For those who missed it, the Curmudgeon recently posted on why Richardson would make a good President.
Our favorable impressions of Governor Bill were reinforced this morning, our first chance to see the candidate in person.
Richardson discussed a wide-range of issues informally, from Iraq to the U.S. Attorneys firings (prominently involving some New Mexico politicos), from energy independence to budget deficits, and much in between.
What impressed us most about Gov. Richardson is the passion with which he talks about the critical need to engage in dialogue, especially with other nations. Richardson served as U.N. Ambassador under President Clinton, spending much of his time in diplomatic discussions with unpopular world leaders, such as the head of North Korea. He was an effective negotiator, and today he pushed hard on the theme that America can't simply ignore leaders and nations it doesn't like.
[The Governor told a revealing story about President Bush, who he ran into at a dinner of the National Governors Conference. After filling the President in on his most recent negotiations with North Korea, which were largely successful, Richardson pressed Bush on the need to engage in dialogue with Iran, Syria and other troublesome states. The President said something like "we don't talk to people we don't like." Richardson replied, "Pretty soon you'll only be talking to the Vatican."]
Richardson also made a similar point about getting things done in New Mexico, where he has been a popular and, by all accounts, effective Governor. One of his favorite tactics, he said, is to assemble a task force of stakeholders who oppose each other on a key issue, forcing them to come together and try to find common ground. The result has often been a better understanding all around, leading to passage of legislation on key issues that otherwise would've been impossible.
The Governor noted, quite correctly, that essentially nothing is getting done in Congress these days on a wide range of major issues, while the states are innovating and moving forward.
The one point we wish he'd made, to tie everything else together, is that his style of negotiating, including confronting his opponents, could be very effective in curing some of the current ills in Congress. One reason Congress has done so poorly of late is that the President shows no interest in engaging with Congressional leaders, on both sides of the aisle, to get things done.
We think the next President needs to be someone who can work with Congress, figuring out how to get legislation passed on the big issues: energy independence, global warming, immigration, health care, tax policy, social security. No matter how good you think an individual candidate's platform, it won't make a hill of beans' difference if he/she can't get it through Congress.
One of our good friends has known Richardson for many years, working with him for part of that time. Our friend reports that Richardson is, indeed, an amazing negotiator, and the best "closer" he has ever seen, having negotiated both with and against Richardson. That's an admirable trait, one we should value in a President, especially after eight years with one who hasn't even tried.
When we endorsed Governor Richardson a few weeks ago, we candidly acknowledged that it would be an uphill battle for him to get the Democratic nomination, but we thought he was well enough positioned. With the Richardson campaign collecting a remarkable $6.5 million in the first quarter, Richardson is even better positioned. He has distanced himself from the other "second tier" candidates--possibly creating his own tier. As the "big three"--Clinton, Obama and Edwards--batter each other, we think Richardson's standing will rise. He certainly has to be viewed as a viable contender.
If you're interested in learning more, helping out, or making a donation, go to: http://www.richardsonforpresident.com/