Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ginning Up Controversy


Mayor Oscar Goodman is pipin' mad at President Obama and the local media is all over it. Here's KLAS's Eddie Lawrence, for example, and Ben Spillman of the Review-Journal.

Except that the premise of both those stories and Goodman's outrage are false.

Obama was responding to a question about corporate responsibility in an appearance in Indiana. Among the recent reports to catch notice was Wells Fargo's plan, later canceled after a public shaming, to go on a lavish junket to the Wynn after taking a huge government bailout. This was a so-called "appreciation" event, an effort to reward high-achieving employees. That seemed extravagant to some when the banks are taking huge publicly funded bailouts, so it fit the narrative of automaker CEOs flying private jets to their Congressional begging session and the like.

Here's what Obama said: "You can't get corporate jets, you can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer's dime."

Yet all of these stories make it sound like Obama offered a full-throated assault on the entire Vegas convention industry. He said nothing about holding meetings or conventions in Las Vegas. He spoke about this in the context of extravagances, of leisure activities. The Wells Fargo event wasn't a meeting or a conference. They weren't planning to do any business. They were going to vacate and indulge, presumably for a job well done even though it's hard for many to see who could deserve it considering these companies' dire straits.

I'm not opining about who's right or wrong here. Dave Schwartz of UNLV makes an interesting case in favor of such trips and John L. Smith in the Review-Journal yesterday was satirically brutal about the same.

But the mayor is complaining about something that never happened, and the local press is filling out the details by allowing the mayor to take the president out of context. True, Goldman Sachs, also a bailout baby, moved a business meeting at the Mandalay Bay to a Marriott in San Francisco out of fear of looking bad. But that's not something the president himself said and so far, it's one example and still within the banking sphere.

Funny thing is, in the process the mayor may actually be endangering the convention business himself. By ginning this up, by turning it into something Drudge-worthy, he's introducing to many meeting planners and companies a thought that hadn't crossed or become firm in their minds: "Will it look bad if we hold this thing in Vegas this year?"

Before the mayor's outrage, I suspect most folks knew that Obama was talking about junkets and excess. Now, I wonder if the stigma has been amplified 100 times over.

11 comments:

THE VEGAS STYLE GUY said...

I'm with Oscar (a rarity). I think That Ones comment was just stupid. Considering how much money and love he raked in here in The LV, he really should watch his mouth.

We are a fantastic place to hold conventions and go on vacation and we don't need the bad pub.

Now, when the meeting planners are thinking up where to go, you can bet some hater will pipe up with, "do you really think that Las Vegas is a good idea?".

Great.

Drew said...

but the point is that Obama didn't say that. And Goodman raising a ruckus means HE's the one making this a bigger issue than it originally was.

Tom said...

Sorry but there have actually been cancellations of events in Las Vegas becuase of the president's comments. I think Obama is going thru the normal process for a new president, ie everything he says will be parsed and analyzed. This reminds me a little of the luxury tax on high end goods passed many years ago. At the time it was a very politically correct tax. However, it devastated jobs in the industries that provided boats and cars on the high end. It was eventually repealed but the damage had been done. This is just a stoopid comment and attitude to take and totally political. I hope that Obama gets thru this learning curve fast. He is a smart guy but VERY naive at this point.

Shaun said...

It was a perfectly reasonable thing for Obama to say and had Goodman & Co. let it pass, no one would have remembered the quote by now. When I saw the mayor's histrionics, I had to go back and find the original quote to see if I missed something. I agree with Steve that the media are keeping this story alive by failing to point out that the prez didn't say 'don't go to Vegas.' But by the time Shelley Berkley, bless her heart, issued her statement, it had swollen to full operatic battle cries: 'from the neon lights of Las Vegas to the Chicago skyline, from the white sands of Hawaii to the Kansas heartland, tourism means jobs.' And the walls came tumbling down ...

Anonymous said...

There is no evidence or comment by anyone publicly saying the president's remarks have led to specific cancellations. And it appears that all the online polls show Obama beats Goodman on this matter by 70-30. Dunno what learning curve he needs in this regard. Is the Culinary supporting Sarah Palin in 2012?!?

Anonymous said...

I used a $40 coupon from the government to buy a digital TV converter box. I didn't ask for it but since they offered it, I took it. So, does that mean the government now has the right to tell me what channels I can watch?

Anonymous said...

I'm with Oscar on this one. For someone that's claiming to be out to create jobs, Obama is putting a nail in the coffin for an already hurting travel industry in general. Not from his word by word statement, but how it is perceived, and has and will be interpreted like a game of telephone. The government and media watchdogs will have their eye on you. The big evil corps better not go to Vegas, Orlando, New York, or anyplace that can seem 'extravagant' or 'fun'. Doesn't matter if they have excellent meeting facilities and even a morale booster in these tough times. Better not travel at all, so we don't draw any gov heat or worse yet bad press. I can see the corporate paparazzi now, making TMZ look like amateurs. Going after every business meeting, not just ones with bailout money in hand, either.

So his comment hasn't had an effect? Tell it to Home Depot, that's doing conference calls to their managers, telling them to keep a low profile for their Vegas meeting. The one that they would have cancelled if it hadn't been planned 3 years in advance. Wonder why this story just happened to turn up now?

http://tinyurl.com/c53hfx

I guess they didn't get the memo that it wasn't exactly word-for-word what Obama said.

Tom said...

There is an anonymous lawyer in our midst. The FACT of the matter is that several events have been cancelled due to the general climate of political correctness led by the President and echoed by members of Congress. While I think that many of these things should be cancelled by managers of companies during hard times, I am not naive enough to believe that the words of the President have no impact.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, now State Farm has cancelled. One more that didn't get the memo of what O Bama 'actually' said. Here's the first of many reports I'm sure will come. Claims at least 6 have pulled the plug.

http://snipurl.com/bqkuw [www_lvrj_com]

Dave Lifton said...

I don't care one way or the other about this, but I simply wanted to note the not-at-all subtle use of "ginning" in a post about Mayor Goodman, since no one else did.

THE STRIP PODCAST said...

well, thank you, dave. sometimes genius is not appreciated.