Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman lambasted Barack Obama yesterday after Obama made a reference to his city in a speech demanding better fiscal discipline earlier in the day. A year ago, Obama raised Goodman’s ire by demanding an end to expensive corporate meetings in Las Vegas, but smoothed things over with an apology and a clarification. This time, Goodman says an apology won’t cut it and that Obama has proven himself to be “a real slow learner” (via Gateway Pundit):
“I guess you’ve all seen the president’s remarks or read about the president’s remarks, well I’ve got some remarks of my own. I was back in Washington, D.C. about two weeks ago, going up and down the halls of the capitol telling people about our economy here, trying to get them to be sympathetic to what we’re trying to accomplish, then I have to read what President Obama said.
“He has a real psychological hang up about the entertainment capitol of the world. An apology won’t be acceptable this time, I don’t know where his vendetta comes from but we’re not going to let him make his bones by lambasting Las Vegas, that’s why (the press) is here today.
“He didn’t learn his lesson the first time, but when he hurt our economy by his ill conceived rhetoric, we didn’t think it would happen again, but now that it has I want to assure you, when he comes I’ll do everything I can to give him the boot back to Washington and to visit his failures back there.
“I gotta tell you this, everybody says I shouldn’t say it, but I gotta tell you the way it is. This president is a real slow learner.”
I find myself in the odd position of defending Obama on this score. His speech contained very clear conditionals (emphases mine):
When times are tough, you — you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.
Well … yeah. Maybe Obama would have been better advised to keep it generic by saying “in the casinos” rather than “on Vegas”, but otherwise, this is only remarkable for its banality. You’d hear the same kind of advice from your parents, and probably would have rolled your eyes at its obvious nature.
Just as obviously, Las Vegas doesn’t need any more negative connotations on its gambling business in this tough economy. In that sense, it’s difficult to blame Goodman for overreacting after last year’s Obama scolding, which really was ill-informed. Goodman won’t lose any popularity points by blasting Obama again, at least not in Las Vegas itself.
But the man who will pay most will be Harry Reid, who has spent the past year carrying Obama’s water on Capitol Hill. He can’t win re-election without a huge turnout in Sin City and a big spread. If Obama becomes unpopular in Las Vegas, Reid’s re-election will become an impossibility rather than the improbability it is at the moment.
And of course, Mayor Goodman diagnoses Obama perfectly by calling him “a slow learner” — but does so on the wrong grounds.
Update: Obama clarified his remarks today in a letter to Reid:
After sparking a firestorm of criticism from Nevada’s elected officials for suggesting that people saving money for college shouldn’t blow it in Las Vegas, Obama told U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a letter that he wasn’t saying anything negative about Las Vegas.
It was the second time since taking office that Obama singled out Las Vegas as a potential example of spending excessively.
“I was making the simple point that families use vacation dollars, not college tuition money, to have fun,” Obama said, according to the letter released by Reid’s office. “There is no place better to have fun than Vegas, one of our country’s great destinations.”
Do you think Nevada Democrats are feeling the pressure? Rep. Shelley Berkley unloaded on Obama, too, while Reid wondered whether Obama would prefer Americans spend their money in other countries:
“Enough is enough!” Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley said in a statement. “President Obama needs to stop picking on Las Vegas and he needs to let Americans decide for themselves how and where to spend their hard-earned vacation dollars.”
Nevada’s tourism has been hit hard during the past two years as consumers everywhere tighten leisure spending and companies spend less on meetings and conventions.
Reid, one of Obama’s closest allies, issued a statement headlined “Reid to Obama: ‘Lay off Las Vegas'” and was unusually blunt in his reaction.
“The President needs to lay off Las Vegas and stop making it the poster child for where people shouldn’t be spending their money,” Reid said. “I would much rather tourists and business travelers spend their money in Las Vegas than spend it overseas.”
So now Reid is questioning Obama’s patriotism? Talk about running off the rails! I know Reid needs to distance himself from Obama, but that’s just ridiculous hyperbole.