Domenici shopping for compromise

By Ned Cantwell: State Columnist

So I wrote this column about lap dancing and how a couple of young guys ran up a $2,500 bill in one night at the Fantasy Club in Albuquerque and how that isn’t very fair and how Sen. Pete Domenici ought to do something about the soaring price of lap dancing.

I thought it was pretty funny.

Pete Domenici didn’t think it was all that funny. Pete Domenici called me. It wasn’t the first time. Years ago, after he had been out hunting with Mayor Bob Forrest and his buddies in Carlsbad, the senator called me late one evening about a column. “I always thought you were one of the good guys,” he said. Oh, oh. Past tense.

The recent call got off to a tamer start. “How’s the lap dance king?” he wondered.

The senator made it crystal clear upfront that he didn’t give a whit about my lap dancing foolishness, but bristled somewhat about another portion of the column that talked about his position on demanding carmakers sell vehicles that get more miles per gallon.

The column had pointed out that big, bad men need big, bad machines, and the government can just forget about taking away our Hummers and Suburbans. I thought that was pretty funny, too.

As one of the power players in a country whose spending is hemorrhaging, whose war machine sputters in Iraq, whose populace braces in anguish over soaring gas prices and anticipated inflated home heating prices, Pete Domenici is in no mood for levity.

“Look,” he said, “I don’t intend to take away anyone’s Suburban.” He emphasized, though, there is a finite supply of fuel in the world and the planet cannot continue to gobble it up without consequences.

He said that by striking a compromise, somewhat increased Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and increased production, especially encouraging those states with energy resources to cough them up, the crisis would be met. He said the strategy would allow those who want to drive Suburbans to drive Suburbans, and those who want to drive hybrids to drive hybrids.

Domenici’s stand on higher fuel standards goes against the Republican grain and is refreshing in that it is an example of a politician doing what he thinks best for the country despite party affiliation.

Republicans tend to be on the other side of the issue. To illustrate: A recent vote in the House of Representatives on a measure to raise fuel efficiency standards to an average of 33 miles per gallon by 2015 lost 254 to 177.

Supporters said the amendment would cut U.S. oil consumption by cars 10 percent a year. Opponents said it would cost jobs and force drivers into smaller, less-safe cars.

New Mexico’s vote? Democrat Tom Udall of Santa Fe voted for it. Republicans Heather Wilson of Albuquerque and Steve Pearce of Hobbs voted against it.

Pete Domenici has been a U.S. senator representing New Mexico only one year less than I have been a New Mexican, he having been elected in 1972. At 73 he still goes non-stop and has no intention of slacking off.

Among the causes he champions is the resurgence of the nuclear power industry in our country. Pete takes much of the credit. He has written a book on the subject and is sending me an autographed copy.

And you can’t borrow it.

Ned Cantwell is a syndicated New Mexico columnist who will be shopping for a hybrid. Contact him at: