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Rahm Emanuel to Reid: Viva Las Vegas!

The White House chief of staff replies to a letter from Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who complained that government agencies were being deterred from holding gatherings in Sin City.

July 19, 2009|Mark Z. Barabak and Johanna Neuman

Las Vegas has made a fortune off its sly slogan, the one suggesting what happens in Vegas stays in the famously -- hmmm, how to put it? -- open-minded city. But getting people to Vegas hasn't been so easy of late, what with the lousy economy.

And it didn't help when President Obama took a shot at the desert playground, making an offhand banker-bashing remark that seemed to tie Las Vegas to corporate excess.

The governor of Nevada, Republican Jim Gibbons, and the mayor of Las Vegas, Democrat Oscar Goodman, pitched a fit.

Gibbons claimed the comment cost the city a stunning, if unverifiable, $100 million in lost business. Goodman demanded an apology. Obama complied, sort of.

During a May visit, the president said, "There's nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, July 26, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Top of the Ticket: In excerpts from the Top of the Ticket politics blog in the July 19 Section A, an item on Rahm Emanuel and Las Vegas referred to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) only by his last name.

That, however, failed to mollify Goodman. Worse, word began to reach Nevada of an unofficial policy that seemed to make Vegas verboten for bureaucratic getaways.

So Reid recently dashed off a note to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, complaining that the FBI and other agencies had apparently relocated gatherings destined for Las Vegas.

True enough, Reid said, the city has "a well-earned reputation as a world-class dining and entertainment destination." But there's also reasonably priced (presumably mundane, distraction-free) convention space and an average nightly room rate of $98, "which is far lower than most . . . major convention cities," Reid said.

"It is my view that travel decisions made by federal agencies should be based upon these considerations," the senator wrote.

Last week came the reply from Emanuel: Viva Las Vegas!

The federal government has no business forbidding government meetings and conferences from taking place in communities "known for attracting vacationers," Emanuel wrote. "For me, the test of government travel is what will be accomplished by that travel and whether the cost to the government is reasonable as opposed to other options."

Another first on Marine One

It was another first in presidential history.

When President Obama left the White House on Thursday for Andrews Air Force Base, his helicopter was piloted by the first female helicopter aircraft commander in Marine One history. Maj. Jennifer Grieves of Glendale, Ariz., flew her first Marine One mission in May 2008. In honor of Grieves' last day in the rotation, the Marines assigned two others to complete an all-female crew, another first.

When the president boarded Marine One en route to New Jersey and New York, he stopped to talk to Grieves and shake her hand.

Of course, Obama is accustomed to being surrounded by women. He lives with Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, and his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson.

Still, it was a singular moment in girl power when the chopper lifted off.


Neuman writes for The Times.

Timothy M. Phelps of the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

Top of the Ticket, The Times' blog on national politics (, is a blend of commentary, analysis and news. These are selections from the last week.

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