Monday, December 19, 2005

Big Bill's Blues: Lady Di Puts Coal In His Stocking; Too Close For Comfort; Says She, I'm A Friendly Guy, Says He; A Tale That Will Jingle Your Bells 

Bill & Diane
Forget about that spaceport, new high schools or commuter rails. Nothing beats out the Battle of the Sexes for headlines. And that's what NM Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish opened up as she unloaded on Big Bill like we have rarely seen. The Saturday shocker hit the news stands with a front-page photo of the arm of a grinning Guv dangling dangerously near the Light Guv's forbidden zone and accompanied by a batch of scathing quotes from Lady Di that had prudish cheeks turning as red as Santa's suit. It will be yet another historic entry in the never-ending book of La Politica; one they'll be reciting in the years ahead more than Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The only thing missing is the ending, but oh my, what a beginning.

The ABQ Journal headline hinted innocently at merriment: "Hands-on Governor" it read, but from there it was all grinch for the Guv. The photo of him and the Light Guv seated at a groundbreaking ceremony depicting him with a devilish smile was a political nightmare. Where the hand on the gubernatorial arm was finally ending up was not clear. (Di said her leg) but where that photo will end up was as clear as the Christmas star that guided the three wise men: on the campaign trails of Big Bill. (The Journal did not post the snapshot on its Web site nor publish other photos of the duo they referred to in their article).

And then there were those quotes that had Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico spilling their Christmas blend Starbucks: "He pinches my neck. He touches my hip, my thigh, sort of the side of my leg," revealed the state's #2. It all sounded like an office holiday party gone bad. Won't someone please hide the mistletoe?

But there was more. According to Denish, Big Bill is "silly" "adolescent" and "annoying." Hey D, tell us what you really think.

And then she crowned the Christmas tree saying the Guv had never touched her in an improper way, (what was that photo then?) but added that physical contact in a public setting could be, as the Journal paraphrased her, "misconstrued." Oh no, let's not go there--An Affair To Remember?


Back slapping Big Bill
Have you caught your breath yet? OK. Let's continue and ask and answer the questions your inquiring minds are dying to know. How did this come about? Why did Diane D unload the heavy artillery? What are the political implications?

The Guv's back slapping and bear hugging are trademarks. But when it comes to showing affection in the post-Monica Lewinsky age you are best advised to make it a guy thing. The Journal photog let the flashbulbs fly as Big Bill played Bad Boy Bill with Di. Those photos (only one was published) were shown to her and then she was asked for her reaction.

"Diane was cornered. I think she felt if she did not come out swinging the unwashed public would interpret the photo as her having an irregular relationship with the Governor. She said as much. Second, the behavior is offensive, especially to women, and if she did not separate herself from it she would be severely hurt politically when she sought the Governor's office herself," analyzed an Alligator in good standing around here.


"The story hurts the Governor most where he has been trying to to gain some traction--on the conservative East Side. This is not the type of stuff that wears well in the Bible Belt. Diane is a native of Hobbs and helped him carry that area. He can hope the story fades away, but if the R's bring it up during the campaign he will need her by his side for damage control.

"In a way this may give Denish some leverage. It would be silly for Bill's operatives to go after her, although in some quarters of the Democratic Party she will be hit for being so blunt. He might try to give her more responsibility to show that he takes her seriously and respects her, and by inference, the critical female swing voters." So said a Dem soothsayer with contacts at the highest levels.

"This could hurt Bill more in his presidential bid than in the Governor's race. He will spend $10 million here if he has to and this incident, as long as it is isolated, should be overcome. But the leading presidential candidate is Hillary Clinton and this is a slow pitch across her plate. Denish is an elected official with credibility who is a fellow Democrat. It's damaging because it raises all kinds of questions and the photo is just the type of stuff the opposition can and will try to use to derail him in conservative Iowa and New Hampshire. But it could also hurt him on the left with feminists and liberals who are important in the nominating process." So said a source who asked for complete anonymity. And I mean complete. "Don't even call me an Alligator," they pleaded.

Also from the ranks of our in-the-know sources came this:

"One thing that comes to mind is whether Diane will try to soften the blow and say she may have been a bit harsh or otherwise try to pull Bill out of this. Of course, he's the one who put himself here and any more publicity could be self-defeating."

If the Guv was looking for help from his cabinet to bail him out, he was disappointed. For example, outgoing crime adviser Bob Schwartz, apparently trying to defuse the incident with humor, offered up this hapless one liner: "He's never laid a finger on me. Maybe I'm just not his type." Ha Ha. Not.


Big Bill said his physical approach is "innocent" and the way he connects with people. "I guess that's what I get for being friendly." No, it's what you get when you run for President of the United States, scrutiny that would make a proctologist wince.

For Big Bill political events have been moving faster than Santa's sleigh. He took a fall on his faulty baseball resume and his use of state aircraft. He started bouncing back with the big spaceport and commuter rail announcements. Now, he's back where he started faced with yet another remodeling job.

For Denish the break with Bill will be a defining moment of her political career. We need the ghost of Christmas Future to tell us how it will play out. But right now the ghost of Christmas Present is scary enough.

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