpayers — to pay all damages associated with the ongoing Gulf of Mexico oil leak, even if they exceed the $75-million liability cap under federal law.

    June 2:
    “If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region.” – President Obama

    June 4:
    “I don’t want to hear BP is nickel and diming” the fisherman and other people in the Gulf while the company is spending $50M on image advertising and $10.5B on dividends.” – President Obama

    Just a few of the aggressive comments I found browsing in just a few minutes. What do you think? Accusatory?

  47. Rick Almeida says:

    “Do I know precisely what Obama threatened? Of course not. But even by your “further PR disaster” explanation, he’s threatening to use the enormous power of the presidency to damage them unless they submit to his demands. That’s a gross abuse of power.”

    James, respectfully, this is thin gruel. If, for example, the President did make it clear that perceived BP recalcitrance was creating an escalating PR disaster for BP, that’s nowhere near the same thing as “threatening to use the enormous power of the presidency to damage them unless they submit to his demands”.

    Again, if you have some evidence that anything untoward was done, said, or even implied, I would be very eager to see it. If you don’t have anything beyond surmise and conjecture, I feel that this post was really disappointing.

  48. anjin-san says:

    Just a few of the aggressive comments

    You did not start with “agressive”. “Demonizing” was the word you used. They are two very different things.

    “If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region.” – President Obama

    The President says if the law was broken, the responsible parties will be brought to justice. What exactly is your problem with that?

  49. Cui bono?

  50. Darcy says:

    Really, anjin-san? Obama has been “demonized”, says you, by being called a Communist. This is an acceptable use of the word “demonized” to you – but trying, judging and practically hanging BP in the media and from the bully pulpit of the presidency is NOT demonizing.

    Okay. 🙂 We’ll agree to disagree.

  51. Michael Reynolds says:

    Drew:

    Me: “As for expertise, I claim no expertise in any area outside of writing fiction for kids and young adults.”

    You: “Yes you do, routinely.”

    Really? A single example where I have ever claimed any expertise on any subject. Just one.

    I’ve expressed opinions, surely: that’s what we all do. But claimed expertise? In fact I don’t even claim expertise as a writer, I claim expertise as a writer of kidlit series, an even narrower distinction.

    The rest of your comment was inexplicable. I’d respond but I didn’t really see you saying anything.

  52. anjin-san says:

    but trying, judging and practically hanging

    I think you are engaging in a bit of hyperbole here. Playing hardball is not “demonizing” someone. In this country, calling someone a communist or a jihadist means you are trying to destroy them.

  53. matt says:

    You’re right James this should totally be left to the courts that way it’ll be solved just like the Exxon disaster. Sure it took over 10 years and most of the original fine was reduced to 500m and most of the people effected are dead already but hey that’s justice right?

    I don’t get people like you. One day you’re railing against the evil trial lawyers and demanding tort reform and then another you’re demanding that we use courts to extract financial punishment… contradiction much?

  54. Darcy says:

    That’s called throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks, Matt. 🙂

    Again, I prefer the courts to politicians. I’d like it to be speedier than the Exxon settlements. It really is a tragedy that it took so long. I think linking that to tort reform is a little shaky, though.

  55. anjin-san says:

    Interesting that after weeks of hearing the right extroll the godlike abalities of seasoned executives, there is not so much as a peep about Tony Hayward’s utterly pathetic performance on the hill today.

  56. An Interested Party says:

    Although directed at teabaggers, this obviously could apply to many others…

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/6/17/877043/-Dear-Teabaggers

    “Your stupidity, fanaticism and all around mean spiritedness continue to astound, with your bizarre and – dare I say it – unpatriotic defense of British Petroleum only the latest example.

    While I realize facts and logic are completely lost on you, can you at least TRY to get it through your tiny, floresiensis-like skulls that:

    1.) The Constitution in your head notwithstanding, the REAL one doesn’t forbid the president and/or his Attorney General from negotiating settlements of this kind. The Justice Department does it in environmental enforcement actions all the time, although usually without the 24/7 hysteria.

    2.) The money is going to be held in an ESCROW account. Are you familiar with the term? Have you ever closed on a house? It means the money cannot be spent or disbursed without the approval of the trustee, who in turn will need to get approval from the courts. Again, this is a completely standard way of handling settlements in environmental cases.

