Wednesday, February 08, 2006


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 9, 2006

Congresswoman Heather Wilson made national headlines this week when she broke with the White House and said she had “serious concerns” about the National Security Agency’s warrantees wiretaps of American citizens and wanted a full investigation.

On Wednesday, President Bush reversed his position and provided the House Intelligence Committee with highly classified information about the operations. (Here's Wilson's latest statement on the issue.)

The New York Times, in a Wednesday editorial about the NSA wiretaps, called Wilson’s statement “one hopeful sign of nonpartisan sanity” and said, “With Karl Rove reported to be threatening Election Day revenge against anyone who breaks ranks on this issue, Ms. Wilson deserves support for a principled stand.”

But someone not lining up to support Wilson is her re-election opponent, state Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who in a news release said Wilson’s move is nothing more than an election-year effort to separate herself from the administration.

“Rep. Wilson could have stood up to this illegal program sooner,” Madrid said. “As chairwoman of House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, Wilson had direct oversight of this program, and she did nothing. She could have — and should have — taken action sooner.”

Madrid also blasted Wilson for voting in 2003 against repealing the “sneak-and-peek” searches on Americans allowed in the Patriot Act.

In addition to Madrid’s criticisms, the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee joined in.

“If Heather Wilson is trying to raise her profile by publicly taking on the Republican establishment, it must be an election year,” DCCC regional spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said in an e-mail. “But when push comes to shove, she never quite gets around to putting her vote where her mouth is.”

Said Bedingfield: “She did this exact same song and dance with Abu Ghraib in 2004 and then voted against a congressional investigation.”

Wilson in 2002 made several statements against the abuse in that Iraqi prison, calling for open discussions on the issue.

However, a month before, Wilson voted against a move to establish a select committee to investigate the treatment of detainees in the war on terror — including allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners. That measure was defeated in the House with all Republicans voting no.

Wilson spokesman Enrique Knell said Wednesday that Wilson wouldn’t comment on the Madrid and DCCC statements.

Singing cowboys: We’ve got the official state song, "Oh Fair New Mexico," written by Elizabeth Garrett (the daughter of Sheriff Pat) and the official translated version of the state song, "Asi Es Nuevo Mexico," by Amadeo Lucero. There’s the official state bilingual song, "New Mexico Mi Lindo Nuevo Mexico," by Pablo Mares, and the official state ballad, "The Land of Enchantment," by former Taos resident Michael Martin Murphey.

So how about a state cowboy song? Rep. Gloria Vaughn, R-Alamogordo, has one in mind — one simply called New Mexico, written by R.D. Blankenship and Calvin Boles, now deceased. The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear Vaughn’s HB232 today.

But in the Legislature’s apparent quest to proclaim enough state songs to make a box set, it’s been hard to settle on a state cowboy song.

One year in the 1990s, several songs competed for that distinction. None of them made it through the Legislature.

And in 2001, Rep. Dub Williams, R-Glencoe, tried to pass a bill to declare an official “state western song” — I think that’s pretty close to a “cowboy” song — called "Song For New Mexico," by James Hobbs of Capitan.

The soft-spoken Williams was surprised that year when he got an analysis of his bill from the Legislative Council, declaring the song to be “sexist, racist and religiously unacceptable.” For one thing, it referred to “cowboys” instead of “cowpeople.” (I’m not joking.) The bill passed the House that year but died in the Senate.

One of the co-authors of the latest would-be state cowboy song was something of an icon for popular music in southeastern New Mexico in the postwar era.

Calvin Boles, who died in 2004, started the Yucca record company in Alamogordo in 1958, according to an obituary in The Alamogordo Daily Times (and reprinted in ) The company released 237 singles, including early work by an El Paso kid named Bobby Fuller, who later would have a national hit with "I Fought the Law." Boles and his wife/bass player, Betty, recorded eight albums with their band The Rocket City Playboys.

Betty Boles contacted Vaughn about the song, the lawmaker said.

The committee will hear a cassette tape of the song, sung by Calvin Boles. As a music critic and a connoisseur of old-time country music, I say they’re in for a treat. It’s a cowboy waltz with a strong steel guitar. Boles had a voice similar to that of Ernest Tubb.

Vaughn said Wednesday that she hasn’t heard any criticism of the words to New Mexico. It does use “cowboy” instead of “cowperson,” but it doesn’t have any lyrics about “a pretty, dark-eyed seƱorita,” which triggered the political-correctness police in 2001.

I guess someone could make something of the line, “Where missiles are flying, Spanish mission bells toll.” But come on; Boles was from Rocket City.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a moderate democrat, a profile that I shared recently with fellow members of a political focus group. We were asked at the end of the session who we believed paid for the focus group. The general consensus was Heather Wilson based upon the type of questions being asked. Among the foci of the evening were our opinions on how vocal our representatives should be on the wire tapping.

    Needless to say, I wasn't surprised when Ms. Wilson quickly jumped to claim credit.


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