Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

1-30 Gov. Bill & Pres. W.

SANTA FE – Despite their differences, Gov. Bill Richardson and President George Bush have some similarities. They are fun and comfortable to be around. They’re both sports fans, who especially like baseball, although Richardson may like boxing even better.
When did I ever pal around with George Bush? He spoke to a men’s luncheon during the Tyler (Texas) Rose Festival back when he still owned the Texas Rangers baseball team. Our niece was the Rose Queen that year so I was a special guest and got to talk sports with the future president after the luncheon.
When Bush was governor, his politics were rather moderate, much like his father’s. Democrats prefer to call it centrist, which is what Richardson calls himself.
What got me thinking along this line was that both men delivered the best speeches recently that I’ve ever heard them give. Neither is a natural at speaking. Their skills are in their interaction with small, informal groups, where they are very charming and persuasive.
But both have improved their speaking skills. Teleprompters have helped greatly. Bush has had at least four years to learn to handle them. His inaugural address was the first time he has been able to deliver a speech that flows, instead of being broken into short, choppy sentences.
Two days earlier, Richardson used a teleprompter for the first time as governor while giving his opening day speech to the Legislature. His speech also flowed seamlessly. Both speeches were delivered with what seemed like effortless enthusiasm and no hint that they weren’t looking at their audience.
The content of both speeches bore some similarities also. Both were a bit over the top. The president gave the most ringing endorsement of international human liberty ever heard in an inaugural address. It left the nation and world scratching their collective heads about what he really meant and how he plans to pull it off.
Aides say Bush started working on the address a day after his election in November. That explains his good delivery. But the language he used and the policy statements he made caused commentators, such as Bill Buckley, to wonder whether two months of preparation might have given away to some last-minute thoughts.
Our governor also is given to last-minute thoughts. His 40-minute address went through dozens of revisions. The day before his speech, Richardson said he had revised it twice that day. The following morning, his office released the speech by e-mail at 9:29 and 10 minutes later, sent a revision.
The governor’s state-of-the-state address had solutions for all the state’s problems, raising questions as to how all that could be accomplished and funded. Richardson acknowledged his unbridled enthusiasm to conquer the world when he added words not in his text, “I know I sometimes I overdo it.” That brought a bigger response than anything else in his speech.
It was a good speech, possibly the result of hiring another speechwriter for his stable. Richardson calls his agenda for the 2005 Legislature “bold and vast.” He’s right on both counts.
The only way he can finance it is to count on the inflated prices of oil and gas continuing into future years. Because of unstable situations in many oil producing countries, that might happen, but it is not something that past Legislatures ever have been willing to count on, and rightfully so.
The federal Bureau of Land Management now proposes to open Otero Mesa, in the southern New Mexico desert, to oil and gas exploration. That could shore up Richardson’s revenue stream, but he’s fighting it, along with Attorney General Patricia Madrid.
They cite environmental concerns. I grew up in that part of the country and can’t imagine that a few pump jacks are going to cause that much harm. Of course, the other party is in control of Washington and even though New Mexico now is officially a red state, the polls may show us to still be environmentally blue.


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