April fools

For a moment I thought about penning a fictionalized column befitting of today’s trickery. Sadly, Nevada news is filled with enough foolhardiness to make the truth seem stranger than any fiction.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain finally found Nevada last week after largely ignoring the Silver State during primary season. Friday’s question-and-answer session at The Venetian (with Republicans, it’s always The Venetian) ended with far more questions than answers.

Although it is early in the election year, McCain showed he is running the Bush-Rove playbook for Nevada: Show up, raise money and say nothing, understanding that voters don’t really give a hoot about the Yucca Mountain Project.

Time will tell if the strategy is truly foolish. After all, Bush never crusaded against the gaming industry or ignored our biggest crisis. In 2004, he was just cruising on a good economy and appeasing the evangelicals. McCain probably won’t be able to do either.

There’s a bit more tomfoolery than foolishness when it comes to the other Republican biggie who spent part of last weekend in Las Vegas. Robert Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee, was out in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District on Saturday stumping for Rep. Jon Porter. He also was the keynote speaker at the Clark County Lincoln Day Dinner.

As long as long as Republicans continue to see the attention from Washington, they’ll know they’re in a red state expected to stay red.

Nevada, however, is turning decidedly Democratic — in statewide registration, in CD3 registration and with Democrats holding four of six statewide offices.

Meanwhile, the state’s duly-elected GOP governor needs to consult the Motley Fool for a little economic advice.

Whatever happened to a crisis creating strength, poise or grace under pressure? Gov. Jim Gibbons, faced with several crises, is not even able to handle the one in his own home, let alone the state’s most urgent issues.

On Monday, he confirmed the long-suspected, across-the-board budget cuts to some agencies. This process suggests, as I have previously commented, that a child’s life carries the same importance as nonessential equipment supplies.

The Department of Health and Human Services was given the directive last week to cut an additional 1.5 percent of its budget. The cuts amount to $109 million in areas that are among the state’s most stressed, understaffed and underperforming. This is the department, in case you’re wondering, that oversees licensing of the scoping mills that have unethically, immorally and illegally exposed people to life-threatening diseases.

Why would Gibbons cut even more from Health and Human Services, and even now?

Of course, in Gibbons’ curious way of looking at the problem, the overall impact to the department’s budget is 6.1 percent, the same impact other departments are facing to offset the state’s economic woes. Never mind that many of the cuts are to areas that could actually save the state money long-term. It’s easier to pay a little money up front for, say, inspectors or case workers or program nurses, than it is to manage a chronic illness or a community catastrophe.

Speaking of catastrophes, I should have known that I’d be left wearing the dunce cap for saying something nice about the governor. In my March 18 column, I congratulated Gibbons for finally showing some, dare I say, leadership. He had called for the resignation of three doctors from the Board of Medical Examiners. The doctors had ties to disgraced “health center” owner Dipak Desai (I can’t bring myself to call him a doctor anymore).

Gibbons had asked them to step down so he could remove the taint of perceived conflicts. When tens of thousands of people have been told to get tested for hepatitis and HIV, Gibbons showed he actually was leading by trying to clean the state’s house.

Then the fool gene took over. He started complaining about media coverage of the scandal because “only six” people had contracted hepatitis C. When the doctors challenged the governor and refused to step down, Gibbons didn’t act like the governor and go to bat for his beliefs — he turned to Jell-O.

It made me wonder for a moment what Mike O’Callaghan might have done had someone challenged him like that when he was governor. If a real man were in the mansion, Drs. Javaid Anwar, Daniel McBride and Sohail Anjum just might not have the privilege to practice medicine anymore.

Here’s just how spineless Gibbons has become. Not only did he buckle on the three doctors, he caved on asking for board Executive Director Tony Clark to resign, even as he said he thought Clark should still resign.

Imagine if Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she thought elections in Zimbabwe were tainted, but the process should be upheld. Instead, she called the country’s president a “disgrace” to his people and to a whole continent.

Here, when the fool on Mountain Street speaks, people don’t just ignore him. They do exactly the opposite of what he says.

Contact Erin Neff at eneff@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2906.

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