The man who would be governor

It’s difficult to imagine what must have been going on in U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons’ mind when he made the now-infamous speech in Elko, suggesting that certain people who didn’t support the invasion of Iraq could have been better used as human shields and that all right-thinking Americans “[s]upport the President of the United States and the U.S. military and tell the liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippy, tie-dyed liberals to go make their movies and whine someplace else.”

There are a few things that can be conjectured to have been in his head: For one, he believed he was among like-minded friends. The panderer was speaking to Republican faithful at a Lincoln Day dinner. He must have thought his position as former war hero and member of the establishment in Washington, D.C., protected him from the niceties of property ownership—in this case, the intellectual property rights of Beth Chapman, Alabama State Auditor, who wrote the speech Gibbons read without attribution—as well as the niceties of civilized discourse.

It’s true, as reported by the Elko Daily Free Press, that his comments were directed at “some of our movie stars and song makers” including such Americans as Rosie O’Donnell, Martin Sheen, George Clooney, Jane Fonda and Phil Donahue. Maybe other liberals were a little too sensitive to the name calling.

But name calling often paints with a broad brush, and there are a lot of Americans out there who, particularly in the days leading up to our invasion of Iraq, felt their thoughts were best represented by some of our movie stars and song makers—that’s precisely the reason the First Amendment freedoms weren’t only bestowed upon the press but on all people who choose to express themselves.

Gibbons obviously thought he was safe from scrutiny. After all, he’s been in Washington, D.C., for the last eight years. Nevada’s tiny Fourth Estate doesn’t keep a close eye on our elected officials in Washington beyond noting voting records. Gibbons’ has been predictably partisan. It was plain in this speech that he thought he could come back to a corner of his home state, publicly present someone else’s speech as his own and sneak away with no one being the wiser.

The speech made plain that his ideological views are so entrenched that he doesn’t even realize how far out of the mainstream they are. If he did, he probably would have tempered his stolen comments to some degree. After all, unfair stereotypes are easy to come by. At least when tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippy, tie-dyed liberals thump the other side, they usually recognize that some clear-cutting, strip-mining, air-polluting, war-mongering, gay-bashing, SUV-driving, red-necktied, right-wing, wingtip-wearing conservatives wear cowboy boots.

That speech was written in a time when the American people were considering the invasion of Iraq. Perhaps the rhetoric was necessarily heated then. Then. Of course, rhetoric gets pretty heated around election time, too.

But this is the man who many folks believe is going to stroll to the governorship of Nevada to represent all Nevadans—a liar, thief and ideologue. Well, this is Nevada; maybe we should just change the state’s letterhead and dispense with the formality of the election. Or maybe not—those Birkenstocks were made for walking.