Sunday, January 19, 2014

Politicians Can Trip When they Look Vindictively Backward

Why do some politicians, once crossed, maintain a personal vindictiveness that doesn't fade as they move up the political ladder?

I'm thinking of N.J. Governor Chris Christie, N.M. Governor Susana Martinez, and the Clintons. Hillary, at least.

Yes, Don Corleone (hero of Christie's favorite movie) felt the need to avenge even the smallest slight in a public way to set an example. Probably a reasonable idea in his business. But politicians who feel a comparable impulse should stifle it.

Christie's sad story is headline material. Needing to portray himself as especially bipartisan, or atnd capable of dialogue with the nasty old Democrats, he put out the word that Democratic mayors in New Jersey should endorse him. When the Mayor of Fort Lee declined to do so, Christie's minions got back at him in a stupid and probably illegal way. They closed the local entries to and exits from the George Washington Bridge, snarling traffic and interfering with emergency responders, schoolbuses, and just plain citizens. Brilliant.

Christie either knew exactly what was going on or had set a clear example of petty vengefulness. (When the King Henry II asks “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome Priest?” his courtiers don't need written instructions concerning Thomas Becket.) Additional mayors have since come forward with accounts of reprisals by Christie's people.

What Christie's aides did was potentially dangerous and just plain dumb.

Just when Christie had a decent shot at the Presidential nomination, he shoots himself in the foot trying to settle a score. Reminds me of a football player on the point of scoring a touchdown to take his team to the Super Bowl who turns around to kick a defender in the crotch instead – and gets tackled.

A more local example is our former District Attorney. She's now Governor Martinez. Rumors have her as a possible candidate for the Vice-Presidency. You'd think she'd be busy enough with state issues and possibly national ambitions that she'd ignore the impulse to interfere with matters down here in Las Cruces.

Yet she and her favorite aide can't forgive or forget perceived slights. For just one example, Mark D'Antonio's presence in her old office is like an itch she can't keep from scratching. Several people could tell interesting pieces of this story if they chose to. When I asked a non-partisan observer about it recently, thinking he might not have heard anything of it, he just shook his head and said, “It's just something personal.” We shook our heads. With all she has going on in her professional life, why would she bother? I can't say she's done anything illegal; but underhanded and unpleasant, yes.
But neither political party holds a patent on petty vengefulness.

If widespread reports are at all accurate, Hillary Clinton kept a personal hit-list in 2008, listing fellow Democrats whose sins included endorsing Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination.
Look out, John Kerry, Jay Rockefeller, Patrick Leahy, and (above all) Claire McCaskill. Our own Bill Richardson was also on the list, and Clinton staffers reportedly watched with delight when Richardson started getting investigated.

What we're reading about the Clintonian “enemies list” is both tasteless and stupid. Sure, most campaigns keep a list of friends and enemies; and an early critical endorsement is a political gamble, with significant consequences if the underdog you endorse becomes President or the favorite at whom you thumbed your nose moves into the White House.

But few campaigns (Nixon's, perhaps) keep lists as detailed as Clinton's.

I don't see the list-keeping as helpful. Does it really help Clinton in 2016 to have magnified her differences with folks who endorsed Barack eight years ago as the superior of two good choices?
I'm not seeing the wisdom in it. I'm not seeing anything sensible about unnecessarily avenging perceived insults, turning potential friends into enemies, and enemies into raging lions.
I don't think Chris would have been nominated for President this year anyway. Look what the extremist-dominated primary process did to Romney, who hadn't hobnobbed with the Democratic Devil the way Christie did after Hurricane Sandy.

I don't think Susana will get the nod as VP: her ethnicity and gender are politically convenient, but choosing an obscure governor from a small state might be unappealing to a party still dreaming that McCain could have won in 2008 without the soccer mom.

Hillary, of course, has the 2016 nomination wrapped up, just as she had the 2008 nomination wrapped up in 2006.

Me, with a few exceptions, I can't be bothered remembering things people do to hurt me. Carrying those memories pollutes my mind and heart, not theirs.

But Jacqueline Bisset said it best. Asked at the Golden Globes how she managed to look so great at 69, she said, “If you want to look good, forgive everyone. That's the best beauty aid I know.”

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