The BP Candidate

Jacob Laksin is a senior writer for Front Page Magazine. He is co-author, with David Horowitz, of The New Leviathan (Crown Forum, 2012), and One-Party Classroom (Crown Forum, 2009). Email him at jlaksin@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @jlaksin.


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In his heavily politicized remarks on the BP oil spill last week, President Obama made a point of upbraiding “oil industry lobbyists” for obstructing his efforts to make environmental progress. It was an odd choice of target, coming as it did from the man who, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, was the largest recipient of campaign cash from BP and its political action committees during the 2008 presidential cycle. But Obama’s populist rebuke becomes more explicable when seen for what it is: the opening salvo in the Democrats’ 2010 midterm campaign strategy of attacking BP and its Big Oil brethren and casting Republicans as their unelectable enablers.

Obama pushed ahead with that attack this weekend, assailing Republicans for blocking a bill to “hold oil companies accountable for the disasters they cause.” He was soon echoed by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who took House Energy Committee ranking Republican Joe Barton to task for his now-notorious apology to BP. Barton had earlier apologized for the $20 billion escrow fund for the Gulf oil spill that the company was compelled to create by the White House. Barton’s apology, according to Emanuel, was proof that Republicans were too cozy with the oil industry, allowing it to get away with devastation. Emanuel called Barton’s apology a “political gift,” one that would show voters that Republicans could not be trusted to be in power. Nancy Pelosi also tried to wring some political mileage from Barton’s unmerited contrition. According to the House Speaker, the apology served to demonstrate that Democrats “are trying to rein in Big Oil; the Republicans are not.”

Barton’s apology to BP was indeed stupid – he himself has since apologized for his apology – but it’s unlikely to be the gift that Democrats suggest. For one thing, Barton’s apology hardly elicited cheers from GOP ranks. Leading Republicans like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby were quick to condemn Barton’s embarrassing mea culpa, pointing out that the company responsible for the largest environmental disaster in American history is not owed an apology. Democrats’ claim that Barton’s since-rescinded statement is in any way representative of Republican thinking about BP strains credulity.

Casting the midterm election as a choice between Big Oil-friendly Republicans and watchdog Democrats is also likely to backfire. It simply refocuses attention on the uncomfortable fact that the leading beneficiary of BP funds is the Democratic occupant of the White House.

That’s not the only trouble with turning Barton’s statement and BP generally into a campaign issue. Tone deaf as his apology to BP was, Barton’s suggestion that the $20 billion relief fund amounted to a political “shakedown” is more difficult to dismiss. Republicans have raised reasonable concerns about the compensation fund. Overseen by a government-appointed administrator, it is potentially open to political misuse. There are also outstanding questions about whether the fund’s forced creation is even constitutional. No one would dispute that BP should pay, and pay generously, for the devastation it has wrought in the Gulf. But that does not mean that voters will sanction any and all means by the government to hold a private company to account.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/megapotamus megapotamus

    It is not clear if the fund is legal since how it was constituted is a state secret or perhaps like so many actions of this WH, no one really knows how it happened due to institutional chaos. Obviously there was no legislation or EO. The Constitution is silent on mau-mauing or political threats short of a writ of attainder from the Exec. It seems BP (officially bp) more or less just folded. Absent court challenges or just simple objection from then it seems there really is no Constitutional issue here. "Shakedown" may be a literally valid appelation, an offer you can't refuse but there is no clearly aggrieved party as were, say, the Chrysler bond holders, one of which I worked for until the Gub Motors era. It is well worth remembering though that bp was the model energy company, "Going Green" so ostentatiously a decade or more ago. And in this they served a didactic purpose. As we have seen in Spain and elsewhere, when the expression "Green Jobs" or Green anything is bandied about it has nothing to do with grass growing but rather with the generous dollops of baksheesh scooped up by the political class, mostly Dems but not solely.

    • Jim C.

      Please…You're just miffed because Obama got done in one day something lawsuits would have taken decades (if past incidents are any precedent)? And since that money is only for the businesses ("small people") affected by the spill and not the shareholders (who are the only ones who really matter, right?) this goes against the narrative that "Obama hasn't done anything!"

