Act first, think second

ACT FIRST, THINK SECOND…. I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid coverage of a certain former half-term governor lately, but Sarah Palin’s recent remarks demanding more coastal drilling seem pretty important under the circumstances.

It’s not just the topical nature of her misguided comments — there is, in case she hasn’t heard, a devastating oil spill in the Gulf, that gets worse every day — but Palin’s demands are also evidence of a larger problem with the far-right approach to public policy.

“After inheriting a good pro-development GOP plan that opened up both coasts for drilling, the Obama administration halted development … and now we’re gonna study, more study of the South Atlantic and parts of the Gulf of Mexico … my goodness, folks, these areas have been studied to death … I have seen so many, many studies!

“I say, let’s send the White House this message: that, you know, we can save taxpayer time, save money and announce: there is oil and gas down there, and we can produce it safely and responsibly! We don’t need more studies, we need more action! Because energy produced in America is security for America, and it is jobs for American workers, jobs that can’t be outsourced. Let’s drill baby, drill, not stall, baby, stall!”

It’s hard not to chuckle at the notion that the conspicuously unintelligent former half-term governor has actually “seen so many, many studies” — as if she spends her free time digging through reports from the Department of Interior.

But the larger point Palin is trying to make here is pretty straightforward: stop being methodical, stop worrying about consequences, stop getting the facts together, and just do stuff. Evidence and research are fine for eggheads and East coast intellectuals, but who needs thinking when there are oil rigs to erect along the nation’s coastline? Everything will probably work out for the best, right? We can obviously count on oil companies to do the right thing and deal with any problems that arise.

The right-wing media personality couldn’t possibly understand this, but her approach is exactly what helped create this nightmare in the first place. Federal officials cleared drilling in the Gulf “without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency about the impact the drilling was likely to have on the gulf.” Officials could have also required remote acoustic shutoff switches, but were more concerned with getting the process underway — without “stalling” — with minimal burdens on the industry.

In other words, we already tried the “act first, think second” approach Palin recommends. We’ll be dealing with the costs for a very long time.