Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

8-10 Richardson's Iraq Plan Attracting Attention


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Gov. Bill Richardson's plan to get us out of Iraq by year's end has been attracting a good deal of attention.

   Public opinion polls indicate a majority of likely voters are saying that's what they meant by the message they delivered last November. Richardson's latest fundraising letter is aimed at those folks.

   But his fellow presidential candidates are calling his position unworkable and irresponsible. They contend that if we start now, it will take until next April (soon to be next May) before we can get our troops out in an orderly fashion.

   In that fundraising letter previously mentioned, Richardson calls such an assessment "politics and posturing." And maybe he's right.

   In response to the message voters delivered last November, the George Bush administration did just the opposite. It began a "surge." The president said it would have to have a chance to work. Like until October, almost a year away at the time. Now he's saying we need a bit longer.

   Richardson's Democratic opponents are playing along, letting the president draw it out. And why not? If we are still surging in November 2008, voters almost surely will want to throw out everyone who didn't listen.

   That will benefit Democrats but it will have delayed bringing home our troops by two years. Maybe that is the "politics" Richardson is accusing his opponents of playing.

   Richardson believes a more rapid withdrawal is possible. He wants to put the focus on diplomatic efforts with Iraq's neighbors, especially Iran and Syria, which have the biggest stake in seeing a stable Iraq on their border.

   So does our withdrawal have to be slow? I don't know much about military science, but what about shock and awe? We got to Baghdad in two weeks. Ten days later we declared victory throughout the entire country. If it took two weeks to get in, how come it takes ten months to get out?

   If the answer is that the enemy we're fighting now is a lot stronger than the enemy we faced then, that means the enemy is getting stronger all the time. We'd better not waste any more time getting out.

   Richardson's plan of diplomatic action makes sense in a war on terrorism. Military action doesn't work. Promotion of health, education and democracy does. It's a long term effort. But time is on our side.

   The Cold War took a half-century but communism finally collapsed without the superpowers going to war with each other. Al Qaida isn't nearly as tough. But, again, military action isn't the answer.

   Could politics also be playing a role in Democrats' lack of enthusiasm about demanding the resignation or firing of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales?

   Some members of Congress are even calling for his impeachment, but top Democrats are turning a deaf ear. Could it be a decision has been made that Gonzales is more valuable to Democrats' reelection strategy by remaining in office?

   Meanwhile Richardson remains at the top of the second-tier candidates, struggling to break into the first tier. In some states, he occasionally breaks through, only to fall back. If he does break away, it is likely to be because a top candidate falls from favor as Howard Dean proved is possible four years ago.

   The money Richardson is raising this year would have been very respectful for a first-tier candidate four years ago, but this year Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are setting entirely new standards.

   Richardson's fundraising is being given a nice boost by Act Blue, an online clearinghouse for Democratic candidates. He is running second to John Edwards from that source.

   With all Richardson's wooing of the entertainment industry to get movies and TV series to New Mexico, it would seem that he would do well with contributions from that source. But those folks seem to be betting almost everything on Clinton or Obama.

   Guess they want to pick a winner.

FRI, 8-10-08


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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