Thursday, August 11, 2005

Aging Titans Carry Battle into New Century; Domenici Vs. Cargo On Energy Bill; A Rivalry That Spans The Decades, Plus: It's McClure For Higher Ed Job 

Dave Cargo
The warriors are aging but the fight is not out of either of them, not by a long shot. Two Republican giants, Senator Pete Domenici, 73, and former Governor Dave Cargo (1967-70), 76, renewed their generations old battle of ideas this week as Cargo came out swinging against Pete's cherished energy bill that had President Bush flying into ABQ to sign. Cargo, unleashing his mighty pen on the op-ed pages of the state's largest newspaper, accused the senator of selling out, calling the bill a tax break giveaway to the oil companies. Cargo's ire did not go unanswered.

In a late night phone conversation Wednesday the droll Cargo told me of an afternoon call he received from Senator Pete. "He really scorched me. But it's not something I am unaccustomed to. To me, this bill was bad public policy. He sees it differently," Cargo reported.

Pete has been saying the energy bill is the best piece of legislation he has authored in his 32 years in the World's Most Exclusive Club. But here on the ground some insiders are baffled. "This is basically a forgettable piece of legislation that by all accounts does little to solve our long-term energy problems. Maybe Pete is trying to write the history books, but this is not a bill that is going to be on his tombstone," offered one D.C. veteran.

Still, a Domenici defender accused Cargo of "envy" and trying to rain on Pete's parade. "He has had it in for Pete for over 30 years and this is another example of how small he can be when the senator shows how to get the job done," offered
the veteran Cargo-Domenici watcher.


Through the years Domenici and Cargo have come to be on opposite ends of the GOP spectrum. They even faced each other in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 1972, along with other R's. Pete won and went on to take the senate seat of Dem Clinton Anderson and has now served NM longer in the U.S. Senate than anyone. His only rival as the most influential political figure in state history is Senator Dennis Chavez.

It has not been personal pettiness that has kept the eyes of political observers fixed on this dueling pair. It has been the genuine battle of ideas engaged in by two men who come from humble beginnings and who each mastered the American Dream their own way. Both are lawyers and originally from the "middle of the road" school of GOP politics, but Pete is more pragmatic and has become more internationalist in foreign policy, a staunch free trader and ever more pro-business as the years ago by. Cargo clings to a nearly extinct liberal Republican philosophy that embraces labor, civil rights, a less interventionist foreign policy and a live and let live philosophy on key social issues.

Domenici, a gifted legislator and politician, met his intellectual equal in Cargo, and despite the ex-Guv's unsuccessful track record in politics, he continues to share the stage with the more famous Pete by sheer willpower, unmatched media savvy and credibility earned thru years of study and thought. Domenici has seen the tide turn his way during this historic duel that reflects the struggles of American politics since the 1960's. Still, someday the pendulum could swing back Cargo's way.

Even now, as shadows fall around these two worthy warriors, the political operatives of today, not even as old as these two titans have been sparring, can see the essence of political battle. It's not the 30 second TV sewer, campaigns corrupted by too much cash, hate media, or personal attacks. In the end, it's about big ideas. That may be hard to see in this modern era, where small minds seem to dominate, but Domenici and Cargo, battling into infinity, stand as a reminder that what is at stake is bigger than those who argue the case. Now that's a legacy.


And for those of you laying odds that this is finally Senator Pete's last term, don't bet the ranch. Take a look at this $1000 per person or $2000 per PAC political invite making the rounds. It's a night at the opera with Pete and his pals and it promises to raise a ton of money. For re-election in 2008? Let's call that one even money.


The Alligators who have been spinning us that Beverlee McClure, prez of Clovis Community College, has the inside track to become the state's new and first Secretary of Higher Education were right on target. Reliable sources tell us the Guv will announce McClure's selection today. McClure's' political savvy, strong education credentials and good relationship with Big Bill got her this far; let's see if she has any luck uniting New Mexico's byzantine higher ed system. How about that report this week that more NM high schoolers leave this state to attend college than any of the high school grads in surrounding states? Sounds like that one should be at the top of McClure's "to do" list.


Speaking of the Alligators, look at this one outside my door! Yes, some of my early morning readers Wednesday did not get my latest blog. (We later fixed that and if you missed it you get a double blog today by just scrolling down.) Still others are demanding that I blog even more. But I am standing my ground, as long as my front door holds up. "Scat, you slippery critters, no one can satisfy your appetite for La Politica!

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