Wasting a Crisis

| Tue Mar. 15, 2011 12:07 PM EDT

Jonah Goldberg is upset that people are starting to ask fresh questions about nuclear power in the wake of Japan's earthquake and tsunami:

When thousands die, or when some sudden calamity befalls us, the tendency of politicians, journalists, policymakers and experts is to seize the moment to advocate radical changes. "A crisis," Rahm Emanuel famously declared in the early days of the Obama administration, "is a terrible thing to waste."

That this axiom didn't generate more controversy always struck me as bizarre. I mean, shouldn't it be "a crisis is a terrible thing to exploit"? So here we go again in Japan, where the tragedy is literally too terrible to comprehend.

Speaking for myself, I'm with Rahm: it's nearly impossible to get human beings to react to anything less than a crisis, so if you ever want anything at all to get done you'd better take your chances where you find them. But that's just me. Obviously Jonah feels otherwise, and I look forward to his future counsels of caution and deliberation whenever his fellow conservatives appear to be taking advantage of a short-term crisis in order to push their long-term agenda.