Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

I never thought I’d be pleased to see Maurice Emmer’s name in the paper.

I see his name a lot, that’s for sure – and every time I see it I can be pretty certain I am going to really dislike what he has to say.

Monsieur Maurice (yes, that’s right, I’m making fun of his Frenchified name – more on that later) and I disagree on just about everything – everything to do with Aspen (except that, you know, it’s a great place) and probably just about everything else too.

To go on just a moment longer in this negative vein, when reading a letter to the editor, I tend to skip to the end and see who wrote it before I read it. And Maurice Emmer is one of the signatures that usually inspires me to find something else to read.

Forgive me, Maurice, but I feel as if I almost always know exactly what you’re going to say. I salute your right to say it – and my right to skip it. (Unless, as Steve Miller suggested in “The Joker,” anyone named Maurice is apt to “speak of the pompatus of love.” If you’re talking pompatus, Maurice, I’m all ears – hoping you’ll explain what “pompatus” might mean.)

OK. So now that I’ve made it clear that I consider Monsieur Emmer (yes, cheap shot again) a blot on the Aspen political scene, it’s time for me to say that I was delighted to see him announce his intention to run for mayor.

My delight was not – repeat, not – the result of my pleasure at being able to use the cheap shots I’ve been saving up all these many months.

I am delighted because the fiercest government critics in Aspen most often stand back from the fray, lobbing brickbats and hand grenades and then scurrying away to safety.

(And, yes, I realize I have just perfectly described a newspaper columnist – such as, for example, me. Just for the record, the difference, I would hope, is that I try to be more widely irresponsible and offensive. Although my politics are probably clear, I have often pointed out when, for example, Mayor Mick Ireland is being an incredible jerk. My goal is to attack those on all sides of the political spectrum with almost equal ignorance.)

Anyway – whew! – I think it really is an excellent development when those who have made it clear that they know all the answers are willing to step up and campaign for office.

To their own benefit, win or lose, they get a grand public forum to make themselves heard. To the citizens’ benefit, they get a chance to cast their vote and make their feelings clear on those candidates’ messages. And, of course, to the newspaper columnists’ benefit, we get to make fun of them.

And frankly, the mockery is an important part of the process. As long, I should add, as the mockery doesn’t get too nasty.

A candidate’s reaction to being mocked can provide a good indication of how he or she will handle the pressures and responsibilities of being in office.

I have frequently made fun of politicians whom I liked personally and generally agreed with politically, simply because I felt they really needed a good dose of mockery at the time.

We give politicians too much power over our lives – the least we can get in return is the right to mock them when necessary.

So if Emmer were to be elected mayor (which I would consider an unadulterated disaster for the town), he could expect not just my crude mockery but all the standard Aspen political brickbats.

From “Sick of Mick,” we might go to … hmmm … “Emmer’s a bummer”? Yuk. “Fleeced by Maurice”? Yuk again.

It would seem that when it comes to the poetical political rhetorical assault, the Emmer forces will enjoy the same advantage of those who (to delve way back in history) shouted “I like Ike” in the cheerful knowledge that the opposing Stevenson fans could never find anything catchy that rhymed with “Adlai.”

Similarly, Mayor Emmer (just writing that gives me the willies) would presumably be exempt from classification as a Frenchified cheese-eating surrender monkey (in the immortal words of Bart Simpson), despite his first name – because attacks based on apparent French-ness are the province of the right-wing forces. And Monsieur Maurice is, I think, solidly on the right-hand end of the spectrum.

Well, whatever the brickbats might be and whoever might be throwing them, my point is that I salute Emmer for his willingness to actually stand up and be counted.

And mocked.

But there’s an even more serious issue here.

Emmer has, in his endless public writings to date, been quite clear about where he stands. And, assuming he continues to follow that approach in his mayoral campaign, it will provide a very clear-cut opportunity for Aspen to express its electoral opinions on one side of a clear political choice.

No equivocating or skulking around for Candidate Emmer.

But that raises the distinct danger that no one of similarly clear and coherent positions will emerge on the other side of the contest.

Say what you will about Ireland (and I know you will) – at least he has always made his beliefs and positions very, very clear.

When you voted for Mick, you knew what you were getting.

The other announced candidates so far are more like standard politicians (perhaps not surprising: They’re all current City Council incumbents); battered by brickbats and bumbershoots they shrink from the kind of clear, flat statements that arouse the attackers – and educate the voters.

So while I do welcome Emmer to the campaign, now I find myself hoping for someone equally straightforward on the opposite end of the spectrum. We don’t want mealy-mouthed mumblers splitting the vote.

Someone recently suggested that Bob Braudis might be considering a run for the job.

Bob versus Maurice.

Now that’s a contest I would dearly love to watch.

Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is