Governor’s jet new point of contention

By Ned Cantwell: State Columnist

A friend who likes to get my goat will often ask “is Fat Boy going to give you a ride in his $5 million airplane?”

Before we get to that question, loaded as it is with inference, let me point out that I do not have a goat. Further, I do not know how “get my goat” came to be synonymous with “irritate me.” Why not, for instance, “get my prairie chicken?” Some reader out there knows the history of the goat phrase, and I hope that reader will clue me in.

The provocative question infers, first, Gov. Richardson is fat, second, that I am on good terms with Gov. Richardson — why else would he give me a ride in his airplane? — and, finally, the state is wasting its money on this fancy new aircraft.

First off, let’s deal with the likeability issue. Yes, I think Richardson is an OK guy. He has a self-deprecating sense of humor and is an accomplished executive. You don’t compile his impressive resume if you’re a wingnut. You can look at his vehement detractors, the likes of GOP honcho John Dendahl and Republican Rep. Dan Foley and decide which end of that tug-a-war you want to join.

There is another side to the man, the one that deals in political duplicity. I sat with a klatch of liberal do-gooders and was somewhat shocked when one said Richardson made them miss Gary Johnson, his gubernatorial predecessor. That’s hitting where it hurts.

Richardson plays the press like a mad fiddler. There was an interesting headline in the Albuquerque Journal: “Spotlight Is Finding Gov.” That was like saying “Shot of Jim Beam Hunts Down Alcoholic.”

Love him, hate him, Big Bill is New Mexico’s man of the hour. And that is why I hope this column has not contributed to the idea he is fat. After seeing him chomp down on what appeared to be a giant Snickers Bar I have freely associated him with that candy treat. His press guy, Billy Sparks, has never corrected me so I can only assume the Snickers Bar addiction is on target.

The repeated Snickers Bar theme prompted a former colleague, now a radio mogul in Texas, to call timeout. Writes Jeff Lyon, “I am surprised that Mars, Inc., has not issued you a ‘cease and desist order’ for your constant defamation of their outstanding products that are being passively endorsed by a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Shame on you for this relentless attack on Snickers Bars … an American institution. However, congratulations on your health concerns for your governor.”

Another reader who goes by the initials “BB” and seems only 10 cents short of a dollar wraps up three issues in short order: “Back to the state aircraft issue,” he writes. “I think you are missing the big picture. If the guv wants to fly in a hot air balloon rather than a $5 million jet that’s just being frugal. Certainly not drunk with power. If the balloon is shaped like a Snickers Bar, the Mars candy folks might even buy it for the state free gratis.”

Maybe so. But I will bet next time I am bored to death on the road to Socorro, the governor is going to be looking down on me as he flies over in his fancy jet. And it is going to get my goat.

Ned Cantwell is a New Mexico syndicated columnist. He owns no stock in the Mars Candy Co. Contact him at: