Thursday, October 16, 2008

Peppy Pearce Stirs Debate With Udall; A Fast-Paced First Face-off; Our In-Depth Report, Plus: Palin To Roswell Sunday, And: Manny Aragon: In Our Time 

At last night's US Senate debate Steve Pearce was like a guy who won a contest where you get to pack your grocery cart with anything you want--but you only have five minutes to do it. An unleashed and adrenalized Pearce unloaded on Democrat Tom Udall everything he stripped from the shelves. When the shopping spree was over, the Hobbs oilman had firmed up his conservative base, but did not appear to loosen Udall's grip on crucial middle of the road voters who will decide the contest.

Conservatives were thrilled with Pearce's unceasing and hurried attack on Udall, saying it's what he should have been doing all along. Dems checking in here felt Pearce was nearly hyperventilating and flirted dangerously with being "over the top." Video here and the AP wrap.

The KOB-TV debate was all about Pearce. Faced with a race that has largely been written off, the southern NM congressman had a lot of work to do. He threw no bones to centrists. Instead, he labored to convince voters that Udall, by becoming less liberal and more moderate during the campaign, was an unreliable character. He singled out Udall's more friendly stance toward increasing oil drilling, acidly reporting that in Washington he sees Udall regularly vote against more drilling.

At the end of the hour long war of words, Pearce recited a litany of issues he said Udall had moved to the center on and uncorked his prepackaged one liner: "If you want to look like Steve Pearce, you are going to have to get a haircut that looks like Steve Pearce." Exclaimed the bald congressman. The audience of about 100 watching the live broadcast at the ABQ Academy laughed uproariously.

It was funny, but Udall may have had the last laugh by repeatedly indicting the presidency of George Bush and constantly tying Pearce to the unpopular president, citing Pearce's "91 percent" support of the President. It wasn't until fifty minutes into the verbal slugfest that Pearce struck back by citing Udall's support of the Bush immigration "amnesty" and for bailing out mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Free-enterpriser Pearce said he did not support those "radical" ideas of Bush.


Udall's best moment of the debate came when he showed some passion after Pearce accused him of voting to cut off funding for the troops in Iraq, including their body armor: "Steve, you know better than that...Let's not play that kind of game," chided the northern NM congressman.

Udall argued the USA should not be bogged down in a war "we should not have gone into" and one in which he said Pearce wants to stay in indefinitely.

What was best for Tom was probably the worst for Steve. He told the statewide TV audience that American troops have been in Germany and Japan for over fifty years and that it may be necessary to keep our troops in Iraq that long. If they had people hooked up to those response wires like they do on cable TV during the presidential debates, Pearce's bar graph would have dropped to the floor.

Pearce declared himself "flabbergasted" over Udall's position on invading Pakistan. Tom said if there was "actionable intelligence" that Osama bin Laden was hiding in the country and the Pakistani government would not give us permission to go in, he would advocate ignoring the government and sending troops in. Pearce retorted that the USA is "not a bully" and that we don't run roughshod over our allies. Udall's position is similar to Obama's.

On the all-important economic issue, Pearce tried to score by pointing out that Udall voted for a $200 billion bail out for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before later voting, as Pearce did, against the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill. But Pearce did not offer any specific solutions for the current crisis other than to let the free market work. Udall pronounced himself satisfied with the bailout now that it will be used to inject money directly into the banks and also provide more relief for troubled homeowners. Pearce, a multi-millionaire former owner of an oilfield services business in Hobbs, did, however, show his command of the economic calamity's causes and effects. Udall stole some thunder by arguing people want their government to do something.

While Udall did his best to go on offense against Pearce, parrying and thrusting with the Bush baggage issue, it was clear that by the end of the night he had had enough of Pearce's pummeling. But he had lived to fight another day, and with a polling lead of 18 points in SurveyUSA, he didn't need to do anything more. Next up is a debate on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. when the pair meets on KRQE-TV. We'll have a ringside seat for that one as a member of the panel of questioners.


The strategy of the Udall camp to give underdog Pearce three TV debates but not having them until the campaign is nearly over is paying off. If Pearce had been able to lay out all the issues he did last night in a September confrontation, voters would have a chance in the following weeks to digest them and perhaps act on them. But thousands have already voted and early in-person voting starts Saturday. Unless Udall has a nervous breakdown, Pearce may not have enough time to get a major turn in the contest.

Udall had a strong close last night, or at least the kind I was taught as a kid. "Always have your candidate ask for the vote directly," we were told. Udall did that last night in his closing statement, even encouraging people to go vote for him early so they did not have to stand in line. Some of the old rules are never old.

KOB-TV anchorman Tom Joles got personal last night, saying as he gets older he expects more from politicians but doesn't get it. He grimaced and asked why the two veteran Washington politicos should not be considered part of the problem, not the solution they claim to be. Stylistically, it was a rare departure from the norm for the anchor of a commercial broadcast outlet. The perilous state of the nation makes even objective anchormen don their citizens hat. Nothing wrong with that. If this wonderful country is going to be preserved, we are going to have to get through to our politicians in every way possible.


GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin will rally the conservative GOP base in Roswell Sunday where she will hold a rally at the airport hangar. The event is slated for 2:30 p.m. Tickets needed. VP nominee Joe Biden will be in Las Cruces Friday.

Palin came to ABQ shortly after the GOP convention. She drew a huge crowd and much enthusiasm. But that was before she was the attack dog on Obama. That new role will serve her well in conservative areas of the state, but not moderate ones like the ABQ area. Also, if you are southern GOP congressional candidate Ed Tinsley you are going to make love to Sarah while she is in your territory, figuratively speaking, of course.

Aragon by Bralley
One supposes there were those who jumped with joy upon learning that former NM State Senate leader and political legend Manny Aragon had agreed to plead guilty to federal corruption charges and now faces over five years in prison, but we know with certainty there were also tears shed for Aragon, a man with a huge appetite for life that, in the end, claimed his soul. The tears were at at the Roundhouse.

"In offices I visited, secretaries and other workers were crying as they reacted to the news. Manny's imprint is deep on this place. He was responsible for many of these folks being where they are today," related one of our wall-leaners from the Capitol Rotunda.

Hubris, arrogance, petulance and bullying were all part of the Aragon persona which led him to act with impunity in accepting over $600,000 in bribes in connection with the construction of the ABQ Metro Courthouse. He will do serious prison time and the prosecutors in the case and the US Attorney have reason to celebrate their professional and capable work which could very well deter such crimes in the future. But they, nor Aragon's political foes, should gloat.

"Manny Aragon will go down in history as a man of the people before he lost his way," declared one political obituary landing in our e-mail box.

The correspondent refers to Aragon's record--through both conservative and liberal cycles--of fighting for the poor and disabled; for upholding the civil and human rights of all New Mexicans and for his own up by the bootstraps personal history that saw the native son of ABQ's South Valley achieve and wield power with such mastery that he easily makes the top ten list of New Mexico's most important legislators since statehood in 1912.

Aragon, 61, mischievously conspired with governors of his own party and ran circles around the Republican chief executives who attempted to tame him. He achieved ultimate political stardom when both friend, foe and average citizen simply referred to him as "Manny."

We know his fatal flaws; his lasting impact, ingrained in multiple budgets and in the culture of state government, is his advocacy for the too many residents of this state whose voices are silenced by poverty, ignorance or the other myriad ills that afflict the human condition.

No one knew the needs of his fellow man more than Manny Aragon, but he could never satisfy his own.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. I'm Joe Monahan, reporting to you from Albuquerque, NM.

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