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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Step Toward Tyranny or Merely Posturing?

Last night, President Obama spoke to the Nation about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

While he has no solutions, he is more than able to pretend that he is doing something. Nor does he lack the arrogance to assume powers that do not exist either in law or the Constitution. Although he is a lawyer by training, his statements, about the ways that BP will be made to pay for the damage that the company's negligence has caused, are either nonsensical or border on the tyrannical.

Perhaps both.

Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.

And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party.

Under which laws - or what part of the Constitution - does the President have the authority, absent a court order, to seize assets from a privately owned business? Even if the President did have such authority, how will the terms 'legitimate claims' and 'fair and timely manner' be defined and by whom?

When President Harry S Truman seized the nation's steel mills in 1952, it did not take long for the Supreme Court to rule that no such authority existed and the mills were promptly restored to their rightful owners.

If BP chooses to make voluntary payments to those that it has damaged, that is its right and such a course of action is likely to be better business than awaiting court action. To the extent that individuals or businesses do not feel that they have been adequately compensated, they may go to court where liability will be determined and damages assessed in accordance with the law.

President Obama states that the fund will be administered by a so-called 'Independent Administrator'. Does any thoughtful, and intellectually honest, person exist in our country who seriously believes that extreme political pressure will not be brought to bear on such an administrator to interpret 'legitimate claims' and 'fair and timely manner' in curious ways that favor political agendas?

The purpose of Mr. Obama's fund, then, seems to be to punish BP - while rewarding favored groups - rather than to make individuals and businesses whole from the damage that they have suffered. That BP deserves punishment appears to be self-evident but that is a process that takes place in court. In addition, the company's [former] customers may inflict further punishment by choosing to buy elsewhere.

In 1780, John Adams described America as a 'Nation of Laws, not of Men'. Notwithstanding the fact that he taught Constitutional Law for a period in his career, President Obama seems to be willing to ignore that statement in favor of granting unfettered power and discretion to a single person.

What Mr. Obama is attempting to do can, perhaps, be described as akin to an act of Royal tyranny - a term that your correspondent does not use lightly. From 1775 to 1783, Americans contributed many lives and much treasure to ensure that, never again, would such a form of government exist in our country.

We are left, then, with two equally unappetising conclusions: either Mr. Obama is just posturing or that he has taken a long step down the road towards tyranny. Whichever is the case, the sooner that Mr. Obama is no longer President, the better.

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