Competing with Estonia for Bush's time

It may have escaped your notice, but President George W. Bush hasn't visited Nevada since he was elected.

That's not so unusual, I guess. Sitting presidents rarely visit Nevada, and future presidents only visit when they're trying to round up votes by promising things like "sound science" will decide whether the nation's nuclear waste is going to be shipped here.

So I didn't feel slighted about not seeing the president hanging around Carson City, or even Las Vegas, until I was informed that Bush has managed to visit 43 states since he took office.

Forty-three states. Not one of them Nevada.

Also making the short list were Washington, Vermont, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Idaho and Kansas.

Some have suggested that he hasn't visited those states for political reasons. The first four are likely to vote Democratic, so why waste his time? The other two are almost certainly Republican, so there's no need for Bush to show up there.

But what about Nevada?

"His absence from Nevada might indicate concern about local anger over his plan to ship nuclear waste there," wrote a reporter for the Washington Post.

Really? Could it be true? Is it possible that Nevada is the only state in the union Bush has screwed so royally that he doesn't even want to come here for a visit?

Well, that's not right. That's not the Nevadans I know. We're famous for our hospitality, and we would welcome George W. to visit anytime. It's not like we're going to mug him or anything.

Yeah, there are lots of folks unhappy with how the whole Yucca Mountain thing is being decided. But we're not uncivilized.

Just stop to consider that Bush has visited, say, North Dakota. And Arkansas. Mississippi. New Jersey. Texas. (Oh, yeah, he's from Texas.) They're not bad states, but they're not Nevada. We know that.

Maybe he's just been too busy to get to Nevada. A president has a lot on his mind, figuring out whether to attack Iraq or go fishing -- or both.

Just how busy has President Bush been? For this information, we turn to Mark Knoller, a CBS News radio correspondent who's known as the keeper of statistics on presidential whereabouts.

From Knoller, for example, we know that President Bush's visit to Pittsburgh this week was his third trip to the city and his 13th to Pennsylvania since taking office.

He has played 15 rounds of golf. He has had six news conferences by himself, and 37 with foreign leaders.

He has attended 48 Republican fund-raising events, raising $114.8 million.

So far, the president has spent 123 days at Camp David, 12 at Kennebunkport and 115 at his Texas ranch. He's met with 136 foreign leaders.

He's been to 18 countries and the Vatican.

But not Nevada.

Maybe there's just not enough political reason to come here.

Republicans Kenny Guinn and Jim Gibbons are going to win re-election easily, and the only other race Bush would care about has Jon Porter leading in the polls over Dario Herrera for Nevada's brand-new third seat in the House.

So couldn't he just come by for a visit? He could play golf. He could go fishing. Las Vegas may not have replicas of the Washington Monument or the Vatican yet, but I'm sure somebody's working on them.

This week, though, Bush had time to meet with the prime minister of Estonia. I had to look at a map to figure out where Estonia is (next to Latvia on the Baltic Sea, in case you were wondering).

I'm sure the 1.4 million people of Estonia have a crucial role to play on the world stage unfathomable to my shallow understanding of foreign affairs, but the fact remains that George Bush has visited Tallinn (the capital of Estonia; I had to look that up, too) exactly as many times as he has visited Carson City (which remains, to this day, the capital of Nevada). Zero.

I do remember, though, what Bush said when he was still a candidate hoping Nevadans would help vote him into the White House.

"I believe sound science, and not politics, must prevail in the designation of any high-level nuclear waste repository. As president, I would not sign legislation that would send nuclear waste to any proposed site unless it's been deemed scientifically safe. I also believe the federal government must work with the local and state governments that will be affected to address safety and transportation issues."

Nevertheless, we do have things to talk about other than Yucca Mountain. Forest management. The mining industry. Federal land policy. Lake Tahoe's health.

Oh, well. Maybe in a year or two.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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