From TPM Reader DB ... by Josh Marshall:
The 20 billion fund should be viewed as a huge accomplishment for Obama. He had no actual power to compel that aside from moral suasion and the threat of having an unhappy president. Legally, BP could have just waited for the lawsuits and drawn the whole thing out for years. As a lawyer, I find it a unique and mind-boggling accomplishment.
It reminds me a little of something that happened during the Hurrican Rita evacuation. It was going to slowly and endangering the evacuees. Houston Mayor Bill White got on the phone to the Texas Department of Highways. He said, "make all the lanes of I.H. 45 one way north for the first hundred miles from the coast--the southbound traffic can find another route." He had no power to order that. But the officials just complied. He acted like a man in charge.
So, Obama comes along, says "set up a 20 billion fund, have an independent administrator in charge, and start paying damages." He had no power to order that. But BP said, "yes, sir." And it was done.
We shouldn't be nitpicking the particulars of it.