Is Jim Gibbons ‘one and done’?

I attended a soiree last week. Gov. Jim Gibbons was there.

When we cross paths at social events (not often), I’ve observed him to be an awkward soul — aimlessly floating from one small-talk cocktail covey to another, looking nervous and guarded to the point of appearing paranoid.

It’s understandable, perhaps, given his star-crossed governorship.

In the beginning, there was that ugly Chrissy Mazzeo parking lot deal. (Not good by anyone’s standards.)

Then came Gibbons’ never-ending divorce, a Mexican soap opera of a saga in which one episode featured his slightly nutty wife, Dawn, locking him out of the Governor’s Mansion, where she then proceeded to dress up and carry out her “duties” as the “first lady” of Nevada, as if she were auditioning for Jessica Walter’s part in the Carson City community theater production of “Play Misty for Me.”

Then, to top it off, the worst recession in modern history knocked the state’s stable economic base flat on its butt, where it has sat every single day of his term.

And there’s no end in sight. The noose of revenue constraints on state and local governments has just begun to tighten, and unless we’re willing to dramatically raise taxes and follow California’s path to bankruptcy, there are only three ways out: Cut, cut and cut some more.

Yet last week, Gibbons moved through this social gathering with the vibe of a guy who had just won Megabucks. He was comfortable, steady and introspective when asked about the hard decisions he has already made, and may have to make in the future, to steer Nevada through the recession.

It was remarkable considering more than a few people think Gibbons ought to sacrifice a potential second term so that he can better make the hard decisions needed on government spending. Put in more blunt terms: It’s nip-‘n’-tuck as to which is higher, the governor’s approval rating or the Nevada unemployment rate.

Not an ideal place from which to run for re-election, even without the A-list of primary opponents he’s already drawn.

I’m neither saying he’s made the decision to call it quits after one term, nor that he should make it “one and done.” I’m just saying that for a guy wrestling with some of the hardest decisions ever to face a Nevada governor, Jim Gibbons, on this night at least, looked unburdened, like a politician who had come to grips with his fate …

… And speaking of ill-fated elected officials, let me see if I have straight the latest juicy buzz on Sen. John Ensign: To silence his lover’s demanding husband, Sen. Feelgood paid off her cuckolded hubby with money and a felonious lobbying scheme.

When The New York Times first raised this possibility, Democrats could barely keep their pants dry. I advise continence. The key information source is still a very weird, jilted hubby — a guy who, when he finds out his wife’s doing the midnight two-step with the boss, seeks to remedy the infidelity with money and, now, a cooked-up lobbying job?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not in any way excusing Ensign’s icky behavior.

I’m only saying that if you now ask me to believe that Ensign went to the straight-laced executives at two local companies and conspired with them to use Doug Hampton in a wink-wink lobbying deal that could land everyone in very hot water, maybe jail, I’m telling you, please and thank you, I need more than the pimping hubby’s say-so to prove it.

That’s not too much to ask. Is it?

Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@reviewjournal.com) is publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.

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