Gibbons’ unearned outrage

Gov. Jim Gibbons last week was in high dudgeon, his indignation boiling over at having been wronged.

Gibbons announced that his personal attorney had told him that the federal government had “cleared” him in its probe of his conduct while he was still a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“In case you haven’t noticed, there is a pattern of false accusations against me that become widely reported and are proven to be absolutely untrue,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons seems determined to portray himself melodramatically as a martyr beseiged by dastardly forces determined to do him wrong.

Hold it. Before his plot line of Gibbons-as-victim becomes set in concrete, let’s remember that the U.S. Justice Department has not said what the governor claims it said. The only thing we know for sure is that (1) Gibbons says that (2) his lawyer says that someone in (3) the Justice Department has cleared Gibbons.

When reporters checked with Justice, however, its officials stopped far short of that. They said only that the department had dropped the investigation.

It’s surely a relief to Nevadans that their governor’s sleazy conduct will not generate more national publicity in the form of a prosecution. But while his misdeeds may stop short of indictable, they are nevertheless still misdeeds. And federal investigators did not spend two years on the probe if the evidence was as thin as Gibbons would like us to believe.

As a member of the U.S. House, Gibbons—hiding behind the “black budget” of U.S. intelligence—earmarked millions of dollars for a company owned by a crony who had wined and dined him, took him on a cruise, and padded his campaign treasury. Gibbons tried to obtain secret federal contracts, tried to elbow his defense contractor buddy’s company to the head of the line. By going around the normal procurement process with its testing and scrutiny, Gibbons could have endangered U.S. personnel.

The fact that Gibbons’ conduct stopped short of felonious may thrill the governor, but his conduct is still embarrassing to Nevadans. The things he admits to may not be prosecutable, but they are still inexcusable and appalling. And blaming his problems on other politicians or the press rings hollow. No one forced him to try to steer secret pork to his pal.

“I am mystified and disturbed that elected leaders in this state don’t seem to be able to set aside partisanship for even five minutes to come up with solutions to the problems our citizens face,” Gibbons also said.

Well, let’s think a minute and see if we can’t come up with a reason why other politicians don’t want to play with him, shall we? Gibbons is a meanspirited, petty politician who questions the motives of those he opposes. His denouncing partisanship is like a polluter denouncing toxic waste. Few of the state’s leaders want to get close enough to him to have to trust him. He is a terrible administrator, an inept budgeter, and a failed policymaker. Everything he has touched as governor has turned to dross. He’s a pariah in state politics and in his Republican Party, which is needlessly suffering by association.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Gibbons should save a little pity for the state’s residents, victims of his miserable administration. The best thing he can do for Nevada is take his leave of its damaged governorship.