Inside the Capitol

Thursday, November 06, 2008

11-10 What Happens Now?

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- So, what happens now? Americans got the change they were looking for. There will be change at our state, national and international levels. But what sort of change will it be?
Change in New Mexico will be dictated largely by what President-Elect Obama offers and what Gov. Bill Richardson is willing to accept. Our governor has been mentioned prominently in national news as a top candidate for secretary of state. But others appear to be ahead of him.
The word around Santa Fe is that our governor would like to get out and that many would love to see him gone. One clue is that he has shaved the beard he has been sporting the past 10 months.
Blogger Joe Monahan brings word that Obama has asked Richardson what four positions he would take. Richardson chose secretary of state, secretary of commerce, president of the World Bank and ambassador to China.
Of those four, China appears by far the most likely. For a month before the election, I was stuck in an Abu Dhabi hospital reading Middle Eastern newspapers and watching European TV. They were very interested in how an Obama victory might affect their world.
Bill Richardson's name received more mention there than it had in this country during the month before I left. The world knows him through his United Nations and back-channel diplomatic missions. Many sources predicted a major ambassadorial assignment.
If Richardson decides to stay in New Mexico, a appointment as a roving ambassador and diplomatic troubleshooter directly under the president would be possible two years from now or at any other time.
Richardson would love the flexibility of such a position and an opportunity to stay in touch with the world. That is completely conjecture on my part and it may be that President Obama would not want to give anyone that long a leash.
But then we really don't know what Obama will want. Judging from his extremely cautious speech pattern, one would guess he will want a lot of control. And judging from his frequent modification of views, we might guess that he can be flexible and pragmatic upon listening to others' views.
Obama definitely doesn't appear to be an ideologue. The superior organization of his campaign indicates he is a practical politician with an eye on voters' desires and getting reelected four years from now.
His quick action in appointing a transition team and forming a cabinet, which he says will be based on excellence regardless of party, gender or race, may indicate the appointment of Richard Holbrooke, a respected career diplomat, as secretary of state.
That transition team, by the way, does not seem to include Gov. Richardson. It does include Gov. Janet Napolitano, of Arizona, who has been prominently mentioned for attorney general.
Napolitano also has been Arizona attorney general but despite those qualifications, she is unlikely to move to Washington. The Albuquerque Sandia graduate has led a Democratic resurgence in our neighboring state that likely wouldn't be the same without her.
As for change at the international level, the world doesn't know Obama well but they've heard his story. They know he's more a citizen of the world than we ever have elected. And they seem ready to push the reset button on the empathy they had for us following 9-11.
During the eight months following the trade center and Pentagon attacks, we took two long foreign trips because of the great prices on travel at the time.
In so many countries we visited people said "We are all Americans now." At the gate of U.S. embassies were tributes and many flowers. Three years later we took a European river cruise. The memorials had been replaced by armed guards.
That we have elected a president, who is a minority and is not pro-war, has won the hearts of many in the world and has maybe softened the hearts of some others.
MON, 11-10-08

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



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