Friday, December 09, 2005

Column 62 - Gibbons 5

The Man Who Would Be Governor Strikes Again

It’s usually pretty easy to come up with topics for the monthly Sunday column on national issues, but about one week out of three I find myself stuck for anything local to write about that is not too repetitive. Fortunately I can always count on Nevada Republicans, particularly Jim Gibbons, the man who would be governor (TMWWBG), for material.

Mr. Gibbons inserted into a lengthy budget bill in Congress, a measure that would allow mining claim owners to buy land from the federal government for $1,000 an acre or fair market value after undergoing a patenting process. Mining claims exist on 5.5 million acres of public land nationwide, including in national parks and forests. The measure would lift a 1994 moratorium on mining claim patents;before the 1994 moratorium, mining companies could buy public land cheaply and reap huge profits off the minerals. Land speculators also tried to use the patent process to obtain land for other developments, such as ski resorts or condominiums.

Many in Congress and many environmental groups oppose Gibbons’ effort. A policy advisor for the Great Basin Mine Watch was quoted in the Reno Gazette-Journal as saying "We're talking about 58 million acres of public land in Nevada which could be up for sale to foreign corporations, oil and gas companies, real estate developers, anybody who was willing to pay as little as $1,000 an acre," Others have argued that there is nothing in Gibbons’ proposal to prevent the kind of exploitation that the 1994 moratorium was designed to present. I agree that there is real danger here. So do Senators Reid and Ensign, who oppose the effort, which has been characterized by one UNLV political analyst as “grandstanding” on Gibbons’ part in behalf of his gubernatorial ambitions.

TMWWBG has some arguments in favor of his proposal, and while I don’t agree with his conclusions, the arguments he advances are at least reasonable. Characteristically, though, Gibbons places these arguments second to ad hominem attacks on those who oppose him, characterizing them in an interview with the Reno paper as “hysterical.” "They fail to understand the process," Gibbons said. "It is simply hysteria to say all these lands are being opened up for purchase and development in pristine areas. We are working very hard to make sure that doesn't happen." (TMWWBG doesn’t specify what these efforts are – perhaps taking his lead from President Bush, who seems to think that “we’re working hard” is an explanation rather than an evasion.)

Once again, it seems that for a significant number of right-wingers from the national to the local level, disagreement with their views is tantamount to disloyalty, stupidity, ignorance, character flaws, and now hysteria.

I imagine someone could cleverly suggest that objecting to an ad hominem attack is also an ad hominem attack, but I don’t think so – if Gibbons had used this response once, OK, but this is at least the fourth time he has done so. First Gibbons said that anyone who opposed the lavish corporate funding of the Bush Inauguration parties is a Communist.  Next he said people who opposed his position on the Iraq War should be sent to Iraq to be used as human shields, and then he said we should “encourage” people who are on Medicaid to have healthier lives by assigning a watchdog to them to be sure that they have a healthy lifestyle.

It seems clear on the evidence that Congressman Gibbons thinks that he can run for Governor on a platform of attacking those who disagree with him and assuming that the actual arguments for and against his views don’t matter. I don’t know who else will be running for Governor in 2006, but it would have to be someone really awful to be someone I would not vote for in preference to a man who seems to so low a view of the electorate that he thinks vicious demagoguery will get him elected.

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