(Steve Sebelius/SlashPolitics.com) – Of all the people who took the stage in the Aria hotel-casino Thursday for President Barack Obama’s campaign rally on behalf of Harry Reid, only one failed to mention (by name or by unmistakable reference) the Republican candidate for Senate, Sharron Angle.
Bill Hornbuckle, chief marking officer for MGM Resorts International, referenced her. If it were up to Angle, “we would probably not be standing here today,” Hornbuckle said. It was a reference to Angle’s remark that she, unlike Reid, would not have called on bankers to negotiate with MGM to borrow the funds necessary to complete the then-unfinished CityCenter project.
Penny Webster, a waitress at the Cafe Vettro inside the Aria, referenced Angle, too, after thanking Reid for helping CityCenter get finished so she could get a job. “I guess when she [Angle] said it’s not her job to create jobs, she really meant it,” Webster says.
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, a former colleague of Angle’s when both served in the state Legislature, most certainly mentioned Angle, by name and brutally. Giunchigliani said she saw Angle’s lack of caring up close, and added this rocket: “If it’s not your job to create jobs, what the hell is your job?”
(It’s a good question. I tried to put it to Angle today via e-mail, but characteristically received no reply from her campaign spokesman, Jerry Stacy. My guess is that Angle would say what she’s said before on the campaign trail, i.e. government itself can’t create jobs, but that’s demonstrably untrue, as our military, space program, interstate highway system, national parks and that big body of water to the south/southeast of Las Vegas called Lake Mead show.)
Obama referenced Angle, too, although never used her name, mocking her for her stances on getting rid of Social Security and the U.S. Department of Education; further deregulating the offshore oil drilling industry; and her (since retracted) statement referring to the $20 billion fund put up by BP to compensate victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster as a “slush fund.” Angle’s views, Obama says, are “more radical than the Republicans in Washington, and that’s saying something.”
The only person who didn’t mention Angle in one way or another was Reid himself. Not by name, and not by reference. Reid simply talked about his accomplishments in office and things he’s still working on, including a financial reform bill. The biggest cheers came when Reid mentioned the health-care law. “Affording good health care is the right of every Nevadan, not the privilege of the few,” he said.
On BP, Reid came as close as he would on Thursday to even discussing the other party, much less Angle. “We’re not going to bail out the richest company in the world. And we’re not going to say we’re sorry,” Reid said. (U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, apologized to BP’s CEO Tony Hayward during a congressional hearing June 17, but was quickly forced to apologize for his apology as even fellow Republicans balked at his remarks.)
There are plenty of reasons for Reid to stay silent on Angle, of course. For one, she’s doing a pretty good job of causing herself trouble on the campaign trail, either gaffing extensively to right-wing media audiences or ducking questions from mainstream reporters (and not-so-mainstream reporters, such as yours truly). For another, he risks a backlash by attacking Angle directly (she complained on Thursday on Alan Stock’s radio show on KXNT-AM 840 that Reid’s campaign was trying to “hit the girl” in the first — but sadly not the last — attempt to unconscionably play the gender card). For a third, if you’re going to have a fiery surrogate such as Giunchiglinai and a funny one such as Obama take Angle on, why do it yourself?
If anything, Reid was conciliatory toward Republicans, saying at today’s economic speech by Obama at UNLV that “I’m not here to bash Republicans. Republicans in Congress do not represent mainstream Republicans here in Nevada.” Spoken like a man who needs to reach out to moderates, including Republicans, in order to win.
The other remarkable thing about Obama’s visit to Nevada was how unsatisfying it was for people waiting for the president to share some specific plans for fixing the economic mess that has left this state with a stressed economy, 14 percent unemployment and what appears to be more bad news on the budget horizon.
Yes, the president said there was progress on the economy nationally (nearly 600,000 new jobs, Obama said). Yes, he mentioned tax cuts for the middle-class and small business, and a health-care plan that will help smaller businesses afford coverage. Yes, he mentioned the Travel Promotion Act that he and Reid hope will boost visitation to Las Vegas. And yes, Obama and Reid both stressed efforts to spur investment in renewable energy research and manufacturing, which may someday be an economic mainstay in the Silver State.
But if you were hoping for an immediate plan to bring down joblessness in Nevada, you couldn’t help but be disappointed. “So, Nevada, I know we’ve been through tough times,” Obama said, concluding his Friday morning speech. “And not all the difficult days are behind us. There are going to be some tough times to come. But I can promise you this: We are headed in the right direction. We are moving forward. We are not going to move backwards.”
Inspiring, yes. But practically reassuring? Not so much.
For that, Obama could have said that, once West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin decides whom to appoint to the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s open seat (likely himself), there will be an extension of unemployment benefits. At least that’s something thousands of people who are looking for work in the Silver State could have appreciated. He might have tossed out a presidential recommendation for people with disposable income — not bailout bucks or college savings accounts — to spend some free time in relatively affordable Las Vegas, too.
Instead, we’re left to hold on to the hope that Obama’s economic initiatives nationwide will stabilize the economy soon enough for consumer confidence to return, which will bring visitors. Or that Congress will pass his expansion of the renewable energy manufacturing tax credit, which could bring industry and jobs to a state with plenty of renewable potential. That’s not nothing, to be sure, but it’s not exactly concrete, either. And perhaps expecting more from the president is expecting too much; after all, executive powers are more constrained than we know when it comes to spurring economic activity.
At the end of the day Friday, we still face the same question in Nevada that we’ve been facing for about two years: When is this recession going to end, and what do we do until then?