As a policy dolt, Donald Trump has already won the Sarah Palin Award more times than we can count. But no previous manifestation of cluelessness can arguably top what he said yesterday in swing-state Nevada.
If he loses this race — and the latest polls show him sliding, thanks to Hillary Clinton’s beatdown in the first debate — his dearth of knowledge may prove more fatal than his demagoguery. Nevada is Exhibit A. It’s hard to win Nevada if you don’t know the first thing about the top-tier issue that has riveted the state since the era of Reagan.
Back in 1987, Congress chose Yucca Mountain – situated 90 miles from Las Vegas — as the future storage site for spent radioactive fuel from roughly 100 nuclear plants (including roughly 6,500 metric tons from Pennsylvania’s). Nevadans went ballistic, citing environmental concerns. More than $15 billion has been spent to get the site ready, but public officials led by Harry Reid have kept it padlocked.
Everybody in Nevada knows about Yucca Mountain. Everybody who knows anything about Nevada or nuclear power has an opinion about Yucca Mountain. Hillary Clinton voted against the Yucca site and assailed it in environmental hearings when she was a senator, she opposed the site when she ran for president in ’08 — and she reiterated her stance this year, telling a Vegas paper, “Yucca should be off the table because I think there are enough questions about its suitability as a site, and there is also such organized opposition to its use that it doesn’t really make sense …. I would keep Yucca Mountain off the table.”
Guess who doesn’t know jack about Yucca Mountain.
If Trump is to avoid flunking the Electoral College, he needs Nevada. Problem is, his Nevada numbers have dropped since the first debate. And his remarks yesterday, during a chat with Vegas TV anchorman Jim Snyder, aren’t likely to reverse the slide.
Snyder: “If I say ‘Yucca Mountain,’ you know what we’re talking about here in Nevada?”
Trump: “I do, I do.”
Snyder: “You’re a proponent of more nuclear power plants around the country. We have 100 now. None of them are here in Nevada. Why should we have to store the waste 90 miles from here?”
Let’s pause the dialogue for a moment. I want you to gird yourself for Trump’s answer. Ready?
Trump: “Right. Well, as you know, I’m very friendly with this area. In fact, I have big enterprises here. And especially my building and the hotel — Trump International.”
Wow, an infomercial. That’s telling it like it is. But what about the issue that all Nevadans care about? Surely a guy who boasts of having “the best brain” would have some thoughts about Yucca by now, right? Let’s click Play and hear the rest of his answer.
Trump: “I will tell you — I’m gonna take a look at it because so many people are talking about it. I came into town and everyone is talking about it. So I will take a very strong look at it and the next time you interview me, we’ll talk about it for five minutes. OK?”
Snyder, twisting the knife: “All right. Got an idea. Just brainstorming. You take the nuclear waste. You bury it under [your Mexican border] wall. And that way nobody will even come close to it. What do you think?”
Trump: “I — that’s your idea. I think you better – “
Snyder: “Better than barbed wire [to keep Mexicans away from the wall]. The concern is that, if we had [the waste] here, it would hurt the tourism industry, that people would be afraid of it. With your business interests here, do you share that concern?”
Trump: “Well, I do — I mean, I have a — I have a very …. I’m gonna take a very strong look at it and I will come very strongly one way or the other. I will have an opinion.”
Mike Pence, who has been tasked to trail behind Trump and clean up his droppings, would likely insist that the boss should get a pass for his Yucca yuccup — because, as Pence helpfully explained during the veep debate, “he’s not a polished politician.” But this is the presidency we’re talking about, this is a longstanding high-stakes issue we’re talking about, and I question whether the majority of Nevada voters, and their counterparts nationwide, will vet ignorance as an asset.