The controversy over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his staff reminds me of a classic lesson in political reality I experienced on an official trip while in Mexico to my favorite place,  Durango.   Durango is both a city and a state in Mexico.   Half a century ago the Mexicans rebuilt the main highway from Mexico City to Arizona and in doing so moved it about 50 miles east of Durango where until then it had traversed.   In doing so Durango was left off the “beaten track” and thus able to preserve the atmosphere of “Old Mexico” longer than other major cities.   I enjoyed going there to absorb the essence of Mexico where the men still wore hand tooled leather boots and sombreros, no not the Mariachi style black hats with silver trim, but the tightly woven straw sombreros that one still sees throughout Northern Mexico.   The women still went around in hand embroidered blouses and other traditional garb.

While most Americans do not know Durango they are familiar with it through the film business.   It has been a regular location for making films, especially westerns.   If you have seen the classic “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” you have seen Durango since the story takes place there and much of the film was made there.  John Wayne made so many films there he bought a ranch where he spent much of  his time.  In fact I always dined at a restaurant made to look like a movie set which featured a painting of the “Duke” over his favorite chair.  Real film buffs will remember the Hollywood stars Dolores del Rio and  Ramon Navarro who were from Durango.

The visit I refer to was to attend the annual “State of the State” speech by the Governor of Durango  as Christie will be doing today in New Jersey.  I took along one of my younger colleagues to give him some experience in doing political reporting.  The governor, who had been appointed to replace one who had been impeached and relieved of office,  was under a cloud.     Some weeks before then Pesident Salinas, on a visit to Durango, had been challenged in an open forum by a local labor leader.   A few days later the man disappeared and all thought the governor had had him whacked at the president’s order.   In the middle of probably the most boring speech I  have ever heard the governor stopped to announce a reward of several thousands of pesos for information leading to the missing man.   He continued with his enumeration of government achievements over the year with how many light bulbs replaced in public lighting sticking in my mind.   While he was droning on,  suddenly an aide came to the podium and placed a paper in front of the governor.   The governor  read the note,  looked up at the audience,  and dramatically proclaimed that the missing man had been found.   It seems he was in Los Angeles visiting family.  Thunderous applause greeted this masterpiece of  ”political theater” that proved the governor’s skill at this most ancient game.

After the speech my young colleague and I were in the line of notables to congratulate the governor and shake his hand.   I was behind my colleague when while shaking the governor’s hand asked him,  ”Mr Governor, I hear many stories that you give government contracts to your friends.”  Without missing a beat and in another brilliant display of political acumen, the governor replied,  ”Should I give them to my enemies?”   Afterwards I asked my young friend if he had learned a lesson.

I suspect that Christie is more than a match for my Mexican governor friend.   And I am sure he will turn the controversy to his advantage.