Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 25, 2011

IT'S ONLY NUCLEAR SECURITY, RIGHT?.... We talked the other day about one of the broader concerns regarding the House GOP's proposed spending cuts: they're so awful, it's hard to even know where to start. Should the focus be on cuts to Head Start? How about undercutting job training? And children's immunizations? And infrastructure?

But just because there are a lot of rhetorical targets doesn't mean one should just throw up their arms in disgust and stop criticizing a truly horrid proposal.

We've talked before about the GOP's plan to slash funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration's counter-proliferation programs, and even eliminating funds to maintain the nation's nuclear stockpile -- which sounds crazy, but which is actually what Republicans are proposing. Rachel Maddow's segment on this last night helped summarize the issue nicely:

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For those who can't watch clips from your work computers, I've included a transcript of the relevant portion below, but let's be clear about what's on the table here. There's a National Nuclear Security Administration that's responsible for locking loose nuclear material around the world. To call this work "important" is a laughable understatement -- securing these materials keeps dangerous governments and terrorists from acquiring even rudimentary nuclear capabilities.

And House Republicans -- the ones who believe we can afford hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts -- voted for a plan to take $550 million from the agency that already has a modest budget, despite helping keep nuclear materials off the black market.

This, the GOP says, is an example of responsible governing in the 21st century.

From the transcript:

MADDOW: America's fear-mongering history about the nuclear end of the world is kind of too bad because it is not fear-mongering to talk about the nuclear end of the world if you are actually working directly to stop the nuclear end of the world. That is the job of one part of the United States government.

It's an obscure office in the Department of Energy called the National Nuclear Security Administration. They lock down unprotected loose nuclear material around the world to keep it off the black market and out of terrorist hands, which without being hysterical about it, does seem like an important job when you consider that groups like al Qaeda have said over and over again they want to buy nuclear material so they could use it in a terrorist attack and there is evidence that they have tried to buy it on the black market. There is part of the U.S. government that finds the most vulnerable nuclear material in the world and secures it.

So, if you're worried about this sort of thing, the appropriate response is: good. I'm glad we're doing that.

After that agency locked down 111 pounds of nuclear material in Ukraine around Christmas time, we hosted the head of the nuclear administration here on this show. We christened him the "under secretary for saving the world."

Now, the Republicans in Congress want to strip the funding for that agency. Even though they said they wouldn't make any national security cuts, they want to cut $550 million from the agency that locks down unprotected loose nuclear material to keep it off the black market around the world, which means that for what may be the first time in U.S. history, an ad that starts this way is actually true and is not fear-mongering.


LT. GEN. ROBERT GARD, JR. (voice-over): What I am about to tell you sounds crazy but it's true -- Speaker John Boehner is making it easier for terrorists to get nuclear weapons.


MADDOW: Sounds crazy? Also true. It sounds like a generic "be afraid" ad from the Bush administration era. In this case, Republicans really have proposed making it a half billion dollars easier for terrorists to get nuclear material.

That was the first line of a new ad voiced by Retired Lieutenant General Robert Gard. He's part of a counter-proliferation group running these ads against the nuke terrorism cuts in key congressional districts. Listen.


GARD: Speaker John Boehner and the House Republicans cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the successful U.S. program to secure dangerous weapons-grade nuclear material all around the world. Terrorists can make nuclear weapons with it. John Boehner's reckless cut to our nuclear security budget goes way too far. We all want Congress to cut the budget but do it responsibly.


MADDOW: The ads are targeting not just John Boehner but Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Hal Rogers and Thad Cochran, all elected Republicans supporting g this big cut -- this big cut on the part of the U.S. government that actually works on that whole smoking mushroom cloud problem instead of just freaking you out about it to accomplish some other unrelated political thing.

We do not have a word in the English language that means the opposite of fear-mongering but if we ever do have that word, this will be the example next to that word in the political science dictionary.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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The Republicans are waging two fronts in their early 21st century Battle of the Bulge:

A last ditch surge to gut smart government for vested interests in gas, oil, coal and military contractors in members' districts on the one hand, and the embellished waist-line that comes with the bulge of privilege on the other! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 25, 2011 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Well, since you can't see, feel, or taste radiation, I guess we will have to trust those so-called "scientists" who tell us it is dangerous.

-on second thought, it is not mentioned in the Bible, so why waste taxpayers money on it?

Posted by: DAY on March 25, 2011 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

So much for caring about "national security" (not like I believed they did before this), right, Republicans? What's that old adage about actions speaking louder than words?

I wonder how much press/coverage this will get aside from our wonderful Rachel? But we can help spread the word... the "internets", you know...

Posted by: Hmmmmm on March 25, 2011 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Well, since large amounts of radiation are good for you (per Ann Coulter), why not market a line of beauty and health products, and forgo the need for a budget line item at all? I mean, they can sell this stuff, right?

And if some al Qaeda front buys a metric ton of the stuff "for their new line of eye-gloss," and somehow the whole shipment gets diverted to some tenement bomb-factory in Hoboken, so what?

We will have saved almost enough from the Federal budget to bury all the victims of the three or four suitcase bombs detonated in public places around the US. Of course, the long-term health effects of the radiation from those dirty bombs won't be covered, since we will have also repealed "ObamaCare," but that's a small sacrifice the Republican'ts* can live with.

You can't, but they can.


Note: * Republican + T Party = Republican't Party

Posted by: Ed Drone on March 25, 2011 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Lawrence O'Donnell had an interesting segment about "Foxes guarding the Hen House" as in the nuclear industry running the regulatory agency.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 25, 2011 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

You need to dig a bit deeper into this story. The Union of Concerned Scientists is very much against ONE aspect of this governmental effort, which is involved in reprocessing surplus uranium and plutonium into a mixed oxide fuel called MOX. The gov't is building a factory to do this reprocessing, but the UCS says that the fuel is dangerous, much harder to handle, and doesn't actually have any customers for the end product... according to other sources, the ~$600M cut in the budget is what they are spending on the MOX fuel effort.

Posted by: Norm Bernstein on March 25, 2011 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Well, one less MOX customer in Japan anyway...

Posted by: jTh on March 25, 2011 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Look, maybe I'm crazy, but I think they've been praying for a terrorist attack in this country for the last 2 years. To discredit Obama and the Democrats.

I think a nuclear terrorist attack would be even better in their eyes.

Otherwise, you'd have to be an absolute fucking idiot to not want to secure loose nukes around the world.
And I'm not saying they're not idiots.

Or, maybe they are idiots, AND are praying for a nuclear terrorist attack here.
I wouldn't put anything past today's Republicans.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 25, 2011 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

What's up?
When I click on the video,
I'm redirected to an ATT website that
Sells Phones !!!!

Thats bullshit.

Posted by: cwolf on March 25, 2011 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Why isn't this the top story of the day? Instead Yahoo is running with a press release from Newt Gingrich saying that he is unofficially exploring a run for the White House.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 25, 2011 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK


I watched it. There is an ad that comes on before Rachel. Sorry, but NBC has to pay her salary.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 25, 2011 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

We spend billions on pink stuff to help cure cancer, yet we never think about how much radiation has been belched into the atmosphere/environment, which is why we have cancer.

Not funding Nuclear Security is akin to defunding tsunami and radiation detection systems in the Pacific Basin.

The news media is being pressured to down-play Fukushima Syndrome. But the plutonium breach may be more nightmarish than we can imagine.

Think about it. 100s of square miles of Japan laid waste for, not years, but centuries.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on March 25, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

No matter what the GOP does to place our national security at risk, the Villagers will continue to regard them as the Daddy Party That Will Keep Us Safe.

After 30 years of the GOP being, by far, the more fiscally irresponsible party, the Villagers believe - even now - that they're the party that's more serious about America's balance sheet. Why should it be any different with national security?

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on March 25, 2011 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

The first thing that came to mind was that this is a deliberate attempt by the republicans to bring about another 9/11, only this time with nukes instead of airplanes. On numerous occasions republicans of all stripes from politicians to broadcasters have made it obvious that they would welcome another massive terrorist attack just to prove that Obama's policies aren't working and that we need a republican in the White House. The republican leadership has made it clear that they are more than willing to cause job losses and economic distress to the middle and working class just to gain power, so do you think a dirty bomb being set off in some major city (most of which vote Democratic) would bother them?

Posted by: Texas Aggie on March 25, 2011 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Do we know for sure that what was cut was that MOX project? If that's the case, the cut may be justified. If it's just a "little off the top" with no specificity, no direction from Congress that such a project doesn't have their blessing, that's different.

My guess is that they just lopped some money off, and didn't care how they spent the rest. If I'm wrong, I'll be glad.


Posted by: Ed Drone on March 25, 2011 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

I really hate going on these "liberal", "left" blogs and seeing NSFW or "for those of you who can't watch clips on your work computers"....

As former member of the IWW, the IUE, the Teamsters, and the Retail Clerks, I can tell you NO ONE is entitled to use company property for personal business. Not even the most generous union contract gives any worker the right to use company property for personal pleasure on company time.

I work eight hours a day in a factory, as I have off and on since 1972. I am no longer protected by a union (alas!) but I punch in at 7:30 AM and work until 9:30 AM. That's break time. We get ten minutes. The company pays for this even though we are not working. I take the break, and go back to work until noon.

I take my (unpaid) half hour lunch break and go back to work at 12:30 PM. I get another break at 2:30 PM, which the company also pays for.

Then I go home at 4:00 PM, knowing that I did an honest day's work, for an honest day's pay. Knowing that if Quality Vision International doesn't make a profit, I'm out of a job.

Knowing that some of my fellow workers continue to think it's totally ok to yak on their cellphones on company time.

It's NOT. Nor is it right to use company computers to read your brilliant posts, Steven.

Posted by: wobbly on March 25, 2011 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

We do not have a word in the English language that means the opposite of fear-mongering but if we ever do have that word, this will be the example next to that word in the political science dictionary.

I propose 'Fearlightenment'. Any takers?

Posted by: Gangis Khan on March 25, 2011 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK



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