Friday, March 13, 2009 | 2:01 a.m.
It is long past time that Jim Gibbons, who holds the job formerly known as governor, be reduced in writing to what he is in fact: A symbol. And a large Ø seems fitting.
The Man Formerly Known as Governor has zero effectiveness, zero respect in the Legislative Building and zero political prospects. So if the symbol fits, he should wear it and be known by it.
Unlike The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, who had his own unpronounceable symbol, Gibbons has one that is easily articulated and probably has been in private conversations from Reno to Elko to Las Vegas. Like some nomadic adventurer seeking new lows to conquer, Ø seems to start every week with the goal of subtracting more political capital until it reaches the value of his symbol.
This week The Man Formerly Known as Governor managed to infuriate both leaders of the Senate, including the state’s most respected GOP leader, Bill Raggio, while clearly misleading friends and foes alike about whether he would sign a room-tax increase he embedded in his budget. Apparently not satisfied with that accomplishment, Ø decided to antagonize U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and state lawmakers a second time by penning a letter to President Barack Obama in which he complained about the size of the stimulus package as a whole, then lamented that Nevada was not getting enough and said he might reject some of it.
As his behavior grows increasingly erratic, befuddling even those who might naturally support him, The Man Formerly Known as Governor has seen his support base slowly erode. On Wednesday conservative activist Chuck Muth accused Ø of serially lying about not raising taxes and called for his resignation.
His supporters now would seem to come down to a couple of outside advisers — businessmen Howard Weiss and Monte Miller — and maybe a staffer or two. The number could soon be equal to his symbol.
I sometimes wonder, possessing the quality of self-reflection that seems to elude The Man Formerly Known as Governor, if I dwell too much on his various depredations. But then I realize: It’s not like I am wasting my time on a relatively powerless official — say a mayor. Ø is the single most powerful politician in this state, with the power to enhance or destroy the quality of life here.
Folks, the man still inhabits the position, even if he has forfeited the title. And he seems to grow more and more delusional by the day, looking now almost like Anthony Perkins in that straitjacket but muttering about lawmakers and how they just want to raise taxes. Indeed, in his latest faux podcast on his Web site, Ø calls out legislators again for concocting a tax plan behind closed doors while he stands up for the people — or some such populist babble.
Despite the accuracy of Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio tacitly calling The Man Formerly Known as Governor a liar because of his about-face on the room-tax signing, I think Majority Leader Steven Horsford was wrong to call him a coward. Gibbons is not craven; he seems more crazy. In one fell swoop he single-handedly alienated every participant in the process.
But like the loon raging against the insanity of the world, Ø decided he needed to enhance his idiot savant act with a broadside against lawmakers.
“Taking affirmative steps to hide proposed tax hikes from the citizens is true cowardice on the part of Sen. Horsford and certain other members of the legislature,” The Man Formerly Known as Governor said in an accompanying news release, “Sen. Horsford and his tax-hiking colleagues should show at least some honor and integrity by getting their tax hike plans out in the open so the public knows just what he and his associates are planning.”
As unbalanced as Ø may seem with his behavior, I am not convinced his strategy — draw out lawmakers on taxes and win politically by losing on a veto override in May — might not have some impact.
Is he really crazy like a fox? Probably not.
But the question is how close we are to the law of diminishing impacts vis-a-vis his endless gaffes. We will soon be left with a simple equation, as Billy Preston might have put it: Nothing from nothing leaves nothing. Or Ø.
If The Man Formerly Known as Governor had any respect for the office he was elected to, the state in which he lives or even the political party he inhabits, he would take Muth’s advice. But it has become painfully clear just how much respect he has for anyone but himself: