On Wednesday, Mother Jones — the publication that first revealed the secretly recorded Mitt Romney "47 percent" video — published a piece attacking New Mexico Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Like the Romney story, the article was based in part on recordings "obtained by Mother Jones." It described Martinez, a rising GOP star who some believe could end up on a future presidential ticket, as "nasty" and "petty" and "juvenile" and "vindictive," as well as "ignorant about basic policy issues," and — perhaps worst of all in Mother Jones World — the "next Sarah Palin."
Much of the article was devoted to anecdotes from Martinez's winning 2010 campaign for governor. (It might not be entirely coincidental that the story appeared as Martinez is gearing up her 2014 re-election campaign.) The article included quotes from recordings of three conversations and conference calls made during the '10 campaign in which Martinez was heard speaking. In two of those instances, Mother Jones shaped her words in the article to shade their meaning against Martinez. And in the third, Martinez was heard calling her opponent a "b----," which Mother Jones apparently found somewhat momentous.
In the first conversation, a 29-second excerpt about education, Mother Jones reported that in a talk with staff, Martinez "implied teachers earned too much." Mother Jones described the conversation this way:
In private, Martinez implied teachers earned too much: "During the campaign, we can't say it, I guess, because it's education, but … they already don't work, you know, two and a half months out of the year."
To its credit, Mother Jones included the actual 29 seconds of audio alongside the article. In that snippet, Martinez said just a bit more than was included in the article:
During the campaign, we can't say it, I guess, because it's education, but I really keep going back to that, you know, keeping the teachers from feeling the pain when they already don't work, you know, two and a half months out of the year, three months out of the year, but earn salaries at the same rate as people who do work 12 months a year.
Looking at Martinez's full statement — or at least the 29 seconds that were included on the Mother Jones website — it appears her point was not that teachers earned too much but that there was a fairness issue in not differentiating between teachers, who do not work all year, and other workers who do.
In another snippet, one minute and 16 seconds long, Mother Jones reported that Martinez discussed something called the New Mexico State Commission on the Status of Women. "What the hell is that?" Martinez said. "What the hell does a commission on women's cabinet do all day long?"
In the fuller recording — still just brief excerpt — Martinez told her staff that she had recently met a woman from the commission, and the woman explained that hers was a cabinet-level position. Martinez wondered why such an entity would be part of the governor's cabinet.
"I think she said she was in a cabinet position," Martinez said, sounding a little befuddled. When an aide explained that an earlier governor had elevated the job to cabinet level, Martinez asked, "What the hell is that?"
"I just don't know what they do," Martinez continued. "I understand that we have ten cabinet positions, more than the federal government, but some of these seem to be in name only. I don't get — what the hell does a position on women's cabinet do all day long?"
In the longer version, Martinez seemed amazed not that such a commission existed — apparently the point that Mother Jones wanted to convey — but that it was part of the New Mexico governor's cabinet. Her questions seem entirely reasonable.
Finally, in a 5-second — yes, 5-second — excerpt, Martinez was heard saying of her opponent, "I'm so tired of that little b---- calling me a liar." It's not clear why Mother Jones showcased that snippet other than to hear the governor saying "b----."
As for the two other recordings included in the article — they feature the words of Martinez aides, not the governor herself.
After the story came out, Martinez's campaign released a statement defending her engagement in and knowledge of policy issues. The statement also focused, in part, on some emails that were quoted in the story -- nothing much there, either -- that had become public through the actions of a leaker who ended up under indictment for allegedly possessing child pornography. The message: This is a pretty sordid operation. Here is the Martinez campaign statement:
Today, an extreme left-wing blog posted four-year-old material from private conversations undoubtedly sent to them by individuals or their allies who are either under federal indictment, or have had their homes raided by the FBI for their role in stealing or distributing Gov. Susana Martinez's email. That the national Left is trying to smear the first Hispanic woman governor in American history because they view her as a threat is about as surprising as the National Enquirer reporting that Elvis is still alive.
Yes, the governor used salty language in a private conversation four years ago with close advisers and will pay the appropriate penalty to the cuss jar. Martinez will not be distracted by cheap political attacks and will remain focused on continuing to move New Mexico forward.
In the end, did the Mother Jones story tell us much of anything about Susana Martinez? Well, it showed Martinez probably does make pretty large deposits in the cuss jar. Beyond that, it seems unlikely to have much of any effect on the governor of New Mexico or her future.