Bryan Fischer
I'm with Joe Barton on this one
By Bryan Fischer
June 19, 2010

Yesterday, Rep. Joe Barton described what President Obama did to BP this week — forcing them to cough up $20 billion as a starter set on an escrow fund — as a "shakedown." He was right.

His fellow Republicans couldn't wait to publicly criticize him as quickly as they could, and he eventually walked back his comments.

Which is a shame, because he was dead on the money.

The president did not say in his tepid and universally panned Oval Office speech on Tuesday that he was going to talk with BP officials about setting up an escrow account, or urge them to set up an escrow account, or negotiate with them over the possibility of an escrow account — you know, the kind of things you do in a democracy.

No, he said he was going to "inform" them about what they were going to do. He wound up confiscating $20 billion from a private country through nothing more than raw, political pressure. No law, no action from our elected officials, no due process, no court process, no judge, no law, no jury. Just naked, thuggish political power.

This is extortion, not the rule of law. According to accounts of the Oval Office meeting, Joe Biden told BP they "had no choice." Cough it up or else. This is what street thugs do. This is what muggers do. This sounds more like the old Soviet Union than anything resembling the America created by the Founders.

From a biblical standpoint, BP has a moral obligation to make restitution (including a penalty) to those who have been harmed by their actions. That's the biblical precedent for handling damage to property: full restitution plus a penalty. (As an aside, that's how we ought to deal with crimes against property today: instead of locking up perps, and forcing their victims to pay for their three hots and a cot, we ought to force them to get back to work and make their victims whole.)

But the fact is, whether we like or not, existing law limits BP's liability to $75 million. If we are to be a nation of laws, then that law must be honored, as inconvenient as it may be. If BP goes beyond their legal liability and fulfills their moral obligation to make victims whole, good for them.

But what the president did is not what the leader of a republican form of government does. This is what dictators do. This was the voice of a fascist, not the leader of the free world.

This overreach is so alarming that even Chuck Todd of the leftist CNBC asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar what possible legal authority the president had to do something like this. She waved the question off, saying airliy, "If we have to pass a statute to create that authority, we will."

That would represent a bill of attainder, an ex post facto law, something plainly and explicitly forbidden by the Constitution. BP's legal liability is set by law at $75 million. The only way their liability can be expanded to $20 billion and counting is by dictatorial diktat.

And that's what we have here. We are no longer living in a democracy, we are living under the rule of a fascist tyrant.

The genius of the American experiment is that we are a nation of laws, not men. Well, you can forget all about that. Rahm Emanuel famously said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." We're seeing more of what that looks like every day.

The only thing that keeps the president from extending his power from Wall Street, banks, automakers, insurance companies and oil companies to you and me is opportunity and pretext. (He's working now to grab the authority to take over the internet in the event of a national emergency, which of course he will define.) He has the will and plainly does not feel that he is restrained in any way by piddly things like the law the Constitution. He can order anybody he wants around and demand that they do what he says.

It's one thing for Americans to celebrate the president sticking it to BP. What they are failing to see is they could be next, and there's nothing to stop him. If we let him do this to a private company, he won't hesitate to do the same thing to a private citizen.

Joe Wilson was right when he said, "You lie," and Joe Barton was right to call this a "shakedown." I'm with Joe Barton on this one.

© Bryan Fischer


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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