A post titled Bill Magwood, NRC Democrat, Is ‘Treacherous, Miserable Liar’ And ‘First-Class Rat,’ Says Harry Reid offers an illuminating view of political thinking coming from inside the Washington, DC beltway. That way of thinking, in this case, can be traced back to Las Vegas, NV and the mob-influenced power politics that played a role in the Sin City’s development. As many of us may recall, the people who climbed to the economic and political top of the heap in that city were from organized crime families that operated from their own code of ethics.
In the “ethical” behavior code ingrained into people who grow up in that milieu the word “loyalty” is often confused with “integrity”.
A person who is loyal agrees to follow the direction of his boss, no matter what. If the boss says “jump”, the loyal follower says “how high?” If the boss says “shoot that guy”, the loyal follower pulls the trigger without worrying about the moral and legal prohibitions against murder. In contrast, a person with integrity seeks to follow higher principles like truth, justice, and established law. A person of integrity has a questioning attitude, engages in serious study, seeks scientific confirmation, and makes decisions after carefully considering the consequences – not just for himself but for most other people who might be affected by the decision.
In the world of organized crime, and, apparently, in the world of power politics as exercised by Harry Reid, a loyal follower is highly valued. A loyal follower makes promises and blindly follows through, even if they have to break laws or harm people who are in the way. A loyal follower is someone who can be entrusted to carry out orders, even if they violate the law and even if they put that follower into grave personal danger.
Aside: I’ve known a few people in positions of power who valued loyalty above all else and who wrote fitness reports to reward those who demonstrated personal loyalty – and to harm those people with the integrity to serve a higher calling. Fortunately, I was never assigned to work directly for that kind of leader. I came close one time, but there were enough layers between me and the guy who wanted to fire me that I was reasonably well protected from the s#%$-storm that occurred when he thought I had betrayed him. End Aside.
For power seekers nurtured in mob style leadership training, a man of integrity who engages in thoughtful decision making that results in taking action that is in opposition to the person who thinks they wield power can be considered to be a “treacherous, miserable liar” (Reid’s words). The mob style power politician can think that building power by doing favors, collecting loyal followers, and bribing where necessary is the right way to do business because they have never been told otherwise. They might have never been exposed to people who stand up and fight for what is right instead of what is ordered.
Here is a quote from the Huffington Post piece about Reid’s reaction to having been fooled into thinking that he was supporting a loyal man when, instead, he was actually supporting the nomination of a man of integrity. When that man of integrity did not say “how high” when told to jump and did not shoot at the Senator’s favorite target when told to kill Yucca Mountain, Reid got angry enough to provide a personal interview with a sympathetic reporter who seems to have the same moral confusion between loyalty and integrity.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, the Nevada Democrat savaged Bill Magwood, a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, when asked if he thought the Democrat had a chance to become NRC chairman.
“You know, when you’re in this government, this business of politics, the only thing that you have is your word,” said Reid, seated in his Capitol office. “I can be as partisan as I have to be, but I always try to be nice. I try never to say bad things about people. Bill Magwood is one of the” — Reid paused, deciding which adjective to reach for, before picking them all — “most unethical, prevaricating” — he paused again, this time for 10 full seconds — “incompetent people I’ve ever dealt with. The man sat in that chair — right there — and lied to me. I’ve never, ever in my life had anyone do that. Never.”
Though I was not in the room at the time, I can guess that what Reid believes is a “lie” was really something quite different. I suspect that, if Reid actually had a personal conversation with Bill Magwood, he asked him a carefully phrased question like “Will you do the right thing on Yucca?” It is well known within Washington, especially among people who are at least nominally members of the Democratic Party, that Reid considers that “the right thing on Yucca” is to kill the project.
Many people who are governed by integrity and a search for the truth, however, do not look for hidden meaning in the words of others. Though the smart ones are aware that it happens, they do not engage in “wink and nod” communications. I suspect that Bill Magwood probably answered truthfully with something like “Of course, Senator. I will do the right thing.”
