Thursday, August 12, 2004

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: SEPARATE BUT EQUAL

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 12, 2004

At the seemingly neverending campaign appearances in New Mexico by the national candidates, event organizers for both major political parties have made a sharp separation between the national and local press.

There are separate seating areas (although at Wednesday’s Albuquerque visit by George Bush, Dan Balz of The Washington Post sat with the local yokels). Sometimes there are separate entrances.

At last month’s rally for John Kerry and John Edwards at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, New Mexico reporters were kept away from a post-speech food spread for reporters traveling with the national ticket.

At Bush’s Albuquerque campaign event at Eclipse Aviation, however, the division went even further.

When this writer stepped out of the building to use the restroom, there was a friendly Bush volunteer assigned to escort people to the facilities.

“Are you local press or national press?” she asked.

Yes, it’s true. Separate-but-equal portable toilets for the local and national press.

Attempts to get an explanation from the Bush campaign about the reason for separate toilets were not successful.

Presidential speeds: The next time there’s a complaint about Gov. Bill Richardson speeding on the state’s streets and highways, Richardson can say he only was acting “presidential.”

According to a White House press pool reporter, quoted in the Washington Times’ online Insider section, an “uneventful motorcade to the airport” with President Bush last Sunday in Kennebunkport, Maine, turned out to be a pretty wild ride.

The reporter, Edwin Chen of the Los Angeles Times, wrote that “at various points along the way, the presidential motorcade traveled at speeds that exceeded 75 mph, according to the speedometer. And this was mostly on a narrow, curving, and sometimes hilly two-lane road — sans sidewalk. More than once, we could hear tires squealing.”

Chen continued, “Adding to the thrill of the chase were the occasional clusters of people — including children — obviously out to catch a fleeting glimpse of (Bush). Among them, at one point, were more than a dozen seniors, in wheelchairs.”

Chen wrote that people in the press vehicle clocked the van’s speed at various points at 50 mph (in a 25 mph zone), 60 mph (in a 35 mph zone) and above 75 mph (in a 45 mph zone.) “The white-knuckles ride lasted about 25 minutes,” Chen reported.

According to The Washington Times account, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the reason for the high speeds was “to minimize the motorcade’s inconvenience to the local residents.”

Unlike Richardson’s spokesmen, the White House didn’t say the speeding was done for security’s sake.

American Indians for Kerry:

About the time that Kerry and Edwards were speaking Sunday at the 83rd annual Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial Pow Wow in Gallup, their campaign released a list of 39 American Indian leaders who have endorsed the Democratic ticket.

Among them are three New Mexicans, including Santa Fe lawyer — and former acting state Democratic Party chairman — David Gomez, a member of Taos Pueblo.

The other two listed by the Kerry campaign are LaDonna Harris, president of Americans for Indian Opportunity and a member of the Comanche Tribe who lives at Santa Ana Pueblo, and her daughter Laura Harris, executive director of Americans for Indian Opportunity. Laura Harris also is daughter of former U.S. Sen. Fred Harris.

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