Playing the Role of Stereotypes
There is a stereotype that Republicans care about big business but not the little guy. Here is a story of GW living up to that stereotype, courtesy of Steve Benen:
A reporter at this morning’s White House press conference asked the president an interesting question I haven’t heard Bush respond to before: “You can get the Congress to protect telecom companies from lawsuits, but then there’s no recourse for Americans who feel that they’ve been caught up in this. I know it’s not intended to spy on Americans, but in the collection process, information about everybody gets swept up and then it gets sorted. So if Americans don’t have any recourse, are you just telling them, when it comes to their privacy, to suck it up?”
Steve Benen then has this video…
And this transcript:
THE PRESIDENT: I wouldn’t put it that way, if I were you, in public. Well, you’ve been long been long enough to — anyway, yes, I — look, there’s — people who analyze the program fully understand that America’s civil liberties are well protected. There is a constant check to make sure that our civil liberties of our citizens aren’t — you know, are treated with respect. And that’s what I want, and that’s what most — all Americans want.
Now let me talk about the phone companies. You cannot expect phone companies to participate if they feel like they’re going to be sued. I mean, it is — these people are responsible for shareholders; they’re private companies. The government said to those who have alleged to have helped us that it is in our national interests and it’s legal. It’s in our national interests because we want to know who’s calling who from overseas into America. We need to know in order to protect the people.
It was legal. And now, all of a sudden, plaintiffs attorneys, class-action plaintiffs attorneys, you know — I don’t want to try to get inside their head; I suspect they see, you know, a financial gravy train — are trying to sue these companies. First, it’s unfair. It is patently unfair. And secondly, these lawsuits create doubts amongst those who will — whose help we need.
I guess you could be relaxed about all this if you didn’t think there was a true threat to the country. I know there’s a threat to the country. And the American people expect our Congress to give the professionals the tools they need to listen to foreigners who may be calling into the United States with information that could cause us great harm. So, on the one hand, the civil liberties of our citizens are guaranteed by a lot of checks in the system, scrutinized by the United States Congress.
And secondly, I cannot emphasize to you how important it is that the Congress solve this problem. The Senate has solved the problem. And people say, would you ever compromise on the issue? The Senate bill is a compromise. And there’s enough votes in the House of Representatives to pass the Senate bill. It’s a bipartisan bill. And the House leaders need to put it on the floor, let the will of the House work. In my judgment, it happens to be the will of the people, to give the professionals the tools they need to protect the country.
Long story short, GW is telling us that our civil liberties are well protected, and we should just trust him. No recourse is necessary because… he tells us no recourse is necessary.
GW has also managed to get his stereotype of a Republican attitude onto the Supreme Court, according to this story by Dana Milbank at the Washington Post (hat tip: Think Progress):
Exxon Mobil, the giant oil corporation appearing before the Supreme Court yesterday, had earned a profit of nearly $40 billion in 2006, the largest ever reported by a U.S. company — but that’s not what bothered Roberts. What bothered the chief justice was that Exxon was being ordered to pay $2.5 billion — roughly three weeks’ worth of profits — for destroying a long swath of the Alaska coastline in the largest oil spill in American history.
“So what can a corporation do to protect itself against punitive-damages awards such as this?” Roberts asked in court.
The lawyer arguing for the Alaska fishermen affected by the spill, Jeffrey Fisher, had an idea. “Well,” he said, “it can hire fit and competent people.”
The rare sound of laughter rippled through the august chamber. The chief justice did not look amused.
Perhaps, though, his consternation was misplaced. Everybody knows the wheels of justice turn slowly, but in the case of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, things have dragged on so long that Lady Justice’s blindness could reasonably be attributed to cataracts.
Nineteen years after the Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound and spilled 11 million gallons of oil, the 32,000 plaintiffs — mostly fishermen, cannery workers and Native Alaskans — have received no punitive damages from Exxon.
A jury awarded them $5 billion in punitive damages — a record level, for a record disaster — and an appeals court cut that in half. Now, the Supreme Court seems inclined to deal another insult to the victims (as many as a fifth of whom have already died) by cutting the award further.
Basically, its simple. A lot of damage was done. 1,200 miles of coastline were covered with oil. Livelihoods were destroyed. Someone has to bear the burden. In theory, it can be the company that caused the damage, or it can be everyone else. So far its been everyone else. Our esteemed Supreme Court Chief Justice, and several of our other esteemed Justices apparently intend to keep it that way.