Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

4-2 Richardson Already Repaid Clinton Favors

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- If Gov. Bill Richardson had received as much media coverage for his presidential bid as he has for his Obama endorsement, he would have been in the top tier of candidates.
It has been fascinating to see how an endorsement that was judged not to mean anything has meant so much to so many people. Bill Richardson has received much more than his predicted one day of publicity for endorsing Barack Obama.
Not all that notice has been good, but if any publicity is good publicity, Richardson is doing very well indeed. All the network and news television channels treated the endorsement as a bombshell since it was assumed by most that if Richardson endorsed anyone, it would be Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Clinton loyalist James Carville brought Richardson days of exposure with his over-the-top comments about Richardson being a Judas for selling out the loyalty he owed to the Clintons.
Carville had to duck questions from several news analysts about whether he felt all previous Clinton appointees owed Hillary an endorsement and whether Carville had similarly blasted old friends such as Ted Kennedy for endorsing Obama.
The eventual answer was that Richardson is the only person from whom Carville expected such loyalty. Why would that have been? Was Richardson the highest-ranking Clinton appointee to endorse Obama?
Actually, Federico Pena, the U.S. Energy secretary before Richardson, has endorsed Obama. Henry Cisneros, who served as Clinton's secretary of Housing and Urban Development, endorsed Richardson.
Bill Clinton's Super Bowl visit to Richardson often came up in discussions. But that was a result of Clinton pestering Richardson for a face-to-face visit and that's the occasion Richardson chose.
Richardson says he came close to a Hillary endorsement at the time. It is probably best he didn't choose that occasion because it would have trivialized his endorsement.
So something appears to have made Richardson's endorsement more special than most. Maybe it was a combination of more than one factor.
How much loyalty did Richardson owe the Clintons? Quite a bit, but there were many times when Richardson paid that back.
He already had made a name for himself by the time Clinton became president and the word in New Mexico was that Clinton would appoint Richardson as secretary of the Interior when he first took office.
Gov. Bruce King told me he got a call from Clinton saying he was going to appoint Richardson to the post and then received a second call two hours later saying he had appointed Bruce Babbitt.
Those close to Richardson were devastated and set about trying to find out what had changed Clinton's mind. Their report to me was that environmental groups decided that Richardson didn't have a perfect enough congressional voting record.
Nevertheless, Richardson remained a loyal Clinton ally during his next two terms in Congress. As Democrat chief deputy whip he provided crucial help to Clinton in passing the North American Free Trade Agreement and the budget balancing legislation.
Following highly publicized diplomatic rescue missions, Richardson became a logical choice for United Nations ambassador in Clinton's second term.
Richardson loved the position and loved New York City. Only months into the job, Clinton asked him to interview Monica Lewinsky for a position in his New York office, thereby involving Richardson in that whole mess.
When the top spot at Energy came open, Clinton managed to persuade a reluctant Richardson to take it over. Richardson knew it was a problem-plagued department but said he'd do his best. Some bad breaks there took him off a short list for vice presidential running mate with Al Gore, which he otherwise might have had.
It appears to me that Richardson had every right to feel any loyalty considerations to the Clintons had already been fully paid back.
WED, 4-02-08

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



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