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April 18, 2014

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PRESIDENTIAL VISIT:

One win scored: Goodman appears past his latest huff over ‘Vegas’ remark

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Leila Navidi

Mayor Oscar Goodman holds a press conference on Feb. 2 after President Obama made comments that “you don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.” Two weeks later, Goodman said he was pleased with positive remarks Obama made Friday about Las Vegas during a visit to the valley.

Obama at Aria

President Barack Obama leaves the stage after addressing the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and LVCVA at the Aria Resort and Casino on Friday. Launch slideshow »

The president of the United States, who commands the mightiest Army and Navy the world has ever known and oversees two ongoing hot wars, and who is the steward of the greatest economic engine in all civilization, was forced to live with considerable anxiety these past two weeks: Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was angry with him.

Thankfully for Obama, he is back in the good graces of the former mob lawyer who is the mayor of a city that boasts some of the finest, cheapest prime rib the world over.

By now you know the back story: Obama had the temerity to suggest that the federal government needs to be more prudent, just as families are being more wise, not blowing cash on Vegas when they’re trying to save for college.

Well, nothing so outrageous had ever been said.

Goodman took immediate action: He called a news conference.

There, the mayor said he would “give (Obama) the boot back to Washington to visit his failures back there” and called the president, the one-time president of the Harvard Law Review, “a real slow learner.”

Goodman wasn’t the only Nevada elected official to denounce Obama’s remark. In fact, they all did. But Goodman distinguished himself with the impressive volume of his voice and spittle of his invective.

And then, like Jimmy Carter boycotting the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Goodman wouldn’t attend Obama’s public events this week — a grand principled gesture.

The principled man must sometimes walk alone, Goodman said at a news conference Friday.

“I felt like the Lone Ranger on many occasions out there the last two or three days,” he said.

On Friday, Obama, speaking at CityCenter, told about 650 business leaders from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, “Let me set the record straight: I love Vegas.”

The statement drew a standing ovation.

“I enjoy myself every time I’ve had an opportunity to visit,” he added.

Obama then passed the most important test of all: receiving the approval of Oscar Goodman, whose third and final term as mayor has been marked by his city’s declining wages, employment and home values.

Obama’s statement fell short of the full apology the mayor had been demanding the president make after his Feb. 2 remark, which evoked almost no commentary anywhere in America other than Las Vegas.

But Goodman indicated the president’s remarks Friday satisfied him.

“It’s presumptuous of me to ask the president of the United States to say ‘I’m sorry,’ ” Goodman said. “That wasn’t the objective of what I was trying to accomplish,” the mayor said, after two weeks of demanding an apology from Obama.

(Obama also brought $100 million to Nevada to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure, but in Goodman’s world, action is cheap. Talk is what really matters.)

Goodman noted that this was the second time Obama had snubbed Las Vegas — the first time was a year ago when the president said that bankers on the government dole shouldn’t take junkets to Las Vegas.

“Hopefully, it’s behind us,” Goodman said, almost certainly speaking for every one of his constituents. “If there aren’t any incidents that raise my ire, I would love to buy him a drink this time.”

In all likelihood, the president would very much like not to join you, Mr. Mayor.

You’ll probably have that drink anyway.

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