Richardson: God said Iowa should be first

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Sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction:

God’s will is for Iowa to have the first-in-the-nation caucus, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson told a crowd here Monday.

“Iowa, for good reason, for constitutional reasons, for reasons related to the Lord, should be the first caucus and primary,” Richardson, New Mexico’s governor, said at the Northwest Iowa Labor Council Picnic. “And I want you to know who was the first candidate to sign a pledge not to campaign anywhere if they got ahead of Iowa. It was Bill Richardson.”

Man, this is not the kind of press you want to be getting:

Several people in the crowd snickered after Richardson made the comment.”That was a little weird,” said Sioux City resident Joe Shufro. “I don’t know what God had to do with choosing Iowa among other states. I found that a little strange.”

Wow. I also don’t know what the Constitution has to do with Iowa being first.

Via Election Central.

Bill Richardson: The Energy President?

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Today in Salon, Amanda Griscom Little interviews Gov. Bill Richardson about his energy plan:

Bill Richardson likes to play up his image as a horse-ridin’, gun-totin’ man of the Wild West, but don’t be distracted by the cowboy swagger — the Democratic governor of New Mexico also has a serious policy wonk side. That was on full display in May when he unveiled a broad and ambitious climate and energy plan. Billing himself as the “energy president,” he’s now calling for a 90 percent cut to greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, a renewable-energy target of 50 percent by 2040, and a 50-mile-per-gallon fuel-economy standard by 2020.

Richardson is no newcomer to energy issues, of course — he served as secretary of energy at the end of the Clinton administration, and has aggressively pushed clean energy as governor of New Mexico. But some greens might not care for his “clean coal” boosterism or his embrace of “all kinds of biofuel.”

The interview is well-done and the governor does a good job of outlining his energy priorities (and why they’re priorities):

These goals are even stronger than some environmental groups are calling for. Why such dramatic targets?

Because we can’t wait. It’s a matter of necessity. It’s important because it involves our national security. Our energy dependence on foreign oil is so unhealthy — we could be vulnerable to an oil price shock, to $5-per-gallon gasoline prices, to long lines at the pumps. What I’m also advocating is a dramatic shift in mass transit, like I’ve done here in New Mexico with the Rail Runner. But we’d have, nationally, transportation policies that promote sensible land use — not just proposing highway funding bills, but bills to establish light rail and bullet trains and more energy-efficient transportation. Also, land-use policies that advocate open space. This is for a better quality of life for all our people.

As usual with Richardson, there’s two sides to this coin (“I believe that carbon-clean coal will play a role in our energy future. There have gotta be some very strict clean-coal standards”) but head on over and check the interview out.

Richardson and the War

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Yesterday, Heath blogged about Gov. Bill Richardson’s latest campaign tactic: calling out the leading Dem. candidates on their Iraq War positions:

Richardson has thus far refrained from going negative. However, in an e-mail sent today to campaign supporters, he suggested that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have not been providing “straight answers” on how many troops they would leave in Iraq and for how long, and said that, while he has been “completely open,” they’ve responded to his asking for such details with “silence.”

And in stating that there’s no “confusion of ambiguity or waffling” in his stance, the governor seems to be implying that there is in the stances of the other three.

Heath argued that, with Richardson’s poll numbers “stagnating” in important Iowa and New Hampshire, the New Mexico Governor has to make some sort of a move:

What do the polls mean for the governor? He isn’t focusing time or money in South Carolina or New Jersey, so those don’t mean much. He is putting almost all his resources into Iowa, where almost all recent polls have shown that his support has stagnated, and in New Hampshire, where his support also stagnated while that of Edwards has rebounded in recent weeks.

In addition, several critical union endorsements have gone in recent days to other candidates. Richardson has yet to snag any major union endorsements. This is a critical time for his campaign.

The governor needs to make a move. Apparently, directly challenging the top three on Iraq is it.

Richardson is advocating a complete withdrawal from Iraq, something the leading candidates have refused to do. Matt Yglesias gets in on the action too, writing that Richardson is asking “Good Questions“:

 I’m not sure many liberals have really grasped how absurd it is that we seem destined to witness a 2008 campaign in which both major party nominees support continuing the war. Nor do the Clinton/Obama/Edwards camps seem to have given serious consideration to the fact that their general election adversary will probably find it relatively easy to ridicule this “end the war, but keep fighting it” stance the Democrats have all adopted.

Richardson interview in The American Prospect

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Progressive mag TAP has an online-only interview with Gov. Bill Richardson regarding said candidate’s economic rhetoric. It’s not a pretty sight:

Here’s the good news: I no longer think Richardson is an economic conservative. I was misled by his support for a balanced budget amendment, his attempts to contrast himself with anti-growth politicians, and his constant comments that “The Democratic Party, our first solution is to tax, but I’m not of that school.” In our interview, he shredded the implications of every one of those comments, often to the point of incoherence.

Well,  guess there’s some bad news coming, eh?

