MY COLUMN: Dean Heller speaks, lapses into incoherence, says very strange stuff

Dean Heller spoke a lot last week in Nevada. That may have been a mistake.

In the space of a few interviews, Nevada’s junior senator, the man from No Labels, defied every label but one: Intellectually disastrous.

In the space of 24 hours, Heller revealed what few politicians want out there: He is reckless, uninformed and hypocritical. It was an amazing feat, really.

The man affiliated with the group that supposedly transcends partisanship made vicious partisan statements. He contorted himself grotesquely on Internet gambling, slipping deeper into Sheldon Adelson’s deep pockets while mangling facts and contradicting himself. He criticized the governor and attorney general on deciding not to defend the gay marriage ban, then said he doesn’t have a legal background but supports anti-discrimination laws (follow that one!).

And, the pièce de résistance, he divulged private conversations with Gov. Brian Sandoval, saying the man many Republicans hope will challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2016 has confided to him that, all in all, he’d rather be on the Ninth Circuit.

That’s a lot of nonsense to pack into about 24 hours of lip-flapping. But Heller is that good. To wit:

In interviews with the Review-Journal and then on KSNV's "What's Your Point?" Heller was asked about the state of the GOP. He was, if nothing else, consistent.

Sen. No Labels, the avatar of bipartisanship, the man who bragged about being hit from the right and left, uttered a nasty and ludicrous description of Democrats while lamely defending Nevada’s GOP chaos:

From the KSNV interview: "I think there's a big difference between the left and the right. If you look at what the left is going to do for the presidential candidate, they'll have one candidate. You take a look at all the Senate races across this country, and there’s going to be one senator from the Democrats because they all think the same.  The difference with the Republican Party is that we have liberals, we have moderates, we have conservatives. And I think in the long run, that's good. I think it's healthy when we have a candidate for president. We're going to have a dozen of them.  We're not going to have one candidate."

Democrats "all think the same." My goodness. No one knows this is false better than Heller, unless he wants to tell his co-sponsors on key bills such as Jack Reed that he thinks the same as Barbara Boxer. Seriously, senator?

First, who says something that inane except some partisan hack (you know, like a state chairman, maybe?)? Second, if anything can be said to be an obvious falsehood, it’s that statement. Whatever problems the Democrats may have, homogeneity is not one. Third, if Heller believes in the precepts of the No Labels movement, isn’t he violating some No Labels Constitution with such a partisan shot?”

During both interviews Heller talked about the GOP’s “big tent” in contrast to the Democrats’ orthodoxy, insisted Gov. Brian Sandoval is the head of the GOP and heartily approved of his ensuring “good reasonable people representing the state of Nevada in Washington D.C. and at the statehouse, here in Nevada.”

And this from Laura Myers’ story: “As a result, he said GOP primaries often are very competitive while Democrats often put up one anointed candidate.” (Has he seen this governor’s race this year or HIS attempt (along with others) to anoint a candidate in the lieutenant governor’s and CD4 races?)

So the GOP is the big tent but it’s cool that the governor, Heller and other party leaders want to make it smaller by endorsing candidates?

Someone send this man a book on logic.

Heller has been moving toward the Sheldon Adelson position on web gaming for some time. But last week, he went further and all but showed he doesn’t get the issue at all. You would think he would do some basic research before parroting his master’s line.

In both interviews, Heller used the word “reasonable” to describe Sheldon Adelson’s prohibitionist views and then tried to carve out online poker because it is “a game of skill.”

The simplest retort to the latter point is: So what?

Heller told the RJ’s editorial board that “to have the wild West as an empire of gambling for the country would have some serious social implications. And I think that’s what he’s concerned with.”

If you believe web gambling will result in a cannibalization of land-based casinos and an explosion in problem gambling, who cares if it is a game of skill? This is an obvious attempt to placate both Adelson and the other gaming companies, notably Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International. And when you try to pander to both sides in a war, you usually get shot.

When he subsequently did an interview with Amy Tarkanian and Jeff Gillan on KSNV, Heller made it crystal clear he has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to the substance of the issue:

“First of all we have to understand where we are today,” he said. “There’s something called the Wire Act passed a dozen or so years ago.  That specifically said you can't gamble online.”

The only facts he got wrong here are every one he stated.

First, the Wire Act was passed in 1961, slightly more than a dozen years ago and was an attempt by Robert Kennedy to outlaw interstate gambling. Second, since the Internet did not exist, it did not say, “specifically you can’t gamble online.”

Folks, this is a United States senator explaining his tortured position on an issue and clearly having no clue. None.

The real issue, which Heller later alluded to was the 2011 assertion by the Department of Justice that the act only applies to sports betting, not all forms of gambling, including online poker.

“If someone from Los Angeles, San Diego doesn't have to come to Las Vegas anymore, to gamble they can just do it on their iPad, the effect of that and the impact on the casinos here in the state of Nevada would be devastating once California agrees to it."

But wouldn’t that apply to games of skill or chance? Again, the intellectual dexterity displayed here is remarkable.

Heller was on message, using the same phraseology, in both interviews. The only problem is the message is Jabberwocky.

On KSNV, Heller was asked about gay marriage and gave the usual rote religious incantation that marriage is traditionally “between a man and a woman,” fundamentally missing that his private, LDS beliefs have no place in the public square. But then he went on and delivered a remarkable soliloquy that attacked the governor and the attorney general and then changed the subject awkwardly and tellingly:

“As far as the Constitution is concerned, you saw where the attorney general in Nevada came out and said they weren't going to defend the state's position on this. I don't necessarily agree with that. I do think that if you're governor or you’re the attorney general you fight for your Constitution, and I think that is your job and your responsibility.  But having said that, they have legal minds. I'm not an attorney. They probably have a better handle on this than I do….But I think long term I support the ENDA (Employment NonDiscrimination Act) program in Washington,  DC that gives equity in the work force. I don’t think anybody should be treated differently in the workplace.  So yes, I may say this is between a man and a woman, but you do what you want to do and I think that's where most Americans are.”

If anyone can translate that, you have a PhD in Hellerspeak.

Closest I can come: The governor and AG did not do their duty to defend the Constitution but they are lawyers and I'm not and anyhow I support a non-discrimination law that has nothing to do with gay marriage.

Does anyone else find this incredible coming from a U.S. senator?

And then the piece de resistance from Heller, who decided, as reported by Steve Sebelius, to reveal private conversations he has had with Sandoval:

(Heller) said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Sandoval return to the federal bench rather than run for higher office. Heller said he’d spoken to the governor, who said in “broad context” that he might seek to resume a judicial career, perhaps on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Sandoval was a U.S. District Court judge for four years, from 2005 to 2009. Some have speculated that Sandoval might be a candidate for Senate against Harry Reid in 2016.

Now it’s one thing for a pundit to speculate on Sandoval’s future. But why, before filing has even opened in 2014, would Heller says such a thing? Why even comment?

What was he thinking?

That question could apply to almost everything that came out of his mouth last week.