Examples include President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Senator Gary Hart and Donna Rice, and Wilbur Mills with a stripper called the "Argentine Fire Cracker."
Less often people get in trouble for being difficult to get along with especially if they are male managers with female subordinates. Accusations of harassment, erratic behavior, and hair on fire temper tantrums rarely rise to the same level as sexual escapades. This is not the case with NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko who has been in hot water over the harassment issue and the women he works with since last Fall.
Why does Jaczko matter?
So it is with some puzzlement that the dysfunctional interactions of the members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have garnered so much press attention. it just does not rise to the occasion of a full blown Washington scandal. There is no sex, or money, involved in his sky high media profile. This ought to be boring, but apparently in the cerebral Obama Administration it's not.
That said this week was particularly a bad one for the NRC's chairman Gregory Jaczko. He got blamed, again, for mistreating the women who work with or for him including NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki.
What happened is the his mentor and political patron Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) took off on a revenge riff against Svinicki claiming she "lied" to the Senate in her initial confirmation hearing. Last December during a House Oversight Committee hearing, Svinicki was forthright in her criticism of Jaczko and so was NRC Commissioner Bill Magwood. The difference is Sviniki has a long history of tangling with Jaczko over Yucca mountain when both were Senate aides.
Reid was joined with a "me too" chorus by Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who suffered from a case of selective amnesia failing to recall she asked Svinicki the very questions Reid now says she lied about.
The White House, which had been sitting on the senate nominatation for a second term for Svinicki, who holds a nominally "republican" seat on the NRC, took the air out of protests from Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), by saying it would now send the paperwork for action.
Barn burning talk
|A "barn burner" speech|
is so-called due to its
power of spontaneous
combustion of anything
This broadside is supposedly designed to counter charges by the Democrats the various republican primary candidates for president are holding their own war on women over reproductive rights, among other issues. They are, but that's not what Strassel has on her mind.
"Ask Kristine Svinicki, a commissioner on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Ms. Svinicki is a respected nuclear engineer who was unanimously confirmed to the NRC in 2008, and whose term is up in June. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now actively waging war to keep Ms. Svinicki from being renominated, as punishment for her role in exposing the behavior of Mr. Reid's pet appointee to the NRC, Gregory Jaczko. For Ms. Svinicki's efforts to protect female staffers, she has been attacked and slandered by Democrats."
Calling the fire brigade
|NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko|
Update Eliot Brenner, Chief of Public Affairs at the NRC, denies that the White House dispatched Jaczko to the press club.
In his opening statement, which he repeated three more times in response to questions, Jaczko said "categorically," accusations that he "mistreats women are untrue."
He declined to comment on Svinicki's nomination, said he hasn't talked to Reid in quite a while, and said he has not been called to the White House to discuss the political fuss that has been made about his tenure at the NRC.
Asked about a pending NRC Inspector General report which is rumored to document instances of his alleged bad behavior, he declined to say anything at all. Readers should know that when an agency IG writes such a report, the subject of it gets a chance to read the draft and submit formal comments. So while Jaczko won't say anything about it, he surely must have read it.
Asked why he even had a hastily called press conference on a Friday afternoon, the dead end of the weekly news cycle, Jaczko said, improbably, that he does not play golf and thought it would be a good time to clear the air about a few things.
What else you got?
In other items discussed in the press conference, Jaczko defended his votes against licensing the Vogtle and V C Summer construction and operating licenses. The votes were 4-1 in favor and now the first four new reactors in 30 years are under construction in the U.S. He said he would respond in writing to questions from the Senate about his "no" votes.
With regard to San Onofre, he said there is no date, e.g., August 31, for re-start and he emphasized that the utility must demonstrate technically that it knows what is causing the excessive wear on the steam generators. what to do about it, and have a plan to do it.
12 challenges no waiting
Jaczko did say he's met with senior staff at the agency to identify 12 key issues, or challenges, that face the agency. One of them is managing relationships with 36 states that are delegated the authority to issue and regulate radioactive materials licenses for ISR uranium mines, uranium mills, and similar facilities.
Recently, the NRC has come under fire for sending a letter last February to the State of Colorado which appeared to intervene in a decision by that state to issue a permit for a new uranium mill in Montrose county on the western slope. This month the agency sent another one, after being ripped by state officials, saying they didn't mean it. Jaczko says the real concern is whether states have the funds to hold up their end. He didn't mention the Colorado incident.
Asked about licensing SMRs, Jaczko stated the obvious which is the NRC should be able to move ahead with LWR designs, but that HTGR and other advanced technologies will need more work.
The return of non-denial denials
In summary, Jaczko denied talking to the people who care the most about what he does and says, e.g., Sen. Reid and the White House, denied that he mistreats women, denied that he cares about Svinicki's reappointment, and defended his votes to deny licenses to four new nuclear reactors. In short, he denied everything.
In the bad old days of the Nixon presidency, then Vice President Spiro Agnew would have been called out as making a stream of statements like this as being "non denial denials."
The phase was made famous in the movie "All the Presidents' Men" about the Watergate scandal. Agnew resigned as Vice President after admitting he took bribes while serving in elective office in Baltimore, MD.
The lesson, from a media perspective, is that the more you protest about media coverage of alleged wrongdoing, the higher the profile that coverage gets in the press. So while no one has accused Jackzo of taking bribes, or hanging out with inappropriate women, he keeps getting body slammed in the media.
The best thing that could happen to Jaczko right now is for the DC press corps to discover a true blue juicy sex and money scandal somewhere else. The junkets by a GSA official to Hawaii don't count. He went with his wife.
I don't know about you, but if Jaczko was intent on keeping the noise level down, especially after the Svinicki dust up this week, today's press event was the absolute last thing that it would make sense to do.
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