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Letter From The Editor: Clovis likely to stay as Perdue’s wingman

Opinion

In my Top 10 list of favorite movies is “Casino,” released in 1995 by director Martin Scorsese. One of the reasons I like it is the stars played the roles of real people and the scriptwriters adhered as much as could to the real story.

Robert De Niro is the main character as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, a role based on the real life of Frank Rosenthal. He was the man in charge of the Fremont, Hacienda and Stardust casinos back in 1970s and 1980s.

And pretty much the way De Niro depicted it in the movie, Rothstein did his job without having any title that would require him to hold a gaming license under Nevada law. The “entertainment director” or the “food and beverage director,” were among the low-level jobs that did not require a gaming license, but most holding those titles weren’t  usually in charge of one casino let alone several.

If you worked at any of those casinos back in the day, and questioned Rosenthal’s authority, you’d be lucky to end up with just your legs broken.  You see, “Ace” worked for the mob bosses back in Kansas City, Chicago and New York City who bought those casinos with money from the Teamsters union pension fund.

It did not make any difference if Rosenthal called himself the bell boy or the pool boy, anyone who questioned his authority or influence with the owners could well end up buried in the Nevada desert. And, many were.

Samuel H. Clovis Jr. last week finally gave up on his pursuit of a title. President Trump nominated him July 19 as USDA’s Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. Clovis resigned the nomination in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue a few days before it went public on Nov. 2, according to Politico.

One thing is certain. Clovis is a more interesting character than most of the second level appointments you see presidents make. He’s a former fighter pilot and instructor with 25 years of service to the U.S. Air Force. He made Colonel and was commander of the 70th Fighter Squadron and retired as the Inspector General of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the United States Space Command.

After his USAF release, Clovis went political as a talk show host, Tea Party activist, and U.S. Senate candidate in Iowa in 2014. He could not, however, get past Sen. Joni Ernst, R-IA, in the GOP primary. His name did appear on the general election ballot as a candidate for Iowa treasurer, but he lost that race, too.

By 2015, he was ready for action in the Republican presidential race, first working for Rick Perry, now Secretary of Energy and then Trump.

Then-candidate Donald Trump with Sam Clovis during a campaign event.

Clovis earned a bachelor degree at the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, an MBA from Golden Gate University, attended the national security program at Georgetown University and, in 2006, a doctorate in public administration from the University of Alabama.

Until he took a leave of absence for his political activity, Clovis was a professor and department head at Morningside College in Sioux City.

From the moment he was nominated to the $165,300 a year deputy job, he’s come under fire for not having enough “hard science” to hold the job often described as USDA’s “chief scientist.”

His real problem, however, was being involved enough in the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team to require his cooperation with the special prosecutor’s investigation of all things Russian. Attorney Victoria Toensing, representing Clovis, says her client “vigorously opposed” any pre-election meeting between Trump and any Russians.

And while the record seems to show Clovis being a good citizen in providing complete cooperation with the special counsel’s investigation, just the piling on was enough to make his Senate confirmation impossible in our lifetimes.

So he gave up the pursuit of the title. But then I noticed the last line of that Politico story.

“Clovis would remain in his role as USDA’s liaison to the White House, a department official said.”

Oh, like entertainment director. I get it.

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