Attacking the Person Instead of the Issue

Author: Gerry Mangrum

On Veteran’s Day 2002 the stature of veteran’s in El Paso was diminished at the hands of the Mayor and a local morning radio talk show host, Paul Strelzin.

I wrote a letter to the editor of the El Paso Times which was published on November 7th discussing a poll the El Paso times published a few days earlier concerning the Mayor’s popularity. In my letter I pointed to a number of facts that argued the point of why the Mayor’s popularity dropped since last spring. I organized my letter to make my point in a bullet format and also argued the Mayor has played a significant role in dividing the community by his inability to effectively communicate and implement steps to make his vision a reality.

Coincidentally, the Times also ran and opposing viewpoint letter directly after my letter in the same exact bullet format arguing the Mayor was the best thing El Paso has going for it. This coincidence raised some suspicions on the truthfulness of the opposing letter or existence of the author. I have no evidence to suggest this is the case, however that discussion took place on the Greg Freyermuth show on November 8th but was not discussed fully due to a more important national news story and a Presidential address.

Ok, end of story….or so I thought!

Then on November 11th, Veteran’s Day; Paul Strelzin with the Mayor as guest referred to the two letters. Mr. Strelzin read both letters and then proceeded to personally attack my reputation in regard to telling the truth, my true motives for writing the letter, and being a out of touch rich Westsider. The Mayor then asked the question, “What has Mr. Mangrum built”, inferring that I do not contribute to El Paso in the same degree the as the Mayor so who am I to criticize.

They did not offer any substantial arguments to counter my points made in the letter, but instead commenced a personal attack. They made reference to my retiring from military service numerous times and therefore in reality were attacking me as a veteran to exercise my first amendment rights to disagree with the Mayor. One of my points was that the Mayor was guilty of discouraging public debate on issue counter to his agenda. This is an outstanding example of that.

I offer for your information a letter I wrote to Paul Strelzin conveying my displeasure with the comments, tone, and deception that occurred on his radio program on November 11, 2002.

Gerry Mangrum’s letter to Paul Strelzin November 11, 2002

Dear Mr. Strelzin,

I listened to your radio program early morning on November 11, 2002 where you read my letter to the editor to the El Paso Times November 7th edition. Mayor Caballero was your guest and you both took issue with my letter. Fair enough, for I am always ready and willing to debate the stand I take on the issues of the day. However, I am disappointed you took the opportunity to attack my integrity and motivation in an attempt to impugn my reputation for exercising my 1st amendment rights that I spent 24 years of my life defending as a retired Naval Officer.

You took great effort to tag me as a Republican. I personally told you on numerous occasions that I am not registered for any political party. For the record I agree with the Republican fiscal policies and agree with some of the Democratic policies on personal choices. So to label me a Republican at the outset when you knew full well to the contrary was a deliberate deception to place me in an unfair light with your listening audience.

You told your audience that I was not telling the truth when I wrote in my letter to the editor that I voted for the Mayor. I take offense to being called a liar. I told the Mayor in person on at least two occasions, once when I called your show when he was a guest, and told you when I appeared on your show September 25th that I voted for him. Again, to tell your audience that I was lying in my letter was an attempt to discredit my opinions to your listeners.

You gave the audience the impression that must be smoking “something” by saying that you didn’t know if I smoked or not, but I must have been against the non-smoking ordinance. For the record, I did not mention the non-smoking ordinance in my letter to the editor. I have never been a smoker. I think the non-smoking ordinance is a good idea and supported that issue and still do. But, to bring that up again was an attempt to place me in contempt in the minds of your listeners.

You gave the audience the impression that I was some well to do type of west side individual compared to the opposing view letter writer who lives on the east side. You made a point, with sarcasm, of me living off of my military retirement and my NJROTC school salary and that I don’t care for others in different circumstances. For the record, I am a 50% disabled retired veteran who earned every penny of my military pension. I work in one of El Paso’s poorest neighborhoods in the lower valley and deal with the poverty of that area on a daily basis by helping my students and parents try to realize their potential to break that cycle of poverty. To attempt to paint me with the broad brush stroke of an uncaring snob offends me greatly.

