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Hugh Jackson: a charitable view of Dean Heller

Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Candidates and their campaign advisers tend to assume voters are ignorant, and hold them in contempt.

Whatever the truth (and there is some) underlying the assumption, the obvious irony is that candidates and their advisers are almost never as smart or informed as they think they are.

So turnabout being fair play, voters should not hesitate to laugh, mock and scoff when political campaigns look dumb. And perhaps no campaign in Nevada this election year is more incompetent, more bungling and more deserving of the electorate’s contempt than the campaign being run on behalf of Senator (by appointment only) Dean Heller.

• An early sign that our shiny new senator lacked courage, or convictions, or the courage of his convictions popped up last year, when he refused to give a scheduled address to the Latin Chamber of Commerce because he discovered his appearance would be videotaped by Democrats and his public remarks might be made public, so heaven forfend. Heller was roundly mocked, and deservedly so.

• Heller & Co. evidently thought no one would notice that the campaign’s English-version website talked tough about “illegal” immigrants, while the Spanish-version of his website didn’t. Alas, a bunch of people did notice, and scorned Heller’s ham-handed duplicity accordingly.

• After voting in the House for the Tea Party’s radical budget that guts Medicare while giving yet another trillion-dollar (plus) tax cut to wealthy elites, Heller got to vote for it again, because of his mid-term appointment to the Senate. And he boasted about it. When a slightly revised version of the Tea Party budget was introduced earlier this year, however, Heller incredibly pretended he didn’t know what was in the bill and so couldn’t take a position on it, rendering the senator by appointment the look of either a liar or a buffoon (not that the two are mutually exclusive).

• When asked to comment about campaign ad attacks he has been running against Shelley Berkley, Heller told The Hill newspaper that he isn’t running the ads, “the campaign is.” Reporters should direct their questions about his ads to his campaign, not to him, Heller said. Oh, and the ad in question features the words “I’m Dean Heller and I approve this message.” Heller was pilloried as a spineless wimp locally and nationally.

• Heller’s campaign put out a whiny memo to the media that blasted, well, the media for not making a bigger deal out Shelley Berkley’s alleged ethics problem. The media responded promptly — not with more coverage of the ethics case, but by describing Heller as a whiner. (Since the charges about Berkley possibly using her influence to benefit her doctor husband were first reported last year in the New York Times, virtually no new charges or additional damning information about Berkley’s behavior have come to light, suggesting a) that there actually was a point to be made in Heller’s whiny memo, but Heller’s bungling staff is incapable of making it; or b) the trail in the so-called “scandal” has gone cold).

• When the Amonix solar systems facility in North Las Vegas shuttered, Heller rushed out a statement blasting the stimulus bill for blowing $6 million in tax credits on the company. Amonix never used the tax credits. Amonix was, however, awarded $16 million in grants initially approved under Heller’s beloved Bush administration, the sort of thing that Heller typically calls “job-killing government spending” or somesuch. But “Team Dean,” as Heller’s crack campaign refers to itself, either didn’t know about the Bush money or deliberately neglected to mention it. In any case, Heller’s response to the Amonix closing — a lightning-quick but fact-free regurgitation of trite right-wing talking points — was an embarrassment to those campaign professionals who at least try to do a little research before hitting “send.”

Yes, “Team Dean” is an affront to the better practices of America’s political industrial complex. But that is nothing compared to insults the Heller campaign hurls at the intelligence of Nevada voters on a daily basis, on TV.

Heller is running an ad touting his bill to not pay members of Congress unless they pass a budget. Leaving aside the questionable constitutionally of such a bill, or its redundancy (Heller’s breathless contention notwithstanding, the federal government is in fact operating under a budget right now; that’s how last summer’s Heller/Tea Party-driven debt-ceiling debacle was resolved), the bill will never, ever, become law. And Heller knows it.

Heller also knows it is an irrelevant gimmick that panders to the most ignorant of angry, low-information swing voters, a group for whom he obviously has absolutely zero regard or he wouldn’t gladly and willingly try to exploit them with an offensively cynical stunt.

Then again, perhaps that’s too harsh.

Over the years, particularly when he was Nevada’s secretary of state, Heller developed a bit of a reputation as a mostly sensible person, no staggering genius, to be sure, but moderately smart, for a politician, anyway.

Perhaps Heller isn’t as smart as people used to think he was. Maybe not even close.

That would help explain the floundering inanity of his campaign as well as his profoundly asinine no-budget-no-pay bill. Maybe Heller isn’t a wimpy, whiny, cynical political hack willing to say or do anything, no matter how facile or puerile or offensive to a person of reasonable intelligence. Maybe he’s just an idiot.

See? I’m always willing to entertain the charitable view.