Alibi V.20 No.3 • Jan 20-26, 2011 

Gene Grant

Baby Kissing and Crocodile Tears

Now that Gov. Susana Martinez has offered her first State of the State address and laid down a number of markers on her policy approach, a question remains: What do we have on our hands here to judge the moral compass of Susana Martinez?

Is there a bedrock belief that makes her go all “60 Minutes” John Boehner (" ... making sure that these kids have a shot at the American dream like I did ... ” cue Boehner snot)? Everyone has a button. Does she?

The most revealing moments from the governor have clearly been when she’s talking about her work with abused kids in Doña Ana County. Her brother mentioned in an El Paso Times profile that she sometimes chokes up talking about it. That’s a pretty good reason to well up. The experience means something to her.

Still, we've had our share of issue-based oddball leakage over the years. Let’s review.

No doubt you'll recall ex-Rep. Heather Wilson losing it during a congressional hearing following the infamous Super Bowl nipplegate. (The Alibi installed a “cry button” at where one could listen to Wilson’s waterworks with the click of a mouse; it likely set a record for web hits back then.)

I don't remember Gov. Richardson choking up over anything in eight years. Maybe it would have helped.

Anyone remember Mitt Romney blubbering on “Meet the Press” during the campaign? John Edwards? He cried on the campaign trail as well, but those tears were clearly no clue about his inner workings.

Hillary Clinton got leaky in New Hampshire during the primary (" ... I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don't want to see us fall backward ... ”), and the national press corps was convinced she was done.

I don't remember Gov. Richardson choking up over anything in eight years. Maybe it would have helped.

These clues are not reserved for big-time politicians. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio had his sensitive moments about animal abuse. (Prisoners roasting in outdoor tents? Pffft.)

On the critter tip, über-conservative radio talk show host Michael Savage has zero qualms about the torture of alleged military combatants, but if you even hint at harm to animals, forget about it.

We like public displays of emotion now and again from public folk. Sometimes we bust up with them in a shared moment. It's a reminder of how important this all is. And it’s a cleansing. But this is all part of the guessing game we play about the emotional temperament of elected officials.

Sometimes we bust up with them in a shared moment. It's a reminder of how important this all is.

Just like us, these are complicated people. Still, it's frustrating to watch politicians contradict themselves. They possess soft and rock-hard attributes, hypocritically, on the same issue.

Boehner loses it at the mention of innocent American children and their future prospects, but he can turn around the very next day and somehow ignore the consequences of legislation to (poor) children. Why don’t these flashes of emotion carry over to other issues of the day? Will Gov. Martinez recognize root causes of child abuse, such as poverty and substance abuse?

This duality is how it goes. It's always been this way.

One of the more interesting two-sided personalities in New Mexico lore was U.S. Marshal John Pratt, who served the state from 1866 to 1876. Early in the federal lawman's tenure, President Andrew Johnson signed a bill "To Abolish and Forever Prohibit the System of Peonage In the Territory of New Mexico and Other Parts of the United States." New Mexico was among many territories still practicing chattel slavery and peonage (personal bondage as a consequence of indebtedness), since many thought Lincoln’s 1862 act to abolish slavery only applied to blacks.

Pratt might be considered one of the great freedom fighters of this state, helping to haul in more than 150 violators of peonage (mostly in Taos County) and free more than 500 Native American slaves. However, there was another side to Pratt—chiefly his political and financial ties to the notorious Santa Fe Ring, and most notably, Thomas Catron, the then-attorney general of the territory and soon-to-be land and cattle baron.

Some of the deals Catron pulled off—particularly swiping Spanish land grants with Pratt's ruthless aid—were outrageous. As was the marshal's use of deputies to intimidate at the voting booth. Pratt, it turned out, was primarily a shameless political hack as well as law enforcer. Civil liberties? Pfffft. He helped free slaves. I'm sure he slept well.

Actions speak louder than tears. Whether Gov. Martinez shows stirring fervor in front of a camera isn't the point. If Martinez acknowledges the pain and stress her policies could cause, we'll know where her moral compass points.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.