The mayor made an uncaring and thoughtless comment, “What has Mr. Mangrum built”. Please convey to the mayor this for me. I build citizenship, accountability, responsibility, and self worth in young people in the lower valley on a daily basis. I teach 200 kids per year and work to make them realize their dreams. Myself and my two colleagues routinely work well beyond the normal teacher work day and well beyond the contract days to provide a nationally recognized NJROTC program for the cadets, school, and community to be proud of. I have had at least six cadets achieve scholarship opportunities to service academies or universities as well as at least 20 cadets serving as active duty military members. Those kids are now on the way to self-sufficiency and not a burden on the El Paso taxpayers. Please tell the mayor while he was a person of privilege attending private schools and Harvard University, I was scratching out a college education and an advanced degree while serving as an active duty Marine and Sailor, raising a family, and paying my bills. Please tell the mayor while he was the attorney suing businesses here in El Paso, I was stationed overseas in the Philippines and Japan and placed my personal safety in jeopardy on numerous occasions all across the Far and Middle East to help ensure our freedom. “What has Mr. Mangrum built”, indeed. I will compare my building accomplishments with the mayor’s anytime.

I resent the tone of your discussion in regard to my letter of the editor attempting to make me seem as if I was some uninformed crackpot who is out of touch with reality and the issues. For the record, I hold a Masters in Public Administration served seven years in the USMC and sixteen years in the USN and worked my way from the enlisted ranks to retire as a Lieutenant Commander. I am a father of two and grandfather of two. I have been married for 28 years and my wife is a teacher and former Marine. My son just earned his Masters degree in education and is a teacher and my daughter just joined the Army. I am the Senior Naval Science Instructor at a NJROTC in a lower valley high school.  I am informed on the issues and far from being the crackpot you were trying to get listeners to believe.

I have been a guest on your show four times and we have been cordial and courteous to each other. When you were experiencing your terrible property tax evasion publicity I did not join those attacking you. But, when I write a letter to the editor expressing my heartfelt viewpoints you found it necessary to personally attack my motive and integrity in an attempt to degrade my reputation order to avoid the issues. I listened to your show in my vehicle while I was on my way to help with a yearly Cadet Leadership Academy at Fort Bliss and could not call in to defend myself. However, I feel that a conversation at that time would have deteriorated from a debate on the issues of my letter to a personal level serving no purpose.

I also find it very hypocritical of you that just minutes before you attacked me, you gave, what I thought, was a heartfelt appeal about what we owe our veterans on this Veteran’s Day. However, apparently that was just a façade because you had no problem attacking a Disabled Veteran for exercising his first amendment rights. As you know, I am the President of the El Paso Navy League Council 190, and I am also a member of the VFW Post 10354, American Legion Post 598, The Retired Officers Association, and Surface Navy Association. I was proud to list myself on you Veteran’s web site, but now I am ashamed to be associated with it. Please have your webmaster remove my name from your site, for I feel your commitment to El Paso’s Veterans is not what you say it is. I will also not accept any future invitations to appear on your program for I feel you are not a good example to expose my cadets to.

Finally, you will notice that I have never attacked you or the Mayor personally. I have only addressed issues of policy. You have now proven to me that you will sacrifice the truth to unfairly influence your audience to your viewpoint. In the spirit of disclosure and truthfulness I intend to post this letter on various web chat sites to inform the public in the most effective way I know. Perhaps a local newspaper also run this letter to further take advantage of informing as many of El Paso’s citizens as I can, just as you have at your disposal on a daily basis with the luxury of saying anything you desire on the radio.


Gerald Mangrum, Lieutenant Commander, USN (Retired)