Following a flurry of news reports about the renomination of Ms. Kristine Svinicki, one of his colleagues at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko decided to hold a previously unscheduled press conference at the National Press Club. Inquiring minds, like mine, are wondering why he made that decision.
First of all, I think we can discount the hypothesis that Jaczko was being serious when he explained that he was just kind of bored because his Friday afternoon schedule did not have many planned activities and he does not “play golf.” That off-handed comment was in character for a stiffly self important bureaucrat trying to make a joke. If I had been a member of the press at the event, I might have had to follow through with a statement about the risk of wasting the media’s time on Friday afternoon.
Secondly, I think we can also discount Jaczko’s claim that he has not been paying much attention to the controversy about the way that his political patrons have treated the renomination of Ms. Svinicki. It was more than a little disingenuous for him to make the following statement during a Friday afternoon press conference at the end of a week in which the only news reports containing his name were in reference to the Svinicki nomination process.
Jaczko, a Democrat who once worked for Reid, attempted to distance himself from the nomination process on Friday at the hastily called news conference.
“There is a process certainly for any commissioner who comes to the NRC to go through,” Jaczko said. “That process is laid down by the Constitution. The president makes the nomination then the Senate does the confirmation… the chairman of the NRC wasn’t given a role in that process.”
(Ref: CNN – NRC chairman denies he mistreats women)
He’s right, the Chairman of the NRC was not given an official role in that process, but he apparently believes he has the ability to influence the media treatment of that process by visiting his friends at the National Press Club. It might interest some to know just how hastily the press event was organized – there was no press release published on the NRC web site and the media advisory to journalists was sent out only a little more than an hour before the event was scheduled to start. Here is the text of that announcement:
***MEDIA ADVISORY ***
NRC CHAIRMAN TO HOLD MEDIA AVAILABILITY TODAY
NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko will make a brief statement and then take questions today at 2:30 p.m. at the National Press Club at 529 14th St. NW, Suite 1300, in Washington D.C.
A one-way teleconference line has been set up for accredited media unable to attend in person. To get that number, please call 301-415-8200. Reporters on the phone will be able to submit questions to email@example.com during the media availability.
Aside: The venue chosen for the press conference supports my contention that Jaczko is a clever political animal. Taking the time to visit the press in their downtown DC gathering place on a Friday afternoon was a savvy move. It was a lot better for his long term relationships than inviting the DC area press corps to the NRC office on Rockville pike – about 5 miles outside of the Beltway – on a Friday afternoon. I’ve been in that area on several Friday afternoons. The local freeways would be better named as parkways; most of the cars on them seem to be virtually parked. End aside.
My wildly speculative theory is that Chairman Jaczko is laying the groundwork for a lucrative post government job by taking every possible opportunity to get his name in print, especially in articles with headlines like the following:
- ABC News – Top Nuclear Regulator Denies He Has Targeted Women
- CNN – NRC chairman denies he mistreats women
- Chicago Tribune – U.S. nuclear chief says he’s no bully to women
- Politico – NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko denies he ‘targeted women’
- Las Vegas Review Journal – NRC leader fights abuse accusations
- Christian Science Monitor – ‘War on women’ rhetoric turns nuclear power spat radioactive
- BusinessWeek – NRC’s Jaczko Denies Mistreating Women, Confirms Watchdog Report
Like most professional politicians and other media dependent celebrities, I think Chairman Jaczko knows that there is no such thing as bad publicity as long as they spell your name correctly. It certainly would do no harm to his standing as the odds-on favorite to take over the roles of Peter Bradford and Victor Gilinsky, two long time professional antinuclear activists that buffed their credibility by being able to honestly claim that they served on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
My theory is that Jaczko’s tenure at the NRC may soon be coming to an end. I have no insider information, but I suspect that he has seen the draft report of the long awaited Inspector General report about his conduct and management style. He may keep denying that he had any ill intent, but it will be difficult to deny the findings of a report that describes the perceptions of the victims of his angry outbursts.
As was the case in almost every political lynching I witnessed while serving inside the Beltway, I think that the subject is doing everything he can to ensure a relatively cushy landing. He will try very hard to make himself appear to be the victim of a political tug of war or, more probably, to claim that the nuclear industry worked hard to force him out because of his dedication to “nuclear safety.”
Jaczko is no nuclear safety expert. The people who earn that designation are those who dedicate their careers to developing nuclear safety systems, performing probabilistic risk assessments, and developing new materials to more securely isolate radioactive materials from the environment. They are not people who serve as obstructionists and convince others that the only safe nuclear plant is one that is either shut down or so tied up in regulatory knots that it is always at an immediate risk of being forced to shut down.
Corrected copy An early version of this post incorrectly indicated that Ms. Svinicki’s first name was Karen, not Kristine. I humbly apologize for the inaccuracy. I need to upbraid my fact checker.