Ooooo, Noooo. Has this Jim Patterson/Sarah Christie dust-up gone off into the ditch? Or has the Tribune? Its headlines Dec 23: “Ex-Commissioner says she was betrayed.” Really? Betrayed? Then can someone tell me why the word “betrayed” in quotation marks of a proper direct quote by Christie is to be found nowhere in Bob Cuddy’s story? What Cuddy wrote is, “Former Planning Commissioner Sarah Christie says the man who appointed her, supervisor Jim Patterson, betrayed her in a ‘muscular act of political disloyalty’ and has created a rift in the North County environmental movement.” So, “muscular act of political disloyalty” appears inside quotation marks, but not the word “betrayed.”
So, did Christy use that word? Or did reporter Bob Cuddy?
I ask because the word “betrayed” is the language of lovers, the language of the deeply personal, a gender skewed, sexual harass-y word that carries with it the whiff of gender and power dimorphism. It’s the word used by the helpless weeping woman singing the blues: “I Gave Him The Best Years Of My Life And He Done Betrayed Me and Run Off With That Awful Woman From Trenton, New Jersey, Boo-Hoo, Twang-twang-twang.”
So, No, No, No, wrong word. In the game of muscular public power politics, a better choice would be, “He Done Double-Crossed Me, That Sneaky, Down Low No-Good Varmint!”
Over at the New Times, Colin Rigley interviewed Christy at her home and notes that “She has some collection of folksy music playing and occasionally jumps up to fiddle with the stereo or put in a new CD when the music stops. When she walks back, she sways her hips slightly in little dances and when she sits back down, she sometimes sings along for a word or two,” all apparently critical information the reader needs to know, especially the slightly dancing hips thing. Apparently that highly telling detail about swinging hips was included because it helps the reader to understand the larger philosophical ramifications of her work on the Planning Commission.
But while Rigley’s interview included swaying hips, the word “betrayal” didn’t appear once. Christie was quoted as saying, ‘As you know, I’m a former reporter, and in all the years I did that work, I developed the ability to remember words clearly because you don’t always have the ability to take notes. And I remember very clearly what he said to me, and what he said to me was this: ‘I am done with you, I am so done with you. I have been defending you since the day I appointed you, and I can’t defend you anymore because at this point I agree with the people who are criticizing you.’ And that is verbatim. And as I said last night, I don’t know what that means because I haven’t changed. I mean, I hope I have grown in the job, but in terms of my values and my priorities, I have been completely consistent, regardless of what side of the vote I was on . . . I have never ever voted against those values. I haven’t changed. Begs the question: Who’s changed? What’s changed?”
There were lots of words in that interview but not once did the word “betray” appear.
But “I am done with you,” returns us deliciously to the realm of the language of love, as in, “Ah Married Yew And Now Yew Ran Off With That Guy From Trenton, New Jersey, So Ah Am Done With Yew, Lady Mine, Twang-twang-twang.”
A few pages over on the Opinion page, Jack McCurdy, former reporter for the L.A. Times and the California correspondent for the Chronicle of Higher Education, and bete noir to Morro Bay’s power plant expansion plans is holding forth, noting, “The planning commissioners do not bask in the political limelight, as do elected officials: Relatively few county residents witnessed Christie in action in that setting and therefore can’t really comprehend the severity of losing her. Those of us who have worked alongside her, been taught the art of activism by her and have witnessed her amazing capability and resulting accomplishment for the environment and the public interest, do understand.”
He further notes, “ . . . I believe strength is her greatest quality: strength stemming from her intellect, skills, and long experience in public affairs and environmental protection. She is always respectful and considerate of others in a straightforward manner. Her detractors have disparaged her as being abrasive because she cannot be bridled and/or simply because she’s a strong woman. And she is no doubt annoying to those who want their economic power to prevail, the very ones who targeted her.” . . . “Those interests know full well the Board of Supervisors can and sometimes has countermanded Planning Commission recommendations and actions. But they also know that when the supervisors override commission findings, they frequently are held accountable by well-informed government watchers, including New Times alone among the community media.”
And so forth. Yet nowhere in McCurdy’s piece does the word “betray” or “betrayed”. So, who used that word: Christie or Cuddy?
Meantime, here’s a piece of Sage Advice For The Clueless from Mother Calhoun To Avoid Dumb Moves in the future:
If you are an elected official and you appoint someone to a Commission or Board and they turn into a political (to you) liability, under no circumstances do you do what Patterson did – dump ‘em in the middle of the road for no discernable reason.
This county is constantly engaged in a soap opera neck and neck race between venality and stupidity and dumping demonstrably competent, highly knowledgeable Commissioners is a two-for-one losing bet all ‘round.
Instead, if your term will be up soon (and you’ll be running for office again) both of you will appear at a press conference standing on the steps outside the County government center. You will play the loving couple. Both of you will be smiling with such gleaming white teeth that the reporters will have to put on their sunglasses if they wish to avoid being blinded from the dazzle. You will announce that your Commissioner’s previously agreed-upon 4-year term of service will expire with your term and your Commissioner is anxious to move onto to other projects. You will express feelings of profound loss at losing so wonderful a Commissioner, praise his/her service in glowing terms usually reserved for saints and crowned heads of Europe, thank him/her profusely for his/her service, announce your upcoming election and if you have a new replacement in mind, announce your choice then. Your former Commissioner will then tell the world what a wonderful guy you are, how honored he/she was to serve the greater public good, and declare that his/her replacement will serve the public splendidly.
Sure, both of you will be lying through your teeth, but dead bodies in the street or knives flashing in the hot sun in front of a gaggle of reporters should NOT be part of the Official Public Kabuki Theatre Performance Piece you are required (if you’re smart) to engage in. And sure, the Public --wink-nudge—will read between the political lines and know what’s really going on and vote accordingly. But a properly timed and performed announcement will provide a plausible cover story for everyone that will avoid public humiliation, serious questions about cronyism or political opportunism or political pressure or your lack of sense. You will both save face, and the word “betray” will not need to appear in the headlines.
Even if it is only a word made up by the reporter or headline writer.