Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Domenici's Dispiriting Day: Cop Killed In Prez Motorcade; Iglesias Resurfaces As AG Gonzales Quits, And Protesters Protest; Our Full Coverage Is Next 

Maybe Pete Domenici should have consulted an astrologer before booking President Bush for his Monday Los Ranchos fundraiser because a flood of bad news began breaking for New Mexico's Republican US Senator as soon as dawn broke over the Sandias. By the time the manic Monday was over a motorcycle cop had been killed while escorting the Bush motorcade, US Attorney General Gonzales had resigned, pushing Domenici nemesis and former NM US Attorney David Iglesias back into the headlines and protesters managed to grab more than their fair share of the media spotlight as they camped out at the $1000 a pop event at the home of Los Ranchos Mayor Larry Abraham.

Domenici was always more pragmatic than enthusiastic about the Bush visit, making sure it was nearly a non-public event and aimed squarely at raising hundreds of thousands of cash for his re-election campaign, not his profile as a pal of the poorly polling Prez. That game plan was adhered to Monday, as there were no pictures of Bush and Domenici posing together and no media interviews. It was as if the President was visiting the invisible man, not the longest-ever serving US Senator in state history.

The understated tone was in evidence when Air Force One touched down at about 11:30 a.m. Bernalillo County GOP Sheriff Darren White, chairman of Bush's Bernalillo county '04 campaign, was the only other public figure, besides Domenici, greeting the President.

Late Monday, Domenici's campaign said the event raised $434,000 for the senator and the NM GOP. That compares with $375,000 ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson said she raised from Bush's visit here in June of '06. (Washington Post analysis on the Prez's ABQ stop is here.) But in light of the death of an officer protecting the fund-raiser attending President, talk of cold cash seemed, well, unseemly.


As we indicated, the Bush visit was already uncomfortable with Pete holding it early in the season to avoid offending Dems and independents he needs for his '08 re-elect, but then the wheels came off. At the crack of dawn, news flashed across the Net that Attorney General Gonzales, under intense pressure from congressional Democrats, had thrown in the towel. That unleashed Iglesias, fired by the Gonzales Justice Department and who has accused Domenici and ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson of engineering his demise.

While Pete and the Prez were downing petite empanadas, Iglesias was devouring microphones placed before him by the major NM media. He sounded downright ominous in one news piece in which he speculated on whether there was a paper trail that could tie Pete and Heather directly to his firing which earlier this year set off a political firestorm. So on his big day with the President Domenici had to scramble to put out a statement as the media machine demanded feeding.

"His (Gonzales's) situation was a distraction to the Department of Justice and its attempt to carry out its important duties. I look forward to reviewing the president’s nominee for attorney general carefully and objectively.” Domenici said in a written statement.

Meanwhile, Heather Wilson had to feel fine about being away in southeast Asia. (Will someone tell us what she is doing there?) In her usual curt style when addressing inflammatory matters, her office offered a terse "no comment" on the Gonzales resignation which looms large over what promises for her to be another epic re-election struggle.

There wasn't an overwhelming number of protesters at the Bush-Pete bash, but the AP pegged the number at 100 and the media, conscious of Bush's low approval numbers--just 32% approve in the latest NM poll--lapped up the sideshow, serving up more visual pain on a day that must have made even Democratic PR men cringe in empathy, if not sympathy, for the Domenici camp.


Inside the presidential bubble set up on the lawn of the Abraham home, our insider on the scene reports a lengthy line formed for those Five Grand a pop Kodak moments with W. Turnout for the event was about 200. The President told the financial heavy hitters of his confidence that the Iraq war will work out and said of the Gonzales resignation that he had "lost a good friend today." The President urged the re-election of Pete, and whether she wanted it or not, he also urged the re-election of Heather.

Pete, now 75 and seeking a seventh term, told the stock option crowd that he considered the Texan President "a good friend and a good neighbor." He did not mention the Iraq war or the political albatross it has become by helping to sink his recent approval rating to 52% in Survey USA.

It was at the conclusion of the event that Domenici's day turned truly tragic, as a Rio Rancho police officer was accidentally killed while serving as one of the motorcycle escorts for the presidential motorcade making its way back to the airport for a 2 p.m. departure. (White House statement here.) It cast a further pall over Domenici's day, not dissimilar to the one that has enveloped the Bush administration as the Summer of '07 makes its last hurrah.


The President's party was not heavy with national media, but there was a CNN pool camera, national magazine writers and assorted others along for the sojourn, informs KKOB-AM radio's Peter St. Cyr. He joined the news hounds in downing a fine Mexican lunch washed down with margaritas at the home of a doctor who lives next to Mayor Abraham and who opened his doors to the media mob. We hope they cleaned up after themselves.


Our Monday blog profile of the new executive director of the NM GOP, Adam Feldman, had the temperatures rising among a number of readers. Let's go to the e-mail bag.

Commenting on Feldman's contention that infighting among the Dems for the nomination to take on Rep. GOP Wilson, an emailer writes, "I don’t think so. Rather, how about ‘sandwiching’ Heather and working in tandem to get rid of her. That’s what I hear."

A GOP reader had some comments about GOP Chairman Weh's role in the '06 election that we referenced in the Feldman piece.

Chairman Weh had his focus on three races last election cycle, Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce and Vicky Pera’s secretary of state campaign. He did not consider any other races as important. The only reason that he considered the secretary of state race important was because of the 2008 Presidential election. He publicly stated such a belief, thus he earned criticism for his focus on national politics at the expense of local politics. To say that he was only focused on Heather Wilson’s race is unfair to Heather.

A NM Dem says after learning about Feldman, he is happy he is here.

It seems as though Mr. Adam Feldman is running away from his failing Kentucky Republican party then coming enthusiastically to New Mexico (another near failing party I might add). As a Democrat in New Mexico, I welcome him and hope he does here what he did so well in Kentucky---help Democrats win.

And the ED's comparison of Senator Pete Domenici to the late Senator Strom Thurmond brought this stiff rejoinder from a self-described "progressive voice" in Santa Fe.

So, the new GOP ED thinks Sen. Domenici has the "stature" of Strom Thurmond does he?...To compare Domenici to a lasting icon of racism and segregation whose main claim to fame seems to have been marrying a much younger woman and simply surviving gives us some insight into the political values of the new ED and perhaps a glimpse of campaign strategy for ‘08 ?

Feldman was alluding to Thurmond's ability to win elections, not necessarily his political views, but the Thurmond name can still rub nerves raw.

Keep the politics coming. Send your news and comments from the email link at the top of the page.

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