Archive for October 2007

Republicans surface in Reno

October 23, 2007

Originally Published on, 10/23/2007 1:09:27 PM

At last, we spot the rare creature that’s evaded us since John McCain made a swing through Reno in the spring.

Here’s how long it’s been since Reno voters caught sight in public of a Republican presidential candidate. At the McCain town hall, the candidate was optimistically pitching the brand of immigration reform that shortly thereafter moved voters to flood the Capitol switchboard with angry calls. That was the last Reno saw of the GOP, unless you count Rudy Giuliani’s strange shopping trek through Costco. Or the virtually apolitical Olympic pep rally at Mount Rose Ski Resort, where Mitt Romney urged the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games coalition to work with all its might to become the host city in 2018.

Romney and Duncan Hunter both appeared last weekend in Sparks at the Conservative Leadership Conference. (Romney’s smooth town hall performance was still top-of-mind a week later when the equally smooth Barack Obama appeared at the Grand Sierra. Obama’s presentation led the Reasonable Reporter to yearn for a debate between just the two, for no other purpose than to savor the aesthetic and verbal symmetry of such an event. Romney and Obama are suitably matched: stylish, civil, and artful in their language.)

Romney got a polite reception at the Conservative Leadership Conference, but it was Duncan Hunter who brought the crowd to its feet. Hunter promoted a border fence, protectionist trade policies and touted his son’s multiple tours of duty in Iraq. Both men, it should be noted, lost the CLC straw poll to Ron Paul, who didn’t even show up.

For philosophical symmetry, one might stage a debate between Duncan Hunter and John Edwards. Each man rails in his own way against free trade, and in favor of reinvigorating U.S. manufacturing. The candidates’ narratives taken together offer a wider lens through which to ponder the relevant economic questions than does either one alone.

Fred Thompson, who caught fire at last in Sunday’s Florida debate, is scheduled for his first Nevada visits in November. The Reasonable Reporter awaits a closer look.


Identity Politics: Dead or Alive?

Barack Obama declines to make more than a passing reference to his status as an African-American candidate for the White House. At the recent Reno town hall, he was asked whether said status causes him to feel additional pressure. In a masterful dodge of the race issue, the candidate:

1- Made a joke: if you don’t feel pressure running for the presidency, maybe you shouldn’t be the president.

2 – Shifted into more serious matters with a segue acknowledging the race question, sort of: the next president, black, white, brown, yellow, red, male, female – the next president will have a huge mess to clean up.

3 – Jumped right back into the meat and potatoes of his message: You know what pressure is? Somewhere in Iraq today, there’s a kid getting into a humvee… it’s hot, it’s dusty, he’s loaded down with heavy equipment. He lost a buddy yesterday and he might lose a buddy tomorrow. That’s pressure. Pressure is raising a family without enough money to pay for health care expenses. That’s pressure

4 – Wrapped it up with a bow: My job every day will be to think of ways to take the pressure off of you.

Uh. OK. What was the question again? In Obama’s world, Identity Politics is dead.

In Hillary Clinton’s world, identity politics is alive. Women have been the center of the Clinton bull’s eye from the beginning, but the effort intensified this week, with a focus on “Women Changing America.” The exclamation point on the full-court press for the female vote came from senior Clinton strategist Mark Penn, who predicted a quarter of Republican women will abandon the GOP for Hillary in 2008.

The unanswered question: Is identity politics dead or alive among Republican women, who would tend, one might think, to reject identity politics?

Penn also foresees young women voting in droves for Hillary, in a show of support for the symbolic progress represented by a woman in the White House. A view shared by the Reasonable Reporter, who, in a parallel line of reasoning has predicted same for months.

On the use and misuse of the powerless

October 10, 2007

Originally Published on, 10/10/2007 12:11:45 PM

Groups of powerless people, if their numbers are sufficient, become very useful as vehicles for the political and personal ambitions of self-appointed saviors. The savior is a tireless advocate who herds the powerless like sheep to the council chambers, or to a gathering of television cameras, where the savior makes righteous demands on behalf of the powerless, whose total trust he’s acquired.

