Sunday, February 12, 2012

Roundhouse Roundup: Just Say "Moe"

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Feb. 12 2012

Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, D-Albuquerque, was on a roll last week during the House Consumer & Public Affairs debate on several bills that would have required voters to present photo identification at the polls.

He quickly earned the "Quote of the Day" on this paper's legislative page when he invoked a metaphor for the specter of voter fraud in the state, which he and others say doesn't exist.

"If my constituents want me to introduce a bill to outlaw the Boogeyman, I could either introduce a bill outlawing the Boogeyman, or I could gently explain to them that there's not a Boogeyman."

But he also made another funny at the same hearing.

In talking about how impractical and expensive it would be for a crooked candidate to organize people to steal the identity of others and vote in numbers big enough to defeat an opponent, Maestas said the money would be more effectively spent "doing a mailer and lying about your opponent."

All three bills were tabled, thus effectively killed, by the committee. It wasn't due to Maestas' wit, however. It was the same party-line vote that defeats these bills every year they arise.

Goose step misstep: The next day, Maestas also was on fire during the debate on repealing the law that allows the state to issue driver's licenses to undocumented people. He made a reasonable argument that allowing illegal immigrants to have licenses actually helps law enforcement. Santa Fe Police Chief Ray Rael has been making the same argument in legislative committees this year.

He brought up the infamous 2009 Denny's murder in Albuquerque in which members of a Central American gang went into a restaurant to rob it and killed a teenage cook in the process. At least two of the robbers had state driver's licenses. Opponents of the law used the killing as an example of how the law is dangerous. Maestas argued that the licenses helped police track down the killers.

But then Maestas stepped in it. Or maybe I should say goose stepped in it.

"If you tell a lie ... people will start saying it, then they will start to believe it," he said. Then he compared it to "The Big Lie" of the "propaganda ministers of Nazi Germany."

Oh no, Moe!

I believe it was the great political philosopher Jon Stewart who once declared that anyone who compares his opponents to the Nazis automatically loses the argument.

If you don't like this column, you're a Nazi
Stewart did a great routine last year on The Daily Show, spotlighting Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen for equating opponents of President Barack Obama's health care program with the Nazis' "Big Lie" about Jews. (Actually, Adolph Hitler accused Jews of using "The Big Lie" in Mein Kampf, but let's not quibble.) Cohen's speech came just days after he made a speech calling for civility and an end to hyperbolic name-calling.

Shortly thereafter, Stewart skewered Fox News for various hosts getting upset about Democrat Cohen's Nazi talk, one of whom self-righteously declared that her network never would do such a terrible thing. Stewart played a montage of a dozen or so examples of Fox News talking heads comparing others with Hitler and other assorted National Socialists.

Fortunately, Nazi accusations are infrequent in New Mexico politics. Let's hope it stays that way.

For (re)Pete's sake!: Sen. Phil Griego, D-San José, told people waiting to testify at a recent Corporations and Transportation meeting on Sen. Peter Wirth's bill on corporate income tax that he wouldn't allow any repetition from people testifying.

And I agreed with him. Anyone who has ever attended legislative hearings knows that some speakers often make the same points the last dozen or so speakers just made.

Only trouble is, Griego must have said he wouldn't allow any repetitiveness at least five times, both before the meeting and during.

Here are those Jon Stewart segments: