Attorney General Eric Holder says the Obama administration is pursuing criminal, not just civil, charges over BP's massive Gulf of Mexico oil gusher. Echoing earlier remarks by Obama, Holder vowed to "prosecute to the fullest extent" any person or company found to have broken the law. The federal government still needs BP to stop the leak and clean up the mess, however, so is threatening criminal charges now a good idea? (Watch Eric Holder announce the investigations into BP)
It's past time we threw the book at BP: Given BP's earlier felony convictions in connection to a 2006 spill in Alaska's North Slope, a criminal investigation "should have been the priority from day one," says Andrew Revkin in The New York Times. Presumably, federal lawyers and investigators have been sifting through the "petro-calamity" for "evidence of crimes" for weeks, but publicly turning up the heat on BP "felt way overdue."
"The Justice Department seeks evidence of crimes in the Gulf"
BP doesn't need this distraction now: "Obviously, if there's evidence of crimes, [BP] should be prosecuted," says Carol Platt Liebau in Townhall. But not now. Obama's "grandstanding" about criminal charges just means that BP has to play a hugely distracting game of "legal [cover your ass]" instead of focusing "100 percent on remediating the disaster." Americans want action, not lawsuits.
"Don't do anything — just sue someone"
The blame game can wait — for everyone: Yes, "the focus now should be on stopping the oil," says The Philadelphia Inquirer in an editorial. "Finger-pointing is what you do after an event is over" — but that should apply equally to those Republicans "smacking their lips in glee because they believe the BP oil spill will be as politically damaging to the president as it is environmentally harmful to the Gulf Coast."