Is Rand Paul Right? Is Obama's Criticism of BP "Un-American"?


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Republicans typically lend more vocal support to the oil industry than Dems do: Nobody's going to forget 'Drill, Baby, Drill' anytime soon. Regardless, few politicians would seem likely to come out and say publicly that a president's being too harsh on an oil company that is currently responsible for millions of gallons leaking uncontrollably into the ocean. Especially when that president, even in the view of many of his supporters, isn't acting nearly harshly enough. But that's exactly what Tea Party star Rand Paul said last week, when he called Barack Obama's treatment of BP "un-American" for being too harsh. Here's Paul's full quote, via ABC:

"What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.' I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business," he said. "I've heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it's part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it's always got to be someone's fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen."
First of all, the latter part of that statement is ridiculous. When countless fragile ecosystems, a multibillion dollar fishing industry, and hundreds of thousands of people's livelihoods hang in the balance, you take the proper precautions to ensure that accidents like this do not happen. BP did not do this.

For the record, many are fuming at Obama's response to the oil spill -- and not just conservative pundits who are trying desperately to mold this disaster's narrative into "Obama's Katrina." No, plenty of others are pissed off that the boot heel's not coming down hard enough -- that the administration continues to grant BP far too much leeway in its catastrophic cleanup operations, actually appears to be abetting the company in limiting press access, and is allowing said company to rebut its authority on significant matters like the use of toxic chemical dispersants.

In which case, maybe Rand Paul is right, in a way -- maybe it is Un-American for the president to let an oil company flagrantly walk all over his administration, offering only semi-tough words, but little action, as a rebuke. Maybe the truly "American" thing to do -- especially in the conservative conception of an American-ness that includes being all tough and no-nonsense with entities that threaten to do harm to the American people and economy. In that view, wouldn't the American thing to do be to enforce EPA findings like the fact that far less toxic chemicals are available for use as dispersant, and that BP must use those? Or telling BP that it doesn't get to tell the press to stay off public land? Wouldn't the "American" thing to do be to hold BP properly accountable, every step of the way?

Of course, this isn't what Rand Paul meant at all -- he was simply trying to justify his point that private business should be hindered by the mean ol' government, in the wake of his dubious statements about the Civil Rights Act. Paul really was saying that it's un-American to criticize a company whose negligence resulted the biggest environmental disasters to hit the US in decades, because that company had already clearly said aloud that it would pay for all of the damages -- so why hassle it further? Multi-national oil companies involved in spills never ever shirk responsibility for there messes, so let's just trust them. I mean, it's not like Exxon appealed its punitive fines multiple times until they were lowered to a mere fraction of the original sum after the Valdez disaster, right?

Wrong. But it may be why Rand Paul is right in a way he never attended to be.

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