Yesterday, Republican leaders John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence issued a statement castigating their fellow Republican Congressman Joe Barton. Barton had apologized to BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, for the shoddy treatment he received from Congressmen of both parties. He also accused Barack Obama of a “$20 billion shakedown” of BP. Boenher, Cantor, and Pence wrote, “Congressman Barton’s statements this morning were wrong.”

But they didn’t say why he was wrong. He wasn’t wrong for apologizing for his colleagues’ horrible behavior. He was wrong for claiming that Obama had carried out a “$20 billion shakedown.” As later news reports made clear, the shakedown could be more than $20 billion. So the correct statement is that Barack Obama carried out a “$20 billion or more shakedown.”

Note that I’m not talking about whether BP should be held accountable for the horrible consequences of its actions. Rather, I’m defending the rule of law, something Barack Obama, at one time a professor of constitutional law, might have some dim memory of. His tactics–asserting executive power with no legal basis–were Bush-league.