Manchester, NH: According to the NH Hampshire Union Leader’s political reporter John DiStaso, Gov Bill Richardson (D-NM) has given the first in the nation primary his unequivocal I got-your-back assurances, even vowing to buck party dictates on participating in the primary if (when) Sec’y of State Bill Gardener moves it up to Thanksgiving week. If NH goes down, Bill Richardson is going with us.
Richardson Hangs Tough for NH Primary
But he doesn’t get any extra points for this – unwavering loyalty to NH and its franchise is a requirement, the equivalent of a tax pledge. And those who don’t toe the line will be punished. So he’s passed the first test.
Richardson isn’t a candidate yet; depending on how the early fundraising goes, he’s very likely to be.
The New Mexico governor was in town raising money at a Teamsters hall for a state senate candidate. Which is what presidential candidates do – help the base move forward, and then count on their good will when they need it.
"I have tremendous respect for New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary. It's a great test for candidates. It's grassroots. New Hampshire is the epicenter of Presidential politics," Richardson said.
If he runs, he said, "I will be here and I will campaign."
Richardson also said New Hampshire should not be threatened by Nevada.
"It's a small state. It has a large Hispanic population. But it's not a primary. It's a caucus," he said. According to him, candidates won't even get a bounce out of Nevada.
"The emphasis of the country, the national press, the electorate, is going to be on New Hampshire," he said.
This was an important point for Richardson to make, because while he plans to campaign in NH regardless of what the DNC says, he no doubt also envisions a vigorous contest in NV, where he’s a regional favorite, and has a good chance of winning.
I find Richardson interesting for the same reason everybody in NH is motivated by presidential candidates – I‘ve seen him up close, and had a nodding, sub-literal, demi-interaction with him.
A few years ago I was in the airport in Zurich, roaming around, waiting for a night flight to Africa, when who do I see lumbering up the concourse carrying a stew-bum’s suitcase, his raincoat dragging on the floor, but Bill Richardson. He was clearly coming from far way.
I recognized him because I covered him on Capitol Hill when I was reporter. He was the chairman of some god-awful House Banking subcommittee, and I had to sit through his hearings. He was as interesting as banking can accommodate, and always produced something substantive and newsworthy each time the committee met. But I liked him because his tie usually looked as if somebody tried to garrote him with it in the cloak room, and no matter how long my hair got, his was always longer.
He’s big – much bigger than Bill Clinton it seems – and a genuinely friendly presence, a kind and helpful teacher/coach sort. He also has a reputation for smearing people’s eyeglasses with mayonnaise, and poking them to make them scream at the most inappropriate moments; these are things I’ve done myself – so what?
“Long day, Governor?” I asked as we passed.
As nauseatingly Jimmy Carter as this sounds, I liked that he was carrying his own bag. No entourage, not even a lackey to answer the Blackberry and pour the mescal.
My guess was that he’d been in Korea, and was on his way home. Finishing one job, returning to a completely different one – performing at the highest level without fanfare or ego.
He’s renowned for his diplomatic skills and popular with both parties as a special envoy; he helped secure the release of two US aerospace workers in Iraq in 1995, has been our quasi-official man in Havana, and has served as a diplomatic unofficial to Pyongyang for both the Clinton and Bush2 administrations. His special abilities earned him the UN Ambassador’s job at the UN under Bill Clinton when Madeline Albright became Sec’y of State.
That day in Switzerland, if I was correct, he took a commercial flight from Seoul to Zurich, and still had the LA and Santa Fe legs ahead of him. When I spoke to him he looked up and half-smiled, as if to say: Yes, hi, I’m exhausted, please leave me alone.
So I did, but I’d have liked to talk to him. There isn’t anybody in the field of 2008 potential Democratic presidential candidates who has Bill Richardson’s breadth of knowledge and experience – foreign policy, energy policy, domestic policy, immigration, and lots of executive and legislative experience to make it all happen. He’s a multi-lingual, multi-talented, multi-tasker – the full 21st century presidential monty. And how would smart and competent feel after eight years of clueless and imperious? Like a shower after a hot, sticky day at the beach.
In last Saturday’s rebuttal to the President’s radio address, among other things, Richardson said: “We are Democrats and we stand for diplomacy NOT threats; bridges NOT walls; alliances NOT isolation.”
Those are important distinctions to make, essential markers for a liberal democracy to follow, and the kinds of positions we should encourage in all our presidential candidates.
Richardson also advocates for a Kyoto-style global warming policy, reducing US foreign oil dependence from 65% to 20% by 2015, concentrating our war efforts on international jihadism, instead of getting mired deeper in Iraqi internecine fighting; he’ll close Gitmo, end warrantless wiretaps, and unlike the current administration, generally follow the law. Talk about “Morning in America.”
Richardson will also refocus US foreign policy in Latin America, where regional alliances, so-called free trade, and immigration policies have gone off the tracks under Bush2. Richardson’s father was Nicaraguan, his mother Mexican – two of my favorite countries on the planet, especially Nicaragua – and so relations with Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, and maybe even Cuba, can only improve.
He’ll be needled about the Wen Ho Lee fiasco at Los Alamos. After Lee was exonerated for espionage, he sued, and Richardson is named as the source that leaked his name to the press. The Governor needs some convincing patter on this, or it might become a problem. But politically, the current Lee snafu is much better than the original story that broke, which had Chinese agents running Los Alamos.
If he doesn’t do anything else untoward, like standing in as one of Fidel Castro’s pallbearers, then Richardson will be a force to reckon with in IA, NH, and NV – whatever order they come in. His background and mix of progressive and moderate positions will serve him well in the frontloaded schedule down south, through the midwest, and back out west where’s he’s from. He stacks up extremely well against the likely field of candidates. And history shows that governors get elected president over senators in such startling numbers that if you discount their venal motives, it’s hard to believe senators bother running at all.
Also see: Bill Richardson