I was not invited to Cara Goodman’s engagement party, which is hardly surprising since I don’t know Cara or her father Oscar, the mayor of Las Vegas.
The fact that Joey Cusumano was invited does not bother me socially. Mayor Goodman’s past association with the boys as their lawyer hardly is a secret in this town, so it should not be a surprise that he still values the friendship of a man who is persona non grata in the town’s casinos. Being barred from Las Vegas casinos is not an easy list to get on, and making that Black Book of excluded persons engenders a certain social status of its own.
But it does bother me, deeply, that arrogance in American public life has reached the stage that it has, and that Americans accept it now not only with equanimity but with endorsement.
On a stage far larger than Oscar Goodman’s, Americans are having their civil liberties shrunken daily by a man who literally could not beat a dead man in a public election, but then was installed as the arbiter of morals of Americans by a president who is edging us, in 2003, closer and closer to the Big Brother society foreseen by George Orwell in 1984.
Using a war as an excuse to restrict liberty is one thing. Calling it a war of liberation for people who apparently aren’t that anxious to be liberated, judging from the way they are fighting the idea, is another. The larger question, however, is when and if John Ashcroft’s increasing pressure on our necks as citizens will be released once the war is over, and we become the same benign and neglecting overseers of Iraq as we are in Afghanistan. That costly campaign, you may remember, was to remove Osama bin Laden from the scene. Billions later, that charade has been cast aside, and we look for new villains to remove as a distraction for what is happening at home.
But back to Oscar the mayor and his friends.
It is, I suppose, appropriate for a city as hyped and flamboyant as Las Vegas to have a flamboyant mayor, one who says he "could not care less" that the former head of the FBI in Nevada thinks his guest list "is an embarrassment to the state, an embarrassment for Las Vegas and an embarrassment for gaming." Goodman justifies all this by saying "I didn’t walk into a casino with Mr. Cusamano. This was at my home. It’s none of their business."
If Oscar Goodman were just a former mob lawyer, he would be right. It would be no one’s business who he invited to his home or his parties.
He is, however, the mayor of a major American city, and with that cloak and mantle there is a certain degree of moral propriety that might reasonably be expected, in or out of one’s home.
What Oscar Goodman does in his living room or dining room or bedroom for that matter is his own business, but who he entertains there might reasonably be considered the business of citizens whose welfare he governs.
I do not run a city, but who I run around with arguably projects to others who and what I am.
If I ran a city, it would be reasonable to judge me by the same standards.
Perhaps this simply is America today, more apathetic than before, more forgiving, less informed, less concerned.
Or perhaps it is simply Las Vegas.