Not long ago outspoken Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was taking to the air waves to voice his dismay at comments that President Barack Obama made. In the February speech on bank excesses and the economic distress faced by so many, Obama stated “You can’t get corporate jets. You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas, or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime. There has got to be some accountability and some responsibility, and that’s something that I intend to impose as President of the United States.”
Goodman responded with a full-media assault – demanding an apology, even as 340 corporations and business meetings were canceled or worse, moved from Las Vegas to San Francisco, San Diego and Phoenix.
But it’s always been said that politics make strange bedfellows and now, just months later, the media was on hand when Goodman met Air Force One at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Tuesday, shook President Obama’s hand and escorted him to the waiting motorcade.
After starting his day in Washington with the announcement of Sonia Sotomayo for the Supreme Court, President Obama ended his day at a Caesar’s Palace fund raiser for Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid.
The Las Vegas fundraiser wasn’t the routine chicken and a handshake event. The sold-out party of 4,000 at the Colosseum listened to about 15-minutes of Obama speaking about and touting the accomplishments of Reid and his support for issues “that matter not just to Democrats but to middle-class families all across America.”
Obama didn’t mention anything about the local controversy over his remarks earlier this year condemning lavish Las Vegas junkets by corporations getting federal bailout funds, but did praise Caesars Palace where he spent the night in a lavish 22,000-square-foot suite in the Forum Tower, the first time a sitting president has stayed at Caesars.
In fact, for those that had long hoped to hear some substantial “magic” words from Obama during his visit to help boost the Las Vegas and Nevada economy from the doldrums, they never came. And while Goodman shared his disappointment from the visit, his prior demands appeared to soften and he expressed much more optimism than Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, who said the President’s comments “were better than nothing, they were also next to nothing. I thought he could have done more.”
Hopes and rhetoric were set aside as entertainment ensued with performances by Rita Rudner, Sheryl Crow and even Bette Midler will take to the stage for her milestone 100th performance.
During it all, about 100 peaceful protestors gathered outside in front of Caesars Palace, chanting “Heave ho!” waiving flags and carrying signs protesting against Harry Reid, criticizing his “tax-and-spend,” “big government” ways.
Today, President Obama will give a federal stimulus package and solar energy speech that primarily will highlights job-creating solar and geothermal energy projects.
Will the Las Vegas crowd expect the President to stand on stage and apologize for his February comments anytime soon? Not many – if any – are predicted to look for a retraction or softening of his words. The unfortunate reference cost Vegas in the short run but in a city that plays all the angles, this visit by Barack Obama is guaranteed to become a showman’s golden opportunity.
So it was lights, cameras and You Tube at Caesar’s Palace with the city of Las Vegas betting on, but not receiving, a Presidential image upgrade, all the while pouring $2 million into Reid’s 2010 campaign coffers.