There stood John Dendahl, in front of television cameras, making his martyrdom video before he blows himself up.
It’s going to be ugly, he promised after suddenly becoming the GOP’s new candidate for governor. It’s going to be nasty, he swore, his jaw set and the glint of cold steel in his eye.
You could see him tingling with excitement at the prospect of splashing blood on the walls.
Dendahl probably doesn’t really believe he can win the race for governor, but he’s going to spread as much carnage as he can while he’s got the chance. His target is Gov. Bill Richardson, New Mexican and man of the national stage. Even if Richardson wins re-election to the governor’s mansion, Dendahl’s mission is to so cripple Richardson that his chances of being the first Hispanic to win the White House will be as likely as George Bush ever telling us the truth about why Americans are killing and dying in Iraq.
Here at home, Dendahl aims to blast Richardson with enough shrapnel he’ll have difficulty standing to address the next State Legislature. With Dendahl preparing his ambushes, the guv’s security detail finally has a legitimate reason for barreling down the highways at over 100 mph.
Dendahl’s weapon of choice is the IED, “Intemperate Exclamatory Diatribe.” In that respect, he’s a master bomb builder. No other public figure in their statements to the media has been as consistently sharp-tongued, and sometimes downright nasty. His jibes are calculated as much to provoke Democrats as whip fury into his own troops.
He’s already inflicting casualties, before even detonating his first booby-trapped carcass.
He’s got Democrats foaming at the mouth, whining “no fair!” because the GOP switched out a nice doctor from Farmington who doesn’t seem to enjoy campaigning for a guy who goes to bed and gets up every morning thinking about gutshooting his adversaries. Despite his 67 years, he has more energy and taste for battle than the entire New Mexico Democratic Party.
It was during Dendahl’s term as N.M. GOP Chairman that Republicans mounted serious challenges to Democratic dominance across our state. He was their worst nightmare then. They’re already having flashbacks from those wars.
There’s another Dendahl I like better than his human flame-thrower act. In person, away from the political hand-to-hand combat, he comes across as a courteous man with a broad range of interests and an inquisitive mind.
Dendahl likes ideas. He’s truly interested in public policy and admires intellectual debate. He’s proven he’s not afraid to pursue the thread of a proposition to an unpopular conclusion. His support for Gary Johnson’s campaign to reform our idiotic drug laws is the best example. Even though the issue cost Dendahl his chairmanship of the state GOP, and though he isn’t pushing the issue aggressively these days, Dendahl hasn’t recanted.
Alcohol is far more harmful to the human body than many illegal drugs. But you’re not going to hear Democrats call for outlawing booze while they try to make Dendahl pay for his past statements on decriminalization.
If the Dems keep hammering Dendahl about his ideas on decriminalization, I’ve got a simple rejoinder which he is welcome to use: Do they think Bill Clinton should have been arrested and denied a political career for using marijuana? I’d pose the same question to Republicans about George W. Bush and cocaine.
Dendahl is correct to raise objections to the governor’s power to steer tens of millions of dollars of state investments into private companies, particularly in a small state like ours. But he’s very wrong on his anti-environment stances or when he worships the base greed that drives a completely laissez-faire market system. Until recently, he was president of a think tank called the Rio Grande Foundation that claims to apply free market philosophy to problems in our state. Right or wrong, there he’s again ahead of many Democrats: At least he’s got a philosophy that’s completely out in the open.
Dendahl certainly isn’t afraid of the English language. Unlike liberals who gave us speech codes, he enjoys the rough-and-tumble of free speech. You can get away with taking a shot at him by sarcastically comparing him to a jihadist. But you should also count on taking return fire.
This will probably be Dendahl’s last hurrah. How he conducts himself will determine how he is remembered. New Mexico deserves a good campaign for governor. Dendahl has some worthy ideas, and he’s right to raise questions about anyone who has held the governor’s office for four years. That’s what democracy is all about.
The question will be who shows up: the man of ideas, or John Dendahl, suicide bomber.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.