Large homeless populations in certain cities come to mind. The urban homeless are summoned from time-to-time, in ill-groomed and disturbing gaggles, for formal presentation as a vast and heart-wrenching interest group unable to speak for itself. The work of the savior is soliciting power for the powerless, who by definition have no means to use it, and will place it willingly back in the hands of the savior.

Add to the ranks of the powerless, relatively speaking, those whose autonomy is limited because they can’t legally earn a living. So it may have been last week when Latino immigrants staged a long march through Reno, culminating in a demonstration at the Bruce R. Thompson Federal Building. This demonstration appears to have been driven primarily by a single agitator whose mission is not entirely clear.

The ostensible purpose was to protest the McDonald’s immigration raids by means of labor walkouts and boycotts against area businesses. It’s arguable whether a mass boycott and strike is more damaging to business, or to employees and striking workers. But as a strategy to protest federal enforcement actions, nobody has declared it a rousing success, and in fact, mainstream Hispanic leaders in the area did not lend support.

Gilbert Cortez, under whose leadership the demonstration took place, identifies himself as a U. S. veteran of the Korean War. He is described by sources inside the Hispanic community as a publicity hound and a self promoter. It’s a description borne out to some extent by his persistent use of talk radio, both Spanish and English versions, to frighten immigrants listening to Spanish stations, and to race-bait Anglos listening in English.

As a matter of disclosure, the Reasonable Reporter is employed in the newsroom of one of the radio outlets Cortez favored as a platform for stirring the pot. He subsequently disfavored the station by publicly declaring its afternoon talk show host, and by extension the entire operation, to be among the targets of his mass boycott.

But Cortez is only part of the equation, because there are axes to grind on both sides. Where there is an advocate, there is generally a denouncer, stirring political opposition. There may also be an entrepreneur or two, finding a way to profit from the controversy. And amidst the political street theater, the serious questions surrounding the issue are lost.

Jim Broussard also identifies himself as a U.S. military veteran. With great flourish last week, in the presence of channel 4’s news cameras, Broussard cut down the American flag from a pole outside a Latino bar where it was flying beneath the Mexican flag in violation of federal flag protocol. Broussard is now the flavor of the month on national broadcast media, being featured mostly as an American patriot. He’s reported to be considering whether to hire an agent to manage his many appearances, in which he reiterates his outrage over disrespect to our flag.

The video of Broussard’s flag reclamation, posted and viewed thousands of times on YouTube, reveals an interesting bit of hypocrisy. Broussard lowers the two flags, and snatches the American Flag after cutting it free, allowing the Mexican flag to fall to the sidewalk, where it lies in a heap during his rant to the news camera, in which he challenges “them” to a fight. Broussard then walks away with the American flag under his arm. The bar owner picks up his Mexican flag from the ground and retreats into his business without comment. On the TV talk shows, the video piece was cut for time, so this epilogue has not been widely viewed.

It’s hard to make a principled argument that the American flag deserves respect from non-citizens of this country, if American veterans fail to respect the flags of other nations with which the United States is not at war.

The owner of the cantina says he didn’t know about flag protocol. Perhaps he could have been persuaded through conversation to reverse the positions of the two flags, but we’ll never know.

Jim Broussard is now famous, in that fleeting way afforded by talk show appearances, but the real opportunism is taking place at the next level. Broussard’s performance has been doctored up by YouTube users who’ve augmented the news video with their own propaganda films. One version issues a wake-up call to American citizens, urging them to take back the country, then pointing them to a website where T-shirts with anti-immigrant slogans are sold.

No solutions are offered, no links to legislation or think tanks, and no phone numbers for members of congress. Just the T-shirt vending operation. Meanwhile, what’s the latest in congress on immigration reform? The Reasonable Reporter wonders what portion of the public actually knows.

Ironically Enough

October 2, 2007

Originally Published on, 10/2/2007 11:40:00 AM

It was a terrible movie, but the Reasonable Reporter clings to and occasionally calls upon a single line from the 1994 film “Reality Bites.” The definition of irony – it’s when the actual meaning is different from the literal meaning.

