Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Together Again: Obama To ABQ; Mr. President, Big Bill Needs A Hug, Plus: Jet Loss Update; Cracked "Tacos?" And: Memories Of Kemp & Reader Feedback 

Together again--soon
What does a guy need who is under the gun from a federal grand jury pay-to-play investigation and who is trying to figure out where the next barrel of money is going to come from to solve the state's fiscal woes? Well, a bear hug (or even a strong handshake) from the President of the USA couldn't hurt. It appears Big Bill will get something along those lines when on May 14th President Obama makes his first visit to New Mexico since taking office. We assume beleaguered Big Bill will greet the Prez when he arrives for a town hall meeting on credit card debt. Word of the visit was first announced by the Guv's office, not the congressional delegation or White House, and came in glowing terms.

...Our working families are struggling under the weight of credit card debt fueled in part by out of control interest rates...I applaud President Obama’s aggressive approach, tackling a number of the most serious issues simultaneously, because there is no time to waste....President Obama displayed bold leadership in proposing an economic stimulus that not only gets much-needed funds flowing into the economy, but takes a giant step toward a renewable energy economy that protects the environment and reduces our reliance on foreign sources of energy. Even more importantly, the stimulus package is helping states like New Mexico balance depleted budgets (and) create jobs...

After that, you can barely remember that the President had to nix Bill's nomination as Commerce Secretary because of that insistent pay-to-play probe and which we covered like a wet blanket on our Monday blog. We don't know what will ultimately happen with the probe, but whatever it is, we don't need Mr. President thinking of it every time he thinks of our little corner of the world.

Does Obama's visit have any meaning for the future of that investigation? It his Justice Department in charge of the show now. We're sure there will be plenty of second guessing and tea leaf reading when Bill and Barack make an appearance together.

How hard will that hug be, anyway?

New Mexico, like the rest of the nation, has taken to their new President. His popularity here is over 60% in the latest SurveyUSA numbers. Obama will get a warm greeting here in the state he carried easily in 2008. But there are worries about federal funding for long-standing programs here. The administration's proposed budget will have been released by the time Obama holds his town hall, but there's plenty of time for the art of persuasion as it makes its way through Capitol Hill If Big Bill, or one of our congressional members gets up the gumption, the President may learn more of the state's concerns.

No word yet on whether any members of the congressional delegation will travel to New Mexico with the President aboard Air Force One. We're hearing it won't be a direct flight from D.C, but details are not confirmed. US Rep. Martin Heinrich represents ABQ where Obama is headed. It would be a career-day and a big boost for the Democratic freshman lawmaker if he could snare a presidential ride.

(The Journal's Michael Coleman in D.C. reports Obama's NM visit will be part of a southwestern swing.)

But let's get back to those concerns over New Mexico's share of Uncle Sam's pie...


We didn't get the impression that chances are all that good for finding another mission for the New Mexico Air National Guard's 150th Fighter Wing --known as the Tacos--when we listened in on Senator Jeff Bingaman's Monday news conference with radio reporters. The Senator said he had no specific alternative mission in mind for the Tacos who are based at ABQ's Kirtland Air Force Base, but his staff is working on it:

It is important the Tacos not disband and are able to retain a mission of flying aircraft. We hope that is the way it winds up...We are doing what we can to insure they have some continued involvement as a flying unit. Folks in my office are working with the Tacos and with the Pentagon to see what can be done...

Not exactly a Pollyannish outlook there.

News reports have not said how many jobs are at stake if the Tacos-- organized as a fighter wing in the 1940's--disband. Randall Horn, ex-Adjutant General, NM National Guard now says 1,000 jobs would be lost at Kirtland. The plan is to disband the unit over the next 14 months because the 23 aging F-16's the Tacos fly are obsolete. But the Tacos are not in line to get new fighter jets.

We don't know about you, but Horn's 1,000 jobs (we assume they are both full and part-time) declaration gave us a jolt equivalent to an Americano at Starbucks. Does that estimate include local jobs associated with contracts awarded to companies to maintain the aging fleet?

The Taco problem has been on the plate (sorry about that one) for quite a while, so speculation that it would not have come to this if GOP Senator Pete Domenici were still around has to be taken with a grain of salt. But it can't be entirely discounted. Later this week the Obama administration's proposed budget for Sandia and Los Alamos Labs will be released. None of the state's congressional delegation is pre-announcing any good news, so get ready for a hit. Domenici nurtured those labs--maybe too much--and it's a good bet that his absence will be noticed when that budget hits the streets. (See our analysis of Energy Sec. Chu's recent NM visit.)

