Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bonanza Column 198 – Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

The origin of the phrase "politics makes strange bedfellows" is obscure – most likely it is a 19th Century paraphrase of Shakespeare's line in "The Tempest," "Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows." Whatever its origins, the phrase has never been more true than this year, in Nevada.

First, a couple of weeks ago I was approached by the Nevada chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a national group, with a request to help them broker a debate between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle, candidates for the US Senate in November. Angle has been offering to debate Reid, being careful to make her offers only for times when Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, will have to be in Washington. Based on her campaign so far, I assume that she will then make much of her offers and of the Reid camp's refusal, given that the Senator rightly considers his duty to lead the Senate to have priority over the debates.

The NRJC happened to have Angle booked for a certain date in Reno, and wondered if Reid might be willing to debate under joint sponsorship with a group of Democrats. It was, I believe, an offer made in good faith and I don't know if Angle's people even knew about what was, after all, a preliminary inquiry. When I spoke to Reid's Campaign Manager he explained the situation to me and said that, until the debates already under negotiation are set, they were not going to discuss any others. Too bad, but that's politics. Still, in the "strange bedfellows" category, here we had grassroots groups of Republicans and Democrats trying to get the candidates to debate, which the candidates themselves seem unable to do.

Then, last Wednesday, the other Reid, Rory, and Brian Sandoval, the two candidates for Governor, were scheduled to deliver separate keynote speeches to the Nevada Subcontractors Association. Instead, Reid stepped up to the stage and challenged what the Las Vegas Sun described as "a stunned Sandoval" to an impromptu, unscheduled debate. The debate, using questions submitted by audience members, lasted only about 15 minutes when after two questions each, the candidates reverted to their prepared speeches.

Finally I learned late last week that the same GOP-affiliated group that had tried to stage a Reid-Angle debate had proposed to Washoe County District Attorney candidates Dick Gammick (the incumbent Republican) and Roger Whomes (running as a Democrat) that the group sponsor a debate between them. The group, had set up a debate between Whomes and Gammick.for August 18, 2010, at 7:00 pm, at the Atlantis Casino. The media had been informed of the event and then, on Thursday morning, Gammick informed the group he was pulling out.

Gammick had initially agreed to debate on the condition that he be allowed to pick the moderator.  He wanted Sam Shad, of Nevada Newsmakers, who is considered to be friendly to Gammick and on whose show Gammick has appeared, according to one report over 100 times. Shad was not acceptable to Whomes, and with the RJC's brokering a compromise, it had been agreed that Joe Hart of Channel 4 and/or Anjeanette Damon of the Las Vegas Sun (formerly of the Reno Gazette-Journal would be acceptable moderators.

According to my sources, Gammick objected to one of the people who was going to help
formulate questions for the debate for the Coalition and pulled out of the debate, despite the fact that Gammick was to be allowed to have
his own people help to frame the questions as well.

Again in the "strange bedfellows" category, many IV/CB residents, both Democrat and Republican, are uniting behind Whomes and against Gammick – the latter's performance regarding the tax issues here as well as his very odd behavior in his office in general seems to be causing opposition that transcends party affiliation, and in my opinion that's a good thing. Gammick seems afraid to meet Whomes unless the deck is stacked in his favor, and this seems consistent with his heavy-handed application of power everywhere in his tenure in office. Let's hope this spirit of putting issues above party spreads – maybe even to Washington.

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