If Gov. Jim Gibbons were starring in a Hollywood gangster movie, this would be the moment he realizes he’s about to be rubbed out.
Jimmy Jitters has received the kiss of death: Not from his legion of enemies, but from his closest friends.
That’s the only conclusion I can reach after Gibbons, battered by his own political ineptitude and a steady thumping from state Democrats, has begun taking fire at point-blank range from his own Republican Party. The state GOP wants him out bad, and it’s done dropping subtle hints.
If you’re having a hard time distinguishing Gibbons’ new political wounds from his many self-inflicted ones, you’re not alone. Anyone who needs reckless Rod Blagojevich to get him off the hook as “America’s worst governor” is in sad shape. But that’s our not-so-wise guy in Carson City.
No one ever accused conservative activist and anti-tax hit man Chuck Muth of subtlety. He’s chided Gibbons in the past, reminded him at every turn to stay true to his school and away from tax hikes. But then Gibbons got the jitters over the Legislature’s vote to pass a 3 percent hotel room tax increase to help balance the state budget — despite the fact the governor had included it in his own budget. When Gibbons refused to sign the measure, but also declined to veto it, and instead idiotically decided to let it take effect without his signature, Muth last week shouted for Gibbons’ resignation.
Muth isn’t just some one-note political activist writing from the outside. His voice echoes throughout Nevada politics. He also ghost writes for state Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden and carries Grover Norquist’s Club For Growth conservative message.
Calling for a governor’s resignation is a pimp slap on Main Street, pal.
But that’s last week’s wound, and Gibbons gets sliced and diced more than the dinner special at Benihana.
Just when he was recovering from Muth’s mugging, he finds himself facing the announcement of not one but two viable primary opponents. Forget whether Gibbons has the ability to beat a Rory Reid or Barbara Buckley in a general election; he’ll be busy fending off primary challenges from North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon and former state Sen. Joe Heck.
Do you think they would have jumped in this early if they didn’t believe Jimmy Jitters was a dead man walking? Not on your life.
Muth calls a Gibbons re-election campaign a disaster for the Republican Party. He also calls the governor a prevaricator for playing both sides of the room tax hike debate.
“I didn’t call on him to resign for breaking the tax pledge, but for lying,” Muth says. “If the guy will lie about this, what won’t he lie about?”
Gibbons’ problem, one longtime supporter observes, isn’t so much lying as an uncanny political ineptitude that came to light under the pressure of the gubernatorial campaign and his terrifically flawed first two years in office. He can’t seem to help digging holes for himself.
And the holes have gotten deep.
Just when his approval ratings show he’s climbing out, Gibbons drags himself back in.
In a friendly radio interview Monday morning with KDWN-AM talk show host Heidi Harris, Gibbons again expressed the view that Nevada risks its independence by accepting the additional emergency unemployment benefits offered in Nevada’s $1.5 billion portion of the federal stimulus package. Gibbons said he would not “sacrifice the sovereignty and the autonomy of the state of Nevada.”
Perhaps the governor has forgotten about the millions in federal highway, health, social service and public safety dollars that come to the state each year with countless strings attached.
As for a current piece of state legislation that would seek to help homeowners on the brink of foreclosure, Gibbons said, “This is big brother deciding what a contract should be and what it can’t be.”
Big Brother looming?
Is he serious?
Nevada’s home foreclosure and unemployment rates are among the highest in the nation. This is a state in real crisis.
“I’m not sure he understands the issues,” one veteran Republican political insider says. “It’s fine to have this philosophy about no new taxes, but when it comes to educating kids, to feeding homeless kids and unemployment, I would suggest you’re probably better off leaving your philosophy at home and start looking at the real world.”
In the real world, Nevada Republicans are moving on without Jimmy Jitters.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith/.