Humble Abel

MAY 6, 2010

If you take just one fact, one conclusion from the following story, it should be this: that Abel Maldonado, the newly minted lieutenant governor for the state of California, is a humble man. I know this because he said so, and as we all know, only truly humble men tell us that they are humble.

“My fellow Californians, I stand before you today humbled, grateful and honored to serve you as your next lieutenant governor,” was how he began his May 4 inaugural address. The address ran 2,718 words, but he couldn’t utter 10 words before saying “humble.” That tells you something.

I think it’s important to remember that Maldonado is “humbled” by the experience of being appointed, and, eventually, approved to be lieutenant governor, which probably isn’t even in the top 10 list of most powerful state offices because the 2,709 words in his speech that follow “humbled” are, well, slightly less than humble. They are, in the main, immodest, self-serving, grandiose, grand-standing and hubristic.

One example: “The time is now,” he said at one point. “It is time for leaders who know business, not for career politicians who have never created a job in their life. And I promise you this, I will be part of the job creating revolution.”

He, Maldonado, who a week ago was still just a lowly back-bencher senator from Santa Maria, will do this. For us. Because he is a “leader” and not a “career politician.”

But Maldonado is a humble man, remember. In his grand inaugural address he, like all “leaders,” had to tie himself to a big leader in the past. Someone big, but not too big that he seems draw attention away from Maldonado’s humble nature. Someone unimpeachable and yet still… humble himself.

“We must look to leaders like Ronald Reagan, Hiram Johnson, Earl Warren, and for me in particular, Romualdo Pacheco,” Maldonado said.

Yes, Romualdo Pacheco indeed.

Pacheco was, until Maldonado, California’s only Republican Latino lieutenant governor. He actually got himself appointed to be governor, but held the job for less than a year. Then again, that was back in Civil War times, so Maldonado’s betting that things hopefully have changed since then.

Pacheco is an obscure example (I had to consult Wikipedia to find out about him) but that’s OK because Maldonado is an obscure figure with an obscure job. There is also every chance that in six weeks Republican primary voters will make him an instant lame duck.

Despite that threat – or perhaps because of it – Maldonado is eager to tell us how he’ll tell us what to do. “I’ll never ask anyone to compromise on their principles,” he says. “But I will demand that people come to the table with principled compromises.”

Sigh.

“I will be a communicator,” he tells us later. “I will be a salesman for California. I will not rest until we see businesses investing, expanding, and hiring more workers in this state.”

A salesman – his word, not mine. One who will not rest until every last one of us is working at our full potential.

But according to Maldonado, the solution to our state’s difficulties isn’t at all difficult. That’s because all we need is an “economic recovery” and then everything will work itself out.

“These can’t just be buzz words,” Maldonado then warned. “They have to reflect a set of real-life, reasonable, pragmatic and tangible solutions. Podium politicians and platitudes and campaign promises will never get us back to work.”

Of course, Maldonado himself never uses “platitudes” in his speeches. So what will get us back to work?. “Create jobs,” Maldonado tells us in the very next paragraph right before regurgitating his boss’ favorite buzz words. “Jobs, jobs, jobs! It is the first domino we have to knock over to get everything else into place.”

Did I mention he calls himself a salesman? Clearly, Maldonado has much to be humble about.

-Anthony Pignataro

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