Thursday, May 24, 2007


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 24, 2007

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., is asking the general public to help her choose an official song for her presidential campaign.

Why not one for Bill Richardson? His funny “job interview” commercials already have given him a decisive edge over all other candidates in creative political ads. Why should he cede the musical front?

Of course, some might ask why candidates bother with such things at all.

Because it’s American, that’s why.

Campaign tunes have been with us since at least the earliest days of the republic. A few years ago, folk singer Oscar Brand recorded an album called Presidential Campaign Songs: 1789-1996, a collection of 43 ditties going all the way back to “Follow Washington” and including such memorable hits as “Huzzah for Madison, Huzzah,” “Get on a Raft with Taft,” “Harding, You’re the Man for Us” and “Hello Lyndon,” a rewrite of “Hello Dolly” tailored for LBJ.

Former President Clinton might be to blame for starting the current trend of appropriating the original versions of pop hits for campaign themes. The man from Hope chose one of Fleetwood Mac’s worst songs, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” for his theme song in the 1992 election.

Later that year, independent candidate Ross Perot joined in, unveiling at a news conference his song — “Crazy,” as performed by Patsy Cline.

Since then, others have picked up on the trend.

John Kerry in 2004 turned to U2’s “Beautiful Day” (which is one of the choices for Hillary’s theme), while John Edwards made “Small Town,” a John Mellencamp track, his campaign theme. (Kerry wasn’t able to get U2 to perform at the 2004 convention in Boston, but Mellencamp was there to sing “Small Town.”)

So what to chose for Richardson?

On his recent appearance on The Tonight Show, the band played Sly & The Family Stones's “Everyday People” when Richardson came out to meet Jay Leno. Somehow I don’t think most folks in New Mexico think of Bill Richardson as “everyday.” If it’s going to be a late ’60s soul song, Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” is more on the mark.

But that’s just my opinion. Here are some other suggestions.

* “Big Bad Bill is Sweet William Now” by Merle Haggard (or Ry Cooder or Van Halen or Peggy Lee ... ) This song goes back to the days of vaudeville. The earliest version I’m aware of is by minstrel-show singer Emmett Miller in the 1920s. This tune would be refreshingly different than the overwrought Baby Boomer anthems most candidates prefer.

* “Built For Comfort” by Howlin’ Wolf. On the Leno show, Richardson made a couple of jokes about his girth. This song would fit that theme with its lyrics, ”Some folks built like this/Some folks built like that/But the way I’m built, don’t you call me fat/Cause I’m built for comfort, I’m not built for speed.”

* “The Envoy” by Warren Zevon. I don’t know if Richardson is familiar with this song, but I bet he’d like it. Zevon wrote it in the early ‘80s about superstar diplomat Philip Habib. Sample lyrics: “Nuclear arms in the Middle East/Israel is attacking the Iraqis/The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese/And Baghdad does whatever she please/Looks like another threat to world peace/For the envoy.”

* “Bill Richardson” by Angel Espinoza (in the photo above with the gov, which I stole from her Website). This upbeat country-ish song was written in honor of our governor by Espinoza, who also wrote a great corrido for former Rio Arriba strongman Emilio Naranjo a few years ago. The Richardson song sounds like a jingle from good old-fashioned 1970s-era campaign commercial. According to Espinoza’s Web site, she’s sung this at Richardson rallies in the state. You can hear it HERE:

You have any other suggestions? E-mail me or comment on this blog.

Spare the Rod: The American Civil Liberties Union is suing state Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, over an altercation with a hometown critic during the legislative session.

The ACLU filed a suit on behalf of Virgil Beagles — a Roswell man who has written letters to newspapers criticizing Adair — who says he was barred from a legislative committee meeting on Feb. 16. The suit claims Beagles’ First Amendment rights were violated.

According to the suit, filed Wednesday in federal court, the incident began when Adair saw Beagles in the Capitol hallway.

“Adair verbally accosted Beagles as he sat in a hallway of the Capitol building, yelling and pointing his finger at Beagles and demanding that Beagles exit the building,” an ACLU news release said.

“At Adair’s insistence, Senate security prohibited Beagles from entering the Senate side of the Roundhouse and from attending committee hearings on bills that were of special interest to him.”

Adair in an e-mail told me, “I guess on reflection this is a badge of honor. Seems almost every time I introduce a piece of legislation the ACLU is there to testify against it.”

But Adair added, “I had no idea Mr. Beagles had been barred from the Senate. I did not even know it was possible to be barred.”

Some of the bad blood apparently stems from an incident in Roswell last June in which Beagles refused to let a Chaves County commissioner, Republican Alice Eppers, sit at his table during a luncheon honoring a Democratic commissioner who had just returned from Iraq. Eppers, according to the lawsuit, filed a police report saying Beagles had threatened her. Beagles denies any threats.

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