Iglesias, Fitzgerald shun party ideology, showcase integrity

The Republicans' grip on power is coming apart these days, largely because of an internal struggle between the high-minded and low-road wings of the party.

Former U.S. attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias and current federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald are what many old-timers like myself consider to be honorable conservatives.

They are what we used to call "Jimmy Stewart" politicians - bone-honest, decent people, much like Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman of Silver City, Democratic Rep. Tom Udall of Santa Fe and former Republican Rep. Manuel Lujan of Albuquerque. They are given to careful, fair-minded decisions - people you can trust.

Fitzgerald's prosecution of Scooter Libby, on charges related to the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame, as a political vendetta against her husband who opposed the Iraq war, was carried out with scrupulous restraint. Bloggers were spreading rumors, as was the White House. Fitzgerald was not. He belongs to that commendable species of public servants who are cast in the mode of American idealism, rather than party ideology and fanaticism.

Many New Mexicans thought Republicans Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, both of Albuquerque, were that kind, too. But now they seem to be denizens of a murkier ground.

When they made calls to Iglesias before the last election, inquiring about the timing of his investigations into possible corrupt activities by so-far-unnamed Democrats, they moved closer to the poisoned partisanship that's become a prominent feature of the Republican Party. But in an odd twist, they smeared one of their own, a man of impeccable reputation with a solid future ahead of him.

Iglesias apparently didn't want to play ball with those who put politics above decency - the name callers, the Swift-Boaters, the smear-meisters and others who who are willing to say anything about anybody, even their own party's up and coming stars.

When defamers called Iglesias "incompetent" and used that as an excuse for his political firing, Iglesias did what some would consider a very Jimmy Stewart-like thing to do. He went to Congress to clear his name by telling his side of the story.

To call someone like Iglesias incompetent, when his career has been based on the unimpeachability of his intelligence, courage and character, is very much like the efforts to Swift-Boat the records of military heroes like Rep. John Murtha, because they don't agree with the White House about Iraq.

And what of Domenici and Wilson? Is there any doubt that when the state's oldest and most revered senator makes a phone call to a prot‚g‚ like Iglesias, after work at the man's home, that the senator isn't pressuring him to put party needs and re-election strategies above doing the right thing?

Have Domenici and Wilson joined with those who put party loyalty above fair play and the rule of law?

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
March 17, 2007