North Dakota's Critics Shouldn't Get The Benefit Of 20/20 Hindsight


There’s a lot of “woulda, shoulda, coulda” going on in North Dakota politics right now.

“It took explosions, fires and deaths before federal and state regulators got grimly serious about the risks of transporting Bakken oil,” grumped the Grand Forks Herald’s Tom Dennis in an editorial headlined, “Regulators should be more proactive.”

Democrat candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Taylor sounded the same note during his North Dakota Newspaper Association-sponsored debate last night with Republican Incumbent Doug Goehring:

Regarding oil-related rail congestion that has hampered farmers’ ability to move product to market and obtain fertilizer, Taylor said planning “should have happened five years ago, probably when the ag commissioner took office.”

You  have to wonder, where were these astute observers and their keen insights a few years ago? They weren’t in obscure positions.

Dennis manages the editorial page for one of the largest newspapers in the state. Taylor was serving in the state legislature, even stepping up as leader of the Demcorats’ minority caucus in the state Senate. If these gentlemen saw the oil-by-rail problem looming, why didn’t they speak up? They had the opportunity, and the means, but they were silent.

Maybe the answer is that they didn’t see this coming either.

And there, my friends, is the rub.

The advantage these gentleman have (that even elected state Democrats have, given their minority status) is that they don’t actually have to govern. They don’t have to make any decisions, and they aren’t responsible for anything when things go wrong.

Dennis, of course, is just a media commentator. Taylor, on the other hand, wants to be elected to one of the most important policy-making offices in the state.

If he wants to campaign on 20/20 hindsight, he should be prepared to demonstrate to us all that he was speaking out about the oil-by-rail logjam and other issues before the fact.

Update: I originally referenced Ryan Taylor as a former member of the state House, but I misremembered. Taylor was a member of the state Senate serving as Minority Leader in his last term.