Man Without Qualities

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Taking Bill Richardson Seriously

Democratic Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico has just announced that he is taking the first step toward an expected White House run in 2008. It may be difficult for many people to take him seriously. After all, none of the things Terry McAuliffe listed about Hillary Clinton can be said of the New Mexico Governor: “She has the name recognition, the money, the glitz, she’s got it all.” John Edwards has all that plus really good teeth and a cash-in-the-bank silver tongue! And while Mr. Richardson can make a claim in the identity-politics game ("He seeks to become the first Hispanic president!"), the whole Obamarama type thing is missing. Heck, Senator Obama is said to be so fat-free than he is worthy of mention as a beach-babe in the same breath as the sainted Catherine Zeta-Jones, Penelope Cruz, Jessica Alba and Hugh Jackman - while the good Governor (how to say this politely) is probably best advised to stay out of saltwater.

So why take Bill Richardson seriously?

One should take Bill Richardson seriously for the same reason that one would have done well to have taken Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton and even the preposterous Howard Dean seriously at this stage of the campaign:

Bill Richardson is a successful governor.
He has real public chief executive experience, and he sounds like it and looks like it. None of Clinton, Obama or Edwards has ever run anything beyond a political campaign. That doesn't seem to matter to some chattery people. For example, according to Mr. McAuliffe Senator Clinton "has it all" - but for some reason Mr. McAuliffe fails to note that at this point she doesn't seem to have the voters. Maybe she and he have a plan to bypass the voters based on some clever adverse possession argument arising from Hillary's eight years in hostile, open and notorious occupancy of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Isn't that why one goes to Yale Law School?

There is a basic political fact here that is normally and foolishly forgot as often and as soon as it is said: The Senate is poor training ground or launching pad for a presidential bid, while the governorship of even a small state is terrific as both. Yes, the dull, incompetent, unpleasant Senator Kerry eventually beat back fiery Governor Dean. But Howard Dean is from a tiny, unrepresentative state, is personally and obviously completely unsuited to serve as president and, on top of all that, is a nut. Given his limitations, it is really remarkable that Howard Dean did as well as he did ... and his governorship is much of what carried him as far as he went, which was pretty far. So the obvious advantages enjoyed by Senators Clinton, Obama and Edwards may swamp Governor Richardson's executive experience.

But don't count on it as a certainty. Bill Richardson could be a serious contender.

I could not agree more. He also has a very sincere demeanor (like Carter) and a way of seeming much more moderate than he really is (like Carter and Clinton).

It would be a mistake to underestimate him. I think he is VP material at a minimum.
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