Float like a butterflop, sting like a pea

If you spent an hour plumbing the underwhelming depths of the Sandoval-Reid verbal fisticuffs over education, your capacity for dullness and faux debate is awesome.

Like castor oil, the recent gubernatorial debate gagged on the way down. However, it cured nothing. It happened in Vegas and should have stayed in Vegas. It was much ado about nada.

“The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animals,” wrote Henry Louis Mencken, columnist of a bygone era. “Some of their esteemed inventions have no other apparent purpose—for example, the dinner party of more than two, the epic poem, and the science of metaphysics.”

This political dinner party for two brought together the major party candidates for Nevada governor, Republican Brian Sandoval and Democrat Rory Reid, but it flopped by serving up irrelevancies of absurd proportions: plans without prospects, budgets that aren’t, change that’s unlikely, choice ideas with the snowball’s usual chance in Hades.

Some decry big money in politics and similar spectator sports, like golf, saying it jeopardizes integrity. In actuality, big money distorts things by making all involved take themselves much too seriously.

Big money makes folks don expensive duds and propose puffery as budgets, issue pie-in-the-sky position papers, draft lofty education plans or play golf on TV. Next thing you know, they postulate reforms, debate the issues or bed supermodels.

Neither candidate would bed supermodels, so we’re left to contemplate what each of them and their handlers wanted from this dull wrangle over education plans that won’t happen because tax receipts won’t materialize. Sleepwalking voters?

Sandoval reminded me of Muhammad Ali. His rope-a-dope routine let Reid flail away without scoring much. The obvious front-runner strategy brought no surprises.

He repeated his education mantra: choice by using vouchers (which the public education establishment will lobby to death) and a shakeup by what he termed an end to teacher tenure. Boons for his political base, frills for others fed up with the status quo.

It was butterfly floating with no bee stinging knockout, a dance around the ring to outpoint his opponent.

Next let’s read Reid and his energetic performance, which still left his prize elusive. He threw a flurry of jabs, a few roundhouse punches (mostly dodged or deflected), showed little counterpunching ability; all in all, the stuff of shadowboxing.

His handlers seemed bent on having him repeat charges that Sandoval’s budgetary and education plans don’t match up while calling the latter plan a Hallmark card—long on gong but short on substance.

But Reid’s own stance shows his ideas look like a greeting card based on The Far Side comic outlook toward life. He stakes his campaign on not cutting education and not raising taxes.

Because education is half the state budget and that state budget will be nearly half unfunded in the next biennium, Reid knows his own plans may not add up. He as much as acknowledged that afterward by calling his figures projections he may alter.

Neither candidate wants in full fashion to address reality: Unless robust recovery lifts Nevada out of economic purgatory, more taxes or draconian budget cuts are in store. I return to the aforementioned H.L.M. for my bottom line argument.

“The fact that I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours,” according to H.L. Mencken. “It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake.