Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | 2 a.m.
- Doors open to the public at 6 p.m. The event starts at 7:30 p.m.
- Guests are encouraged to arrive early, as airport-like security will be in place at the entrance to The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.
- Attendees are being asked to bring as few personal items as possible. No bags, sharp objects, umbrellas, liquids, strollers or signs will be allowed. Cameras are permitted, but photography isn't allowed inside The Colosseum.
- Tickets are available to the public for $50, $150 and $250 at www.ticketmaster.com or at the box office at The Colosseum.
Welcome to Las Vegas, Mr. President.
President Barack Obama will do today what millions and millions of Americans and others do every year. In that regard, the president of the United States will be just like the 40-plus million people who will, for business or pleasure, find their way to our city in 2009.
Actually, that’s not quite true. I think the president will be treated just a bit more deferentially and with a good bit more security than our average tourist. Not that they deserve less — because they are the lifeblood of what we do in the Entertainment Capital of the World — but because our president always deserves more.
President Obama is coming here for business. He will join Nevada’s senior U.S. senator, Harry Reid, as they conduct the business of politics in this country. They will meet with and talk to thousands of Nevada constituents and raise needed campaign contributions from those inclined to help. It is a noble pursuit — until such time as the citizens of this country decide that there is a better way to run for public office — and one at which Nevada has become quite proficient over the past two decades.
And while some people will decry the need to raise money and the actual process by which it is done, the truth is that the idea of having citizens support their candidates through their contributions is as old as the Constitution itself. In fact, the law of the land not only promotes the concept but also protects it.
But, back to the business at hand and the elephant that will be in the room the moment the president hits the ground. Someone is going to ask him about his comment — blown out of proportion by publicity-seeking elected officials and others in our city — about spending taxpayer dollars for business trips to Las Vegas.
I think the very fact that President Obama is in Las Vegas — courtesy of taxpayer dollars — puts to rest any concern he or others might have about spending money on business trips to our city. If it is good enough for the president, then it is good enough for everyone else. He is teaching by example that Las Vegas is in play and OK for anyone and everyone to visit.
So, how should we welcome our newly elected president? I think we should welcome him as if he were the most important customer on the planet. In many ways, he is.
If we look at him the way the casinos might look at one of their whales, it is abundantly clear to me that he can leave a whole lot more money in our city than all the gamblers combined. And by betting taxpayer dollars on worthy projects and ideas in the Silver State, our president can express his belief in our future far better than some people in this state. And that includes the guy sitting up there in Carson City wondering why his Neanderthal-ish ideas about how to run Nevada make him a such a pariah to his fellow citizens — save for the few greedy people who still support a governor who thinks that gutting higher and lower education is the way to grow Nevada into the future.
And while I don’t believe that Yucca Mountain is dead enough yet, let’s look at what President Obama and Sen. Reid have been able to do to save our state from a fate not worse than death, but one that is at least equal to it.
When candidate Obama came to Nevada, he promised to make decisions regarding the disposal of high-level nuclear waste based on science and not politics. It has been clear to all who will dare to see that it was a political decision over 20 years ago in which Yucca Mountain was chosen to host the nation’s deadliest poison, and it has been a political process that has encouraged the federal government to chase that decision with billions of dollars in an effort to turn the politics of that choice into a triumph of scientific discovery.
Well, that hasn’t worked and it won’t work because Yucca is the wrong place. Period.
So President Obama, with a large and long assist from Harry Reid, made the hard decision to put an end to the folly that has been Yucca Mountain. Along with saving tens of billions of taxpayer dollars chasing this impossibly bad dream, it will save those of us who live in Nevada the nightmare of having to wait for the other shoe to drop — which it would have — on our city, its industry and its future.
That is just one thing the president has done in his few short months in office to help Nevada specifically. Another one could be his desire for high-speed trains connecting the West Coast with the East Coast, just as it was President Dwight Eisenhower’s goal to connect our two coasts with an interstate highway system.
There has been talk for decades about a 250-plus-miles-per-hour train that will whisk people from Southern California to Las Vegas and, perhaps, on to Phoenix, Salt Lake and Denver. For whatever reasons, all it has been is talk. Finally, we have a president who understands the value of building that train and levitating our way well into the 21st century of travel.
Mr. President, get us on the right track and watch what we can do!
And did we thank you, Mr. President, for the hundreds of millions of dollars in bailout money for our schools and our state — money without which this legislative session would have been an abysmal failure instead of just a continuing disappointment?
And, finally, what would a welcome be without a big thank you for giving so many people in this country a reason to hope again? We have lived through some difficult times, and we are trying to survive outrageous challenges in Las Vegas as we speak.
But we know you are doing what you can to make the kind of decisions that will return this country and this state back to the days in which we saw opportunity and excitement ahead rather than just hopelessness and despair.
You may not always be right for everyone, to be sure, but I believe you are trying your best to be fair.
And, I know that you have a supporter in our senior senator. Sen. Reid has a big job to do in the Senate, in fact the biggest one of all. But he also has his job as an American to do all that he can to help those who need it most. The two of you share that goal and the two of you are working well toward that end.
Some Nevadans think he has forgotten them but I know that you will remind us of what Harry means to this state and what he means to your ability to get things moving in the right direction. I wish that Sen. Reid were the kind of politician who liked to toot his own horn but that is not who Harry is, so someone we trust has to do it for him.
So tell us, Mr. President. Tell us how important Harry Reid is to Nevada and to this nation. And tell us how important the mission of Las Vegas is, both to the business of doing business and to the pleasure and simplicity of a family vacation. Tell us, Mr. President, not what we want to know but what we need to know so that we can move forward and help you do your business better.
And before I forget, thank you for coming to Las Vegas, Mr. President. Don’t be a stranger. That’s what we say to all of our guests!
Brian Greenspun is editor of the Las Vegas Sun.