Editorial: Florida oil issue raises questions

In an unprecedented move, President George W. Bush announced May 30 he would protect Florida’s coastline and the Everglades from oil drilling. One would hope this decision was based on evidence of the damage such drilling could cause, but, more than likely, Bush’s “environmental” move can be attributed as a way to protect his brother’s governorship and his own re-election.

While armchair environmentalists jumped for joy, those with more than a passing knowledge of politics or the environment were puzzled. Why would a president with ties to the oil industry protect the environment and not push drilling? Maybe because his brother, Jeb Bush, is the governor of Florida and up for re-election in November. His little brother’s loss of his position halfway through his presidency would not reflect well on his presidential election in 2004.

While drilling for oil off of Florida’s coast could still happen, an article in Thursday’s St. Petersburg Times quoted the president as stating that moving the drilling away from the coast showed the national government is “committed to protecting the environment.” However, the state of the environment is not the reason President Bush approved such a measure. It was to protect his own hide and that of his brother’s.

Gov. Bush appears to have a serious battle for a second term as allegations surrounding the Rilya Wilson scandal are investigated. Although Janet Reno, best known in Florida for the Elian Gonzalez misstep, and throughout the U.S. for the tragedy of Waco, cannot pose any real threat to Bush, the incumbent has received heavy criticism on behalf of the Department of Children and Families and education initiatives. His own politicking could prove to be his undoing.

As evidenced in 2000, President Bush’s re-election may hinge on the electoral votes Florida can provide him. While there is no direct evidence that his brother has any real control over the way the votes will fall, it can’t hurt to have his little brother sitting in the governor’s mansion while the votes are being counted.