      • USMCSniper

        Ohhh,, I see you are agreement with the bombastic buffoon Bill "Ted Baxter" Oreilly who has his tongue in ass of Obama to gain favor of interview when "Ted" said I don;t care if it is legal or constitutional. Seems like it was an "offer BP can refuse" to me for a slush fund from Obama and his Chicago shakedown thugs to BP.

        • Jim C.

          "Chicago shakedown thugs"–you are a funny guy!

          Guess I am in agreement with Bill–someone else whose sense of decency places his first concern with the people affected by the spill and not BP execs. But that's just me.

    • coyote3

      Well, it don't work that way. The federal government's powers are delegated by the constitution. If it is, indeed, "silent" regarding a proposed power, then the power is not delegated to the federal government, and the federal government has no power to act in that area. While the federal government has some legitimate power regarding the clean up, it has not authority to set up any kind of "fund", shakedown, or otherwise.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Vienna1683 Vienna1683

    Unfair?? What is unfair about bringing to the public's attention all the rounds of golf that Obama finds time to enjoy along with lavish parties and ballgames?

    Obama deserves the lion's share of blame in this catastrophe. As Mayor Giuliani correctly points out, as soon as this spill occurred, Obama should have summoned every expert this world has to offer and coordinated a plan to stop the leak and contain the spill. He did nothing. He continues to not only do nothing but also exacerbates the problem with legal threats and promises of extortion.

    Whatever BP's liability may be this is not their area of expertise yet Obama continues to play while doing nothing sit back and let BP handle everything.

    He wants this mess to continue.

    • Jim C.

      He did summon "experts." Giuliani is full of it, as usual. If BP, Shell Exxon et al. don't have solutions, guess what? everyone's making it up as they go along.

      Of course Obama should take the lion's share of the blame. You must be one of toady Joe Barton's toadies. Poor BP–"It's not their area of expertise." Fetch toady! Fetch boy! Good toady.

      You were, I hope, equally put out by our last president taking the most frequent vacations of any president? Nah…Sept. 11 was Clinton's fault, right?

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/Vienna1683 Vienna1683

        Srew you you rotten lying SOB. Name who he called and what he did. YOU CAN'T.

        He woudn't even suspend the Jones Act. No non union people can even help.

        He talked to his cronies and people like Soros to see how he can steal money for his political agenda.

        Tell me what he's doing now now to help the people, especially white people who are bearing the brunt of suffering in the Gulf. He is scheming to extort money from BP to steal the next election. If blacks were hit the hardest this racist dirtbag would have AirForce One permently parked in LA while he golfed, partied and met with Jackcon, Farakhan and Sharpton to extort the entire country.

        Disagree? Then tell this criminal to set up a LEGAL fund. He wants these people to suffer. He benefits.

        • Jim C.

          Can't wait for your sorry ass to launch an "investigation," then. How much will it cost taxpayers? Who cares–as long as you "get" Obama on this one.

          I love the idea that Obama is sooooo uncaring, he's just twiddling his thumbs during all this.

          Oh, by the way, dingdong: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/05/30/govern

      • cochavi1

        Clinton indeed bears a good deal of responsibility for 9-11. However, I prefer to say that most of the US political establishment shares that responsibility, in one form or the other.

        Bush was usually working. At least he tried. Obama has absolutely no idea what to do; or else he is truly trying to create as much chaos as possible to make America pay for its sins. He got lucky and arrived in a job that is both beyond him and a wonderful toy for his urges to create destruction.

        • Jim C.

          cochavi, I think it's clear NO ONE has any idea what to do. I think that is very clear. When you have people whose business it is, and scientists who study these things, lacking data and disagreeing over solutions, it's pretty safe to say no one knows what to do.

          So Obama should…what?

      • Peachey

        Jim, please take a nap. When you awaken, perhaps you will recognize that this is not the HuffPo or MoveOn site where the orders of the day are to shore up and prop up Obama and hide his relationship to The Center For American Progress, Tony and John Podesta, George Soros, Maurice Strong. BP, Petrovic, and the deliberate destruction of the Gulf Coast and it's economy through delayed and scant efforts to contain the spill. Lease agreements for the off shore rigs are now being negotiated with other countries even before the oil is controlled. By the way $ 2 billion of your tax dollars went to Brazil then forwarded to Petrovic to do off shore drilling at 3 times the depth. If you are really interested, instead of being a useful tool of the commies in power, do some research on your own. Those that parrot the White House schlock are, frankly, useful idiots that won't see the bullet coming when you have outlived your usefulness to them. Now I feel better that I have attempted to steer another American into independent and fact based thought.