I suspect that Reid believed he had extracted a promise from Magwood during that meeting to work to kill the project while Magwood probably left the meeting with some relief, thinking that he had only been directed to follow the law and the science when making his decision about whether or not to license the project after the completion of the careful reviews that he knew the application would receive by the NRC technical staff.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Bill Magwood. During my days as an atomic entrepreneur, I briefed him and his staff at the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy about Adams Engines, a concept for small, modular power plants that would take advantage of work that his office was doing in developing nuclear reactor fuel that could safely produce coolant gas temperatures approaching 1000 degrees C. The meeting lasted for a couple of hours.
Mr. Magwood was fully engaged and asked a number of penetrating questions that indicated technical competence and a strong desire to do the right thing. He personally explained the careful roadmap that he and his scientists had laid out to develop and fully test the fuel that we needed. I was not happy about learning that the DoE was not planning to have its fuel fully qualified until 2022, but I respected the fact that they had sound, scientifically-based reasons for taking so long to accomplish the important task.
In my opinion, Bill Magwood is no “industry” sycophant, but he is a well-educated, thoughtful man who fully understands the special nature of nuclear energy technology. He knows that it provides human society with tremendous value, but he also knows that it caries a high burden of responsibility to handle it correctly.
I imagine that he knows that a decision about long term storage that affects the entire country right now and may have some remote possibility of having a dangerous effect on future generations requires careful thought and investigation. He knows that making such a decision based on the political desires of one man from a low population state is fundamentally wrong.
I want to share one more quote from the Huffington Post article that indicates that Bill Magwood is a rare, but valuable, breed within Washington, DC. He is a man willing to engage in the political game who also has deep technical knowledge about nuclear energy. I believe we are fortunate in having at least two other members of the commission who are members of that small group. He is not someone who claims nuclear expertise merely because he has studied nuclear “issues.”
In June, Magwood’s internal wrangling against Jaczko culminated in the chairman’s resignation. Magwood was immediately floated as a replacement chairman, but the Obama administration, aware of Reid’s opinion of Magwood, passed him over. The term of the new chair, Allison Macfarlane, ends in 2013.
Reid said that Magwood’s behind-the-scenes maneuvering was unforgivable. “He’s a first-class rat. He lied to Rouse, he lied to me, and he had a plan. He is a tool of the nuclear industry. A tool,” Reid said. “Magwood was a shit-stirrer. He did everything he could do to embarrass Greg Jaczko.” Reid has donated $10,000 to help Jaczko pay the considerable legal bills he racked up defending against Magwood’s allegations.
Jaczko was “the first chair that has never been part of the nuclear industry,” Reid said, explaining the intense opposition. “That commission was a tool to the nuclear industry. Greg Jaczko, this young guy, he of course worked for me. He was against Yucca Mountain. But they knew that going in.”
Reid can tolerate ideological or political disagreement, he said, as long as his opponent is honest.
Once again, that quote demonstrates how some people can confuse loyalty with honesty and integrity. Reid may have thought that Magwood made him a promise, but what Reid forgets is that Magwood swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States. He became a member of a Commission with legal obligations to serve the people of the United States by making nuclear energy available and safe.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, initially established as the Atomic Energy Commission by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, was formed to enable the use of nuclear energy helping to ensure that it remained safe. The law was enacted by properly elected representatives of the people of the United States and it has been supported by thousands of elected representatives since that time. It is not a tool of the nuclear industry, it is a tool of the people of the United States. We want, and need the clean, reliable, affordable power that is locked up inside the nuclei of a trio of heavy metals – uranium, thorium and plutonium. We want, and need the almost miraculous capabilities provided by the radioactive isotopes associated with unlocking that energy store.
One more thing – can anyone tell me why a Senator from a state so small that it only has three congressional districts has so much power? That is not supposed to happen based on the civics lessons that I learned in school.