The president of the United States, whoever he may be at a given moment, carries about him a presumption held over from more antique times. The presumption is that the president is a grown-up, capable of keeping his cool in tough situations, wanting to hear both sides of a disputed question before rendering judgment. Instead, the present president of the United States gave it out from the Oval Office that, hell, he knew who the bad guys were in this spill business, and it sure wasn't his guys; plus, the bad guys were -- shut up; don't argue -- going to put $20 billion to cover reparations for their crimes. Lewis Carroll's Red Queen would have understood the plan as well as the terminology: sentence first, trial afterward.
Not only that, the president of the United States asserted no legal authority for his claim to BP's money. He demanded it -- in his best stagecoach-robber mode: Whoa, pardner; get those hands up; now throw down that box. The president of the United States, or his advisers, or both, evidently thought it meaningless to assert their authority for such a demand. They asserted it. Any more questions, Sonny? Good.
BP certainly stood and delivered, after the approved manner of stagecoach passengers with hands extended to heaven and a .45 aimed in their general direction. You can understand. They wanted no more trouble. They had enough of that as it was, much of it self-generated.
Congressman Joe Barton, depicted by Democratic operatives and their media claque as a patsy for the oil industry, for obvious reasons didn't like the smell of the thing. He said so. Democrats profess delight. Said Rahm Emanuel the other day: this Barton thing is a "gift" to the Democrats. We'll wrap it around his neck and the necks of all Republicans.
Does that not tell us what's going on here? The power of politics exerted in behalf of more power for particular politicians: this is what goes on. Don't justify. Attack, attack, attack! Joe Barton could have stood to say a whole lot more than he actually managed to say.
William Murchison is the author of "Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity." To find out more about William Murchison and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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