He’s a little bit Trumpy

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Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo speaks during a news conference October 4, 2017. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Uh-oh SpaghettioOs Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo has found the enemy.

The media “could be your friend, but more often than not, they’re your enemy,” Lombardo told a group of prosecutors last week during a panel discussion titled “Case Study: 1 October.”

According to the reporter who covered the event for the Review-Journal, Lombardo also bragged that he “got the most celebrity out of this whole event when I yelled at a reporter.”

Lombardo didn’t yell at a reporter. He shut down a celebrity right-wing conspiracy theorist. That he thinks he yelled at a reporter is a disappointing fact about Joe Lombardo.

But still, the most celebrity? Of the whole event?

That is no small consideration. After the Las Vegas Strip massacre, Lombardo’s brand was polished so brightly by … let’s see, who was it? … oh, right, the enemy, that a New Jersey teenager was recently flown to Las Vegas by Make-A-Wish because that was his wish: to hang with Metro and meet its celebrity sheriff.

How would a New Jersey teen get the idea that Lombardo & Co. were real American heroes? Darned media, er, enemy.

This isn’t the first time Lombardo has said things simpatico with only the fourth president in U.S. history to face an impeachment inquiry.

Less than a month after the 2016 election, Lombardo said a lying racist game show host facing multiple sexual misconduct allegations would be a great morale booster for police the nation over.

“He’s been vocal,” Lombardo said of Trump, in what may have been the understatement of late 2016. “He says he supports law enforcement wholly…

“I hope that he’s being honest about that,” Lombardo added, in a remark that some might consider a reflection of astonishingly bad judgment for a sheriff, given Trump’s serial life-long lawlessness.

“It makes a difference knowing you’re not going to have the (U.S.) Department of Justice breathing down your neck and watching everything you do as a police officer or as an agency,” Lombardo continued, in praise of Trump’s “law and order” scare tactics.

Thankfully for Lombardo, the Department of Justice under Attorney General Bill Barr is not likely to breathe down Metro’s neck any time soon (unless it thinks Metro has some dirt on Hunter Biden in which case Barr will be all “hand it over gimme gimme right now”).

On the contrary, any attention Lombardo’s department might garner from the Trump administration is much more likely to come in the form of flowers, candy and a mushy “Thank You” note: “Responsible for 82 percent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds in Clark County, hundreds of deportations and growing, separating more and more families, rigid stonewalling of information requests — ICE just wouldn’t be ICE in Nevada if not for the fine work of Sheriff Lombardo and Metro police! Keep up the great work. Best, Stephen Miller.”

Let’s just hope all this identifying with Trump and Trumpism doesn’t go to Lombardo’s head any more than it already has, or he might begin to think his officers could stand in the middle of a Clark County neighborhood and shoot somebody, and Lombardo wouldn’t lose any voters. Oh, wait. Never mind.

In this, our age of whathisface in the White House, describing the media as the enemy is … fashionable? De rigueur? Flattering to whatshisface?

It’s also stupidly irresponsible. 

Increasingly, when government agencies are asked for information, their first impulse is to hunker down and think of ways they can keep the press in the dark. That impulse can be particularly pronounced in Lombardo’s department. Metro, like all agencies, doesn’t like to be embarrassed by evidence that not everyone in the organization wears a cape. But Metro’s default position — heels dug in — might also be due to all the attendant (and overwhelmingly supportive) post-massacre media attention which Lombardo was reflecting on last week. Metro is pretty impressed with Metro.

That said, crime is like storms and car wrecks. It’s a thing most news outlets cover like a blanket (the news outlet you’re reading now excepted). And in this age, when police behavior is under more scrutiny — and rightly so — particularly with respect to police behavior when dealing with people who aren’t white, it is in law enforcement’s interest to get reliable, honest information out to the public.

It’s also in law enforcement’s interest that the public trusts the information cops are releasing.

Law enforcement and the media are not friends. Nor are they enemies. They are people who have the same mission, to serve the public and the greater good.

How they pursue those missions can lead to conflicts, and the relationship between cops and the media has always been contentious. Hopefully, it always will be. If it’s not, the authoritarian police state will have eliminated a free press, just like Trump daydreams about during executive time.

Other than the satisfaction of impressing like-minded “law and order” types in a conference break-out session, it’s hard to see how describing the media as “your enemy,” or saying or doing anything that can be interpreted as an approval or endorsement of Trump’s war on the media does a damned bit of good for Lombardo or the people who work in his department.

By calling the media “your enemy,” even if only to a group of prosecutors who flew all the way to Las Vegas to behold the great and unmatched wisdom of Joe Lombardo, the sheriff is giving credence to his president’s war on facts and truth. Wittingly or not, Lombardo is granting imprimatur to the many who trust and admire him to accept the malevolent assault on reality itself that is at the heart of Trump’s power.

Maybe that wasn’t Lombardo’s intention. Maybe he was just trying to impress members of his subculture with war stories, and didn’t realize he was echoing the despicable rants of the most vile farce of a president in U.S. history.

But then I wouldn’t know. It’s not like we’re friends.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

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