Last night, I finished reading Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, All the King’s Men. This novel, and the 1949 movie which followed, were inspired by the rise and abuse of power of Louisiana Governor Huey Long.
As I read, I was startled by the similarities between the fictional character, Governor Willie Stark, and our very own Governor Bill Richardson. Just so you don’t think this a result of personal bias, I’ll give you a few examples that you can judge for yourself. First, consider this conversation between Willie Stark and a political appointee:
He held out the sheet to the Boss [Stark], who read it, folded it, tossed it over the foot of the bed near which he sat. “Yeah,” he said, “I’ll fill in the date when I need to. If I need to. It all depends on you. But you know, Byram — why I didn’t get one of those undated resignations from you from the start I don’t know. I got a stack of ’em.
Eerily familiar (subscription) isn’t it. I’ll bet you Governor Richardson accumulated an even larger stack of signed, undated resignations than Willie Stark.
Ok, still not convinced. Well, then how about this tidbit of information. The novel is narrated by character Jack Burden, a reporter, who ends up on the Governor’s payroll in this passage:
“Want a job?” [Stark] asked.
“I’d consider a proposition.”
“Three hundred a month,” he said, “and traveling expenses. When you travel.”
“Who do I work for? The state?”
“Hell, no. Me”
After Jack gets on the government payroll to work, not for the state, but for the Governor, he becomes an incredible asset in helping Stark achieve his goals through manipulation. Well, if one reporter on the payroll is good, think what the platoon of reporters (subscription) on Governor Richardson’s payroll is accomplishing.
Now, I don’t want this post to go on forever. I could come up with many more similarities between Governor Richardson and the fictitious Governor Stark, but I’ll leave you with this excerpt from the novel:
“Can’t you understand either? I’m building that place, the best in the country, the best in the world, and a bugger like Tiny is not going to mess with it, and I’m going to name it the Willie Stark Hospital and it will be there for a long time after I’m dead and gone and you are dead and gone….”
That did it for me. See the November news was still fresh in my mind. You know, the decision by the University of New Mexico Board of Regents to unanimously name the new UNM Children’s Hospital and Critical Care Pavilion in honor of the Governor and Mrs. Richardson. Apparently, unlike the characters in the novel, the New Mexico Board of Regents could understand the Governor’s wishes.