Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
The differences between the Democratic and Republican candidates in this year’s U.S. Senate race couldn’t be starker — and it’s difficult to imagine the stakes being any higher for Nevadans.
Harry Reid, a Democrat, is majority leader of the U.S. Senate. No Nevadan has ever held such influence in Washington — and in light of how much help we will continue to need from the nation’s capital in these trying times, we’re fortunate Reid is there, delivering financial assistance to our state. On a personal level, the senator is plain-spoken and someone who occupies the sensible center of American politics.
On the other side of the ledger is Sharron Angle, a Reno Republican who is the picture-perfect symbol of the radical right in American politics today. During her brief career as an assemblywoman in Carson City, she was a loner and even alienated nearly all of her fellow Republicans because her views were so extreme.
In normal times, this wouldn’t be much of a contest, and Reid would be able to count on considerable support in his bid for re-election. But these aren’t normal times. Nevada, without a doubt, has been the state hardest hit by the Great Recession. Many Nevadans are understandably angry and want to take out their frustrations on just about anybody who holds public office.
But the current economic situation is hardly Reid’s fault. If anything, the failed economic policies of the George W. Bush administration were principally responsible for where we find ourselves today. The combination of the Republicans’ massive tax cuts and the huge spending on the Iraq war also has put us in terrible shape.
In many respects, this contest is about values — specifically, which candidate’s values most closely are like those of Nevadans. If one simply looks at the facts, it’s clear that Reid, not Angle, shares the values of an overwhelming majority of Nevadans.
For example, on the issue of extending unemployment insurance, Angle claimed that extending benefits during one of this nation’s worst recessions would be wrong, contending it created “spoiled” Nevadans. In contrast, Reid understood that people were hurting and needed temporary help until the economy improves enough.
Reid has led the state’s fight against federal efforts to bury 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, just 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The senator’s dogged determination and influence have paid off, as President Barack Obama this year withdrew the license application for the project. But just because the president listened to Reid, doesn’t mean it ends there. If Reid were defeated, rest assured that the nuclear power industry’s advocates would try to gather enough votes in Congress to pass legislation sending nuclear waste to Nevada. For her part, Angle isn’t opposed to man’s deadliest waste coming to this state. Now is not the time for cowardice and Angle’s call to surrender; now is the time for a leader who will continue the fight and help kill the Yucca Mountain project once and for all.
Angle also has said she wants to phase out Social Security and Medicare, two of the most important safety nets that Nevadans and all Americans rely upon. Angle also wants to eliminate key federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency. She additionally believes the new health care law should be repealed. Of course, while she vilifies the government, she has been receiving government-sponsored health care coverage through the insurance benefits of her husband, a former Bureau of Land Management employee. Talk about hypocrisy. And Angle had a miserable record of defending patients’ rights when she was in the Legislature, voting against bills that would have required health insurance companies to cover the costs of colon cancer screenings and providing coverage for autism.
On abortion, Reid is anti-abortion, but he believes if the mother’s life is in danger or if someone is the victim of rape or incest, it should be allowed. Angle takes an extreme view — she doesn’t believe in exceptions. When asked in an interview what she would say to a young girl who has been raped by her father, Angle said “two wrongs don’t make a right” and that girls who seek alternatives to abortion are turning a “lemon situation into lemonade.” This, apparently, is Angle’s twisted view of compassionate conservatism.
She has an alarming tendency to be reckless in her comments. During the Republican primary she casually talked about the prospect of an armed insurrection involving Second Amendment “remedies” in response to recent actions by Congress.
Angle has sought to distance herself from controversial comments and other positions she took in the primary. She even claims that Reid and those in the media are taking her comments out of context. But that is a lie. Reid’s campaign and news organizations are simply repeating her words — to devastating effect — and it’s only after she is criticized for her comments that she runs away from them as fast as she can. Angle is hardly a profile in courage. Indeed, she is a cynical politician, the very kind of politician that Tea Party activists usually rail against.
It’s obvious Angle thinks Nevadans are a bunch of rubes who won’t realize what’s going on here. Her Washington campaign handlers are working overtime to soften her image. Angle’s advisers — and her sycophants in the right-wing media — will tell you her political philosophy is in the “mainstream,” but that is laughable. Don’t be fooled by her smile. Angle is as radical as it gets in politics today — and that is saying something.
Plenty of voters this year are upset with how things are going — many are independents who want to send a message to Washington. But this isn’t a time to send someone to Washington who represents the radical fringe and doesn’t care about seeking common ground on some of the toughest issues facing our state and country — whether it’s negotiating to get Nevada a larger share of water from the Colorado River or bringing more jobs to the state, particularly those in renewable energy.
And, as Nevadans learn even more about Angle’s dangerous views, is it any wonder why a growing number of Republicans are taking the extraordinary step of publicly backing Reid? Some of the highly regarded Republicans endorsing Reid — and refusing to support the Angle — are state Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, former Lt. Gov. Bob Cashell and former Nevada first lady Dema Guinn, who Friday also intimated that her late husband, Gov. Kenny Guinn, who died recently, would have backed Reid as well. These are individuals who Republicans have supported and trusted for decades in Nevada. For Raggio, it is the first time he has endorsed a Democrat in a major race. It may not have been easy for him as a Republican, but, as a Nevadan, he has put the state first as he has always done.
We need someone in Washington in a position of influence who understands what it means to be a leader — and who can shoulder the responsibility that comes with it. For those voters who truly want to send a message, vote for the candidate who shares the values of his fellow Nevadans: Harry Reid. The Las Vegas Sun endorses Harry Reid.