        • Jim C.

          I'm curious about this "deliberate destruction of the Gulf Coast"…to what end the 'deliberate'? I sense another conspiracy theorist in a tin foil hat.

  • Gamaliel Isaac

    Joe Barton never said that BP shouldn't pay for damages he just doesn't want Obama dispensing the funds. I think he's right. This gives tremendous power to Obama and increases his chances of reelection. People in the gulf region depend on Obama for money now. They'll have second thoughts speaking out against him if their income depends on him. He is likely to distribute the money in a way that supports his cronies. If the money had been collected through the legal system than it would have been more likely to be distributed fairly. The other problem is that if BP has to pay more than the damages it caused that could destroy BP. Besides wiping out pensioners funds in the UK it would hurt the 40% of investors who happen to be American.

    • Jim C.

      "collected through the legal system." Good luck arguing that one. God knows you'd be arguing against it had Obama taken that route. (Please–don't insult our intelligence by pretending that's not true.)

      "20 years later, BP paid each affected businessman $4,120 each."

      Kind of like how Republicans tried to spin it all until Barton put it into words–then they all ran away repudiating. It's all on video so that won't be a problem to summon back when the time comes. Loyalty to multinationals over country is what you guys are all about. Admit it.

      • USMCSniper

        Ohhh,, I see you are agreement with the bombastic buffoon Bill "Ted Baxter" Oreilly who has his tongue in ass of Obama to gain favor of interview when "Ted" said I don;t care if it is legal or constitutional. Seems like it was an "offer BP can refuse" to me for a slush fund from Obama and his Chicago shakedown thugs to BP.

        • Jim C.

          Ohhh, I see…you don't really care about the victims of the spill…just about getting your digs in at Obama. Big surprise. Tell you what–after you take your tongue out of Tony Hayward's ass–please have your chosen representatives run on that platform, 'k?

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/Vienna1683 Vienna1683

        You slime. He plans on stealing this money and you know it MF. Do you think white Republicans, "typical white people" will get any help?

        Even if they did, how can you replace the damage the he is doing to their homes by his political games, incompetence and racist Marxist policies.

        • Jim C.

          Aw, your concern for "white people" is oh so touching. Thanks for putting your cards on the table. Sure, Obama's the "racist." (eye roll)

          Come back and apologize when he doesn't steal that money, 'k? I'll be here to make sure you do.

  • Andres de Alamaya

    On January 20th, 2009 in chilly Washington, D.C., about one million American attendees witnessed the beginning of America's four year nightmare.

  • buzzard

    Since the spill started BP has stated that they would recompense injured parties. That has never been in dispute. In fact they even waived the legally provided liability cap. While I don't like BP at all (not as much for this as for all their previous rent seeking behavior and faux greenie crap), they do not deserve to be victims of a government shakedown. This is what the big O has done in this case, a naked case of extortion without a shred of legality covering for it. This administration has been a disaster for the rule of law in this country.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/trailmaster AG

    Do the math and blow the well! Otherwise the Gulf could become the dead sea for America. The cost to the average American is miniscule and all we need is some leadership. Could we Americans live with using 1 gal of vehicle gas less each week? Of course!

    Here's the math: There are 251 million vehicles (cars & trucks) registered in America. So let's assume that only 75% of those are used normally. That means we have 188 million vehicles used. What happens if all those were able to use 1 gal of gas less per week?

    188 million gallons of gasoline less each week = 27 million gals per day.
    27 million gals per day = 671,000 barrels of oil per day saved.

    This is not just about BP and oil dependence. It's also about spoiled Americans who need to jump in their car to drive everywhere on a whim. We risk permanently killing the Gulf of Mexico and destroying the Florida economy, along the coastlines of many states. Do the math and blow the well. It runs many thousands of feet below the sea bed and could be cut off and sealed.

