A long, hot summer turns into silly season

August 6, 2018

I still think fondly of that 2008 U.S. Senate race in which Republican Steve Pearce ran against Democrat Tom Udall to fill the seat vacated by Pete Domenici, who did not seek another term that year.

In the race, both candidates did an admirable job of refraining from personal attacks against the other. Both candidates are real nice guys who didn’t seem to hate each other, even though their politics are about as far apart as humanly possible. Both campaigns were issue-oriented, which was easy because both Pearce and Udall had served in the U.S. House of Representative and voted on the same bills — almost always on opposite sides.

I actually thought the current gubernatorial matchup between Pearce and Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham might turn out to be a good, clean race based on actual issue positions. As was the case with Udall, the two candidates have served in the House together, voting on the same bills.

But my hopes for such a race were dimmed early last week by some outright silliness coming out of both camps. I’m not sure which side fired first, and it doesn’t really matter. But supporters of both Lujan Grisham and Pearce on Tuesday were touting scandalous scandals, astonishing hypocrisy and all the near-hysterical hyperbole that will sour the public’s perception of modern gotcha politics.

To be fair, it wasn’t Pearce’s campaign that attacked Lujan Grisham over her recent trip to Puerto Rico. It was the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online publication that specializes in opposition research on Democrats.

“Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham … was spotted dancing and drinking during a two-day trip to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to assess the infrastructure and recovery process in response to Hurricane Maria,” said the story by writer Cameron Cawthorne. “… Lujan Grisham drew attention to the need for further action on the islands, but what she didn’t mention was her social activities of dancing and drinking at the Chandelier Bar, a ritzy hotel bar within the El San Juan Hotel. The hotel, where most of the delegation stayed, is described on the website as being ‘synonymous with Puerto Rican luxury hospitality.’ ”

Yes, the party of Donald Trump is now opposed to ritzy hotels.

There are fuzzy photos of Lujan Grisham at the hotel bar. And, as Cawthorne pointed out, “She is also seen dancing with an unidentified man at the hotel.”

The story doesn’t point out that unidentified men often are the best dancers.

The Republican Governors Association called attention to this shocking exposé in an email. “Her campaign said she was meeting with ‘disaster recovery officials’ to ‘find solutions for Hurricane victims’ — but she seemed more interested in drinking champagne and dancing the night away.”

Drinking and dancing! Unidentified men! And the photos revealed that Lujan Grisham was not wearing sackcloth and ashes, as people who go to help hurricane victims apparently should.

In a response to the story, a Lujan Grisham spokesman responded predictably. “It’s disgusting that Steve Pearce is attacking a Hispanic woman for working to help Latino populations devastated by his failed Republican Party in Congress and Donald Trump.”

On that same day, the Dems had some accusations of their own, sparked by Pearce appearing with Trump’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson at a housing development at San Felipe Pueblo.

State Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, in a statement said, “How generous of Trump to use government resources to help Steve Pearce put on a fake ‘congressional event,’ miles outside of Pearce’s district. …”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Lujan Grisham’s campaign, trying to pitch me a story about this travesty of justice, said that Pearce might have violated the law by appearing with Sleepy Ben at an event outside of his district.

Wake me up when Pearce gets indicted for this.

And if I get a dollar for every vote Pearce won at the San Felipe event, I might be able to buy a jar of mayonnaise.

There are nearly three more months of this campaign. I suspect the silliness of the silly season is going to get even worse.

Update hourly