October 6, 2022 5:50 am

Flanked by Las Vegas Police Protective Association President Steve Grammas and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo gives a thumbs up to Donald Trump in Las Vegas in July. A few minutes later, Trump would call Nevada a “cesspool of crime.” (CSPAN screengrab)

During his debate with Gov. Steve Sisolak last weekend, Republican challenger Joe Lombardo was asked if he thought Donald Trump was a great president. “I wouldn’t use that adjective. I wouldn’t say great,” Lombardo responded. “I’d say he was a sound president.”

Later that day, Lombardo’s campaign decided to use that adjective after all. The campaign issued a release that read not so much like a campaign statement, but a retraction and apology with an intended readership of one:

“By all measures, Donald J. Trump was a great president and his accomplishments are some of the most impactful in American history.”

Using the name “Donald J. Trump” instead of just Donald Trump… the use of a superlative, “most impactful”… those are hallmarks of a statement straight from the armchair of, well, Donald J. Trump.

Whether the easily miffed Trump dictated the language in the Lombardo campaign statement isn’t important. Whoever wrote the statement, its release signified a chastened, housebroken Lombardo cowering in fear of Trump and Trumpism, as Republicans do, lest the Great Man smite him with his magical powers. Or worse, a juvenile nickname. (Suggestion: Jumpy Joe)

During the debate, moderator Jon Ralston also asked Lombardo if he was bothered by Trump still and persistently repeating the lie that the 2020 election was stolen and the election in Nevada was rigged.

“It bothers me, it bothers me,” Lombardo answered, adding “I’m not shying away from that.”

And then Lombardo shied away from that. 

After acknowledging it was Trump himself who undermined confidence in the 2020 election, Lombardo brushed it off: “You’re never going to agree with anybody a hundred percent in everything they do.”

Like trying to steal a U.S. election by inciting an insurrection and then doing nothing for hours while your violent mob ransacks the Capitol yelling “Hang Mike Pence”?  

Lombardo wasn’t asked that question during the debate. But he did explain, while trying to minimize the significance of Trump spreading the Big Lie, that “you’re never going to have the perfect candidate.”

Lombardo’s laconic approach to the lawless Trump is an especially listless take from someone in Lombardo’s line of work. As you may have heard and seen (and heard and seen and heard and seen) from him and his campaign advertising, Lombardo is an important law enforcement official. Inasmuch as his campaign has a point, Lombardo’s badge is pretty much it. 

Yet by chumming with Trump, Lombardo is demonstrating his regard for law enforcement and the rule of law is crudely situational.

Stand up to Trump and denounce Trump’s crimes and lies? On the day of the debate, purportedly brave and upright lawman Joe Lombardo didn’t even have the guts to stand by his own statement that Trump was  not a great president. Lombardo, the would-be man of his word, took back his word in a matter of hours, flip-flopping on his assessment of Trump even more quickly than he has contorted his positions on abortion restrictions.

Has Lombardo made a campaign promise you like? Good luck with that.

This weekend, Lombardo, along with Senate candidate Adam Laxalt and other Trump-subservient Nevada Republican office seekers, is scheduled to appear at a rally with Trump in Minden, not far from where Laxalt’s political action committee holds its annual Wingnuts/Lambnuts Hootenanny for Fox News Viewers (not the event’s real name).

Trump will tell outrageous lies and say hateful things. For his fawning legions, that’s part of the attraction. Maybe Trump will even bring fellow QAnon idol Marjorie Taylor Greene along as a warm-up act, as he recently did at a Michigan rally.

Of course the last time Trump came to Nevada he humiliated Lombardo by calling Nevada, where Lombardo leads the largest law enforcement organization in the state, a “cesspool of crime.”

Along with the standbys – the election was stolen, the January 6 committee is a witch hunt, etc. – Trump’s meandering monologue in Minden will likely feature some new material, perhaps even some of it Nevada-specific. Freshly bizarre conspiracies. Fact-free wild allegations. Tasteless insults and insinuations. Nauseating rejections of reality.

None of that matters.

The part that matters is while Trump is performing his set, Lombardo, along with Laxalt and Nevada Republican candidates for lesser public offices, will giggle and laugh and applaud the show. 

Thanks to their faith in Trump and Trump’s enablers in media and politics, some people have been misled into believing the lies that come out of Trump’s mouth. Lombardo’s statements during the debate indicate Lombardo is not one of those people. He knows better. That only makes his acquiescence to Trump and Trumpism more damnable. 

Lombardo portrays himself as a bold man of truth, justice and the American way. But his spineless sucking up to the “great president” proves Lombardo is just another poseur on the scene who easily discards what he would have voters believe are the central tenets of his character – honesty, integrity, strength, courage – just to win an election.

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson 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 author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.

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