Somehow, you get the feeling the next time Sue Lowden is sick, her doctor will demand cash up front.
Lowden, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, suggested one way to cut health-care costs was to pay in cash and do some bargaining—or, as she called it, “bartering.” Now, she probably didn’t mean negotiating with an emergency-room doctor over whether you can get the full appendectomy by paying with three sheep, but that isn’t a certainty. My doctor roots for the Yankees and probably would accept no less than a guaranteed World Series victory before examining me, but I’m a Dodgers fan, so she can forget it.
Naturally, Lowden took a bit of a beating. The campaign of her would-be general-election opponent, Harry Reid, asked whether she had lost her mind, which makes me wonder what a psychologist would want in exchange for therapy. Democratic Party officials tried to bring some animals to her office. Jay Leno mentioned her by name, spelled her name incorrectly, reported her proposal and then asked, “But what if your doctor’s not Amish? What do you do?” No doubt an Amish doctor would have found that funny—if he owned a television set.
So, Lowden didn’t make her point the right way and opened herself up to the possibility of becoming a national laughingstock. Thankfully, Nevada is the second-chance capital of the world, so she got a reprieve. And she said on a Reno television show, “You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house. … I’m not backing down from that system.”
This leaves Lowden’s campaign to try to make chicken salad out of, well, you know. And this isn’t the first time Lowden has said something that could create political capital for her opponents—or, technically, not said something.
Last year, she appeared on a radio show on which the host questioned whether the mob tried to kill Reid in 1981 over his tenure on the Nevada Gaming Commission, where he faced down such sterling citizens as Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. In response, Lowden chuckled (the temptation now is to say it was a clucking noise) and said she didn’t recall that. She could have said, “Oh, there’s no doubt the mob went after Reid. But that has nothing to do now with whether he should be in office,” and then criticized him. Considering that she was in the media here at the time, and worked closely with Ned Day, the reporter who did more to uncover what the mob was doing here than anyone else in the media ever has, she should have been ashamed of herself.
When you are in public life, though, you evidently can’t help but occasionally say something you regret, which begs the question of whether Lowden can overcome these kinds of inanities and how common they are, at least in Nevada.
Former Sen. Chic Hecht dropped classics such as referring to Yucca Mountain as a proposed nuclear suppository. He was defeated for re-election after one term, and comments like those hurt him.
Sen. John Ensign, who has enough problems, once made perhaps the most honest statement in Nevada political history and emerged unscathed. Asked why he had voted for a bill that included a provision that hurt Nevada, he replied that no one reads the bills. Well, if you are a member of Congress and tried to read every word of every bill that came before that body, you might wind up crazed enough to claim you did nothing wrong after your parents paid the family of your mistress … oh, never mind.
Then there’s Oscar Goodman, who never met a microphone he didn’t like or a microphone that didn’t like him. When asked by a fourth-grader what he would take to a desert island, the Las Vegas mayor responded “a showgirl and a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin.” This caused the wrong controversy—not whether he should say that to a child, but whether his wife would brain him with said bottle for not saying he’d want her along.
So, obviously, saying something questionable or controversial may not kill someone politically. It makes for YouTube moments, which weren’t a problem for, say, Abraham Lincoln, whose legal clients occasionally paid their fees in … chickens. Before you say it was good enough for him and let’s go back, remember that women like Sue Lowden couldn’t vote then. Maybe her chickens will come home to roost.