PART ONE: ‘OBAMA BACKS THE TERRORISTS’
One afternoon I took out the garbage and ran into a Sharron Angle campaign volunteer. He’d come to my home to talk to my roommate—I’m registered to vote in Michigan—but he got me instead.
He was friendly, he was old, he was a vet, and he had this to say: “Obama backs the terrorists.” I asked him how he’d arrived at that conclusion, and he replied, “Well, Obama backs the Muslims.”
The guy told me that Harry Reid’s opposition to the Arizona immigration law was troubling because Muslims were traveling from the Middle East to Mexico, sneaking into Texas and Arizona, and then conspiring to commit terrorist acts—possibly in Nevada.
“If that were happening,” I said, “wouldn’t the government say something about it?”
“The government doesn’t want to talk about it,” the Angle campaign worker replied. (Presumably because Obama doesn’t want to tattle on his terrorist buddies.)
“Well,” I continued, “if people in the media found out, they’d say something. Somebody would report on it.”
“The media is just as bad!” the man said.
“I’m media,” I said.
The Angle canvasser resolved our conversational tension by drawing a line between the local media (not altogether awful) and the national media (altogether awful/liberal). And we ended our chat on a friendly note. It’s hard to dislike a guy who fought for America for more than 20 years. It’s hard to withhold credit from a guy who, at the age of 75—this is a guess—spends his afternoons handing out Sharron Angle campaign literature in a liberal neighborhood composed of dancers, immigrants, drug dealers and the occasional journalist. I truly respect this wildly misguided and misinformed man.
Our chat was telling, but it says more about Angle’s supporters than it does about Angle. What’s very telling, though, is my friends’ reaction to the story. I’ve recounted this conversation to a couple of them, and here’s what they’ve said in response:
“Angle’s so extreme!”
“I told you Sharron Angle was crazy!”
“She’s a right-wing wacko!”
Stuff like that.
But Angle isn’t crazy and she isn’t a wacko. I’m confident that she, unlike the man speaking on her behalf, does not believe that President Obama backs the terrorists. And I’m confident if she found out that one of her volunteers was saying this much, she’d object. (Right, Sharron? Call me! Kidding; I know you don’t talk to reporters.)
But my friends don’t believe this. They think that Angle’s thoughts are in line with those of her campaign volunteer. My friends demonized Angle months ago—right after the Republican primary—and now they give credence only to those observations that support this demonization.
But just as Sharron Angle isn’t crazy or a wacko, she isn’t a demon, either. So who is Sharron Angle? She’s a surprisingly honest, mildly muzzled politician with some far, far right beliefs.
PART TWO: HOW SCANDALOUS! HOW ELECTRIFYING! HOW….zzzz….zzzz….zzzz
Outside the PBS studio on East Flamingo, Angle supporters and Reid supporters wave and shout at one another. A hot blonde reporter (think Elizabeth Banks) asks a security guard if she can join them.
“You’re not going to tase me, right?” she jokes.
The guard laughs politely, but after she walks away, he confides he’s sick of Taser humor.
Inside the studio, I spot an open chair in the front row. It’s “Reserved for invited guests of NBA/Vegas PBS,” but, well, it’s open. Harry Reid’s wife walks in the room and sits one seat away from me. I ask her if she’s excited for the debate and she says she’s nervous.
Next, the candidates enter. Sharron Angle takes the lectern closer to me. Actually, I’m closer than anyone else in the room (save moderator Mitch Fox), and once the candidate steps onto her 6-inch platform (Angle is really, really short), I can see her moving her knees forward and backward and forward and backward. She does this throughout much of the debate, but her upper body remains totally still. Like Michael Flatley ... but shorter.
You’d be wrong to take Angle’s secret movement as a sign of weakness. Head to the Mirage poker room and they’ll teach you that trembling fingers don’t indicate a bluff; they indicate a monster.
And Angle, it soon becomes clear, holds a monster: directness. Reid is pandering and guarded; Angle is crystal clear.
Mitch Fox asks, “On this next question, I’m going to ask for a simple yes or no. Would you be in favor of a constitutional amendment establishing English as the official language of the United States?”
Angle says, “Yes.”
Reid says, “English already is the official language,” thus totally avoiding the question, which was about whether the Constitution should be amended.
Fox says, “This is a straight-up yes or no question: Do you think the health care reform act should include coverage for abortions?”
Angle says, “No.”
Reid says, “The law we passed maintained the Hyde Amendment.”
Fox follows up: “That would be a yes or no?”
Reid replies, “Uh, under the law that exists today, the Hyde Amendment, which has been the law in this country for 30 years, is still there.”
Thirty words over, still no answer.
Reid is behind in the polls, and he doesn’t want to upset pro-lifers or pro-choicers, Spanish speakers or conservative-leaning independents. He wants to get reelected. Unlike Angle, he’s talking to the media ... but he’s not saying much. Nothing much of interest, at least.
When Fox asks Reid to name a Supreme Court justice he admires, Reid replies, “This may surprise everyone, and I get a little criticism for doing it. I don’t agree with Scalia’s opinions lots of times, but he is a masterful mind.”
Oh, how surprising, Harry! How scandalous! How electrifying! How….zzzz….zzzz….zzzz.
Sorry. Dozed off for a second. Senator Reid: Your complimenting Scalia’s “masterful mind” is as gripping as Obama’s complimenting Reagan’s leadership or Larry Bird’s complimenting Magic Johnson’s game. It was a calculated answer—calculated to pick up independent votes.
And speaking of picking up votes ... this leads us to the central issue in what has become, by far, the most prominent Senate race in the country: jobs.
PART THREE: THE INTERVIEW IS JUST A FORMALITY
A week after the debate, Reid is still saying, “I believe my number one job is to create jobs.” He’s all but saying that if you vote for him, he’ll put your resume on the top of the pile. You’re pretty much hired; the interview is just a formality!
Of course, Reid doesn’t have any jobs for you. (And if he does, why is he waiting for the election to give ’em out? People need jobs now.)
But you wouldn’t know this from Harry Reid’s mailers. A couple of days before the election, I came across a campaign ad, sent from the Nevada State Democratic Party to my roommate. The mailer quoted Angle as saying, “I’m not in the business of creating jobs,” and, “That’s not my job as a U.S. senator, to bring industry to the state.”
(Angle admits that a senator’s job is to “create the policies that will encourage the private sector to do what they do best.”)
I’m shocked and impressed as hell that Angle is willing to say this because, well, everybody wants a job. More than anything else. We’ve got the highest unemployment rate in the country. Even my ultra-liberal friends have to admit: Angle’s not pandering for your vote. She’s calling it the way she sees it and letting you decide.
Now, impressed as I am by Angle’s honesty, I could never vote for her. I couldn’t support a candidate who would force victims of rape or incest to have the baby. And I couldn’t support a candidate who opposes the separation of church and state and the legalization of alcohol. (I could probably get past all the ideological backtracking she’s done since the primary.) If I weren’t voting back home in Michigan, I might avert my gaze and pick Reid. Just as Reid can’t directly create jobs for us, it’s not his fault that we’ve got the highest unemployment rate in the nation, or the highest foreclosure rate, or the highest rate of bankruptcies or the—you get the idea.
So, who would get my vote? I want to write in Mayor Goodman’s name.