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Good Gaddi Almighty (Full Story)
Good Gaddi Almighty (Full Story)
Good Gaddi Almighty
A Leftist comments on the most recent Latino presidential appointee
by Gustavo Arrellano - Web Published 8.1.2001 - - - - -
Forgive me if I still feel woozy from all the attention the Bush administration has been paying towards Latinos.
The last time Republicans paid so much attention to us, Pete Wilson was banging the brown drum for his various political soirees and Bob Dornan was screaming bloody murder over Hermandad Mexicana Nacional's supposed 1996 ballot box for Loretta S?nchez.
Bush's latest attempt to bring back Latinos to our supposed "traditional" conservative roots is the nomination of Southern California Edison executive and Orange resident Gaddi Vasquez as director of the Peace Corps.
But should Latinos embrace a man that belongs to one of the scariest sub-species on earth -- the Latino Republican from Orange County? Of course we should; Mr. Vasquez is an honorable man who will no doubt do an excellent job if confirmed.
At the same time, though, we must be aware of how his nomination reveals the corrupt nature of our political system and the particular role Vasquez' nomination plays in the ongoing battle for the Latino electorate.
Vasquez was destined to be the Latino Condaleeza Rice until his political career took some interesting turns. He began his political ascendancy by serving as the executive assistant to an Orange County supervisor from 1980-84. After that, then-governor George Deukmejian appointed Vasquez to various positions, such as the governor's Latino liaison and chief deputy appointments secretary from 1985 to 1987 before appointing Vasquez to a vacant Orange County Board of Supervisors seat in 1987.
Vasquez won his first election as supervisor in 1988, at the time making him the highest-ranking elected Latino Republican in California at the tender age of 33.
That same year, he rose to national prominence during the Republican National Convention by delivering fiery speeches preaching the good of Reagan and the conservative way. It did not hurt him that he was one of the few precious brown faces at a time when the GOP was still somewhat appealing to Latinos.
Afterwards, Vasquez served on two White House commissions under the first Bush administration and was re-elected in 1992 to the Orange County Board of Supervisors seat. Republicans were licking their chops and predicting great things for Vasquez.
Then came the deluge.
In 1994, Orange County officially declared bankruptcy due to risky investments that went horribly wrong. Amid the turmoil and loss of $1.64 billion that devastated Orange County's infrastructure for years, Vasquez was named chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
What should have been the crowning achievement in his young career instead became a nightmare that included racial slurs, hate mail and even bomb threats. He stepped down in late 1995 before his term ended and ahead of both a recall campaign and a 1996 grand jury investigation (Vasquez was never convicted of any wrongdoing).
After the bankruptcy, Vasquez joined Southern California Edison, where he continues to serve as division vice president of public affairs.
Vasquez' resume is lengthy and impressive and so is his passion towards the Latino community (he recently was a participant in the acclaimed documentary "The Mexican-Americans" and was present for Vicente Fox's inauguration). But how and why he was appointed to head the Peace Corps troubles me.
Although Vasquez is active in the community (serving on Gov. Gray Davis' Diversity Task Force, for instance) his biggest commitment is to his political party and to recruit Latinos to the GOP. In this past election cycle, Vasquez served on the California steering committee for Bush's presidential campaign and also contributed $100,000 to the Republican National Committee from money left over from his old supervisory campaigns.
Latino outreach was among his focuses for the Bush campaign, and probably helped him win the president's attention when considering appointments, being that we're the demographic darlings of everyone right now.
Vasquez has proven to be a true Republican and all his efforts for his party has "earned" him his nomination, even though he has no formal experience with the Peace Corps.
The nomination process for important government positions nowadays seems to be based not so much on qualifications but rather on how much someone has contributed towards a particular campaign and Vasquez' case is no exception. Most troubling for anyone with a memory is that Bush and Co. have in Vasquez a Latino Republican who is comfortable with his party's record towards Latinos in the anti-immigrant wars that started in Vasquez' home county and exploited by Republicans back when it was feasible.
By appointing Vasquez, Republicans can finally show to all Latinos, but especially those in Orange County, "Look, here's one of your own! He doesn't have a problem with us even though we demonized your community no more than six years ago. So why should you?"
In this context, Vasquez' nomination seems more a shrewd political move by Bush to capture more of our precious votes than actually hiring the most capable person for the job.
My concerns are not partisan since I am not affiliated with any political party. Instead, I view the Vasquez nomination as yet another example of a blight that attacks the very foundation of democracy (the reward system for positions rather than one based on merit) and the continued use of Latinos as pawns in a game of political chess.
While we should rejoice that one of our own has been nominated to such a prestigious position, we must also see the opportunism involved in using Latinos such as Vasquez for Republicans' latest attack in the war against the Democrats for our political souls.
Gustavo Arellano is a graduate student at UCLA and a contributing writer to OC Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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