Interviews

Former Las Vegas mayor on clash with Obama

Oscar Goodman speaks out

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 28, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: I love that song, but how about viva Las Vegas? Home prices surging nearly 21 percent in March.

And that spike no surprise to my next guest. He has been betting on Sin City for years, its former mayor, three terms, author of "Being Oscar," Oscar Goodman.

Very good to have you. Very, very nice to see you.

OSCAR GOODMAN, FORMER MAYOR OF LAS VEGAS: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: It was a fun read. The book was a great read.

GOODMAN: I appreciate that. I had a good time writing it.

CAVUTO: Well, it reads like you speak. And you're very, very frank, and I -- one of the standout moments intelligent book for me, because I remembered it so well, had you on shortly after this, the big dis at the airport, when the president -- shortly thereafter the president had dissed any company going and spending a lot of money on Vegas.

I think this was shortly after the meltdown, and you said that Vegas suffered a lot of canceled trips and expos and events.

GOODMAN: It certainly did.

CAVUTO: Spell that out. What was going on then?

GOODMAN: Well, what happened was he made this very unfortunate statement.

He is great when he is on the monitor. When he gets off the monitor, for some reason, Las Vegas always sort of crawls into his mind. And he told people don't go to the Super Bowl, don't fly their private jets and don't go to Las Vegas.

Well, I can't tell you, Neil, that empirically that I can prove that we lost 312 meetings the next day because of what he said. But I can tell you anecdotally that is what happened. And it had a devastating effect on Las Vegas, and he was coming to Las Vegas. And I said to myself, I'm not going to meet him. Well, my life is my wife is a little nicer than I am. And she says, look, when somebody comes to your home, even if you don't care for them, you have to treat them right.

So I said to myself, OK, I will go and meet him. But the White House didn't know that. And they called me, Rahm Emanuel, on Memorial Day. And he said, how can we make this right? I said all I want the president to do is to tell everybody that Las Vegas is a great place for meetings and conventions. And then it could be networking at night in a very pleasant environment. That's not too tough.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But he didn't -- the president didn't do that. The president didn't do that.

GOODMAN: No, he didn't. No, he didn't. No, he didn't.

And then it was even worse than that the following year. And that's when I made my slow learner comment. He did the same thing again.

CAVUTO: Right.

GOODMAN: He said don't spend your kids' college tuition in Las Vegas. That's like going town to Florida and telling people not to drink orange juice.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Well, your wife has since gone on to become mayor of the fine city herself.

So, she -- you realize when you are mayor of a city, you obviously support everything about the city and you want to make sure a lot of people get to the city, stay in the city, spend money in the city. And he was chasing that away.

You went on to say, though, that -- of the president -- that every -- every politician has to come to a point where you admit you made a mistake, and when it came to this, the president did not. Did he ever get that, win that back among Las Vegas residents who...

GOODMAN: No. No.

CAVUTO: ... of the -- because you hear from the union crowds he did.

GOODMAN: Well, I don't believe that. That doesn't mean to say they wouldn't vote for him if given a choice of somebody that they didn't care for, but the bottom line really is still it reverberates through the community. It permeated the community. And I don't believe the community forgave him for those comments, because what would be so tough for him to come forward and say, you know, I really misspoke myself, Vegas is a great place to have meetings, Vegas is a great place to come to? Just a little sound bite, he would have cured all of the ills.

CAVUTO: You know, I was just thinking about you in reading some of your more famous incidents in your book.

And you were not cut out, it would seem, for traditional politics, yet you endured three terms. Many wanted you to run for many other offices, including governor. You nixed that. But one of my favorite incidents is I guess when you went to a school back in 2005, and one of the kids there asked you, what was your favorite thing? And you said, drinking Bombay Sapphire gin.

GOODMAN: Well, no. No, that's not exactly what happened.

CAVUTO: Now, no, no, wait a minute. I admire that. I admire that.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But then when they went on to criticize you, you said, well, I can't tell a lie. If the kid didn't want the answer, the kid shouldn't have asked the question.

GOODMAN: Well, that's absolutely correct.

CAVUTO: OK.

GOODMAN: I love to -- I love youngsters and I love to read to them at their schools.

CAVUTO: OK.

GOODMAN: I was reading one of my favorite books. It was the three little pigs and the real story of the big bad wolf.

And I get through and the little kid holds up his hand. And he says, mayor, what would you want if you had anything in the world, if you were on a desert island in the middle of ocean? And I said, a bottle of gin.

(LAUGHTER)

GOODMAN: Well, there was a maelstrom that was created as a result of that. I couldn't believe it. And I'm saying to myself, what am I supposed to say, the Old Testament? No.

I said just what came into my mind.

CAVUTO: I understand.

GOODMAN: And then I likened myself to the George Washington of mayors.

CAVUTO: There you go.

One of the things you're also known for -- it's on the cover of your book, in fact -- you're always in the presence of showgirls. You always have one or two with you for any public event. You became known for that. And I always wonder, your beautiful wife, how did she deal with that?

GOODMAN: Well, in the back of her mind in, she always thought that she would be able to get the -- what -- the Chippendales and get back at me.

(LAUGHTER)

GOODMAN: No.

CAVUTO: That would be her...

(CROSSTALK)

GOODMAN: No, I had complete immunity when I was the mayor. That's one of the things that I miss now. But it was great. We made American history. I'm the first mayor ever to swear in a spouse to succeed them in our history, and she is doing a great job, and every once in a while, she shows up with some big he-man. And I understand how she felt during those 12 years.

CAVUTO: She gets the point across. She gets the point across.

GOODMAN: Absolutely.

CAVUTO: Now, Mayor, we have all these other scandals brewing in Washington for the IRS, and the health -- HHS and whether it went too far.

You always you say politicians can avoid this sort of stuff by just being up front right away, rather than let scandals fester. I'm paraphrasing here. You mentioned that when it came to Bill Clinton. And you knew all of these guys.

GOODMAN: Yes, I did.

CAVUTO: Why hasn't this president done that? Why do you think he's not done that?

GOODMAN: I don't know. I don't know.

You are too young to remember Watergate.

CAVUTO: Oh, I remember it quite well.

GOODMAN: But -- OK. Well, I remember it very well. And I remember how it unraveled. There were first the denials.

CAVUTO: Right.

GOODMAN: And then there was the stonewalling and the taking of the privileges and standing in the way of the truth coming out.

Well, the American public, they are a very smart public. They know when they are supposed to react and they know when the wool is being taken over their eyes. And I think we are getting pretty close to that point right now, because if this lands in the White House instead of on the White House steps, I don't know whether we are going to be as merciful as we are in accepting this.

CAVUTO: Yes.

GOODMAN: And I think the president has to be careful here, because we have already lost one president to an impeachment. And I don't know whether anything here is an impeachable offense. I wouldn't deign to go in that direction. But I'm telling you the American public appreciates the truth. And if people make a mistake, the American public is very, very forgiving.

CAVUTO: Real quickly, you are an independent now, a former Democrat. A lot of push for an independent, maybe Chris Christie run for president. Do you ever think that will happen?

GOODMAN: I think he has lost the weight, so he is going to be almost as handsome as I am. And that would be a motivating factor.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Mayor, thank you very much.

GOODMAN: Neil.

CAVUTO: "Being Oscar: From Mob Lawyer to Mayor of Las Vegas, Only in America."

Oscar Goodman, a character, his friends will say, his enemies will admit, very good having you, sir.

GOODMAN: Thank you, Neil. It's always good talking to you.

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