A Plea of Guilty: Tom Clifford, Joe Monahan and the Emily Litella Affair

May 29th, 2013 · No Comments · journalism, tax policy

By Arthur Alpert

Bailiff: ”Oyez, oyez. The court is now in session, the Honorable John Doe presiding, to hear the case of Joe Monahan, esteemed blogger, v. Arthur Alpert, accused thief of words.

Judge Doe: “Alpert, how do you plead?”

AA: “Well, er, I don’t know, Your Honor. Joe thinks I stole from him and I hope I didn’t but, but, but he may be right.”

Judge Doe: “What kind of mealy-mouth plea is that, Alpert?

AA: “Well, sir, may I explain. Back on the 21st, you see, I wrote about Finance Secretary Tom Clifford’s apology to legislators for inaccurate testimony just before they voted on a tax package.

“This package, supported by the Republican governor and conservative Democrats, cut taxes for corporations, you see, on the theory that making the rich and corporate richer will spur economic growth.

“Well, I quoted Dan Boyd’s Wednesday, May 15 Journal report to the effect that Clifford first said the bill would raise money for the state for five years, but a later estimate “released after lawmakers approved the tax package calculates that the legislation will cost the state more than $70 million in forgone revenue in the 2017 fiscal year.”

“And give him credit, Secretary Clifford apologized for his mistake. Wow. What an extraordinary story! At least I thought so, but Journal editors must have disagreed because they dropped it below the fold in the Metro section, surprising me to heck, remember?

Judge Doe: “Can you get to the point, Alpert? The Court doesn’t have all day.”

AA: “Yes, Your Honor, I will. You see, the apology brought Gilda Radner to mind, and her character, Emily Litella, who’d take the podium on Saturday Night Live years ago to rant and rave until somebody said she’d completely misunderstood the issue. Then she’d pause and say, soberly, “Never mind.”

“Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe I saw Joe Monahan’s Thursday, May 16 post where he wrote:

When it comes to the hyper-controversial tax cut package passed in the final frenetic seconds of the 2013 legislative session, the state’s top budget official pulls an Emily Litella from Saturday Night Live and says “Never Mind!”

AA: “Your Honor, I like to think it was great minds thinking alike, but I might have read Joe’s post, stuck it in my gray matter, and when I pulled it out a few days later, it was mine, all mine.

“So I want to plead guilty, Your Honor, even if I’m not 100 certain I ripped Joe off, because I could have.

“Oh, and there’s another reason. I’ve been peeking at Joe Monahan’s “New Mexico Politics” blog for years and enjoying it. He’s always been knowledgeable about the political game and couched what his Alligators shared in an entertaining fashion.

“Lately, though, Your Honor, he’s better than that. Back in the day, Joe focused a lot on the gamesmanship but now he’s paying much more attention to the content, what the games are about. It’s as if he’s decided that politics really matters, that it’s how we make our lives better or worse.”

“So if I stole Joe’s clever wordplay, Your Honor, well, I hope he understands that I only steal from my betters. And I throw myself on the mercy of the Court.”

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