Jonah Goldberg

It was H.L. Mencken who said of Truman's 1948 campaign, "If there had been any formidable body of cannibals in the country, Harry Truman would have promised to provide them with free missionaries fattened at the taxpayer's expense."

As John Kerry continues to talk tough on foreign policy, his promise to block the Yucca Mountain Project shows that he's running as a Truman Democrat on domestic policy, too.

Yucca Mountain, Nevada is the intended resting place of roughly 77,000 metric tons of deadly nuclear waste, which is currently strewn across the country like socks and beer cans in a frat house. The goal is to put the stuff in a single, safe location. Nevadans like the idea, except for the part that involves keeping it in their state.

In 2000, President Bush promised them he wouldn't support the Yucca Mountain Project unless science said it was safe. Kerry says Bush broke that promise when the president okayed Yucca in 2002 - even though Kerry himself has voted in favor of procedural measures that advanced the project. Kerry responds that his only "substantive vote" in favor of the Yucca Mountain repository was in 1987, and it simply authorized further study of the most studied parcel of land in the known universe.

"We were presuming at that point in time, though, that they were going to do a safe analysis," Kerry told Nevada journalists this week. "My opposition has been on the basis of the analysis that has come back," Kerry said.

Now, I've been to Yucca Mountain and interviewed the scientists there and read quite a few of the studies. And, frankly, I have no idea what Kerry is talking about. Yucca Mountain is indisputably the safest conceivable installation for nuclear waste in America - and, quite probably, on the planet. If terrorists wanted to, say, crash a 747 into Yucca Mountain, they'd pretty much have to get past the Nellis Air Force base, where the Air Force practices blowing things up. It's also the home of the Air Warfare Center and the Air Force Weapons School. It is where the Thunderbirds practice and the site of the International combat-training exercise known as "Red Flag." Yucca Mountain also abuts the highly secure Nevada Test Site where we've blown up a kajillion atomic bombs.

Oh, and I should add that even if the terrorist-seized plane got through and smacked the repository head-on, it wouldn't even rattle the canisters under thousands of feet of Yucca Mountain rock. In fact, a direct nuclear strike would mean next to nothing in terms of safety.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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