By Kevin Wilson
Pete Domenici’s been serving New Mexico for four decades, and I hope one of his greatest acts of service doesn’t go ignored.
Domenici, who is leaving the Senate due to health reasons, made an address to what is the final state Legislature of his Senate career. The longtime Republican spoke not of universal health care or fighting terrorism, but of seeking an end to partisan politics.
“I don’t regard you as liberals or conservatives, but as fellow leaders trying to do your best,” Domenici said. “We must put aside these simplistic labels and the politics of character assassination that are too prominent today.”
My first reaction was to question the source. Doesn’t Domenici belong to a party that charged in 2006 a vote for Democrats was a vote for terrorists? And hasn’t Domenici been the subject of an ethics investigation because he might have pressured a U.S. attorney to make an investigation public in time to hurt Democrats before the 2006 election?
But then I look at the career of Domenici, and I know he passes my bottom line for elected officials — he works to make my life a little better. Plus, he’s been talking about the dangers of partisanship ever since the first time I met him a few years ago. It’s not just a moment of clarity for somebody regretting things that have happened in Washington.
Besides, the message is right regardless of who delivers it. It disgusted me back in 2004 when people were more willing to belittle John Kerry’s war injuries than to make the case of why George W. Bush had earned a second term as president. Likewise, it does little to mockingly call Bush “The Decider” unless it comes with a substantive criticism of specific decisions and a realistic assessment of how other decisions would play out.
We need to cheer those who have already shown commitment to working together. When Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks about the need to “reach across the aisle” to get things done in Washington, that should be accepted as one of his benefits as a candidate.
When Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks of how we shouldn’t view ourselves as red states or blue states, but the United States, it shouldn’t simply be dismissed as empty prose.
By the same token, we need to point out examples of partisanship getting in the way of progress. Shame should be cast on Republicans who are retiring not because of health reasons or because they feel they can’t help their constituents, but because they don’t like being in the minority party and are choosing to take their ball and go home with a fat Congressional retirement package.
Likewise, shame should be cast on the media that see the 2008 election as merely a horserace for ratings. Viewers shouldn’t tune in when a media outlet decides its going to repeatedly play Joe Biden’s insult of Rudy Giuliani and pretend nothing happened when John Edwards and Bill Richardson announced their short lists for a potential cabinet included both Democrats and Republicans.
Clovis voters get a chance to prove they’re above partisan politics in less than a month, when they can choose the person who will make their lives a little better as mayor.
Hopefully, it’s great practice for November, when we should ask ourselves how our lives will get better with a new president, a new senator and possibly three new House members for New Mexico.
At the very least, we owe it to Domenici after 36 years of service.
Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: