Dean Heller’s slow, downhill slide

This week, Dean Heller put out a news release that read, “Dean Heller ended last week at the opening ceremony of the mobile Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall in Minden, NV. Meanwhile, [his opponent] Congresswoman Jacky Rosen ended her week by fundraising with Hollywood elite in California at the home of Jimmy Kimmel.”

We suspect that many comparisons of schedules could have provided such juxtapositions of competing appearances that would not put Heller at such an advantage, making us wonder why he would resort to such a cheap shot. But since he has done so, we thought we’d take a look at how he spent his time at that Minden appearance.

In the course of his time there, he chatted with a Reno Gazette Journal reporter, who asked him about his reaction to families being split up at the Mexican border. This became an issue on April 6, when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his “zero tolerance” policy toward freedom-seeking migrants making illegal border crossings. The policy was conducted as offensively as possible—migrants criminally charged, their children taken from them and, in a typically Trump administration twist, their rosaries confiscated. We are not making up that last item.

In his interview with the RGJ, Heller became perhaps the last person who can breathe on a mirror to oppose this policy—56 days after it was announced. The RGJ, for some reason, thought Heller’s position was some kind of a ringing declaration. Here is some of the on- and offline verbiage that surrounded it in the newspaper:

“Heller bashes Trump administration’s migrant family separation policy at the border.” “Heller blasts divisive family separation policy.” “GOP Senator comes out against splitting up migrant families at the border.” “But he didn’t mince many words when asked about family separations at the border.”

Whew. We’re not sure what roused the headline writer, but if it’s Heller’s words, then there’s a hair trigger on the reach for the thesaurus. Here is the grand statement from Heller, in its entirety, that inspired all that purple prose:

“I do not like the policy. There will be legislation they’re working on, I haven’t seen it yet, but there’s some bipartisan legislation they’re working on, and I’ll take a look at it when I get back on Monday.”

“I do not like the policy”—and then off into process. How brutal a denunciation. How heartwarming an espousal of family values.

This is typical of what D.C. has done to Dean Heller. He waits forever to negotiate the shoals of which interest groups he wants least to offend, then when he finally decides what stance is least objectionable to the most people, he delivers a mouse of a position. Meanwhile, the state and national consensus has formed without him. No minced words? These are barely words, and they are minced to pieces.

Heller could have led, and not just on this. On so many issues—national health care, guns, environmental issues, Heller has become so calculating that we have no idea where he really stands on anything, only where he thinks it is smart to stand. That was never a problem when he was a state legislator and secretary of state, back when he actually told us what he thought, and when he thought well.