Dubya and Dudley -- compassionate road to nowhere
Expanded from the 2-28-2001 Sparks (Nev.)
"Many good people with families will lose their jobs. I ask you to view these deep cuts with the same compassion as I do." --- Guess who said that?
A few years back, the New Yorker magazine published a cartoon by an artist named Handelsman. It showed two rather self-satisfied dominant male lions having a conversation.
"I like that compassionate predators," says one.
Welcome to the tail end of the current replay of the Gilded Age. The early 21st Century almost perfectly emulates the early 20th. The gap between the rich and the rest of us yawns as the largest in history, both domestically and worldwide. Our leaders simply advise us to bend over in supplication to the nearest corporation, a posture we denizens of the Sagebrush Plantation know very well.
Last Monday, Nevada Gov. Dudley Do-Right stood starchly poised and properly postured for his second pinned-down, crisply-creased State of the State address. After attending his first one two years ago, I noted that the Silver State's CEO is actually a living incarnation of Lennon & McCartney's Nowhere Man: "Nowhere man, don't worry. Take your time, don't hurry. Save it all till somebody else lends you a hand."
Dudley now has a kindred spirit with Dubya in the White House. Both are handsome men. Both seem personable in the flesh and on TV. As one commentator said last week, people saw George W. Bush and felt that they could hang with him on a New York street corner. He added that Al Gore could do the same, just never showed it on TV.
That's how Doofus Dubya could get close enough to Metallic Al in the national vote to be able to take advantage of the Florida fiasco fixative.
Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn and President George W. Bush swim in similar shallows. Neither goes out far nor in deep. Neither is a leader, not even close.
They are reactors, group retreat-style passive facilitators. Anyway-the-wind-blows-doesn't-really-matter-to-me kinda guys. Bush campaign advisors ran scared to death of the next embarrassing Bushism-spoonerism-malapropism.
Dudley Do-Right is just as charming an off-the-cuff orator, a student of the George Herbert Hoover Bush and Dwight D. Eisenhower school of rhetoric, a disseminator of sentences running on endlessly in search of verbs.
The real Kenny Guinn was revealed in a chilling moment in political commentator Jon Ralston's book, "The Anointed One," which the University of Nevada Press praised but refused to publish out of political cowardice.
During debate preparation with his closest advisors, the same gambling industry guys who still write his major speeches, Guinn was asked to take positions on issues. He consistently refused, insisting that it was their job to tell him what to say.
Kenny Guinn learned a long time ago how to get along by going along, and it's sad to see. He makes much of his humble roots as the son of humble San Joaquin Valley, Calif., fruit pickers. I cut him no slack for that. I'm the same kid and we both went to the same college. I just remember from whence I came and won't turn away from the weak and the weary.
In his speech, Gov. Guinn made much of using one-shot appropriations from the mythical state surplus to sprinkle crumbs on liberal interest groups. For these thin-gruel gratuities, he won praise from the Reno Gazette-Journal. Starved citizen-lobbyists were too afraid to comment on the record, fearing political retribution.
The best criticism has come from the guv's own in-law, former state board of education member and Tuesday Sparks Tribune columnist Bill Hanlon. (His daughter married one of Kenny and Dema's sons.)
Hanlon trashes the way the state budget is fabricated with crystal-ball predictions from a private sector appointed board which always underestimates state revenues. This causes the ledge, which meets once every two years, to underfund the needs of the fastest growing state in the nation. It leaves a convenient cash balance just before each legislative session for politicians to slop as salve onto long-festering burns.
From Dubya, I expect nothing of substance, only tax cuts and perks for his rich friends. But I hope that somewhere, deep down, Kenny Guinn will remember who he is. On paper, he is the perfect governor: PhD educator and former Clark County School District superintendent; former UNLV president; former Primerit Bank and Southwest Gas CEO.
The guy has deep experience with the major problems of the day, but the square-jawed giant's feet are of clay. His doctoral dissertation was an analysis of central vs. in-room school air conditioning. After two years of promises, he has produced no solution to the state's fiscal house of cards. And he won't until someone else takes the lead, the essence of Nowhere Man.
That's how good old boy bureaucrats live long and prosper. Meanwhile, sick children, students and the physically and mentally disabled remain shortchanged. These are the same groups screwed over when private citizen Republican Guinn was asked by Democratic Gov. Bob Miller to find cuts in the state's budget during Bush Sr.'s triple-dip recession of 1990-92. Most of those deficiencies have never been restored.
I have little hope in my heart for Dubya, born (with a silver foot in his mouth) on third base but still thinks he hit a triple. (Acknowledgments to Lily Tomlin and Ann Richards.)
One day, perhaps after his re-anointment against token opposition next year, I pray that multi-millionaire Kenny Guinn may remember how much it hurts down at the bottom. And not make any more statements like the one above which came from his first state of the state address. I hope that he can realize that his powerful patroons can't take anything away from him, that he's bigger than they are.
May he find the courage to govern and lead.
He's the only governor we've got.
Be well. Raise hell.
© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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