Keller And Manny – A Few Good Men?
By Paul Chavez
Everyone knows someone they believe would be a great mayor, city counselor, governor, senator, even president. We all know someone that is honest, has integrity, has many great ideas on civic matters, is energetic and has been encouraged by friends and family to run for office.
But they don’t. They don’t because they look at the current political environment and how nasty it is and don’t want their good name dragged through the sewer that has become the political process. We don’t want people who are comfortable in the sewer, but in many cases, those are the people that run for office. I’m not suggesting that any current candidate fits that description, but I believe many of the people they surround themselves with, their “political operatives”, seem comfortable in that sewer.
There was a time when attack ads and other negative political tools were left to national elections and local elections were relatively benign. Nationwide, that has changed, and Albuquerque is no different. We don’t even have official mayoral candidates, yet two of them are already swinging at each other with ethics complaints and sex toys. I’m not above commenting on a lot of things, but I think I’ll leave the flying sex toys to others.
How can this ethics complaint be addressed calmly and with some degree of dignity so that we don’t end up in the sewer too early in the election cycle? Can this process be accomplished with some degree of professional behavior, hopefully setting the stage for informative discussions for voters in the upcoming campaign for mayor?
Calm, dignified, professional, informative? What am I thinking? This is Albuquerque.
As a mental exercise, I was searching for a venue for this complaint to be settled other than the courtroom or in front of a hearing officer. However, I continually returned to the dramatic courtroom scene from the 1992 movie “A Few Good Men”, starring Jack Nicholson (Sheriff Gonzales) and Tom Cruise (Mayor Keller).
Probably everybody seen the movie at least once, so close your eyes and imagine the courtroom with dark mahogany wood paneling throughout, sturdy oak desks for the prosecutor and defense counsel to sit behind during the trial. The proceedings overseen by a wise, dignified judge peering over his reading glasses.
Keller (Cruise), in his fine crisp naval uniform gets up to question the surly, hard-bitten Sheriff Gonzales (Nicholson) who sits intimidatingly with a chest full of medals as they prepare to do battle to get to the bottom of this ethics complaint. Note: this will make a lot more sense if you first watch the YouTube video of the courtroom scene from “A Few Good Men.”
Keller: “Did you pay for those qualifying contributions??”
Gonzales: “You want answers??”
Keller: “I want votes!!!"
Gonzales: “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE VOTES!!” (Sneers at Keller)
Gonzales: “Son we live in a city that has crime, and that city has to be guarded by people with guns! Who’s gonna do it? You? You Sarita? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for the felons and curse the cops; you have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that my meeting with Trump, while laughable, is probably worth 20,000 votes, and my existence, while grotesque and diminutive to you, makes for great political cartoons.
“You don’t wanna know the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at campaign events, you want me on those streets, you need me on those streets!! We use phrases like “No, yellow doesn’t mean floor it”, “What a booger-eating moron” and “Ginger’s 10 – 40.” We use these phrases as the backbone of a life spent laughing at people, you use them as a citizen complaint.
“I don’t have the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps in the sanctuary city that he created and then questions the lack of federal funds. I’d rather you just accept the money and go on your way, otherwise I suggest you pick up a pen and sign my petition to run for mayor. EITHER WAY, I DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT YOUR ETHICS COMPLAINT!!”
(Fade to black)
I know there are more productive and dignified ways to settle this dispute, but the days of running elections in a reasonable manner are unfortunately long gone. But it would be nice if our candidates for any public office start setting a precedent of productive campaigning and an information flow to the public that is reasonable, productive, and not so negative. Then we can get people that we know will be good public servants, good politicians, to run for office and make some positive changes to our city and our state.
I know Sheriff Gonzales, not well, but I know him. He doesn’t strike me as a kind of person that would commit an offense of moral turpitude as he’s alleged to have committed in the ethics complaint. I know Mayor Keller even less well, but he seems like a nice guy, and he doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy who would, of his own volition, file a complaint like that. My guess is this ethics complaint is the doing of some political operative who is comfortable with the smell of the sludge pit and who talked Keller into the complaint. Both these guys are probably able to have a productive discussion about issues that concern Albuquerque and do it in a way that does not make them both look like they are both comfortable in the political slime and ooze.
But it’s too easy to take somebody’s background and life history and twist it into something that sounds ominous and negative. Take me for example. I think I’m a pretty good guy – but there’s a lot of negative stuff out there about me (I cuss, remember?) that can be distorted and used against me in attack ads. Political operatives are not beyond using even old, harmless information.
Imagine me running for mayor. Like many kids of the 1960s and 1970s, I occasionally went hunting with my father, and I’m sure political opponents would discover that fact. So, I can imagine a television attack ad sounding something like this:
(Ominous music plays as birds flying through the steel-colored sky with menacing dark clouds off in the distance –symbolically, I’m the menacing dark clouds).
A deep scary sounding voice comes on and says: “Paul Chavez killed a dove when he was 11 years old. Then … then he ate it!! (Sounds of children gasping). Doves are the international Symbol for Peace. Paul Chavez hates peace. Do you want a mayor who hates peace? Say no to Paul Chavez for Mayor!”
(A nasally voice comes on and says): “I’m Danny Klein and I Approved this message.”
Yep, that’s what we’re dealing with these days. Nothing is sacred anymore. Nothing is off base. Albuquerque, like the rest of the nation, has sunk into the political morass that keeps the public misinformed, stunts progress in our community and keeps the best and brightest out of public office.
It is relatively early in the election cycle. Let’s hope Tom and Jack will take the opportunity to be informative, dignified and positive in conducting their campaigns. Hopefully. this will encourage a few good women and men that we know are out there, to take on the burden of public office.