Saturday, January 03, 2004

Lazy rebuttal

In lieu of working on a good rebuttal to the latest "Dean Did Something That Could When Spun Just Right Sound Almost Like Something That Dean Is Accusing Bush Of Doing Therefore Dean Is An Implied Hypocrite" story (AP Exclusive: Dean criticizes Bush, but repeatedly warned about Vermont nuclear preparedness), I'm going to do the old tried and true and lazy method of simply stealing what someone else has already written (Hey! I'm still recovering from the holidays! Give me a break!)

I offer for your consideration this post over on Bartcop Nation by felix19:

A reference to an unlinked AP story is sufficient to get the anti-Dean forces into full fury. In other words, it doesn't take ANYTHING at all to get them into a frenzy. This is worse, I'm afraid, than anything Clinton had to endure. Worse than any Democrat has had to endure. Ever.

As it happens, I did find a story that may be the one referred to, Here, and I would just like to ask if anyone has actually read it.

Anyone?

While it can be interpreted as a "hit piece"-- if you want to -- it is to my mind a cautionary about nuclear facilities in general and the hapless situation the Governor and people of Vermont found themselves in with regard to the Yankee plant.

You may note that in the story, Dean makes clear that he was aware of the security issues at Yankee and he did everything he could to induce the NRC and the plant's private owners to enhance the security they were obligated to. The NRC and the plant's owners failed. Throughout the 90's in fact, the NRC appears to have been asleep at the switch with regard to the Yankee plant.

This should come as no surprise to those who have followed the saga of nuclear power in this country. Apparently, though, because the name "Dean" is attached to the story, it "means" something other than what it states.

Those who cannot help themselves will presume that this story is the ultimate death blow to the bogus Dean campaign.

Others will recognize that Dean acted responsibly in the face of consistent Federal and private industry failures to implement security standards that they themselves set for nuclear power plants.

Let's review, shall we? (Those who have already decided that Dean is the spawn of Satan are excused.)

This is all from the AP article

  • The NRC has primary responsibility for safety at Vermont Yankee
  • Dean's campaign said Saturday it ultimately was the NRC's responsibility to ensure security at the plant, but that he badgered Vermont Yankee's operators and the NRC to make improvements during the 1990s. It noted the NRC's safety budget was cut in the 1990s.
  • "After September 11, Governor Dean decided the buck stops here in terms of security and personally ran this effort, creating a Cabinet-level agency," spokesman Jay Carson said.
  • Dean moved quickly afterward to place state troopers and National Guardsman at the plant, distribute radiation pills to civilians, demand a federal no-fly zone over the plant to prevent an aerial attack, and increase emergency preparedness funding.
  • The important thing is after Governor Dean recognized these vulnerabilities, he took swift, bold steps to make things better.
  • State Auditor Ready...agreed things improved after her critical 2002 report and that security tests this year showed Vermont Yankee was safer. "Once Governor Dean got that report there was swift and thorough action," she said.
  • Dean responded by writing the head of the plant that the problems could "have an impact on the health and safety of the people of Vermont" and "it is my expectation that you will do all in your power to correct this declining trend." It was one of several such letters he wrote.

One could argue fairly that the Dean administration in Vermont should have -- and possibly could have -- done more to require compliance from the NRC and the plant's (private) owners and operators. One cannot fairly argue that Dean is a hypocrite for not securing this (privately owned and operated) nuclear powerplant under Federal NRC regulatory and security control while now criticizing Bush for doing too little about nuclear plant security himself. In fact, Dean was apparently on the NRC's case and the plant owners' case all the time, and NRC did little or nothing to require their own standards be met by the (privately owned and operated) Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. Dean also established a state oversight commission and responded appropriately to their recommendations, though he was a tightwad and didn't appropriate all the money they recommended, still he did more to enhance the security at the plant than the owners and the NRC.

So the issue boils down to this: Dean is a famous New England tightwad who didn't approve as much money for security at the Vermont Yankee plant as was recommended by the oversight commission, and he badgered the NRC and the plant's owners to do more to meet security and operating standards -- which they failed to do.

Of course there is much more to the story than appears in the AP account (there always is) and questions can and should be raised about Dean's energy policies and actions in Vermont.

But there is little in this story to justify any gnashing of teeth and rending of garments we're seeing among the anti-Dean folk.

And the question this article raises is: how much authority are you willing to cede to government to control your actions as well as those of private industry, and how much are you prepared to pay for your security?

Contrary to popular belief in the California State Capitol, a Governor is not a dictator and usually is not in a position to unilaterally impose his authority on a situation that is the responsibility of (in this case) the NRC and the owners and operators of the nuclear power plant.

I would just add to this that this story is similar to the kind of reporting we saw on the Whitewater case. Back then, aspersions were cast on Clinton for failing to do more to prevent the collapse of Madison-Guaranty. Yet many of those stories presumed that Clinton actually had the authority to do more than he did.

Even this article, in a round-about-way, admits that Dean didn't have that much authority. Now few would argue with the claim that Bush, as President, has full authority to take care of the security issues that Dean has highlighted. Yet we are supposed to take away from this article the sense that Dean has somehow failed in the same way that Bush has failed.

Well, if nothing else, the "he's just as bad" argument isn't that much of a winning argument. If that's the best they can come up with in response to the Dean's charges than I would say the good Doctor is on the right track.

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