In the Arena

Sympathy for the Devil

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The always hilarious Pete Wehner picks up on a recent Republican meme…that Representative Joe Barton has a point. He sees a violation of the rule of law in the President’s successful efforts to get BP to establish a $20 billion escrow fund, in which courts should decide BP’s financial punishment:

During this crisis, BP has acted horribly on almost every level; but the rule of law still matters, even — and maybe especially — in instances like this.

No it doesn’t. There is a long history of Presidents jaw-boning private enterprise for the benefit of the public. The notion that Obama acted “brutally” in pushing BP to pony up is utter nonsense. It is also inconsistent, since the right seems intent daily on portraying the President as a wuss, incapable of bullying anyone (which is rank disinformation, given Obama’s support for covert and overt military action). It is also wildly stupid politics: I dare say most Americans will be thrilled that the President worked vehemently to get BP to start paying those who’ve been brutalized by the BP spill, rather than waiting for a court judgment that might take years.

I also love Wehner’s sudden respect for the rule of law. Torture is okay, when the Cheney-Bush Administration does it, but jawboning BP threatens the Judeo-Christian-Anglo-American tradition of the rule of law. I mean, really.

The law is not always absolute. I’ve ticked off many civil libertarian readers here by acknowledging that there are times, especially when the nation is under threat, when the law can be flexed a bit–the reading of Miranda rights can be delayed, or the decision about those rights deferred to a national security court, in terrorism cases, for example. But in this case, reference to the rule of law is patently ridiculous: BP understood immediately that if it wanted to survive, it needed to provide the $20 billion fund. That’s why it happened so quickly.

In sum, this whole business–from the Bush Administration’s lack of regulatory rigor to the Barton statement–has been a rather edifying example of what conservative actually believe, and how far from the moderate American mainstream it actually is.

Update: Bill O’Reilly lands on the side of sanity during an interview with the execrable Michelle Bachmann.