Inside the Capitol

Thursday, November 17, 2005

11-21 Bill's Book

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Gov. Bill Richardson has been getting some of the national recognition he sought when he released his book "Between Two Worlds."
In the past 10 days, I have caught Richardson on MSNBC's Don Imus Show and on C-SPAN2. Both gave him a nationwide audience, although neither is a major network by any stretch of the imagination.
Obviously, Richardson's intent is to embellish his credentials for a presidential run. Many candidates use books to help in that effort. Those with impressive war records, such as John McCain or John Kerry can make their books interesting. Most candidates can't.
Richardson has had enough adventures rescuing hostages, running cabinet departments and growing up in two countries to make his life more interesting than most. He also adds enough blue language to jolt readers awake.
Bill Richardson's two worlds were the two cultures in which he grew up, with an Anglo father and Mexican mother. He lived in Mexico City until going to Massachusetts for high school and college.
That background of straddling two worlds makes him representative of our nation's increasingly multicultural future. And, according to Richardson, New Mexico already is prominently displayed in the middle of that big picture. "I believe New Mexico is what this country will look like in the future," he says.
His dual heritage helped hone the negotiating skills that have put Richardson in the limelight of international relations, including the effort to keep North Korea out of the nuclear weapons business.
At the invitation of North Korea, Richardson went to talk with its leaders about relations with America and its allies. That can't have made the Bush administration particularly happy, but he went with its blessings, aboard a military plane.
Richardson has been amazingly supportive of our nation's Republican leaders. He worked with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on his North Korea trip. He has praised President George Bush on his immigration policy. And he even has been supportive of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff concerning his help on border problems.
Can Richardson win a Democratic nomination talking that way? It gets him accused of talking out of both sides of his mouth. The Democrat's 2004 candidate, John Kerry, has been criticized by party members for going too lightly on the decision to go to war.
And will Richardson's support of top Republican officials help him at all with Republican voters, if he does happen to be the Democratic nominee?
The conventional wisdom is that playing to the other party doesn't work. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks. His unforgettable answer: That's where the money is. Successful politicians target their efforts where the votes are.
Bill Richardson was an exception to that rule when he won the 2002 New Mexico gubernatorial race. He spent an inordinate amount of time in Republican counties. It may be that his juggernaut campaign had most Democratic votes sewn up and he was looking for a landslide. But that will not be the situation for any Democratic presidential candidate.
And what about Bill Richardson the candidate for New Mexico governor? Were his favorable comments about Republicans aimed at New Mexico Republicans instead of his national audience?
We do know that the governor has a problem with New Mexico voters of both parties when he appears more focused on a national race.
Richardson addressed that problem during his C-SPAN2 appearance and compared himself to Gov. George Bush of Texas during his 1998 race for a second term as governor of that state.
At the time, Bush admitted that he also had his eye on the presidency two years hence and he told voters he understood that some might want to take that into account.
For the most part, Texas voters seemed to be proud that they had a governor who might be president some day. Will New Mexico voters feel the same?
MON, 11-21-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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