Big Bill says NM is getting $1.8 billion in federal stimulus money. With Tacos cracking and Labs' funding looking wobbly, it appears we are going to need every penny

New Mexico native Yolanda Acosta, a self-described "conservative Republican," had her brush with history when she helped craft the 1984 national Republican Party platform. She worked on it with Jack Kemp. This photo of her and the New York congressman--later the 1996 GOP VP nominee--ran in the New York Times. Kemp died over the weekend. Yolanda, president of the Roosevelt County Republican Women in the 80's, recalled:

Congressman Kemp handed me this picture while in Dallas. It ran in the New York Times. He signed it and wrote: "Yolanda, you and I helped shape history." And, yes, we did. The button I'm wearing says, "Pro-life, Pro-family Pro-Reagan." Jack Kemp talked the talk and walked the walk.

Thanks for the pic, Yolanda. Kemp was no stranger to New Mexico. As a radio reporter in the 70's, we interviewed him a number of times as he stopped here for various candidates and causes. He was an early advocate for Republicans to pursue Hispanic voters, a message that remains relevant today. Jack Kemp was 73.


Our in-depth look Monday at the state of the corruption probes in New Mexico prompted quite a bit of reader e-mail:

Betty Hileman: Wow--you really laid it on the line like an old-time newsman!

Well, Betty, we're 54 now, but still able to give the kids a run for their money.

David--You went right after it today. Good work!

News reporter: You wrote "Anthony Correra" when I believe you meant "Marc Correra." Anthony is the father.

(We did do that in our first draft.)

Charles Wollman, State Investment Council spokesman: The SIC is working to finalize additional policy and procedures to ensure full disclosure of any payments made in relation to SIC investments (including administrators, lobbyists, PR specialists, what have you). Those are expected to be rolled out at the next SIC meeting. The LFC has also called a hearing on May 12th, where this placement agent issue will be front and center. Not to minimize, but one core fact that gets forgotten sometimes, is that these agents aren’t hired by the state, they aren’t paid by the state.

Las Cruces Reporter Heath Haussamen: Leaving out the context and failing to assure his readers that he’s not being used as a tool in a political game means Joe Monahan’s reporting on criminal probes and other matters can’t be taken seriously...

Geez, that sounds awfully self-righteous, doesn't it? Well, Heath, when you stop taking anonymous donations on your Web site to support your "journalism" and also reveal what individuals contribute to the nonprofits that finance the online newspaper you draw a paycheck from, we'll be able to take you seriously. Meanwhile, you might want to stop rewriting press releases and get details on the news we delivered. Now snap to it down there in Cruces!

GREG: Joe a great blog today. It is hard for a layman to keep track of all this stuff. Thanks for doing the research and explaining it.


Cap'N Crunch
Alex: Joe, This was an outstanding piece of journalistic work! I've been following these scandals since they popped up, and you provided an excellent update and summary. I hope all these investigations come to some official closure soon. Thanks. Alex.

"Journalistic work?" Why, Alex, the self-appointed kiddie corp that police "journalism" in the so-called NM "progressive" blogosphere--FBIHOP (a pancake house blog?), Marjorie Someone, John "I want to be a blogger" Fleck of the ABQ Journal, the aforementioned Heath Haussamen, Den Mother Barbara Wold at Democracy for NM and the gang at the New Mexico "We're not really a progressive front group for Eli Lee" Independent--is going to spit out their Cap 'N Crunch when they read that one.

Thanks for the compliment, Alex. And to our critics we say in the spirit of friendly competition: Read it and weep--and enjoy your cereal!

Veteran NM news reporter--A US Senate race (by GOP US Attorney Greg Fouratt) seems pretty ambitious. U.S. attorney has not been a real platform for people with political ambitions--think John Kelly. Former NM attorneys general (Udall and Bingaman) and Bernalillo County District Attorney Schiff have had better luck... I asked Fouratt what his future intentions were in this area, he said he'll return to being a line prosecutor when new US Attorney is confirmed. He said he isn't interested in politics. He considers himself a career prosecutor.

Okay, but we're going to Stay Tuned on that one...

Thanks for the comments. E-mail them along with your political news.

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