    3.) The money is NOT going to ACORN, your favorite all-purpose boogeyman. ACORN doesn’t exist any more. Deal with it.

    4.) BP agreed to the deal BECAUSE IT IS IN ITS OWN CORPORATE INTEREST. Lately investors have been shunning BP until they have some kind of idea of the company’s potential legal liability. This has caused yields on BP bonds to soar and made it hard for the company to roll over short-term debt, threatening the company (and the entire financial system) with insolvency. While the settlement is not final, it does give investors some reason to hope the company will remain viable — which in turn makes it more likely that it WILL remain viable.

    5.) BP, its shareholders, and the wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico aren’t the only ones at risk here. Do you by chance remember what happened to a company called Lehman Brothers when it couldn’t roll over its short-term debt a couple of years ago? Do want to see a repeat of that fun-filled episode?

    6.) If anything, Obama is doing BP a favor by coming to terms so quickly. The fact that BP was so eager to accept those terms is a clear sign it understands just how MORE humongeous its liabilities could be if this ends up in court. If you want to blame Obama for subverting the course of justice, go right ahead (although I’m not sure he had any realistic choice) but it’s ridiculous to blame him for that with one breath and then accuse him of “shaking down” BP in the next. There was no shakedown – or, if there was, the muscle behind it was provided by Wall Street, not Chicago (unless you mean the futures pits).

    Even for you, this is mendacity on a pathological scale, amounting practically to a psychotic break from reality. Your movement has become the social equivalent of BP’s blown out well: completely out of control and spewing toxic crap in every direction. Joe Barton, at least, had the excuse of being a well paid prostitute on permanent retainer to the oil industry. What’s yours? Only fools give it away for free.

    Sincerely,
    Billmon”

  57. Rick Almeida says:

    “This is an acceptable use of the word “demonized” to you – but trying, judging and practically hanging BP in the media and from the bully pulpit of the presidency is NOT demonizing.”

    I’m sorry – is there any doubt BP is responsible for this disaster? Has BP ever denied responsibility? If all parties, including BP, agree BP is responsible, there’s no real point in referring to “trying” and “judging”, is there? BP admits responsibility, right? Trials and judging refer to dispute about responsibility, the only thing apparently on the plate here is the nature and amount of damages for which BP will be responsible.

    So, can we have some specific examples of “practically hanging BP in the media and from the bully pulpit of the presidency” and “high handed Chicago thug[gery]”?

    I sincerely don’t understand what you’re upset about here. Would BP be cleaning up the spill if they weren’t responsible?

    The outrage of the day is mostly tiresome, but sometimes downright silly.

  58. Franklin says:

    BP is being forced to assume liabilities

    Evidence, please. The whole argument rests on this statement being true, which to the best of my knowledge it is not.

  59. anjin-san says:

    “high handed Chicago thug[gery]“?

    Its worth noting that the GOP leadership has endorsed the escrow account, so I guess they are also “Chicago thugs”.

  60. theod says:

    It seems that corporate apologists like Mr. Joyner want to promote all of the advantages of corporations as persons but none of the obligations and potential indignities associated with same. If a citizen created an environmental mess like this, he would have been in the pokey within 15 minutes of being nabbed and would have had to post a giant bond (held in escrow, of course) to stay out of jail pending juris prudence. Let’s also think about the possibility of 2nd-degree or manslaughter charges BP, et alia, should be assigned given their personhoods, too. After all, a bunch of workers did die on that ill-managed rig.

  61. EMV says:

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/06/getting-shit-done-ctd-1.html

    Getting Shit Done, Ctd

    18 Jun 2010 11:50 am

    James Joyner counters:

    The problem with all this is that, while being “tough” and “kicking ass” and “twisting arms” may well be politically popular, especially when the target is so unpopular, it’s well beyond the legitimate power of the presidency. …BP is being forced to assume liabilities to which it is almost certainly not legally obligated and doing so outside the judicial process by which such things are supposed to be decided. Presidents have enormous power, though, because they can threaten to harm a company’s business.

