It is not often that a politician is confronted by reality and does the right thing.
Indeed, if there is a pattern of late it has been that, when confronted with evidence that they are wrong, most elected officials claim that they are victims of partisan attacks on their integrity or, in the case of Sarah Palin, simply quit.
But the scope of the environmental, economic and social catastrophe caused by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is proving to be so immense that some politicians are breaking pattern.
While President Obama has yet to do the right thing and admit that he was wrong to buy into Palin’s “drill-baby-drill” fantasy and bend on the question of whether to permit more offshore drilling, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is going green on this one.
The Republican governor abruptly abandoned his support for the controversial Tranquillon Ridge drilling project off the coast of California’s Santa Barbara County Monday.
Schwarzenegger says he was convinced to do so by the images of the disaster off Louisiana.
"All of you have seen, when you turn on the television, the devastation in the Gulf, and I’m sure that they also were assured that it was safe to drill," he explained at a press conference. "I see on TV the birds drenched in oil, the fisherman out of work, the massive oil spill and oil slick destroying our precious ecosystem. That will not happen here in California, and this is why I am withdrawing my support for the T-Ridge project."
The truly remarkable thing about Schwarzenegger’s response – which effectively kills the California project he had championed – is that he acted as a human being, not a political machine repeating talking points even after they have been disproven.
No rational human being could consider the nightmare scenario that is playing out in the Gulf and not be moved to assure that it will not be repeated.
Yet, most politicians who depend for the livelihoods on campaign contributions from big oil – and friendly coverage from media outlets that preach the energy-corporation mantra – are still waiting to see whether the latest coastal crisis will shift public sentiment so firmly against dangerous drilling that they must finally abandon what was always a fool’s mission.