If you're looking for an example of what's wrong with the way we nominate presidential candidates, the recent GOP debate in Las Vegas ought to suffice.
Republican hopefuls -- Newt Gingrich excepted -- rushed to align themselves with President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the issue of nuclear waste disposal.
Few Herald readers will need reminding that last year the Obama administration unilaterally ordered the Department of Energy to shut down the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository program near Las Vegas.
Nor do we need to point out that the announcement came as Reid was locked in a tough battle to retain his Senate seat.
Public opposition to the Yucca Mountain site runs strong and deep in the Silver State, and Obama's decision to abandon Yucca Mountain was widely viewed as a blatant political move to boost Reid's waning popularity.
It was disappointing to see our president ignore the law, common sense and the nation's interests for political advantage.
It's just as disheartening to watch the Republican Party's front-runners taking the same misguided stance on Yucca Mountain in an equally transparent bid for political gain.
The candidates' pandering to Nevada voters exposes a major flaw in the wacky hodgepodge of state primaries and caucuses that substitute for a rational nominating process.
The system we have now puts inordinate power in the hands of a relatively few voters in early primary states. Who thinks subsidies to the ethanol industry would have reached $6 billion a year if Iowa's caucuses were last in line instead of first?
The same phenomenon is in play in Nevada this election season. The primary schedule is subject to change, but it's clear Nevada will be one of the first.
Any candidate who can't maintain momentum through the first handful of primaries is soon forgotten. No wonder the anti-Yucca Mountain bandwagon attracted a crowd at the Las Vegas debate.
Even so, we'd like to see how the supposedly conservative candidates justify their support for an Obama administration decision that flushes $14 billion already spent on the nuclear repository program down the drain.
Kudos to Gingrich, who was the only candidate who refused to play along. The former House speaker noted that scientists had studied waste-storage sites extensively and found Yucca Mountain to be a safe option.
"We have to find some method of finding a very geologically stable place, and most geologists believe that, in fact, Yucca Mountain is that," Gingrich said.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's remarks sounded like a prescription for annihilating the nuclear industry.
"The idea that 49 states can tell Nevada, 'We want to give you our nuclear waste,' doesn't make a lot of sense. I think the people of Nevada ought to have the final say as to whether they want that."
More than 70,000 tons of commercial and defense nuclear wastes are awaiting the opening of a national repository. Commercial operators are filling their storage ponds and using dry casks to store used reactor fuel temporarily until a permanent solution is found.
If solving this national problem requires the citizens of one state to volunteer, the nuclear industry ultimately is doomed.
With commercial reactors supplying nearly 20 percent of the U.S. energy supply, it's irresponsible to propose untenable solutions for dealing with spent fuel.
Too bad that Nevada's prominence in the GOP's presidential nomination process further politicizes the issue.