WASHINGTON — During an exclusive interview before he appeared on stage, President Donald Trump was clear about who was to blame for his campaign's decision to host an indoor rally in Henderson Sunday night: Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak.
The campaign had planned to hold a rally in Las Vegas near McCarran International Airport; when that fell through, they considered other outdoor venues, but Sisolak's order against events with more than 50 people blocked them.
When Black Lives Matter marches crunched thousands of vocal protesters together in Reno and Las Vegas, Sisolak never tried to shut down their exercise of free speech in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Rather than denounce BLM activists for violating his 50-person edict, Sisolak praised the rule-breakers. Big crowds were OK.
It was my first weekend in Las Vegas, my first time on a plane and my first Trump rally since Washington woke up to the very real threat of COVID-19. I found myself among people who chose to fly, chose to play or chose to stand their ground.
On the Strip, fun-seekers congregated freely because Sisolak's 50-person limit for Trump rallies and church services does not apply to recreation. Ditto casinos, the engine of the Vegas economy.
At the indoor Henderson rally, participants voiced their disdain for Nevada Democrats' bald double standard. The Trump campaign handed out "peaceful protester" signs to needle what they see as an attempt to muzzle conservative speech.
Of course, the left was in a lather at the president's apparent belief that he doesn't have to follow rules that apply to others, such as couples that want a big wedding or locals who were eager to be there for the National Finals Rodeo, before it moved from Las Vegas to Texas.
So I asked the president of the United States if he believes he is subject to Nevada rules. No, Trump told me.
I asked Trump if he were concerned about getting COVID-19 in an enclosed space — after all, the president's health is a national security issue. I also asked if he was concerned about his supporters getting the virus.
Trump responded that he was not concerned that he would get infected because, "I'm on a stage. It's very far away." Trump also said that he was more concerned about me standing too close to him. I laughed. I took his answer as a joke. Given the blaring background noise, I wasn't sure he heard my question about supporters catching the virus.
Even before we spoke, Trump's actions made it clear that he believes that his supporters are free to risk their health for the team.
I was at risk of catching the virus, so the issue was personal. I much would have preferred an event with fresh air.
Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who served President George W. Bush, got it right when he tweeted: "Indoor rallies are irresponsible. Covid-19 is real and this was a bad idea." Attendees could become infected because of Trump's decision to hold a rally indoors rather than hold no rally at all.
By the same token, the governor was wrong not to call off the dogs and rewrite his directives to make them apply equally and consistently. If Black Lives Matter activists could march outside without repercussion, Trump supporters should be able to gather outdoors as well, where they would be at less risk. Attendees could become infected because of Sisolak's one-sided order.
At the rally and about town, people told me that they believed they were capable of assessing which sorts of activities are too risky, and they trusted their own judgment over that of politicians.
Contact Debra J. Saunders at [email protected] or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.