Rather, Richardson is an economic opportunist. He’s adopted the conservative’s rhetorical critique of liberal economic thought in order to distinguish himself from the other candidates, most of whom are responding to this moment of mortgage crises and insecurity with a forthrightly progressive vision. Richardson’s vision, which ticks off the same checkboxes as all the other candidates (crumbling infrastructure, rising college debt, 45 million uninsured, Social Security under attack, etc.), comes couched in a superficial critique of anti-growth Democrats he won’t name and a strain of economic thought he won’t specify.

Worse, the policies that Richardson is backing, and the political promises he’s implying, actually are anti-growth. Richardson might want to carve out enough exemptions in his balanced budget amendment to render it essentially meaningless, but his emphasis on an end to red nevertheless narrows his ability to run deficits.

It wasn’t that long ago we were seeing good news about Richardson in the Prospect. In February, if you recall, Matt Yglesias was singing his praises. And though the latest interview isn’t incredibly negative, it’s not a glowing endorsement either:

At the end of the day, I believe that Richardson is pro-growth. After our interview, I even believe that his view of the economy is basically progressive. But his rhetoric isn’t good for the Democrats, progressivism, or even a future Richardson presidency. He could be more pro-growth if he were only willing to be less anti-deficit.

Richardson having a bad week at the debates

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Following what several people called a “forgettable” performance at Tuesday’s AFL-CIO forum in Chicago, Gov. Bill Richardson committed a major gaffe at a forum sponsored by two gay-rights oriented organizations. Pam Spaulding (who also blogs at Pandagon) has a great post up higlighting the problem over at Pam’s House Blend:

MS. ETHERIDGE:  Thank you.

Do you think homosexuality is a choice, or is it biological?

GOV. RICHARDSON:  It’s a choice.  It’s —

MS. ETHERIDGE:  I don’t know if you understand the question. (Soft laughter.)  Do you think I — a homosexual is born that way, or do you think that around seventh grade we go, “Ooh, I want to be gay”?

GOV. RICHARDSON:  Well, I — I’m not a scientist.  It’s — you know, I don’t see this as an issue of science or definition. I see gays and lesbians as people as a matter of human decency.  I see it as a matter of love and companionship and people loving each other. You know I don’t like to categorize people.  I don’t like to, like, answer definitions like that that, you know, perhaps are grounded in science or something else that I don’t understand.

Though Richardson later issued a clarification of his comments (see below), his initial response was apparently not well received:

Let’s just say it right now – Bill Richardson self-immolated tonight on live TV. I haven’t seen anyone fumble a question like this so badly.
[…] Karen Ocamb said there were gasps, and hisses in the audience. A Richardson supporter, Richard Zaldavar, said, that it’s a sentiment in the Latino and black communities that homosexuality is a choice (ostensibly to rationalize Richardson stepping on that land mine). He was given ample opportunity to extract himself from the situation, but it really went downhill from there. One other hurdle he didn’t clear was a direct question from Joe Solmonese about what the governor would do if the New Mexico legislature presented him with a marriage equality bill. He wouldn’t answer the question.

As I said before, Richardson’s campaign issued a clarification on his response on the choice question:

“Let me be clear — I do not believe that sexual orientation or gender identity happen by choice. But I’m not a scientist, and the point I was trying to make is that no matter how it happens, we are all equal and should be treated that way under the law. That is what I believe, that is what I have spent my career fighting for. I ask that people look at my record and my actions, and they will see I have been a true supporter of the (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) community.”

Steve Terrell’s article in the New Mexican has some more reaction from gay rights supporters:

Lane Hudson, live blogging on The Huffington Post, wrote, “He just said that homosexuality is a choice. What a freakin’ moron! He just lost every semblance of gay support. It is OVER. Take him off the stage. … I’m done listening to him and so is the rest of LGBT America. DONE. If he didn’t get it the first time, he doesn’t need to hold the office of dog catcher.”

Some were even more critical about Richardson’s statement during the debate that civil unions were the same as marriage.

“Another person to cross off the list is Bill Richardson,” said a post on The Gay Political Issues blog. “He was dodging nearly all the questions, answering them very vaguely, and when asked about gay marriage, he directly answered ‘I’m not there yet.’.”

On a semi-related note, a recent study((via TAPPED)) showed that gays and lesbians overwhelmingly turnout in elections:

The study this spring by San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc. found that an eye-popping 92.5% of gay men reported that they voted in the 2004 presidential race, and almost 84% said they cast ballots in the 2006 midterm election. Among lesbians, the results were almost as impressive; nearly 91% said they voted in 2004; for the midterm, the figure was 78%.

By comparison, the Washington-based Committee for the Study of the American Electorate put the turnout for all Americans eligible to vote at about 61% in 2004 and roughly 40% in 2006.

That’s the type of group you want to court: dedicated voters. Richardson will likely have to work hard to win back their support.


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I’ve been checking all the usual places for some mention of Gov. Bill Richardson’s debate performance last night. Here’s the first one I saw:

Was Richardson even there? He didn’t say anything noteworthy, though he managed not to mention the Balanced Budget Amendment, so I guess that’s a plus.

If I see any others, I’ll let you know.