Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

1-25 Gov. needs to establish closer relationships

12513 relationships w/leg

SANTA FE – In less than a week, Gov. Susana Martinez and President Barack Obama laid out their plans for the future. Public reactions to both were an attitude of how do you ever figure on selling that to your legislative branch of government.
It's a good question. Neither Martinez nor Obama are good at developing close personal relationships with their political friends or enemies.
Obama was the first president in a long time to go to Capitol Hill to present his side of an issue. Later he played golf and had discussions with John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House. Neither effort got him anywhere.
After being criticized for being inaccessible to both Democrats and Republicans during her first year in office, Martinez made a point of inviting every lawmaker to her office during the following year's session. It didn't work. Reports indicate Martinez would talk only about her priorities and had no time to listen to concerns of others.
Things are going to have to change. A poll showed during the past presidential campaign that potential voters like a candidate with whom they would feel comfortable sitting down over a beer and talking. Obama won that poll hands down.
Interestingly, for years ago, without knowledge of such a public feeling, I made a similar decision about John McCain because I felt Obama was aloof. I was reluctant to reveal that feeling because I figured my readers would expect a somewhat deeper analysis than that from me.
But feelings count and people evidently feel warmer toward Obama now. I don't. I know we could talk basketball and who will make the final four. I know he invited two guys having a disagreement to sit down on the back portico of the White House with him and have a beer. I guess that worked out.
And I know Obama had a circle of friends in Chicago with whom he played basketball regularly. But I still don't feel he has the personality necessary to bring enough Democrats and Republicans together to pass the bold initiatives he spoke of in his second inaugural speech.
Bill Clinton could have done it. He's the master. He had people at the White House almost every night he was in town. There were Republicans and Democrats and plenty of activities. Clinton passed so much major legislation during his second term that Democrats accused him of also passing all the Republican legislative priorities. They were pretty close to right.
One of the frequent nightly visitors to the White House was Bill Richardson. He may have learned some of the art of schmoozing from Clinton but it also came naturally. During his 14 years in Congress, Richardson hosted at least annual cocktail parties and dinners at local restaurants for the capitol press.
During his time as governor, Richardson kept the house full most evenings with people he was trying to influence – lawmakers, big donors and businesses he was trying to attract to the state. We heard about the people in the movie business but there were others too.
Other governors have been good at schmoozing. Bruce King, Garrey Carruthers, Jerry Apodaca and David Cargo were among them. For those not familiar with politics of old, the list includes republicans and Democrats.
The difference is personal style. According to reports, President Obama enjoys spending quiet nights at home with his family. With his daughters reaching the age of wanting a little more socialization with friends, some Democratic leaders are hoping Obama will begin to get to know members of Congress better.
It has long been my thought that part of Congress' problem is that they don't get together on a personal basis. Maybe we should require them all to live in Washington and work five days a week.
The same advice would be good for Gov. Martinez. She evidently doesn't see much any legislators. Maybe she should entertain lawmakers and others more often.


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