Sunday, November 13, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Extremists, Fascists, Terrorists & Libyan Agents Ru Amok in NM Politics

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Nov. 13, 2011

Political rhetoric by its very nature tends to be overheated, over-reaching and hyperbolic. You can’t really blame the people who write it. You’re not going to fire up your crowd by saying, “There are several technical issues over which we don’t see eye-to-eye with our opponents.”

But in recent days there have been several cases here in which the political rhetoric, accusations and insinuations have gone overboard.

I’m tempted to say that it’s the worst hyperbole in the history of the world!
Extremist Teddy Bears' Picnic

On Wednesday, the state Republican Party sent out a news release bashing the Bernalillo County Commission for nominating a Democrat, Lisa Curtis, to take the place of longtime State Sen. Kent Cravens, an Albuquerque Republican who is stepping down to become a lobbyist for the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association.

I can see why the GOP would be upset. It’s a heavily Republican district that Cravens has represented for more than a decade, and commissioners selected Curtis on a party-line vote. But the party’s press release cried that the commission appointed a “Liberal Extremist.”

There was a time not so long ago when the word “extremist” was reserved for wild-eyed maniacs with bombs strapped across their chests or jackboots on their feet.

Reading on, I learned the “extremist” was Lisa Curtis, president of the state Trail Lawyers Association. Granted, Republicans don’t like trial lawyers, but “extremist”? (The basis for this charge is that Curtis doesn’t support repealing the law that allows illegal immigrants to have driver’s licenses and is against Gov. Susana Martinez’s proposal to stop “social promotion” in elementary schools.)

Then there was the case of Christopher Monkton, a global-warming skeptic who recently spoke in Santa Fe. His use of — and defense of — the word “eco-fascists” to describe his critics even raised an eyebrow at the conservative Capitol Report New Mexico news site.

But not all the hyperbole is on the right end of the spectrum.

Last week the pro Democratic Party group Progress New Mexico sent an alarming news release: “Did Martinez Hand-Pick a Quaddafi Advisor to Join PRC?!” screamed the subject line.

The email went on to point out that Doug Howe, who Gov. Susana Martinez appointed to take the place of disgraced former commissioner Jerome Block Jr. on the Public Regulation Commission, had “served as an advisor to former Libyan dictator Muammar Quaddafi’s government from 2005-2007 while working for the Cambridge Energy Research Group ... If Howe was the best fit to design a system to serve Moammar Quaddafi why in the world would Susana Martinez allow him to regulate New Mexico?”

Oh no! Susana plans to murder her own citizens to stay in power using her Libyan puppets on the PRC!

Or something.

Howe told the Associated Press that his firm was hired by the Libyan electric company to help upgrade its management and operating practices to provide a more reliable supply of electricity. He said he only dealt with management of the utility during his work there. This was after the U.S. had resumed diplomatic relations with Libya and lifted terrorism-related sanctions against the country. He said he never met with any government official or member of the dictator’s family.

But it’s not just the political pros who engage in this rhetorical overkill. There were photos in this week’s Santa Fe Reporter of a guy who hates living near the Rail Runner tracks so much he goes out with a protest sign when a train passes.

The picture that caught my eye featured the man with a sign that read, “Rail Runner: State Sponsored Terrorists.”

That’s right. Some terrorists blow up school buses. Others operate commuter trains.

Some might say that, a year before the 2012 election, the “silly season” has started. But the beauty of the world of New Mexico politics is that silly season lasts year-round.