Las Vegas Sun

August 23, 2014

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Where I Stand:

Being thankful, humble, hopeful

Holiday season a time to value the present, look ahead optimistically

I love the Christmas season. It means so much to so many people that it’s hard not to be infected with the giving spirit that seems to define the last couple of weeks of the year.

So it is in that spirit, and the need to clean off the desk of whatever thoughts are still hanging around before the New Year begins, that I share with you these thoughts.

First, of course, is a big thank you for the Christmas present that John Unwin and his team presented to Las Vegas with the opening last week of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. It matters not that the hotel will probably be the last grand opening in this city for quite awhile. What matters is that it opened, it is beautiful and it was a shot in the arm to the hundreds of people who now have jobs as well as the hundreds of thousands of Southern Nevadans who needed a reason to believe that life will get better.

The place was packed opening night with well-wishers wearing bright smiles that shone through all the glitter. The smiles provided the sense of optimism that hotel openings always provide, but is often taken for granted. If we have learned anything the past three years, it is not to take anything for granted.

So welcome to Las Vegas, Cosmopolitan. May you and that beautiful chandelier know nothing but success.

•••

I am in a charitable mood, so I will not attempt to characterize the business-as-usual attempt by a Nevada senator to fool as many people as he could last week by saying he was for tax cuts, then voting against them. John Ensign should have learned one thing this past election: Voters are not as stupid as they sometimes act. Once they get it, they don’t forget it.

John, you can’t be in favor of cutting taxes, say you are in favor of cutting taxes, and then, just because the bill you are asked to vote on isn’t perfect, vote against cutting taxes. The folks at home wanted their taxes cut and you agreed with them. Until you disagreed. I suppose, when you run for re-election, having to reconcile why you were for something before you were against it is a mere annoyance compared with everything else you’ll have to explain.

For the record, I am in favor of cutting taxes for the middle class, and letting taxes go back to where they were under President Bill Clinton for those who make oodles of money. If memory serves me right, the very wealthy did very well when they paid a few percentage points higher than they pay today. I also think estate taxes should be lowered and capital gains taxes should be held as low as possible.

Giving people who have become successful incentives to be more successful seems like the right idea to me. And making a guy who earns a million dollars pay a few thousand dollars more a year so we can help those who are out of work and respect the deficit also make sense.

Obviously, it didn’t make political sense to Republicans. So, assuming I get to keep my job these next two years, let me thank those responsible for this Christmas gift.

•••

There are times — very few of them — when I don’t like the business I am in. That is because every once in awhile the stories we print cause harm to people who don’t deserve the resulting hurt. Many years ago, my father told me that when there is a negative story about a family member (usually Hank) it must be published on the front page. The reason was simple: No matter whether or not it proved true, if we didn’t run such stories about ourselves, we couldn’t justify running them about others.

This past week, the Sun published a story on its website that had to cause harm to the family members of the person written about. It was a legitimate story, and it was newsworthy — whether it needed to be as explicit as it was is an open question but not central to this thought. The fact is that feelings were hurt, innocent feelings, and for that I am sorry.

It does no good to repeat the story or even identify the subject for that would only exacerbate the problem. I write this only to try to explain that these decisions are not taken lightly. Sometimes they are right, sometimes — I hope very few times — they are wrong. But they are always with the knowledge that there but for the grace of God — well, you know the rest.

•••

Finally, as my desk is cleared in anticipation of a few days of family time in warmer climes and with the knowledge that in this space will be Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum finalists with important ideas to share, I leave with this thought that I hope may challenge us in the new year.

We live in a difficult and dangerous world. We are not the only inhabitants of the globe, and many billions of people want what we have. That is why it is important that we do what we can to make this world as safe as possible for coming generations.

In the very near term we need to make our voices heard in Washington on the START treaty. There is no excuse not to ratify the treaty and reduce the nuclear threat to both the U.S. and Russia. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that ratifying START is crucial for U.S. security, I don’t need to argue the point. Do you?

In the longer term, but something we should start right now, we must cry out for civility, understanding and a return to the times when neighbors pulled for neighbors and Americans pulled for one another.

This is a democracy that demands that compromises be made to move forward. To allow for one more moment people at either end of the political spectrum to stand fast and stubborn in the face of daunting and often insurmountable challenges amounts to national suicide. Fighting for Pyrrhic and political victories may make us feel good, but it does nothing to advance our national purpose.

There are countries that depend on a strong America and don’t understand why we do this to ourselves. There are people in America who depend on a strong America who can’t understand why we do this to ourselves. And, yes, there are people in this country who for some selfish reason are thrilled that we do this to ourselves because it advances some narrow interest of theirs.

Those selfish people should not be allowed to carry the day. They cannot speak for the vast majority of Americans who believe in the message of this season and who believe in a strong, secure and just America.

Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men are not just words. They must be our aspiration.