“HEH, HEH, HEH,” repeated the poorly disguised voice on the telephone.
I knew who it was. Barney. My friend Barney from New Jersey who has been a constant tormentor my entire journalism career. Barney is pretty much unemployable, enjoys an occasional cocktail or eight, has little to occupy his time, would rather dog me than do something productive.
“So I see you are still writing that two-bit column in New Mexico,” Barney offered in a tone that signaled more was coming.
“And you care why?” I answered.
“Heh, Heh, Heh,” Barney chortled, “and you don’t even have the guts to admit to readers your national humiliation.”
National humiliation? I was trying to figure out where he was going with this. I didn’t have long to wait.
“I mean, come on!” Barney yelped. “The Women’s Media Center lists seven of the sleaziest, sexist moments from the 2010 elections, your column on the Susana Martinez-Diane Denish governor’s race makes the list, and you don’t think that is just a little embarrassing?”
Actually, no, it was a bunch of hogwash. The only embarrassing part is that this humble correspondent was mentioned in the same article with the despicable Rush Limbaugh who made the list by playing “Ding-Dong, the Witch Is Dead” on his show to celebrate Nancy Pelosi’s ouster as House Speaker.
“Not really, Barney,” I said. “Yes, I likened the Denish-Martinez race to a mud wrestling contest and accused them of slapping because their ugly, ugly campaign was a total disappointment to the entire state. And I would do it again.”
Noting that my voice had raised three octaves, Barney decided to bring his derision down a notch. “You mean these sexism awards were totally bogus?”
“Not really,” I admitted. “David Letterman was probably off base with his comic bit about Nancy Pelosi being found naked in a hotel room with Charlie Sheen, and shame on the two Boston radio guys for talking about a state treasurer candidate’s ‘tight little butt’ and ‘banging little body.’”
I told him my so-called award had its origin in the outrage of Lissa Knudsen, president of the graduate student body association at the University of New Mexico. Lissa told New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan she was miffed by my assertion that “So far these ladies have displayed such a lack of class, we’re beginning to think, ‘strip down and get ‘er on, gals.’”
“If that’s harsh, so be it,” I told Barney. “Here’s my opinion. New Mexicans are sick and tired of pointless, negative television ad campaigns. Women are supposed to be the softer, gentler, more reasonable gender. So finally we have a gubernatorial race between two bright, classy ladies and they punt the opportunity to bring civility to the process.”
Joe Monahan understood, I told Barney. He warned against overdoing political correctness and pointed out the column was about the conduct of political campaigns, not the candidates personally. And Knudsen’s assertion that “no one ever makes such jokes about male candidates” is just absurd, and Monahan said as much.
Barney excused himself to go requisition another supply of vodka and it is just as well. It gave me a chance to cool down. But not enough.
“Here’s the thing!” I charged on when he returned to the telephone, my voice just under a shout. “We expected more from lady candidates than we got from the parade of male candidates around the state. And for the Women’s Media Center to suggest that comments such as mine detracted from a serious discussion of issues is ludicrous. Are they kidding?” I yelled.
There was an uncomfortable period of silence and it was obvious I had stunned Barney.
“Are you armed?” he asked.
I hung up on him.
Have a nice day.
Ned Cantwell is a syndicated columnist who is sure he has not heard the last of this subject at: firstname.lastname@example.org