Reid’s re-election looms large in ‘lay off Las Vegas’ rebuke

Never let it be said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a slow learner.

Last year, Reid slept through a ginned-up Vegas-bashing crisis like Deputy Dawg. This time, the somnolent senator was quicker than Clint Eastwood to pull the trigger in defense of the home folks.

Good heavens, Reid was even faster on the draw to register his outrage than Mayor Oscar Goodman. That’s no mean feat.

You’d almost think Reid was running for re-election.

Nearly a year ago, Reid moved like January molasses to seek clarification when President Barack Obama said, “You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.”

Forget that, in context, the president was right. It wasn’t proper for banking institutions to take federal bailout dollars and use the money for party junkets. But Reid’s hesitation made him look more like Obama’s man than Nevada’s protector in chief.

On Tuesday in New Hampshire, Obama said, “You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.”

No, of course not. But you also don’t put down the U.S. city that holds the Guinness World Record for largest chip on its shoulder.

This time, Reid responded with a presidential rebuke. Mr. Majority Leader’s aides moved so swiftly you’d almost think it was a staged faux pas.

“I just spoke to the White House and told them that while the president is correct that people saving for college need to be fiscally responsible, the president needs to lay off Las Vegas and stop making it the poster child for where people shouldn’t be spending their money,” Reid’s statement began, followed by the usual Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority advertisement.

Reid beat Goodman to the “Vegas Outrage” button by a good 90 minutes. Overall, Reid remains a veritable church mouse compared to Goodman when it comes to firing vitriolic, machine-gun rhetoric at point-blank range. (Who knows, maybe the mayor picked up a few pointers during his years representing gangsters.)

Tuesday afternoon, Goodman said, “The president is a real slow learner,” in describing Obama’s Vegas fetish.

“The president has a real psychological hang-up about the entertainment capital of the world,” Goodman said after his news conference. “Even an apology is not acceptable this time. We’re not going to let him make his bones at the expense of Las Vegas.”

Goodman said the next time Obama comes to Las Vegas, “We’re going to give him the boot.”

Yeah, sure we will.

In rare form, Goodman added, “We shouldn’t let him off the monitors. He’s pretty good when he reads, but when he gets off the monitors, Las Vegas creeps into his head like a little demon.”

Before we fall too far down the rabbit hole, here’s a bit of context. Obama was addressing the harsh economic climate Americans face. He said, “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices.”

How dare the president preach fiscal sobriety at a time like this. Doesn’t he know that’s bad for business?

For my money, no one in the congressional delegation shouts outrage at a higher decibel level than Rep. Shelley Berkley. She roared her concern with a statement that began, “Enough is enough! President Obama needs to stop picking on Las Vegas and he needs to let Americans decide for themselves how and where to spend their hard earned vacation dollars.”

Ah, but Berkley’s wrong.

When it comes to politicians registering their outrage on behalf of the befuddled citizenry, enough is never enough.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at

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