Friday, Oct. 17, 2008 | 2:01 a.m.
Considering the two races that will have the greatest impact on the state’s immediate future have featured some of the most puerile rhetoric of the season, it’s only fitting that we play a couple of child’s games to analyze Thursday night’s “debates” in those contests.
I speak of the tightly structured, 15-minutes-long joint appearances on Vegas PBS by state Senate candidates in seats that could flip the upper house into the Democrats’ hands — thus giving that party two-thirds of the Carson City government apparatus. There was no room for debate because of objections raised by the Democratic powers-that-be that their challengers might have trouble if they actually had to go off script.
Let’s first take the Sen. Bob Beers-Allison Copening “debate” moderated by public TV veteran Mitch Fox and play the matching game to see what we managed to discover. Match the phrases below with the candidate who said them:
A. “The key is to get revenue up.”
B. “Creating efficiencies in government and eliminating waste.”
C. “There is wastefulness and we need to identify that.”
D. “... dodged both of those answers ...”
E. “Money for the (rural water) pipeline or food and medicine.”
F. “There are people in there that need to learn to speak English.”
My guess is most of you playing at home matched Beers with B, C, D and F and Copening with A and E. But it is the opposite, showing just how insane this race has become.
Copening, the PR woman and veritable cliche machine who thinks a lottery will save the state, actually was the one talking about waste in government and accusing Beers of avoiding answers. She also told the audience she is against “Band-Aid approaches,” and that she is a “problem-solver” and a “consensus-builder.” And that was Copening, not Beers, talking about prisoners who need to learn English before they are released — and so, apparently, does she, because a person is a “who” and not a “that.”
As for Beers, he was his usual entertaining and erratic self, at one point holding up a chart of the rat population in Las Vegas to lampoon an old Copening comment about the rodents, with Beers hoping for an “aha” moment that she was wrong when the little creatures started inhabiting the valley.
Beers was also the one against the water importation plan and he jousted with Copening over the actual cost, which has grown since she worked at the Water District. And while his numbers often can be questioned, Beers had a command of the issues, although his hyperbolic statement about the water pipeline vs. basic needs was a little much.
In the second “debate,” between Sen. Joe Heck and Shirley Breeden, the best post-mortem can be accomplished with these multiple-choice queries:
1. When asked where one-time money should go from the federal bailout, Breeden said:
B. Health care
C. School safety
D. All of the above
2. When asked whether she would have supported a Proposition 13-type measure, Breeden:
A. Said we can’t raise taxes now
B. Blamed Heck for the economic “nose dive”
C. Said we have to “make sure struggling families stay in their homes.”
D. All of the above
3. In her closing statement, to explain why she is running, Breeden:
A. Said her son is a firefighter
B. Said she wants to be a voice for the community
C. Said Heck does “not share our values”
D. All of the above
By now, you have guessed that Breeden has become quite adept at saying nothing, avoiding questions and providing platitudes. Yes, she said everything above, and thus said nothing. Mission accomplished.
Heck, a tightly wound military sort, seemed barely able to contain himself after a campaign run by the Democratic Party and its allies that has portrayed him as a doctor who doesn’t care if women die of cancer (an insurance mandate issue) and who doesn’t mind killing kids (a bill to repeal the death penalty for certain teenagers). At one point, Heck asked Breeden to “raise your right hand” and swear she had not had contact with those executing the third-party campaign against him. Breeden parried that it was not legal to have contact but declined to take the oath.
No matter your partisan preference, anyone with a clear head who watched those “debates” Thursday saw a couple of adults and a couple of children. But no matter how infantile the rhetoric has been against Beers and Heck, the Democrats must figure if they can use their obedient kids to take control of the Legislature, they can teach them what they need to know in a 120-day crash course.
That should make everyone feel better.