Republicans were outraged in 2009, after President Barack Obama said companies that took bailout money “can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.”
That outrage grew louder in 2010, when the president said, “You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.”
Of course, the president wasn’t discouraging trips to Las Vegas; he was encouraging the wise use of taxpayer and personal resources.
But now, there really are those who are encouraging people not to come to Las Vegas. And, oddly enough, this time they’re all Republicans!
Dallas Morning News reporter Todd Gillman revealed Thursday that a group of religious conservatives has written to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to discourage Republicans from selecting Las Vegas as the site of the party’s 2016 convention. Because, you know, sin.
“Even though Vegas has tried to shore itself up and call itself family-friendly, it’s still a metaphor for decadence,” Gillman quotes radio personality James Dobson saying. “There’s still 64 pages of escort services in the Yellow Pages. … You can’t have it both ways.”
First, it’s a little odd that Dobson knows precisely how many pages of escort service ads there are in the Yellow Pages. Second, it’s even odder that there’s still such a thing as the Yellow Pages. Third, that whole “family-friendly” thing was a marketing gimmick that was tried for five minutes and rejected years ago.
And fourth, Las Vegas can be as family-friendly as you want.
But wait, there’s more. RedState Editor Erick Erickson is quoted saying he’s concerned about bad publicity from “Good Christian delegates getting drunk, gambling, stuffing dollar bills in strippers’ g-strings, etc.”
And yes, that is worrisome. Dollar bills? That’s just cheap, people.
But seriously, isn’t the real worry that Republicans think so little of their delegates that they seem to believe a bit of temptation will turn them into faithless lust-weasels? Put another way, a good Christian will behave like a good Christian whether he’s in the front pew at church or the middle of downtown Gomorrah, and a person inclined to sin will find it even in the most wholesome city in the world. It’s just that not a whole lot of people want to visit the most wholesome city in the world, and 40 million people want to visit Las Vegas every single year. That’s probably why we’ve gotten so good at hosting conventions, which is the only thing the RNC should really be concerned about.
Then again, even people who are trying to help are getting us in trouble. “Las Vegas is a metropolitan area of over 2 million people,” said former Gov. Bob List. “We’re not just all blackjack dealers and pawnshop operators. This is a city with 6,000 members of the Chamber of Commerce, 20,000 Boy Scouts.”
Really, governor? To be honest, having met both over the years, I’d probably be much more inclined to trust the average blackjack dealer or pawnshop owner over the average Chamber of Commerce official. And isn’t the point that blackjack dealers, and pawnship owners, and cocktail waitresses and pit bosses and all the rest are just as much a part of our community as Boy Scouts and businessmen?
It’s no surprise that religious folk object to the gambling, drunkenness and promiscuity that occurs in Las Vegas, even if they fail to realize it goes on everywhere. It’s also not a surprise that they — like so many others over the years — have succumbed so entirely to our city’s marketing campaign. (You know, the one we revel in right up until we realize it might actually cost us some business.) The thing to do here is what Republicans have always done with the religious right: Pretend to listen, but then take them for granted and hold the convention here anyway. Even if they stay home — and perhaps especially if they do — a good time will still be had by all.
Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.