Friday, December 15, 2006

The Problem with Bill Richardson (and a few other thoughts about 2008)

Russell Shaw at Huffington Post says that Democrats should quit talking about Senator Barack Obama for President in 2008, in spite of the senator's undeniable gifts as a compelling communicator with an interesting life story. Obama lacks executive experience and has just under two years of service in the US Senate. (I've made that argument myself.)

Instead, he suggests Dems would do well to nominate New Mexico Governor--and former Ambassador, Energy Secretary, and Congressman--Bill Richardson.

My reaction:
I think that Richardson is an interesting presidential prospect. As a governor, he certainly has a good chance of being elected if he is nominated. (Only Warren Harding and John Kennedy have moved directly from the Senate to the White House, whereas being a governor is a good way to get elected president.)

But I sense in Richardson a Gore-like need to impress you to the point of padding the resume. There's the famous (and now retracted) claim he made to have been drafted as a pitcher by the Cleveland Indians.

Yesterday, he announced that he was meeting with representatives of the North Korean government toward the goal of re-opening that country's dialog with the United States and the rest of the world. To his credit, apparently, Richardson contacted the State Department. But it would have been far better for him to have announced the meeting, if at all, after it had taken place. The premature announcement looks too much like a publicity stunt. If nothing comes of the meeting, Richardson is apt to look silly.

By all accounts, Richardson is a smart fellow. But he doesn't need to be in such a hurry to prove it to everybody. That can blow a candidacy to bits if one isn't careful.

I still think that the likeliest candidate to win the Dem nomination in 2008 is Indiana's Evan Bayh. While currently in the Senate, Bayh is a former governor.
Still, I don't think that Richardson can be completely discounted. I also wrote about him in a comment over at Rick Moore's blog.

Bottom Line: Democrats will be looking for the un-Gore and the un-Kerry to nominate in 2008. That means someone who isn't wooden and isn't philosophically predictable. That explains some of Obama's appeal. That, and the fact that he is a cipher on whom people can presently project whatever they want in a President. Once the senator began making high profile policy pronouncements, one would see that his support is three-thousand miles wide and a half-inch thick, insufficient rootage to make a serious go at the nomination.

Other Bottom Line: Hillary Clinton, in spite of the more moderate voting record she has developed in the Senate, is like Gore and Kerry in one important respect. She's a terribly wooden, robotic campaigner. This fact, along with her incredibly high negatives before a single vote is cast will, I believe, convince her to stay out of the 2008 race.

GOP Bottom Line: Republicans will be looking for an un-Bush. They'll do so in an attempt to break free of the negatives that have now encircled Mr. Bush. Several candidates can plausibly claim to be an un-Bush. But this post has run too long. So, that thought will have to wait until a later time.

None of these are statements about my candidate preferences, just my observations of the always interesting game of politics.

[UPDATE: Evan Bayh, who I still think would have been a formidable candidate in 2008, withdrew from the race after I wrote this piece. I'm not doing well with picking 'em because I originally thought Mark Warner was the likely 2008 nominee. Yowza!]

[THANK YOU TO: Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice for linking to this post.]


Anonymous said...

Good morning! First of all let me say, BEAUTIFUL blog. I am Cara from New Mexico, and I am a firm believer in Richardson for President. I want to say that I don't think he is "padding the resume", the baseball story first of all wasn't exactly false. He was being recruited to play, but his father stepped in and said, "no baseball, college!" I think people are making a distinction of semantics with the words recruited and drafted, and there may have been a technical poor words choice, but the story is still essentially true. Regardless, it is completely negated by Richardson's incredible tenure as governor, where he has cut real taxes for real people (and eliminated entirely sales taxes on food and medicine), spent money on social programs and attracting innovative industry like alternative energy plants and partnering with Richard Branson to create a Spaceport. His record of foriegn policy is unmatched, he is someone who believes in finding peaceful solutions to problems. He has, for this, received four nominations for the Nobel Prize for Peace. The guy is amazing.
He understands the complexities of the world, he sees the crisis unfolding with regard to oil and is determined to reduce our dependence on it, but recognizing that that is still just a bit in our future is capable of negotiating to keep the prices low.
He also has an electoral advantage over the others, if he passes the primary. His hard work as chair of the Democratic Governors Association has earned him some pretty big favors with 36 Governors, increased our standing in the electoral college, and while this is pretty cynical (but pragmatic nontheless) he is hispanic, and the hispanic vote is really coming into its own, especially in hard red states like Florida and Texas (can you imagine a blue Texas? That is exciting!)
I don't think you are going to see anyone on either ticket bring to the table what Richardson can, and I think that if the Democrats want to succeed, and this time they must, there is no way around it, we need to put forth the best, and I believe that man to be Richardson.

John Schroeder said...


I think Republicans will be looking for somebody to do Bush better, particularly domestically. Bush has alwasy been too moderate domestically.

Additionally, his backing down on Rumsfeld, etc will casue Republicans to reflect on how much he has done right as he moves towards undoing it.

Remember, Bush was the "moderate" Republican choice.

Mark Daniels said...

Well, LT, I think that Richardson is an able, articulate guy with an impressive resume, whatever one's politics.

But, the baseball draft story can't be dismissed by saying it "wasn't exactly false." Richardson's explanation of, "I thought I was drafted" is silly. Baseball players know when they've been drafted.

This story will only be a blip unless Richardson supporters or Richardson himself insist on saying his claim "wasn't exactly false." Even more damaging would be other stories indicating that he's so overeager to prove his qualifications that he overstates his case or overreaches, as in the North Korea discussions. In other words, if these two stoies prove to be an early harbinger of a Richardson penchant for resume-padding.

The pathetic thing is that Richardson doesn't need to pad his resume. The straight story is impressive enough.

I've long felt that Bill Richardson is an able guy worthy of playing in the political big leagues. So, I'm not slamming him. I simply think he must avoid setting off his own booby traps, something that he appears disturbingly capable of doing.


Mark Daniels said...

My recollection is that McCain, the classic conservative, was played against Bush, the compassionate conservative. McCain was portrayed by the Bush camp as a moderate with liberal tendency, at least in the South Carolina primary. In the general election, Bush portrayed himself as a Reagan Republican with his dad's name.

During his tenure, he's reached for the big-government and big-military responses preferred by the neocons. I think that's why the Republican field is now composed, as such fields have classically been, of conservatives and moderates. The only neocon who might make the race is Sam Brownback. Giuliani is a liberal. Duncan Hunter is the one most like Bush in his politics, I suppose, and is unapologetic about it. Other than him, the field is filled with un-Bushes.


Rick Moore said...

Mark - can you pick Hillary to win next? I'd like to see her out of the race.

Mark Daniels said...

I am apparently the angel of death for presidential candidacies.