Susana Martinez’s administration sounds familiar

Vindictiveness, politicization of state business and undue influence of operatives aren't unique to New Mexico

Topics: Susana Martinez, New Mexico, Politics, Chris Christie, George W. Bush, Andrew Cuomo, Republican Party,

Susana Martinez's administration sounds familiarSusana Martinez (Credit: AP/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll has a delightful look at the office and personality of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a popular Republican politician and potential presidential or vice-presidential candidate.

Here’s what we learn: Martinez is, to put it charitably, pretty ill-informed about policy and certain aspects of her job. A cutthroat political consultant named Jay McCleskey seems to have a huge amount of influence in her administration, despite having no official job in the governor’s office. He has also used his connections to enrich himself, through his consulting firm and “affiliated entities.” Martinez has been unduly harsh toward her perceived political enemies, punishing them by endorsing opponents and telling fundraisers not to donate. One New Mexico Republican Party elder referred to her administration as “tone-deaf, exclusionary, and unnecessarily ruthless.”

And recorded conversations reveal that Martinez and her team — most especially McCleskey — are vulgar, condescending and not infrequently offensive when talking among themselves about voters, teachers and other politicians. Kroll compares it, accurately, to HBO’s “Veep.” This, for example, sounds especially “Veep”-esque:

During an October 2010 campaign conference call, Martinez said she’d met a woman who worked for the state’s Commission on the Status of Women, a panel created in 1973 to improve health, pay equity, and safety for women.

“What the hell is that?” she asked.

“I don’t know what the fuck they do,” replied her deputy campaign manager, Matt Kennicott.

“What the hell does a commission on women’s cabinet do all day long?” Martinez asked.

“I think [deputy campaign operations director Matt] Stackpole wants to be the director of that so he can study more women,” Kennicott said.

“Well, we have to do what we have to do,” McCleskey chimed in, as Martinez burst out laughing.

It turns out that a bunch of assholes are running New Mexico. And while assholes who surround themselves with other assholes often do well in American politics, one thing that tends to happen is that they also alienate people who are in a position to hurt them.



I do not mean, in any way, to diminish the reporting of Kroll and Mother Jones, but it seems, from the outside, that this piece happened because someone with access to a lot of documents and recordings decided to send those documents and recordings to a venue that would make sure to post them in the most damaging and complete form possible. (The Times, for example, would’ve produced a similarly comprehensive profile with this material, but it would’ve been headlined something like “Unanswered Questions Linger Over Influence of Adviser to New Mexico Governor.”) That right there is a good indication that something is terribly wrong in the office of the governor of New Mexico: Vindictive behavior leads people to do things like leak all your shit to Mother Jones.

The result is, I think, a really enlightening peek into what this sort of administration actually sounds like on the inside. By “this sort of administration,” I mean one run by a bunch of petty assholes who play-act like politics in a Mamet-scripted masculinity contest. It’s easy to imagine that the governorship of George W. Bush wasn’t entirely dissimilar, with a checked-out executive and a powerful political operative running the show. Other recently released internal communications suggest a similar environment in New Jersey.

Probably a lot of state (and city and county) executive offices sound a lot like this, behind closed doors and in email chains. Not all of them, but probably most of the ones you suspect. And not just those darn Republicans. The only difference, in terms of the political culture, between the Susana Martinez administration and the Andrew Cuomo administration is that the Andrew Cuomo administration doesn’t have someone on staff sending reams of damaging internal communications to hostile members of the press. It may be that Cuomo doesn’t need to outsource the position of petty, vindictive, highly politicized vengeance-seeker to a top aide, as Martinez apparently has, but is being more hands-on in that particular position really a plus?

Susana Martinez seems like a bad governor, and she would be a bad president, for most of the same reasons that George W. Bush was a bad president, but she is just another exemplar of America’s long and proud tradition of elevating assholes to high positions because they seem like they get things done.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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