Inside the Capitol

Thursday, March 27, 2008

4-7 Bill's Beard Attracts National Attention

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Gov. Bill Richardson's endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama garnered him a great amount of air time and the separate issue of his beard got almost as much comment.
As mentioned here in previous columns, public officials with beards don't happen very often. Beards were very popular in the last half of the 19th century. Benjamin Harrison, in 1893, was the last president to wear one, although Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft sported bushy moustaches in the early 1900s.
But facial hair is now out, unless one lives in Santa Fe or Taos. So it was a big deal when Richardson showed up on stage with Obama, in front of 12,000 screaming fans and every news outlet in the nation covering the event.
Reactions varied and every news person had an opinion. He looks better. He looks thinner. He looks more Hispanic. He's playing the race card. He's like Al Gore, wanting to feel like a man after losing something.
He looks like Rutherford B. Hayes. He looks like Rod Steiger in Dr. Zhivago. He looks like Wolfman Jack. He looks like a Klingon. He looks like a James Bond villain. Take it off. Richardson's favorite was Diane Sawyer's comparison of him to Justin Timberlake. Wolf Blitzer, understandably, also liked it.
Actually, he doesn't look like any of those people. The commentators were just trying to come up with a famous personality they could think of who wears a beard.
Richardson says he's going to ditch the beard in another month or so, mainly because his wife, Barbara, still dislikes it. Obviously, if he wants to get back on the national scene, the beard will need to go, although he no longer is the only governor with a beard.
Newly sworn-in Gov. David Paterson of New York wears a beard. He was a very popular lieutenant governor and if he can get past his one embarrassing self-revelation a day, maybe he will help re-popularize beards.
In a previous column about Richardson's and Sen. Pete Domenici's beards, I mentioned that Richardson has no gray in his beard. My wife chuckled about that and reminded me that as his beard was growing out it was many colors, including large patches of gray.
Richardson's all-black beard, along with a deep tan from his recent Caribbean vacation, has indeed made him look more ethnic. As he stood onstage with Sen. Obama at the big announcement rally, the senator looked pale in comparison.
Richardson can be expected to be speaking quite a bit of Spanish for the rest of the presidential campaign as the Obama camp struggles to attract more Hispanic voters. At the Obama
At the announcement rally, the crowd started chanting "Yes, we can" toward the end of Richardson's speech but Richardson switched it to "Si, se puede." The crowd quickly picked it up.
The Obama campaign has had difficulty attracting Hispanics. Blacks and Hispanics are very important to the Democratic Party. They are the nation's two largest minority groups and the most loyal of the party's voting blocks.
Following the rally, one blogger characterized Richardson's Spanish as weak and his accent as bad. The blog suggested that he probably couldn't really speak Spanish.
Maybe Richardson will get the opportunity to speak enough Spanish to make believers of those who think he really isn't an adequate representative of Hispanics.
New York politicians have taken quite a beating recently. Six months ago, it appeared both Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat Hillary Clinton would be their party's nominees for president.
New York City Mayor Arthur Bloomberg was a possible independent candidate. And Gov. Eliot Spitzer was pegged as a future presidential candidate. Of those, Clinton is the only New Yorker with a breath of life left.
And this just in. Florida Gov. "Charming" Charlie Crist now has a beard too. Crist has been prominently mentioned as a John McCain running mate. Do we have a trend here?
MON, 4-07-08

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



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