Who is the real Mark Amodei?
Submitted by Kirk Caraway on Tue, 06/21/2011 - 10:03am
A few years ago, I sat in on a meeting of local Carson City Democrats and their guest speaker for the night, Republican State Sen. Mark Amodei.
It was an informal get-together over beer and pizza at the soon-to-be-closed B’sghetti’s, where about a dozen participants were able to get almost two hours of time with Amodei, talking candidly about a variety of political issues, from taxes to redistricting to partisan battles. Amodei felt free to discuss the pressures of conforming to party politics, even if it didn’t line up perfectly with his beliefs. Behind the good-ole-boy talk, you could see the fire of ambition burning inside of him as he was searching for his next political conquest.
He won over the entire group that night, who left believing that Amodei was a sensible moderate who might have been a Democrat had the political winds been different.
Right now, I’m trying to square that image I have of him with the new Mark Amodei, candidate for U.S. Congress. They seem like two distinctly different people. For example, I can’t imagine the old Amodei running the following ad:
The whole McCarthy-esque red-scare theme of the ad is bad enough. But pledging to never vote to raise the debt ceiling is to call for financial suicide on a nationwide scale. It is like telling the bank you are going to stop making payments on your mortgage and credit cards. Banks don’t take too kindly to things like this, and the result would not be good for your credit rating. Not raising the debt ceiling — which would be required even if Democrats adopted the recently-passed GOP budget bill — would destroy the country’s credit rating and cause interest rates on government securities to skyrocket, making the debt problem far, far worse. It’s hard to predict the collateral damage such an action would have on the economy in general, but it wouldn’t be good.
Republican leaders in Congress have taken the debt ceiling vote hostage in order to gain concessions from Democrats. But in the end, most of them concede that the ceiling must be raised.
Of course Amodei and other Republicans are playing politics with the national debt, which they had no problem with when George W. Bush was racking up more than $5 trillion on the nation’s credit card, or when Ronald Reagan tripled the debt in the 1980s.
But for Amodei to take the extreme position and say he would vote against raising the debt ceiling is totally uncharacteristic of the person I know. After all, Amodei was the co-sponsor of the 2003 bill that created the largest tax increase in state history at that time, a compromise he worked out with Democrats. This doesn’t sound anything like the Amodei who is now threatening to destroy the country’s credit rating. It’s as if some evil spirit has taken control of the old Amodei and created a monster.
I always find it fascinating when politicians who claim to be persons of principles suddenly turn into chameleons to suit their political purposes. John McCain comes to mind. Dean Heller, the man Amodei hopes to replace, is another chameleon who suddenly changed his views in order to earn a seat in Congress. His challenge in 2006 was getting by arch-conservative Sharron Angle in the GOP primary.
But Amodei’s transformation from moderate to crazy conservative happened so head-snappingly fast that it makes me wonder if the man has any core principles. Perhaps the moderate Amodei we saw before was just an illusion, the performance of a politician who just tells people whatever they want to hear, regardless of the truth.
But one thing for certain is that fire of ambition I saw in Amodei before is in total control now. It is his master, and his only constituent. If he does get elected to Congress, good luck trying to get him to do anything that doesn’t involve feeding his ambition.
If this is what it takes to get elected in today’s Republican Party, this country is in trouble.