Inside the Capitol

Saturday, June 13, 2009

6-17 Manny Parties on Way to Prison

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Manny's finally in jail. But that hasn't been the big news. The party thrown for him before he went has caused tongue wagging around the state. What gall. How inappropriate. Who would throw such a party? Who would go?
Well, quite a few people went. A party for someone who has violated a public trust isn't unusual, although no one likely threw a party for Bernie Madoff. But Manny is different. It's partly because he's Manny, partly because this is New Mexico and mostly because of human nature.
Manny has an appealing personality. He's always stood up for the little guy, which has made him very popular among that segment of society. As a legislator, he introduced many bills relating to prisoner rights. Were he going to a New Mexico prison, that might have made him very popular.
New Mexico was Hispanic 100 years longer than it has been American. There is a Spanish tradition of the hero bandit. Actually it happens wherever there is a rich, landed class and a poor class. England had its Robin Hood.
But as I understand the tradition is even stronger in the Spanish culture. We would have won the Mexican-American War much more quickly had it been over when it appeared we had defeated the Mexican army.
But we hadn't beaten the many bands of guerilla fighters who roamed the countrysides raiding the haciendas of the rich and the military supply trains of the Americans. These bandidos became heroes to the very large Mexican under classes.
At that time, American troops were occupying New Mexico, which wasn't happy with that state of affairs, regardless of what history textbooks say about General Kearny's takeover of the territory. The raids of the Mexican bandit gangs were just fine with the New Mexicans of the day.
Roswell historian David Clary explains all this much better than I in his upcoming book Eagles and Empire, which is the story of the Mexican-American war told from both sides. It can be pre-ordered from Amazon now, and probably from your local bookstore.
That tradition still lives. Those who defy the establishment become heroes to a large segment, whether their actions are legal or not.
People marvel at the continuing popularity of Billy the Kid. He fought a corrupt establishment of politicians, lawyers and big business and became hugely popular with the native population, while we were in the early days of territorial status.
It's not just a New Mexico tradition, however. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojavich was reelected to a second term because he was a lovable scoundrel. That reputation faded, however, when his phone intercepts showed he was just a petty money grubber.
Adam Clayton Powell managed to keep getting reelected to Congress, representing Harlem, despite fierce opposition from New York's crooked Tammany Hall machine. Southern Democrats didn't want a Black in their party, either, and led an effort to unseat him. Despite being corrupt himself, he won election to fill his vacated seat. He still has his supporters.
So Manny had a nice turnout for his farewell party. Pictures from the party indicate that it was attended by a retired chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court and a former Republican Senate president pro tem who often did battle with Manny.
Does this mean that New Mexico is the most corrupt state in the nation? We've had a bumpy road recently but we're really still in the minor leagues. It seems residents of every state like to say their legislature is the most corrupt.
The New York Legislature currently is experiencing a whale of a scandal. It is alleged that two Democratic senators received payoffs to switch parties and change the balance of power in the chamber. And we hear stories often from Illinois and Louisiana
We know that New Mexico is behind most other states in passage of ethics laws. One of the holdups is Michael Sanchez, the Senate majority leader. He has said we don't need more ethics legislation. Now that he is a gubernatorial candidate, maybe he'll rethink that.
WED, 6-17-09

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



Post a Comment

<< Home