Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010 | 2 a.m.
The Great Debate was not so great.
Too much written has been written about Thursday’s Sen. Harry Reid-Sharron Angle debate. As best I can tell, it has come down to this: Reid didn’t lose because he appeared more substantive than his opponent, and Angle didn’t lose because she appeared somewhat stable. Some watchers picked “certain” winners, though, and that is where I need to take issue.
First, the debate, even though it played across the state and throughout the country, was directed at a small percentage of Nevada voters. No one really cares this late in the election cycle what folks from out of state think about the performances of either candidate. If the wrong person wins, however, they will care. And no one should care all that much what the people who support Reid or Angle think because whatever happened in that debate, it was not going to change their minds.
This debate, no matter how much the pundits might wish were the case, was not about them. It was about the few people in Nevada who have not yet made up their minds — either for whom they would vote or whether they would vote. They are the folks who will make the difference.
Personally, I think moderator Mitch Fox performed the best among the three people on the stage. He showed the frustration most voters have with the political process when they ask for a simple answer and hardly ever get one. It was not lost on viewers what Fox had to do when Angle refused to own up to her nutty positions regarding her desire to get rid of Social Security, Medicare and other well-established and highly approved-of programs, or her refusal to tell voters what she really believes about mandating insurance companies to cover mammograms, colonoscopies and other lifesaving tests. He simply filled in the blanks she wouldn’t allow herself to fill.
“That would be a ‘no,’ ” he would finally say, appearing as frustrated as the voters who know what she believes but who can’t believe she would admit as much. She wouldn’t.
Early voting started Saturday, so it won’t be long before we know how the few undecided people viewed the performances Thursday night. Or will we?
I ask that because while I was watching the debate, knowing it was more a show staged by debate preppers and scriptwriters than a real, old-fashioned debate, I couldn’t help thinking about the real substance of this race and the effect the debate could have on the winners and losers. The winners and losers are not the candidates. Those folks would be us, we the people who live, work, and hope in Nevada.
Two major announcements came out last week that, in my opinion, were far more important than any debate show. While the actors donned their makeup and tried to memorize their lines for the debate, real life was happening for the rest of us.
In a state that has been devastated during this economic meltdown, the things we need more than anything else are jobs and the promise of more jobs. We don’t need people to talk about them, we need people to do something about them. This week, thousands of new jobs from renewable energy firms were announced. Some will come almost immediately, some will come in a few months. All of them are the direct result of the efforts of the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid.
We have learned a valuable lesson in this state in the past two years and that is we can no longer rely on gaming and construction industries to secure our futures. They both depend on the discretionary income of others who are willing to come to Nevada. When those incomes disappeared and discretionary dollars became necessary dollars for mortgages and car payments, those people stayed home. Nevada will suffer until people feel secure enough to come back and enjoy all that Nevada has to offer. We have learned that we cannot allow ourselves to be dependent upon the good will and good cheer of others ever again. We need a better plan!
That is why we must have good, high-paying jobs in other industries, and there is no better 21st-century industry than renewable energy. The world needs what we can produce in Nevada, which has been dubbed the Saudi Arabia of solar energy. That means we have plenty of sun — an unlimited supply — and we can become the energy producer for the rest of the country if we do this right.
That will take everybody working together, especially the right person in the majority leader’s chair — someone who both gives a darn about Nevada and believes his job is to help bring jobs to his home state. One thing we did learn from the debate is that Angle will not lift a finger to help and that Reid will do and has done everything possible to secure our futures in this state. Of course, most of us knew that before the debate. Now everyone knows that if it is jobs for Nevada that we want, only one candidate believes it is his job to make them happen.
The other thing that happened last week that is crucial to Nevada’s future, and our ability to grow our tourism industry, was a decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to let stand a previous order to shut Yucca Mountain down.
Yucca is like those zombies we see at the movies. No matter what we do to kill it, it just won’t die. We have to keep at it and be ever vigilant lest it sneak in the back door and, well, you know what zombies do to people.
There are some folks who say that the NRC’s decision to put a stake in Yucca Mountain’s heart was political. I say, so what? The decision to dump the country’s nuclear waste in our backyard was political, so why shouldn’t the decision to save us from that disaster also be? And, as long the Yucca Mountain’s zombies — the nuclear power industry, their banks and the folks who stand to make billions off Nevada’s misfortunes — keep threatening to rear their ugly heads, we need a champion on our side.
That champion has always been Harry Reid. He stands up to rich and powerful interests who think only in terms of money. Harry thinks in terms of people, Nevadans, when he stands up, sometimes all by himself, to put a stop to the nuclear nightmare others want to foist upon us.
That’s the kind of leader Nevada needs in the U.S. Senate. We need a leader who can bring us jobs — thousands of them — when we don’t have any. And that’s the kind of leader who will stand in front of the nuclear freight train others keep trying to send our way.
So, you can have your debates, your sideshows and your 30-second ads that fill the airwaves ad nauseam, all talking about what they will or won’t do. As one person who cares deeply about this state and its people, I prefer to have a person who doesn’t talk about what he will do.
I prefer to vote for the person who will actually do it. Only one of those people showed up for the debate Thursday night.
That was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. And there is no debate about that!
Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.