Monday, August 29, 2005
NM Delegation Scored For Being MIA As Cannon Is Crushed, Also: Tension Between Guv And D.C. Reps During Disaster; Our Exclusive Report Is Up Next
Sens. Domenici & Bingaman
The glaring absence of the entire NM Congressional delegation, contrasted with the big presence of Big Bill at the D.C. area hearings over the fate of Cannon Air Force Base, has set off four alarm fire bells in La Politica. Alligators are pondering the implications and scraping for news on what exactly happened as disaster befell Cannon and the community of Clovis.
We now take you deep on the inside, to the rushing waters of the Potomac River where the long knives are never allowed to rust. "Joe, there was tension between the governor and the delegation. The governor was flying solo on this, expressing confidence that he could cut a deal and taking a high-profile. The congressional delegation worked it hard too but, for the most part, withdrew from the public spotlight. If nothing else, there was a clash in styles that caused grumbling," reported our Potomac watcher.
Also causing grumbling in political circles was the failure of even one member of the NM D.C. delegation to join Big Bill at the crucial hearings Thursday and Friday where Clovis and Cannon were sent on their long death march. Insiders say Big Bill sent not so subtle messages while back East that he expected some of the congressional reps there and was disappointed. On the other hand, the D.C. insiders faulted the Guv for making a publicity show out of his appearance.
"He thought he had it won and had scheduled a big party for Clovis. It never happened and the presence of the delegation at the hearing would not have made a bit of difference. The die was cast," argued a delegation sympathizer.
THE MIA DEBATE
But other political observers disagreed, saying while the decision to gradually phase out Cannon may have been set prior to he hearing, (although surprise amendments did surface) there were thousands of New Mexican households glued to their TV's for the hearings who had no clue what was going to happen and were either bemused or disappointed that their Washington reps were nowhere in sight.
Dem U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, who represents Clovis, made the media rounds via phone after the decision, but did not attend the hearing. It was left to Big Bill for on-scene reaction which, as usual, he gladly supplied.
"Look at the delegation from South Dakota. They were all there when it was decided that Ellsworth air base would stay open. We should have had at least one of our senators there. It was one of the biggest profile news events we've had with the federal government in decades. From a New Mexican viewpoint the place looked naked, if not for the governor," blasted another back East politico used to the battles.
Still, despite the insider bickering, few expect the 2006 campaign to erupt into a "Who Lost Cannon" controversy, but there could be longer term implications. "I think this disaster is a wash for those currently in office. The senators (Domenici and Bingaman) have a shot to redefine the mission of the base and maybe save it. The heat is off of them for the immediate future. But I don't think the Republicans can count on the kind of support they are used to in Clovis when the national elections roll around in 2008," analyzed a campaign expert.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If nothing else, the high profile Cannon hearings again demonstrated that Big Bill is the public face of all things political in New Mexico. Whether he accomplished anything substantive at the hearing is open to debate, but his deft reading of the public had him where he needed to be. The delegation can justifably resent his style and showboating, but on this one their political antenna looked mighty rusty compared to those worn by Big Bill whose love of the game takes no August recess.
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
Not for reproduction without permission of the author