Friday, October 10, 2008

Politics: Tom Udall Interview

The two-week publishing is over for the eight New Mexico newspapers that subscribe to the New Mexico Services syndication service. That means I can post, as promised, the non-interview with Rep. Tom Udall. A subsequent post will have some of the email correspondence with the Udall campaign and some additional comments.

Harold Morgan/New Mexico Progress

Udall motivation a mystery

By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress

Is Rep. Tom Udall afraid of me? Actually, properly stated, the question is, “Is the Udall campaign afraid of me?”
However posed, the question is preposterous. And legitimate. I’ll explain.
As noted briefly in my last column, I wanted to interview Udall under the ground rules governing the interview with Rep. Steve Pearce. The idea was to ask the same three general questions using a written script, with no advance notice about the questions.
The candidates would respond spontaneously. Then as best and neutrally as possible, I would transcribe the answers with one column devoted to Udall and one to Pearce. You could then compare the answers and draw your own conclusions.
Pearce accepted. Udall—the Udall campaign—required at least a general indication of the topics. Through two weeks of email exchanges, the campaign continued to insist on advance notice. Finally, I said there would be no interview.
Last fall I did a similarly structured interview with Udall and Pearce. Then it was Rep. Heather Wilson’s staff that blew off the interview—after Wilson agreed. That was strange, but too long a tale for this space. That interview was just one question and with no advance. The responses were transcribed from my notes. The interviews can be found at:, winter issue.
Udall accepted the rules before, but not now. A mystery.
Disclaimer: I am a Republican, your basic small-government sort. That should not have been a problem. The Udall campaign did not raise the issue. To keep the questions even-handed and to avoid accusations of tilt, one way or the other, I got help in developing the questions.
Two other reasons might explain the Udall campaign’s unwillingness to accept the same approach as last fall. First is staff incompetence. I have no basis for comment one way or the other. The second reason might be some desire to protect Udall from the perils of a spontaneous response to a general and perhaps challenging question.
If this factor was an element, it is even nuttier than fear of me. After all, Udall has been an elected official for nearly 20 years and he spent a good ten years before that trying to be an elected official. This is a guy who talks for a living.
Further, a good part of the talking done by an elected official is to and through journalists, even ones who might not think the official walks on water. Elected officials view journalists as a vehicle for communication. From the journalist side, the politician is expected to respond when asked something.
It’s a bit of journalist ego trip, getting to talk to fancy folks. For elected officials to not talk to journalists can be dangerous over time. Besides having the human reaction, being annoyed at the rudeness, they will begin to wonder what is hidden. Finding hidden stuff goes to the core of the journalistic soul.
I don’t know why, in his heart, Tom Udall is running for the Senate. My hunch about his motivation is less than charitable. For a man whose adult life seems to have been all about being elected, being a Senator is more cool than being a Congressman. This is rational, to be sure, but New Mexicans deserve more.
An early theme, now unseen on Udall’s Web site, was “Doing right for New Mexico.” I don’t know what that means. When I wrote this column, the Web site gave you no reason to vote for Udall other than he is Tom Udall. Brand loyalty is assumed, I guess.
When you see Tom Udall, ask him why—deep down, in his heart—he is running for the United State Senate. Try to find passion. And don’t take campaign talking-point rhetoric for an answer.

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