Chanos’ reasons for dropping out unbelievable – if not unreal |

Chanos’ reasons for dropping out unbelievable – if not unreal

John L. Smith

Attorney General George Chanos adjusted his tie like a lounge comic doing a passable Rodney Dangerfield and said he just wasn’t cut out for politics a mere four months after his appointment as the state’s top lawyer.

He was the formidable favorite in the coming election, but he said, “I don’t need this, and I don’t want this. I don’t need to be a public person.”

Chanos seemed like a sincere enough guy when he set aside a career in private practice four months ago to accept the AG appointment from Gov. Kenny Guinn.

On Monday, Chanos sounded like a cross between the boy in the plastic bubble and a complete political hack as he said he has decided to leave public life to “spend more time with my family.” He also tossed in the ancient alibis about the mean old media “invading” his privacy and how politics is too “partisan.”

Obviously, he’s leaving politics to pursue a career in comedy. Lounge comedy. Somewhere south of Tonopah.

Perhaps Chanos, in his hard-to-swallow naivete, is just a terribly sensitive fellow whose feelings just weren’t prepared to withstand the rigors of a little controversy and a campaign in which unkind words might be spoken about him. That’s it. Rod McKuen, Phil Donahue and George Chanos.

How such a gentle soul carved out a winning career as a litigator is anyone’s guess.

Chanos started our conversation Monday with a story from his childhood. He recalled his first political thought as a 6-year-old boy, who watched as his mother broke into tears at the news of President Kennedy’s assassination. It was at that point that a political fire was kindled inside him. He later won elected office as an undergraduate at UNLV.

“I had a Camelot notion of what politics was all about,” Chanos said.


Had he read nothing of the Kennedy family’s generations-old political ambitions? Had he somehow forgotten that John Kennedy was not merely a handsome communicator but a granite-tough political fighter?


Oh, brother.

Then it got worse.

He blamed editorialists for questioning his motivations, ethics, and so forth. I think he mostly blamed the press for scratching its head at his downtown real estate flip that netted him millions while he was still unpacking his boxes at the AG’s office. The mean old media also analyzed Chanos’ decision to call for an independent investigation of the city’s golf course deal with developer Billy Walters as well as his views on the state’s prescription drug plan.

Take on a powerful developer, and you’ll make friends and enemies. Jump into the prescription drug fight, and you might get a scratch.

Cry me a river, George.

Politics and governing aren’t academic theories, they’re martial arts. Lumps come with the territory.

Chanos singled out Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley for criticism for her “partisan attack” on the prescription drug issue. Of course she’s partisan, but this is an issue Buckley had the courage to fight for.

Frankly, we owe Buckley a debt of gratitude for making Chanos cry uncle before the ink had dried on his business cards.

He wasn’t so naive he didn’t recognize money is essential in politics. With $1.2 million banked, Chanos held a huge fundraising advantage over Democratic challenger Catherine Cortez Masto. If Chanos thinks politics is icky, he should consider her plight, running as an underdog to a first-time candidate who somehow managed to receive truckloads of contributions from out-of-state interests.

Frankly, Chanos’ wide-eyed hayseed act rings hollow.

He’s an attorney who has mingled in political circles and has contributed to the campaigns of favored candidates for years. Adriana Escobar Chanos, his wife, combined skill and political contacts to be appointed to the state Public Utilities Commission and was later named Nevada’s consumer advocate. That’s the seat she gave up when Guinn appointed her husband to replace Brian Sandoval. That’s juice politics at work.

But, in the end, I think Chanos is correct. He’s not right for the job.

Nevada deserves an attorney general with the courage of his convictions. Nevada deserves a person tough enough to take a little criticism, to fight the good fight in a political atmosphere.

In other words, in the real world.

That doesn’t rule out a career as a lounge comic.

With his shtick, he could be good at it.

n John L. Smith’s column, reprinted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, appears on Thursdays on the Appeal’s Opinion page. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295.