    Please. Jawboning is not unconstitutional. BP has a choice, and could have refused to make this offer, and I see no broader threat to their business – just to the way they have done business. And the way they have done business has been sickening. Here, in a nutshell is what has gone wrong with corporate America:

    In response to a U.S. senator’s questions in a letter, BP said it never follows a federal law requiring it to certify that a blowout preventer device would be able to block a well in case of an emergency. The inquiry stemmed from a hearing in May into the Gulf oil spill from the explosion and fire which sank the Deepwater Horizon rig.

    But, at the same time, the British oil giant blamed the federal oversight agency, Minerals Management Service, for not asking it to comply with the law.

    So: a citizen with full knowledge of the law need only obey it if the regulator specifically asks. If they don’t, the citizen is blameless. Really? Now, I’m not excusing the MMS here. What I’m noting is the absence of any core civic responsibility by BP.

  62. libarbarian says:

    It comes after almost two months of constant demonizing (ex. “boot on the neck”) of BP by this administration. Yeah, I’d call that duress.

    Domonizing? Oh NOES!!! Da Horrer!!

    Oh Darcy, cry me a river.

    I learned when I was 5 that sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.

    It’s amazing how wimpy and whiny conservatives can be.

  63. libarbarian says:

    $75-million liability cap

    Darcy,

    this cap only exists if the company didn’t break any rules or cut any corners. BP did both. The law does not apply to them.

  64. Steve says:

    I’ve finding it hard to feel any sympathy for BP here. Is it Presidential over reach, sure. Did he probably use some form of executive extortion, you betcha. Do I care, nope. The judicial system is so stacked against the “small people” there is no way they’d see one red cent from BP outside of 10-15 years of court appearances (and their associated fees) and reduced payments of pennies on the dollar. Good for Obama and good for the “small people”…

    The people weeping for BP on this are comical. First Obama isn’t tough enough, now he’s a mafioso, I guess it is almost to impossible to be “just right”…anyway, I am all for Republicans standing up and coming to defense of the corporate citizen that basically equates to the guy who let’s his dog shit all over your lawn and thinks the local ordinances apply to everyone but him.

  65. Darcy says:

    Look, I never defended BP. I’d like to know all the facts. I don’t think politically charged congressional hearings are the way to properly investigate the facts, just as I don’t believe haggling behind closed doors about an escrow fund is proper.

    Yes, I think BP’s been portrayed as basically villainous. I don’t see how that is helpful, even if they are guilty of every single thing the commenters here believe them to be. I’d like them to remain solvent so that they can pay for whatever damages they are liable for. I haven’t pre-judged what those are. I won’t apologize for that. As I’ve said, I don’t have all the facts.

    I guess that means I’m defending BP to many of you. I don’t really know what to say to that, except it appears fruitless to try to engage further.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  66. BobN says:

    An enormous multinational corporation acting against its own interests? Because Obama somehow “forced” them into something in the course of a couple-hour meeting?

    Sure. Makes sense.

    “I’d like to know all the facts.”

    BP is privy to all sorts of facts of which we are — and will forever remain — unaware. They went into the Oval Office fully prepared to set up a large escrow fund because it is in their best interests.

    Don’t confuse reality with theatre.

  67. Herb says:

    “I’d like them to remain solvent so that they can pay for whatever damages they are liable for.”

    Why? Who else gets to “remain solvent” as they pay off their liabilities? If anything, the long list of liabilities should pose a direct threat to their solvency. I’d like them to go insolvent, lose their charter, have to sell off assets for a big loss. I’d like to see their shareholders getting soaked, their executives forced to sign up for day labor jobs because no one else will hire them.

    Not out of spite, but out of market discipline.

  68. Wayne says:

    Those in authority using corrupt practices in order to attempt to achieve justice usually results in less justice and a corrupt system. For example a policeman’s intentions may be good but planting evidence is wrong even if he is pretty sure the person is guilty. It creates a corrupt environment that does more harm than good to society.

    BP should pay but it is not worth corrupting our system of government to do so. Besides they can be made to pay by legitimate means instead of this corrupted political grandstanding.

    The Congressional hearing they showed on TV made the congress man and woman look worst than the BP CEO. It was an example of a bunch of idiots participating in a dog and pony show.