Consider the Bill Richardson campaign. Let’s agree on the literal meaning of candidate Richardson. 1) a border state governor; 2) the nation’s first credible Latino candidate for the White House 3) someone who has professed intense interest in Nevada. A partial, but accurate definition of the candidate, who, ironically, could not be summoned this weekend, nor did any of his campaign staffers make themselves available to discuss recent immigration raids on Reno-area McDonald’s restaurants.

Those raids provide an opportunity for multi-layered discussion, as if the Latino candidate who touts a hefty public policy resume needs the meager insight of a two-bit reporter from Reno. But she offered a couple of angles, since the campaign’s Nevada headquarters in Las Vegas was utterly unaware of the raids well after they were executed and reported nationally.

An interview promised at 9 a. m. failed to materialize. Several reminder calls in the afternoon yielded no results. A visit to the Reno headquarters revealed, on this particular occasion, an office staffed with pale Caucasion youth, despite the Wells district location and conspicuous outreach to the Latino community when the office launched.

The actual meaning resides quite a stretch from the literal meaning, thank you Ethan Hawke. The rest of the story has been well told already this week. It’s about fund raising. The Reasonable Reporter had the poor judgment to pursue a story on the last day of the quarter. Today, she was told, they’re all out getting money. The actual and literal meaning of which is “Today they’re all out getting money.”

Hello, white boy. Can Hillary reclaim white males with Joe Wilson?

October 2, 2007

Originally Published on, 10/2/2007 10:51:17 AM

Political columnist and University of Maryland professor Thomas Schaller recently opined that white men might be finally — and thankfully, Schaller seems to suggest, irrelevant to Democrats seeking the presidency. He didn’t use the word “irrelevant” but this was the interpretation of the Reasonable Reporter, who has provided a link below to Schaller’s article “So Long, White Boy.”

In turn, Schaller argues that Democrats have made themselves irrelevant to white male voters. None of the current crop of Democratic White House hopefuls resonates with the white male, he says, particularly in the primary period, when the attention is necessarily focused on the party’s all-important minority and female factions. But it’s OK. So long, white boy.

One must slice and dice numbers, as Schaller does, to support the premise, which is that politically active women and minorities have diluted the electorate, and lessened the statistical importance of white men. (Schaller is looking rather specifically at the Southern “NASCAR dad.” Yet he makes repeated references simply to “white men.”)

The Reasonable Reporter sat among many white men while covering the Washoe Democrats’ Honor Roll Dinner on Thursday evening. Without conducting an actual headcount, the mostly-white audience appeared to be fairly evenly split between men and women. And it appeared to be a cross-generational split.

Who knows what makes these men tick, but several things are clear. They are active Democrats. They will vote. They are not Southern men, they are Western men. And they will matter very much in the Nevada caucus.

Which leads the Reasonable Reporter to wonder whether former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton, happened to hit the mark with the men in the room. Wilson is best known these days as the husband of former CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose revealed identity was the subject of a four-year Bush administration scandal.

Wilson introduced himself as a former union member. He told of indulging liberally in the free booze offered by “comely” cocktail waitresses in Reno establishments, as he gambled away his paychecks during the 1970s when he worked on Tahoe construction sites.

His speech is peppered with profanities. His appearance can be variously construed. “A hippie,” he says. But the longish graying hair conveys, perhaps, independence.

Wilson jokes that his own history as a diplomat has been eclipsed by his wife’s brawl with the White House. But then he offers this vignette. As Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq under George H.W. Bush, he answered Saddam Hussein, who said anyone harboring Americans would be executed, by telling the dictator, “If the choice is to allow American citizens to be taken hostage or to be executed, I will bring my own f***ing rope to the hanging.”

Wilson talks tough, and recent history also shows he doesn’t back down from a fight. Notably, and acknowledging that the Plame Affair is mired in politics, he fights those he believes have harmed his woman.

For many women, this is the measure of a man. Is it so for men? For white male Democrats? Did Hillary choose someone who can bring the white boy back into the fold? We’ll see.

“So Long, White Boy” by Thomas F. Schaller