Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, May 23, 2008

Barack Obama: Hanford? Never Heard of It

What does Barack Obama's ignorance of Hanford tell us about our local politicians? A great deal actually.

We might never know what negotiations take place when Democratic presidential candidates woo the party’s superdelegates for their votes. The ironically misnamed Democratic Party goes to some lengths to insulate its nominating process from the great unwashed, in part by reserving 20% of its national convention delegates to unelected so-called “superdelegates.” These superdelegates are free to choose whom to support for their party’s nomination independent of the votes cast by the little people. They may cut whatever deal with the candidate that they wish in exchange for a vote at the national convention. This mutual back scratching would probably not rise to the dignity of Otto Von Bismark’s sausage making analogy. But thanks to what was revealed in response to an innocent question Monday, we can eliminate from consideration any conversations regarding issues critical to the state of Washington.
Just before the Oregon Democratic primary Tuesday, Barack Obama was floundering in his most unnatural element, extemporaneous speaking during a question and answer period, when he was asked what he intended to do about cleaning up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
“Here's something that you will rarely hear from a politician, and that is that I'm not familiar with the Hanford site, so I don't know exactly what's going on there. Now, having said that, I promise you I'll learn about it by the time I leave here on the ride back to the airport.”
While it’s refreshing to hear a politician admit that there’s something out there about which he is not the world’s foremost authority, Obama’s ignorance on this issue is really quite unforgivable because of what it says about him and for what it reveals about Washington’s governor and the rest of Washington’s Democratic superdelegates.
Hanford is the site where plutonium for the second of the two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan, ending World War II, was made. It is considered one of the nation’s most contaminated environmental sites. Currently, the federal government spends about $2 billion dollars per year on cleanup efforts. Even so, the site remains the stuff of a comic book nightmare. The only thing missing is Blinky, the three-eyed fish of Simpsons cartoon fame. He probably died of radiation poisoning.
Supposedly, Hanford cleanup has been a top priority with Washington’s Congressional delegation, all of whom from the Democratic side of the aisle are superdelegates, as is King County Executive Ron Sims, former Speaker of the House Tom Foley, state party chairman Dwight Pelz, along with several other party hacks, and Washington Governor Christine Gregoire. Ms. Gregoire has announced her intention to support Barack Obama at this summer’s Democratic National Convention.
It is well known that considerable horse trading occurs as the candidates try to entice superdelegates to commit their vote. From all I can tell, there are no rules. One can even purchase a superdelegate’s vote for straight up cash. Hillary Clinton even sent her daughter out on a date with a pimple-faced 21-year old superdelegate.
So, what did Christine Gregoire discuss with Barack Obama before committing her vote to his candidacy? Well, judging by his response in Oregon Monday, it was not the state’s number one environmental issue. Not only was Barack Obama unaware of the issue, the videotape of his response indicates that he seems never to have heard of the place. Clearly, whatever sweet promises Governor Gregoire extracted from Barack Obama before publicly committing to his candidacy had nothing to do with Hanford. And considering how high the Hanford cleanup ranks on most Washingtonian’s agendas, one wonders if any other issues of interest to the state came up. It’s more likely that Gregoire’s political ambitions were at the top of her wish list.
I anticipate that Barack Obama’s side of the bargain will consist of several trips to Washington this fall to help Christine Gregoire raise campaign cash.
Other Washington politicians who have committed to Barack Obama without raising the issue of the Hanford cleanup are US representatives Adam Smith, Brian Baird, Rick Larsen and Jim McDermott, along with the aforementioned Dwight Pelz and Democratic National Committee member Pat Notter.
I suspect that we could imagine a long list of issues that are of critical importance to Washingtonians and to the state of Washington that were never raised as these practitioners of the oldest profession auctioned off their virtue. This certainly gives the lie to any notion that politicians are in there sacrificing themselves for our interests. The promises they make are just another means to achieving their own selfish ambitions.

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