There’s something about the sound of the ring. Maybe it is just acute intuition on my part, but I often just know I am going to pick up the receiver to hear Barney’s bark.
Yep. It was him. My New Jersey friend was all in a dither over New Mexico politics.
“Did your governor not get the memo about how political discourse would be softened with compassion and understanding once nurturing women were elected to office?”
I knew where he was going with this. Susana Martinez had blasted Gary King almost before he finished his primary election victory speech. In an instant our governor had morphed from Sweet Tempered Susie to Betty the Barracuda.
It was actually the Republican Governors Association behind the ads calling King the worst attorney general in the history of mankind, but Barney wasn’t buying it. “You mean the woman who is being touted as a possible vice president isn’t powerful enough to put a halt to TV attacks that make her look angry and mean?” he asked.
I did not have a good answer to that.
Barney was also critical of King, whom I had described as a quiet, easy-going guy, the sort of fellow who smashes his finger with a hammer and says “dang it all to heck and back.”
“This King fellow is not above all this,” Barney chided. “He couldn’t wait to start trash-talking Martinez. He claims the attacks are a smokescreen to hide the fact her administration has made New Mexico the second-worse run state in the nation.”
I thought to myself being second on any list is somewhat an accomplishment for New Mexico, but Barney’s point was well taken. This campaign is an embarrassment.
“Let me tell you who the losers are in this fight, Barney. Both Martinez and King. We expected more of them.”
“Yeah, I get it,” Barney said. “When one of the candidates starts attacking, the other one always follows suit. It’s like opening Pandora’s Box.”
“No. no, Barney. In New Mexico we say Box of Pandoras. Gary King’s dad, Bruce, was a New Mexico governor three times. He had a down-home charm, a shuffle foot gee whiz. When things were getting out of hand, Bruce liked to say someone “opened a box of Pandoras.”
Bruce King represented an era of politics when candidates campaigned hard, but had at least the appearance of respect for one another. And after the election, opposing factions came together to accomplish goals. What happened to basic civility?
Just a couple weeks into the campaign and New Mexico is already fed up, disappointed, and highly resentful that two of her leaders are daily at one another’s throats. You can’t get through a single episode of Wheel of Fortune without three political slam jobs. By November, the New Mexico citizen may be ready to revolt.
Barney wanted to know if the odious gubernatorial campaign had changed New Mexico at all. “Unfortunately, yes,” I admitted. “Some citizens treat our childish leaders as role models and copy their styles.”
For instance, there is an unconfirmed report out of Farmington about Gerri Goodmom who was running for PTA president. As a long-ago sixth-grader making her way through a crowded school hallway, Gerri had inadvertently bumped into Charlie Cretin who promptly turned around and called her a slut.
Gerri Goodmom’s opponent is posting fliers at all the supermarkets. “Gerri Goodmom has been called a SLUT. Does Farmington really want a SLUT as its PTA president??”
“You’ve got one screwed up state,” Barney carped.
“Whoa, hold on there, Barney,” I said. “We’ve got our problems but we’ve never had a governor like yours. The state highway patrol has yet to barricade the highway leading into Carlsbad because someone there upset her.”
That shut him up. For a time, anyway.
Ned Cantwell welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org