Area men show their reverence for a guy who plotted a coup against the U.S. (CSPAN screengrabs)
Donald Trump brought his Cesspoolfest 2022 Tour to Las Vegas last week. Joe Lombardo and Adam Laxalt were the warm-up act. The show was supposed to be all about safety.
No, not safety as in protecting you from horrible terrible criminals who probably aren’t even white coming to kill you in your bed, although the performances were saturated with that sort of scaremongering.
Rather, the event was carefully designed to protect Laxalt and especially Lombardo from public overexposure to Trump.
The campaigns of Lombardo and Laxalt clearly tried their best to keep the event as low-profile as possible, and barely even acknowledged Trump was coming in the days leading up to his arrival. Trump, of course, is political poison. And everywhere Trump goes spillover is unavoidable — a cesspool of it, you might say. By having a small event instead of a big rally, Nevada campaigns hoped to keep their candidates from getting any on ’em.
Already on his way West (and North, to Alaska, where Trump held an actual rally Saturday), Trump obviously wanted to stop in Nevada to claim credit for the primary victories of Lombardo and Laxalt, having endorsed them both. The Nevada campaigns couldn’t very well say no (not least because if they did that’s exactly the sort of information that ends up getting out to the public, and that would have been a hoot).
But how to be best buds on the stage with a seditious conspirator, a treacherous lying thug who plotted to steal an election and incited a violent insurrection, and still offend as few moderate suburban voters as possible?
Keep the event as focused as possible on criminals other than Trump, in a rock ’em, sock ’em tough-on-crime fearfest.
Along with Laxardo and their campaign apparatchiks, the invitation-only attendees included down-ballot statewide GOP office-seekers Jim Marchant (who’s running for secretary of state), Sigal Chattah (attorney general), and Stavros Anthony (lieutenant governor), and assorted other GOP wannabe career politicians. For all of them and everyone else who was in the room at Treasure Island to support those on the stage, purporting to care so much about the rule of law at an event starring Trump is of course the richest height of hypocrisy. And most of them know it.
But it was the lesser evil. The alternative would have been an open-to-the-public extravaganza of Trump’s customary screechy foulness, perhaps accompanied by a spontaneous chant from a whipped-up crowd to “Hang Mike Pence.”
Laxalt probably would have been OK with that. But Lombardo — or Lombardo’s handlers, to be precise – assuredly wanted nothing of the sort.
Lombardo’s handlers were also eager to avoid another not unlikely result of a regular Trump rally: TV stations airing footage of hordes of Trumpers booing the sheriff.
Better to hold a small-ish invitation-only event, keep it as topically narrow as possible, send Trump on his way to his rally in Alaska, and hope that everyone in Nevada soon forgets that Trump was even here.
Alas, Trump, predictably, foiled the best laid plans of what passes for the area GOP brain trust by calling Nevada a “cesspool of crime” while Lombardo, the leader of the largest law enforcement organization in the state, and Laxalt, a former if accidental Nevada attorney general, were sitting just a few feet away on the same stage as Trump.
So that went well.
It was a nice try though. Reducing a Trump campaign visit to a tiny hermetically sealed event where Lombardo would have an opportunity to use law enforcement buzzwords during a panel discussion must have seemed like a good idea. Rising crime rates are a legitimate concern nationwide, and Lombardo’s a cop.
Additionally, the top concern of voters in 2022 remains not crime but inflation and the economy, a subject area about which Lombardo knows next to nothing. Crime – or at least law enforcement nomenclature – is an area with which Lombardo has a professional familiarity, and so he’s comfortable talking about it.
As it happens, his opponent is also comfortable slamming him about it.
Sisolak’s campaign, opting for the time-honored strategy of attacking your opponent’s strength, is pointing not only to Lombardo presiding over rising crime rates – or as Lombardo’s pal Trump would say, a “cesspool of crime.” Sisolak’s campaign has also called out the sheriff’s flip-flop on “defunding the police” (Lombardo was for it before he was against it), and blasted Lombardo for increasing Metro’s budget but not to hire more officers.
Sisolak has also taken to calling Lombardo a “corrupt sheriff, and is pointing to an ethics probe of Lombardo for using his uniform and badge as campaign props, and the sheriff getting sued for using his Metro email account to gab with his campaign handlers. Those allegations might plant some doubt among voters about the Strong Upright Western Lawman brand Lombardo’s handlers have tried so hard to establish. But neither allegation is going to end with Lombardo getting frog marched into the Regional Justice Center.
The far more damning evidence that Lombardo is a “corrupt sheriff” was on the stage last week, when he, Laxalt and all the other Nevada GOP candidates at Cesspool Fest were not only smiling, laughing, glad-handing and giving thumbs up to Trump, but doing it at an event designed to demonstrate how much they all revered the rule of law.
Portions of this column first appeared in the Daily Current newsletter, which is free, and which you can subscribe to here.
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