Friday, Nov. 21, 2003 | 5:22 a.m.
WELCOME to Las Vegas, Mr. President.
On Tuesday, President George W. Bush is coming to Las Vegas. It is appropriate that we welcome him to our city and wish him well in his travels.
It is also appropriate that we share with the president our thoughts about his presidency. I would have done it much earlier but this is the first time since his inauguration that President Bush has seen fit to come to Nevada.
And it doesn't really matter that he is not visiting the people of this state for a presidential purpose such as checking up on the Agassi Preparatory School, or attending last week's Nevada Cancer Institute fund-raiser, or just to share his vision of education in America with Clark County's teachers.
And even if all the president's men find a photo opportunity for him between the time this is written and the time this is published, there is little question what President Bush's motive is for coming here. It is to fill his campaign coffers with hundreds of thousands of dollars willingly thrown at him by our major industry and most of the people associated with it.
The trip is no surprise because we have come to know and understand the Republican fund-raising juggernaut and I, for one, have a grudging respect for its efficiency and success and only wish that the Democrats could be half as successful, not because they have all the answers either but, rather, so that our two-party system can remain viable. But enough about President Bush's reason for being here.
The invitation to attend the luncheon at The Venetian hotel was quite compelling and certainly welcome, at least to this editor. I always like to be asked, even if I choose not to attend. In this case, I have to decline.
And, since it is the president of the United States to whom I am saying "no," as well as to a great many of my friends for whom I have the deepest respect, I believe I have a responsibility to tell them why they will break bread without me.
I don't think any honest American can deny that an endgame that has Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, the fundamentalist leadership in Iran, the terrorist-supporting dictatorship in Syria and the terrorist-banking, two-faced government in Saudi Arabia finding something else to do for the rest of time is a goal worth seeking. In fact, it is abundantly clear that life would be better for everyone if the deck in the Middle East is shuffled sufficiently to give the people who live there a more democratic and prosperous life.
To that end, President Bush's instinct that Saddam had to go is on target. By the same token, I would suggest that any American president in the aftermath of 9-11 would have reacted similarly in search of the same ends. If there is argument, it would be about the means we have used to seek that end.
So in regard to his conduct of the war in Iraq, my only complaint is that he hasn't gone far enough, fast enough and safely enough for our men and women in uniform to clean up the entire mess. And I am afraid he has been constrained for reasons that aren't necessarily in our country's best interests.
But that disagreement alone is not enough reason to pass up a lunch with the president of the United States.
I could use his single-minded effort to dismantle the environmental successes we have achieved in this country ever since President Richard Nixon determined that clean air and water were essential to America's well being. But that wouldn't keep me from lunch and a picture, either!
And, I suppose, I could point to President Bush's unwavering commitment to remove from this country a women's right to privacy by imposing upon every American a federal government determined to inject itself into our bedrooms and doctor's examination rooms, all for the sake of granting a fundamental wish list to a minority of Americans. As a husband and a father of a young woman, that could be enough to keep me away. But, if the people are stupid enough to allow a return to the days of back alley abortions and government creep into our personal lives, who am I to forgo a meal over such a petty concern as individualism in America?
No, I have chosen to miss lunch because our president has lied to us and failed to either say "I am sorry" or explain why he did so. And I choose not to break bread with a liar when I believe the consequence of his untruthfulness could have a devastating effect on my family, friends and community. To be blunt, this is personal.
Yes, I am talking about Yucca Mountain and candidate George W. Bush's commitment to not choose Yucca Mountain as the site for the nation's high-level nuclear waste unless sound science determined that it was the best place for the job.
As we knew before President Bush singled us out and even the most naive among us has learned since, there is no sound science that can prove Yucca Mountain capable of containing high level radioactive waste for the 10,000 years required by the law. Heck, the government can't even guarantee that there won't be a catastrophic accident the day the first of thousands of trucks start rolling across America toward the Silver State.
And, yet, candidate Bush assured us that he would act only on science. It was his decision, and his alone, that sealed the fate of Nevada as the repository for everything evil and dangerous in this country. It was his decision, and his alone, that has placed in jeopardy our families, our businesses, our futures and our hopes and dreams for our progeny for more years than man has previously recorded history.
It was President Bush who lied to us about what his decision would be -- a decision, I might add, that would not have been made by a president named Al Gore -- and a decision that he has yet to explain to Nevadans.
In short, President Bush did not lie about sex, may not have lied about his reasons for making war and probably didn't lie about his motivation for turning the environmental world on its ear. He lied about something far more basic and fundamental in Nevadans' eyes.
He lied about our futures, our health and the life and promise we hold out for our children. That is the kind of lie that may be unforgivable. But a good place to start would be to face us like a man and tell us the truth.
Once that happens, I would be delighted to consider having lunch with the president of the United States. And like my misguided friends in Nevada, I would be happy to buy.
Brian Greenspun is president and editor of the Las Vegas Sun