The Basement Tapes

For Linda Chavez, the devil was in the details.

And Chavez had more strong words on Tuesday. She alternately blamed the media (forgetting that she's a member of that august group), the FBI, a Democratic lawyer and "search-and-destroy" politics for her fall. (Why not just lump them into one vast left-wing conspiracy and be done with it?) She was blaming anyone but herself.

But she'd dug her own hole. The devil was in the details.

"It's an insult that she was presented as a representative of us," says Tony Garcia, a teacher of Chicano studies at Metro State College and artistic director of El Centro Su Teatro. "There's no new ideology that Linda Chavez is advancing -- any more than Ken Hamblin is," he adds, referring to another right-leaning Colorado export, the self-professed Black Avenger. "You can be much more successful as a conservative person of color than a progressive person of color. The system is going to be a lot happier with you if you're supporting it."

Garcia is the author of La Carpa Aztlan Presents "I Don't Speak English Only," Su Teatro's most successful production. "The whole thing started in 1988 or 1989, when Colorado became an Official English state," he remembers. "I thought the opposition was tepid, at best. What they were attacking was the whole concept of multiculturalism." So he wrote a play that takes place in the future, when any foreign language is illegal -- and the characters break the law by speaking Spanish.

Chavez wasn't the only inspiration behind the play. Parts quoting Pat Buchanan verbatim were often criticized as too stereotypical, since "nobody could be that racist," Garcia remembers critics saying.

Unlike Buchanan, however, Chavez devoted much of her career to attacking her own people. "It's self-loathing," Garcia says.

And it's an old, old story.

On Tuesday, it was Linda Chavez's turn to get swallowed up -- not by search-and-destroy politics, but by the very devils she'd let loose.

With Linda Chavez out, Colorado still has a chance to contribute a woman to the Bush Cabinet: Gale Norton's confirmation hearing is scheduled for January 18. And while Norton was a surprise choice to head the Department of the Interior (from Colorado's insular altitude, Ben Nighthorse Campbell had seemed destined to ride his Harley right into the White House), her background is unlikely to hold the sort of surprises that could scuttle her nomination before it reaches the Senate. No skeletons in her closet (although she was once a Libertarian), no Guatemalan in her Highlands Ranch basement: just a law office full of opinions and legal actions that give environmentalists fits.

Although many of those opinions are certain to get a thorough airing next Thursday, Norton's more recent work here at home may not. After her eight-year stint as Colorado attorney general ended in 1998, she signed on with the infamous firm of Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber: Her clients there included Black Hawk -- when the good folks of that burg aren't using all their gaming proceeds to fix up the same Victorian houses that got fixed up last year, they're scraping off more mountains so that ever bigger gambling establishments will generate ever more proceeds -- and the Colorado Civil Justice League. That's the outfit trying to introduce tort reform in Colorado, whether it needs it or not. (It doesn't.)

Wait -- Norton may have a stiff in the armoir after all: Jake Jabs is the league's president.

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