The silliness of the 2008 presidential campaign has finally made it to the national park system, and in a very bizarre way. During a recent stop in Florida, Republican Fred Thompson allowed that he'd support drilling for oil in Everglades National Park if major reserves were found there.
"I don't think anybody really prefers to drill at all anywhere," the former U.S. senator from Tennessee told the Palm Beach Post. "Nobody wants to see $100 oil, either."
A bit later during his appearance Mr. Thompson added, "No one has told me that there is any major reserves in the Everglades. ... But maybe that's one of the things I have to learn while I'm down here."
Fellow Republican Mitt Romney, when told of Mr. Thompson's comments, was astounded. "In the Everglades? You're kidding. ... We're not going to drill in the Everglades," he told the newspaper. "There are certain places in America that are national treasures and the Everglades is one of those. It's environmentally extraordinarily sensitive. The people of Florida would never support such a thing."
While it is very early in the presidential campaign -- too early for my liking, frankly -- it's not too early to hold the candidates accountable on environmental issues, including their positions on the National Park Service and the national park system.
Can anyone forget George W. Bush promising during the 2000 campaign that he would wipe out the Park Service's maintenance backlog, which then was estimated to be around $5 billion? Well, today it's upwards of $8 billion and the Bush administration has yet to come up with a viable solution for paring it down.
Where do the candidates -- Republican and Democratic -- stand on the environment and the national parks? It's a question worth asking.