Never one to miss a good media moment, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann made it clear at a Heritage Foundation Luncheon that she was there to lead the way in protecting BP from getting "fleeced" in connection with damages claims as a result of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. That's right, a company who was able to pay its CEO 3 times in salary what it spent on safety and compliance needs someone to stand up and protect it from the "illegitimate" claims of fishermen who are out of work, probably permanently, as a result of corporate recklessness and negligence.
By now we are used to nonsense flowing from Rep. Bachmann at about an equivalent rate to the oil currently spewing out from the blown Deepwater rig. But the thing is, Rep. Bachmann is not alone in this sentiment, and may just be playing smart politics from the right's perspective. And that should make us all take notice.
At the start of today's House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the spill, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) issued his own apology. But this apology was not aimed at the American public, or even the "small people" harmed by this disaster. This apology was issued directly to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the tragedy of his company being subject to the $20 billion "shakedown" announced by the Obama administration and BP yesterday.
Listen carefully and you will hear a common narrative emerge from both Rep. Bachmann and Rep. Barton, and that is a narrative proclaiming a willingness to pay only "legitimate" claims. The thing is, there is no reason to believe that the claims made so far by anyone effected by this country's greatest environmental disaster in the Gulf have been anything but legitimate. It's just that Bachmann and Barton would like BP and its insurers to be the primary authority for what is and is not a "legitimate" claim.
And if I was protecting corporate interests, so would I. Over ten years have passed and claims related to the Exxon Valdez spill are still winding their way through the courts. Just recently the Supreme Court knocked down a significant portion of those damages claims, which now sit at less than $550 million. Under the guise of Chief Justice Roberts the Court has shown a growing hostility toward the rights of individuals when matched with the "rights" of corporations.
This "shakedown" by the Obama administration results in an independent arbitrator deciding victim compensation, thereby circumventing the kind of judicial manipulation made possible by battalions of lawyers and infinite resources. It reflects the kind of pragmatism that usually gets the president considerable criticism by the left. But in this case, that kind of pragmatism might just be brilliant.