Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Candidate Review Wednesday: Bill Richardson

A month ago, I laid out my plan to review our candidates for President to try to determine who I was going to support for the nomination. I started with Hillary Clinton and followed with John Edwards. Last week it was Barack Obama.

I was going to cover the so called "second tier" candidates in one diary and then do a review. But thanks to my friend, Robert Becker, Bill Richardson's Iowa State Director, today's diary will cover New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

If you haven't seen the other diaries in this series, it would help to give them a quick look. And after that, here we go...

As I discussed in the overview to this series:

There are two top level criteria I am going to use to evaluate the candidates. The first is their ability to win the nomination. The second is their ability to win the general election.

In my attempts to evaluate candidates chances to win the nomination, I am going to look at these factors:

  • Values projected in the Message
  • Stance on issues
  • Fundraising ability
  • Staff competence
  • Primary strategy
  • Does this candidate make me feel it?

Let's take a look at the values projected in Bill Richardson's message. In a speech titled The New Realism and the Rebirth of American Leadership in February, Richardson said this
Realists like Truman and Eisenhower understood that defending Europe and ourselves from the Soviets required a strong military. But they also understood that we could not lead our allies if they did not wish to follow.

These and subsequent American Presidents knew the importance of moral leadership. Our remarkable military and our prosperous economy gave us the power to lead. But our commitment to human dignity – including our willingness to struggle against our own prejudices -- inspired others to follow.

In remarks to the Arab American Institute at their Kahlil Gibran "Spirit of Humanity" Awards Dinnerin April, Richardson had this to say
We want to make this world more peaceful, more understanding and more livable for all people; so that everyone may fulfill their dreams and live in a world respectful of race, ethnicity, sex and religious tolerance.

America should lead the world in spearheading a Middle East, North Africa, and Asian multi-national Marshall Plan that includes support for public education in the Muslim world which is the best way to mitigate the role of Salafist madrasas that foment extremism. We must help those Arabs and Muslims who promote a vision of peace, prosperity, tolerance and respect for human dignity, who form the overwhelming majority of the Arab and Muslim world, as opposed to the apocalyptic fantasies offered by a vocal minority of jihadists.

Here at home, we must adhere and protect the words, spirit and life of our Constitution for America is not just a country, it is a belief. A belief in a right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. A belief that every man and woman has the right to elect their government and a belief in freedom, justice and equality. America is the land of opportunity, but we have much to do to ensure that America is the land of equality of opportunity.

And at the New America Foundation this month, Richardson had this to say
Today, I am going to stake my claim to being the next president, the Energy President, on the concept of a fast, comprehensive energy revolution in the United States

Here are the principles that guide my thinking.

Our energy policy solutions must fight global warming, which threatens human, ecological, and economic catastrophe literally everywhere on earth.

Our energy policy solutions must wean us from oil, because any oil addiction perverts our nation’s strategic objectives, limits our options, and costs us both blood and treasure.

Next, in meeting this challenge, we must support and help people, communities, industries, and small businesses who could be hurt by a careless transition – but are being terribly hurt by soaring prices today.

Further, I am a market-oriented Democrat. I want to set clear regulatory standards and systems and incentives, and allow the markets to respond.

Finally, we must keep the U.S. at the forefront of science and technology development – exploring frontiers, finding solutions to our energy and climate challenges.

These are my bedrock principles -- they are not subject to negotiation.

Let's look at how the values expressed in the speeches translate into Governor Richardson's stance on the issues. Of course the paramount issue of the day is Iraq. In a recent CBS News/New York Times Poll, 31% named the war in Iraq as the most important problem facing this country today. No other issue even reached double digits. Richardson's plan for Iraq is to
de-authorize the war and withdraw ALL troops by the end of the year
Richardson goes on to say
Congress must continue to use the power of the purse without cutting funds for troops on the ground, but we should also go one step further. Congress should assert its constitutional authority and pass a resolution de-authorizing the war under the War Powers Act. Congress can then set a military pull-out date and appropriate funds accordingly for the re-deployment of troops.

On health care, Richardson opens with
Affordable and secure health insurance for every American should be our national goal.
He continues with a litany of measures to extend coverage and assist families in paying premiums. However, this is not a call for universal single payer health care.

In Energy Policy, Richardson makes a strong call for
a New American Revolution -- an energy and climate revolution
As we saw above in his speech to the New America Foundation, Richardson puts a premium on energy policy for both national security and environmental security concerns.

Richardson had this to say on fund raising
voters will judge the candidates on their experience, on their records, on their passion, and that fund-raising will be secondary
He better hope that's true, because he is truly in the second tier of fund raisers. His $6.2 million raised in the 1st quarter puts him fourth on the fund raising list, behind Senator Chris Dodd and well behind all the "first tier" candidates.

Richardson's campaign manager is Dave Contarino. Contarino ran Richardson's first campaign for Governor, served as his Chief of Staff for 3 years and most recently was the Chair of his re-election for Governor campaign. Amanda Cooperia is overseeing fund raising. Cooper was Richardson's re-election Campaign Manager and Fundraising Director. Cooper oversaw raising $14 million for the Governor's re-election campaign and led the effort to raise $28 million for the DGA in Governor Richardson's two year term as Chair. Bsides the aforementioned Robert Becker, Richardson's experienced and tenacious Iowa state director, Richardson is putting locally experienced operatives in place in Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

More than anyone else in this campaign, Bill Richardson is running on his resume. Every speech he gives, he reminds his listeners that he is the governor of New Mexico. He was Ambassador to the UN, Energy Secretary under Bill Clinton and a Congressman. In Iowa, Becker has this to say about Richardson's campaign
Make no mistake about - while we are using today's latest technology (including this email!) and innovative, engaging TV ads - we will run an aggressive, old-fashioned, one-handshake-at-a-time caucus operation.
He needs to shake a lot of hands. The latest Real Clear Politics 2 week average has Richardson at 8% in Iowa, far behind the top three. He needs a stronger than expected showing in Iowa (in the top three) and a very good showing in Nevada, with its heavy concentration of Hispanic voters to get to New Hampshire with any chance at all.

So far, Richardson is too low in the pack for anyone to be doing head to head polling against the leading Republican contenders. So we don't know where that stands right now. He is a governor, however, and he does have that extensive foreign policy experience. And that foreign policy experience is 180 degrees different than we have been experiencing under the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

For my money, Richardson is running too much on his resume. In looking for Richardson's expressed values in his speeches, I had to wade through endless repetitions of his resume before I could find kernels of his values. Elections are about the future. Yeah, we want to know what makes you think you're qualified. But more than that, we want to know what you stand for and what your vision is.

In the end, I don't get that from Bill Richardson. Not yet.

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