Jon Ralston:

Goodman still knows little, except, perhaps, how to win

Fri, May 20, 2011 (2:01 a.m.)

I’m not sure which was the more telling moment in the debate Wednesday evening between mayoral hopefuls Carolyn Goodman and Chris Giunchigliani.

Was it when the mayor’s wife looked at her watch, a la Bush 41 and for the second consecutive debate, like an aristocratic princess wondering how long she had to spend on such irksome, plebian tasks while awaiting her coronation as queen?

Or was it when Giunchigliani referred to her expletive-laced explosion of anger during a venture to help union-organized nurses at the county hospital as “one clip out of a 20-year history,” as if it were some unthinkable aberration?

Debates can illuminate a lot: Knowledge, character, intellect.

And if I may say so, Wednesday evening on “Face to Face” we saw the brightest spotlight yet turned on what this race is all about: A privileged, isolated dilettante who appears to know little about anything and who is trading on her husband’s golden last name versus a cutthroat, often polarizing pol whose career has been characterized by hard work and extensive knowledge undermined by unnecessary nastiness and consensus un-building.

It should be hard for thinking people not to be offended by Mrs. Goodman’s Oscar-worthy performance as some kind of successful entrepreneur (so she ran a private school) who should be handed the job because she stood by her husband’s side for 12 years. Luckily for her, most people who will vote starting Saturday won’t be thinking about much other than her last name, and many probably realize the mayor’s job is so relatively unimportant that they would rather have The Clueless One than The Nasty One.

Rarely have campaign ads so captured the truth about two candidates as the ones now airing in this race. Giunchigliani’s memorable and funny take on Goodman running a “My husband did it so I can, too” campaign is matched by the brutal takedown of the commissioner by the mayor’s wife in an ad that shows Giunchigliani’s pointlessly harsh ripostes to a UMC doctor during a board meeting.

For those who cynically think this has always been about Oscar trying to circumvent term limits by getting his wife to run, the mayor’s ratcheting up of his efforts cannot go unnoticed, capped by that outrageous taxpayer-funded piece that was so blatant an attempt to remind people of their last name it had a disclaimer: “THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL MAILER.” (By the way, Carolyn Goodman said during the debate that she probably threw it out. Priceless.)

Mayor Chutzpah had the nerve to tell the Sun that when he campaigns for his wife, it’s as a husband not the mayor: “When I make my phone calls, I say ‘it’s Oscar calling.’ ”

So, yes, it’s shameless, but you also can’t help but be struck how vacuous Carolyn Goodman has seemed. She has been repeatedly asked about gay and illegal immigration issues and appeared not to do homework in between and then ludicrously claimed her comments were taken out of context.

Last night, I asked her what her plans were since the Giunchigliani ad accuses her of having none and there is no evidence anywhere she does. She doesn’t even bother with an “issues” tab on her website. Let them eat veal Oscar?

She could not come up with one plan, and when pressed said: “I will be working with Zappos to help them develop their businesses and bring other IT companies down here.”

Seriously?

Later, Goodman tried to ridicule Giunchigliani for taking credit for the rental car tax bill that helped fund the downtown performing arts center, claiming it had failed in Reno and required a city bailout (not quite true). And Don Snyder, the father of the project, has given Giunchigliani credit for the tax, which has raised an estimated $100 million for the center. Some failure.

So Goodman knows nothing. So what? As I have said before, Oscar knew very little when he ran, and look what happened. It’s a popularity contest for a sinecure. Or, in this case, it’s a last name contest — one we know, the other is unpronounceable.

Even if she weren’t running against The Family name, Giunchigliani, despite her pools of goodwill, has made a lot of enemies. She did not read Dale Carnegie, she does condescend, and she often treats people around her as servants or fools. This is indisputable. (In fact, I would love to poll the city residents in Clark County government to see how many are voting for her to get her off Grand Central Parkway.)

Politics is, as the cliché goes, the art of addition, not subtraction. Giunchigliani has subtracted many potential allies over the years. Carolyn Goodman long ago added the only one who matters.

The debate video is posted at lasvegassun.com.

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