  69. matt says:

    Wayne there’s no evidence to plant it’s all over the gulf. This is more like a police man seeing someone run over 11 people while speeding drinking and boning a hooker only to ask that the man voluntarily pay a speeding ticket. BP did this willingly because they know that this is a disaster of epic proportions and if they don’t get out ahead of the liabilities some they are going to lose a lot of investors while dealing with a nightmarish PR scenario.

    Your opinion on the congressional hearing is irrelevant as only a first rate corporatist apologist could feel sorry for the CEO of BP at this point.

  70. Wayne says:

    Matt
    The policeman should arrest the person for all the crimes committed. However the policeman shouldn’t ask him to voluntarily put a large amount of money into an unknown account controlled by an unknown person.

    Where did I say I felt sorry for BP or its CEO? I didn’t. I said the hearings were a joke as well as many that participated in them.

    I guess that makes you a first rate politician apologist who support their idiotic political grandstanding.

  71. Wayne says:

    One more thing, most people see right through the attempt by the left to claim that you can’t blame both BP and the government. This “you blaming Obama so you must be letting BP of the hook” argument is illogical and lame.

  72. wr says:

    Congressional hearings were bad because congressmen used them to act angry at BP. Obama is bad because he doesn’t act angry enough at BP.

    Tell me, when did the only thing “conservatives” care about become the inappropriate amount of emotion expressed? And how are we to know which amount is right — or is it just right when a Republican does it?

  73. Wayne says:

    As a conservative I care little about “expression” of emotion by our representative unless it is used to get results. Obama and congress are using display of anger for political purpose.

    How about using it to get the coast guard from pulling oil clean up ships off line because they can’t contact the manufacturer of those ships? How about using it to get the EPA and other agencies from pulling stupid stunts and clearing away bureaucracy that impedes the cleanup efforts? Going out and saying they are angry “that there is a spill’ does little but give them political posturing.

  74. anirprof says:

    Structurally, isn’t this almost exactly the same approach as the 9/11 compensation fund, in which a large fund was set up outside of the usual legal channels with a “czar” if you like making expedited decisions? That was done for just the same reasons: to speed up compensation to victims, to reduce the transaction costs of lengthy litigation, and to create more certainty about the scale of losses (and some PR benefits) for the relevant industry (for 9/11, mostly the airlines). Obama even picked the same guy to run this as Bush did to run the 9/11 fund!

    I don’t recall a lot of outrage among conservatives when the Bush administration brokered the 9/11 compensation scheme rather than letting things take their course via lawsuits. What’s different now other than the party of the President?

  75. matt says:

    Well first you need to look up what an escrow account is and once you finish that you can look up Kenneth Feinberg and realize that you’re completely wrong. As for your completely off base comparison I suggest you look up a think called “bail” and “bail bondsmen”…

    “I guess that makes you a first rate politician apologist who support their idiotic political grandstanding.”

    Oh yeah this is just grandstanding like that 9/11 fund crap yup just grandstanding nothing resembling trying to compensate people that are effected by the spill..

    The government definitely shares some fault as the MMS became a huge joke during Bush’s tenure and Obama messed up by not cleaning house and tightening regulations up to say Brazil’s level..

    Oh and I’ll save you the time “OMGZ BLAME BUSH MORE YOU LIBTARD!!!”…

  76. James Joyner says:

    I don’t recall a lot of outrage among conservatives when the Bush administration brokered the 9/11 compensation scheme rather than letting things take their course via lawsuits.

    I opposed it and still do.

    But the problem is the same in both instances: If you speak out against it you’re branded as either unsympathetic to the victims or sympathetic to the perpetrators. So most people shut up.

  77. matt says:

    Well then I give you props for your intellectual consistency because I couldn’t recall you posting against the fund either.

  78. matt says:

    Oh my bad on the 10 year that was supposed to be +20 year..

  79. D says:

    Darcy, your concerns about solvency are groundless. BP kicks off $25 billion in free cash flow *annually*. IOW this amounts to 80% of a year’s profits going to the cleanup. Investors in a company that created the worst environmental catastrophe in history should (and will) jump for joy over this.

  80. D says:

    And just to give you a sense of proportion, Google “only” kicks off about $8 billion per yer.

  81. […] with Sowell’s basic argument here.   Indeed, I made something like it last week in “Obama Takes Godfather Approach to BP.”  I’m very, very leery of the use of strong-arming by executive branch authorities, […]