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Only one man capable of ‘Being Oscar’

Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman settles plenty of scores in his new autobiography, “Being Oscar.”

Some of those scores are legitimate, as when the former mob lawyer details dealing with police officers, FBI agents and federal prosecutors who broke the rules.

Goodman was outraged at the cadre of cops who lied about a search that uncovered potentially incriminating evidence in Texas. He was outraged that Justice Department officials could allow unauthorized signatures on wiretap authorizations, which made the documents invalid. And he was apoplectic after he learned that a federal prosecutor had allowed a Goodman client to take a plea deal without revealing a key witness against him had recanted.

The worst part? Nobody in these stories ever faced any consequences for their misconduct!

Goodman also continues his battle with President Barack Obama, with whom he had a public tiff after Obama said companies that received federal bailout money shouldn’t use it to hold conventions in Las Vegas. Obama was right — banks were supposed to lend that money to small businesses to spark the nation’s economy, but Goodman’s concern was more about the economy of Las Vegas.

“He’s [the president] a great orator; I’ll give him that. He has a melodious voice, good expression, good movement,” Goodman writes. “But get him off the monitors, and it’s like a screw is loose. He says things without thinking of the repercussions.”

Oh, sweet irony! Goodman’s quips made many a mayoral spokesman cringe, although he says in his book that some were simply meant to illustrate larger truths. (Cut off graffiti taggers’ thumbs? That wasn’t meant to be taken literally. The mayor says he just wanted to highlight the social and economic costs of graffiti crime. Telling fourth-graders he’d take a bottle of gin to a desert island? That’s just honesty: “I think people want their elected officials to be honest. They can see through the bulls—.”)

And Goodman continues his honesty in the book, especially when he admits how much he enjoyed the spotlight during his three terms as mayor. “The attention was like a narcotic. I was on a high and always wanted more. Anybody who says they don’t enjoy that is lying.”

Other scores Goodman settles are glossed over. He blames “a couple of gadflies” for raising ethical questions about his administration, the details of which he omits. (Goodman lent his name and title to a party at which a business venture involving his son, Ross Goodman, was promoted. That arguably raised the specter of whether he’d granted an “unwarranted benefit” to Ross Goodman, an act prohibited by state ethics laws.)

Goodman was ultimately cleared of all wrongdoing after an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, but the issue unquestionably had an effect on his tenure, if not on his popularity.

You can accuse Goodman of hyperbole, but you can’t deny him credit for his accomplishments. As mayor, he set out to transform downtown, and he did. He made the best real estate deal since the 1905 land auction downtown in acquiring the 61-acre parcel west of downtown and seeding it with community-boosting projects such as The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

Yes, Goodman had a ton of fun along the way. And yes, he showed a mob-style dark side time and again, mostly to those who didn’t quite buy into his vision or his larger-than-life personality. Both sides of the mayor emerge in “Being Oscar.”

Goodman is scheduled to appear at a book launch party from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Mob Museum downtown. A donation of $10 to the museum is encouraged.

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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