Thursday, July 21, 2005

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU

A version of this was published in The New Mexican
July 21, 2005

Good news for employees of the Children Youth and Families Department: Despite what your public information officer told you, most reporters you meet will not try to use “Jedi mind tricks” on you in an effort to penetrate the Death Star that is state government.

In case you missed that story, CYFD spokesman Matt Dillman — one of many former reporters lured to The Dark Side by Gov. Bill Richardson — sent an e-mail early this month to the department’s 2,000-plus employees warning them of evil tricks by “unscrupulous” reporters.

“Some reporters might use a ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ to confuse an issue as they try to convince you to say something on the record,” Dillman wrote. “They’ll try to pressure you, trick you, back you into a corner ... Your way out is to always refer them back to me— regardless.”

I for one thought it was pretty cool that he compared us to the heroic mystic warriors of the Star Wars series — though in the same e-mail he also compares us to “door-to-door vacuum salesmen who used to throw dirt into a house to gain entry.”

The July 6 memo was sent the day after The New Mexican published a story by reporter Ben Neary about the state Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. Dillman had sat in on Neary’s interview with program director Anne Apodaca. She talked about traveling at state expense to conference in Virginia at the headquarters of an evangelical organization founded by Watergate felon Chuck Colson.

Nobody accused Neary of mind trickery.

The sad truth is that most reporters I know, while respecting the right to bear light sabers, never made it all the way through our Jedi training.

Some were kicked out of the Jedi Academy for boozing, some over questions of moral turpitude.

But most of us were thrown out for our dismal attitude toward authority.

However, if it was an unscrupulous reporter who subliminally clouded Dillman’s mind and caused him to send out such a message via e-mail — that was a pretty solid Jedi trick.

The way to Iowa: Within a few weeks of his visit to New Hampshire — which traditionally has the first presidential primary of the election season — our traveling governor this week paid a call on Iowa — which traditionally has the first presidential caucus of the election season.

Richardson was in Des Moines for the National Governors Association meeting. Several publications noted that several governors, including ours, who are potentially interested in the Iowa conference were in attendance.

In addition to the conference, Richardson spoke at a fundraiser sponsored by the Iowa Trial Lawyer Association, described by The Des Moines Register as “a Democratic-leaning group.”

My Jedi senses tell me that Richardson will be visiting New Hampshire more than he will Iowa. In fact a story in Tuesday’s Register by reporter Thomas Beaumont quoted Richardson saying that if he does run for president, he won’t campaign heavily in Iowa if Gov. Tom Vilsack runs — as many suspect Vilsack will.

“I haven’t decided to run, but I would be very respectful of the role he has here,” Richardson said of Vilsack. “I’m not going to appear to be poaching on his territory. I don’t want to be seen doing that.”

And respectful of the fact that favorite son Vilsack would stomp him and probably everyone else in the Iowa Caucus.

Richardson’s probably not alone in thinking that way. Beaumont’s story notes that in 1992 Iowa’s Sen. Tom Harkin competed for the Democratic nomination, which resulted in other Democratic candidates skipping the Iowa caucus.

Just Be Kos: The Daily Kos, a popular progressive blog, published the results of its unscientific monthly presidential straw poll on Tuesday — and it didn’t look good for Richardson.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark leads the pack with 34 percent with “No Freakin’ Clue” in second with 17 percent. Richardson is down in single-digits territory behind Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Russ Feingold, former Sen. John Edwards and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner.

To be fair, this isn’t really Richardson’s audience. He’s a centrist Democratic Leadership Council-type, while the Daily Kos crowd is closer to what Howard Dean used to call “The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.”

About 8,000 Kos readers took part in the poll.

“Remember, there’s nothing scientific about this, and doesn’t measure rank-and-file Dems,” the blog warns. “It measures us, the chosen few who think it’s fun to talk about this sort of thing 3 years out from the election.”

However, the blog adds, “As a guide of this community’s leanings, this poll is probably quite accurate.”

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