    • Jim C.

      Isn't the unpredictability of blowing the well–i.e., that blowing it up in one location could cause fissures elsewhere, or build pressure for another leak somewhere else? I'd think they'd try it if they weren't concerned it could turn into a greater disaster.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/georgerekers georgerekers

    this is going to be a big campaign issue much to the right's dismay. " remember drill baby drill"?????

  • Ron

    Shelby's and McConnell's reaction to the Barton incident just proves to me that the Republican leadership have not learned the lessons, nor heard the strong message sent to them in 2006 and 2008 by Social and Constitutional Conservatives: That we won't be conned by another Bush, or any more "RINO"'s like John McCain, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, etc., EVER again!!

    That IF the Republican Party continues to be taken in by the Democrat's con about "bipartisanship" and "compromise"; and, continue to run from the press and run from the truth; or, as with Barton, attack those who tell the truth! Then we will continue to stay away and let the Democrats walk all over you!!

    "We the People" Conservatives are the Conservatives of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater! We vote only for principled men and women who back down to NO ONE on their principles; will "bargain" within acceptable limits; but, will NEVER EVER cross the line we draw in the sand!!!

    Not any more! You want to play house with the Democrats – Go ahead – but you do so without our support!

    rd22

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JosephWiess JosephWiess

    Oh, please, do go ahead with this tack, it will backfire as more and more Americans realize that Obama is not a leader at all, and doesn't know what he's doing.
    If he fires McCrystal, then McCrystal can run for President and it will be the MacAuthor election we never had.

  • http://federatedrepublic.com Federated Republic

    Don't you folks get it here. The Obomination and the Demoncrats have been handed a prime opportunity here to paint the worst picture of Big Oil possible, all at the expense of the environment and jobs. This is WHO they really are! THEY don't really give a damn about jobs or the environment, just THEIR twisted ideology and THEIR "by any means necessary" mad dog mantra!
    The Obomination and his ilk need to be removed from office ASAP!

    • Jim C.

      Wow. You've just seen Republicans line up to kiss BP's ass in the wake of the worst environmental disaster in our history caused by their own negligence–then take it back after one of their own, Joe Barton, spoke the Love that Dare Not Speak its Name. then Obama helps secure immediate restitution for the actual victims of this spill–and all you've got are conspiracy theories and dumbass "humorous" mispellings? F#$king idiot.

      • http://federatedrepublic.com Federated Republic

        Just keep on sucking the donkey rear of the Obomination and drinking the Demoncrat "Kool-Aide" fool. You'll end up like the rest of the gullible morons that voted for that jackanapes, wishing they had not done so!

        BTW, speaking F-ing idiots, stop misquoting Joe Barton, he did NOT object to BP paying out billions for restitution, he just objects to your BOY and his pickaninnies handing out the money, which will probably end up in the pockets of every left wing loon organization, (ACORN, ACLU, etc) across the planet instead of those who are being put out of work.

        I also love how jackasses like you always trot out "conspiracy theories" every time you left wing louts cannot make a logical argument against FACTS!

        • Jim C.

          No. 1–it's not necessary to "misquote" Barton: his ass-slurp to BP is immortalized on film.

          No. 2–I want you to come back and apologize when your prediction of Obama "stealing" this "shakedown" turns out not to be true. But then, truth never mattered to a moron like yourself, did it? You've already made up your mind.

          No. 3–If you think there's an agenda to "get" Big Oil you'd do well to offer proof, or you're just another tin foil hat.

          • USMCSniper

            You sound like that oil companies hater Bill "Ted Baxter" Oreilly who has tongue in ass of Emperor Obama to gain favor of interview when he said "I don't care how Obama got the money by pressuring BP, even if its illegal or unconstitutional, the folks need it now." Kinda like an endorsement of "Each according to his needs" for the redidtribution of wealth?

          • http://federatedrepublic.com Federated Republic

            THANKS USMC:-)

            Jim can never ever do anything but regurgitate the leftist line, while parroting the pundits of the left, yammering on about proof and laughable conspiracy assertions along with their obvious sick sycophantic obsession with the the Tin Man and other assorted fairy tales!