Deja vote in the desert
Published August 12, 2004
The presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry often seems to embody Yogi Berra's line, "This is like deja vu all over again." Mr. Kerry takes a popular position in a potential swing state, only to have his Senate record show that he had often voted the opposite way.
Mr. Kerry committed that deja vu all over again earlier this week. While campaigning in Las Vegas for the five electoral votes of the currently deadlocked state of Nevada, Mr. Kerry declared his opposition to the high-level nuclear waste repository being built at Yucca Mountain: "I can sum up my stance on the Yucca Mountain Plan in four words: Not on my watch. As a senator, I voted against it. And as president, I will do everything in my power to ensure your backyard does not become America's nuclear waste dump."
Actually, Mr. Kerry did all that a senator could do to ensure that Nevada was the site of the waste repository in 1987 by voting for the "Screw Nevada" bill, which essentially singled out the state as the site of the nuclear waste repository. Mr. Kerry voted six other times for measures supporting the project. In 1987, he voted for a provision (different from the "Screw Nevada" bill) that made the Yucca project almost inevitable. In 1997, Mr. Kerry voted against a provision, sponsored by the minority whip, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, that would have required the written consent of governors for nuclear waste to be transported across state lines.
Messrs. Reid and Kerry now dismiss those pro-Yucca votes as meaningless and procedural. But as Mr. Reid's Senate Republican counterpart, Sen. John Ensign, noted, "[Mr Kerry's] voting record until 1997 is one of supporting the repository." Mr. Kerry's support went beyond that. Yesterday, the Las Vegas Sun reported that in 1999, Mr. Kerry and three other senators sent a letter to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman calling for "an accelerated [nuclear] waste acceptance schedule." The only possible place for those depositions was Yucca Mountain.
Mr. Kerry has attempted to use Yucca Mountain as an example of Mr. Bush's maladroit leadership. Yet the wasteland between the senator's rhetoric and his voting record has made it another example of his pandering and flip-flops. To prove that this wasn't mere election-year flip-flopping, perhaps Mr. Kerry would like to state publicly -- before the election -- which other battleground state he would instead propose for the nuclear-waste disposal site.