Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Beyond Hillary and Obama

Dartmouth student David Imamura writes an interesting column in The Dartmouth today:

The most qualified Democratic candidate for president of the United States will be coming to Dartmouth today. And odds are you've never heard of him.

Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., has a resume second to none. He served in the U.S. Congress for 15 years. He was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton. And, for the final three years of the Clinton presidency, he was the secretary of energy. After Clinton left office, Richardson returned home to New Mexico, where he was recently reelected to office with a record 69 percent of the vote -- the widest margin in New Mexico's history.

Richardson's credentials speak for themselves. While governor of New Mexico, he has been repeatedly called upon by the State Department to negotiate on behalf of the United States around the globe. A few months ago, he brokered a cease-fire in Darfur. When talks with North Korea broke down over North Korea's development of nuclear weapons, Richardson got them back on track. He has received wide acclaim for negotiating the release of American prisoners in Cuba, Iraq and North Korea. His diplomatic skill has led him to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on four separate occasions.

At home, Bill Richardson's accomplishments have been equally incredible. He has followed a centrist course in government, economically conservative but socially liberal. As governor of New Mexico, he balanced the state budget while cutting taxes for the middle class and increasing funding for education. He eliminated over $200 million of bureaucratic inefficiencies. His statewide energy policy has made New Mexico one of the few states that meet the requirements of the 1997 Kyoto Treaty. During his time in office, the New Mexican economy has been revitalized with the creation of 84,000 new jobs, many of which have been in high-tech industries. All the while, he has been a strong social progressive, pushing New Mexico to legalize civil unions while Democrats in other states have done nothing.

More than any other candidate, Bill Richardson has the experience necessary for the presidency of the United States.

But how can he win?

David goes on to provide a number of reasons, the third of which is:
Third, Richardson is the only Democratic governor in the race. Since 1960, 40 senators have run for president. And since 1960, no senator has ever moved into the White House. Go figure.

Back in October, I tried to 'figure' it this way:
There has been no one since JFK to move from the Senate to the Presidency. Every President since has either been a current or former Vice President or a governor. In this era, there needs to be some record of achievement (of whatever quality) in the executive branch of a government in order to campaign successfully for President. Look at John Kerry's bid for President in 2004--three terms in the Senate and essentially nothing to show for it during the campaign.

Candidates who have not had recent executive experience in government haven't made compelling candidates. In the current environment, we might regard a successful record as a chief executive at some level of government as a necessary, though not sufficient, condition for being elected to the Presidency.


eightnine2718281828mu5 said...

Richardson is the most likely to win in a general election; in addition to his impressive CV, he also has what none of the other candidates have: brass cajones.

And I don't mean the cartoonish, stereotypical manliness so prized by the right. I mean the real thing.

No one would ever look Richardson in the eye and think 'wussy'.

He's a Dem cut from the old cloth. Think Danny Rostenkowski; good to his friends, brutal on his enemies.

And this is precisely what the Dems need to inoculate themselves from the 'Breck Girl' comments re Edwards or the Francophile slander of Kerry in the last cycle.

But of course Richardson has zero chance in the money race, so this discussion is completely academic. But he'd make a great VP candidate and could position himself for a future run, so it's worth it for him to stick with it until some votes are cast and the veep is picked.

BTW, the candidate next in line for machismo is Hillary. Strange statement, I know. But she's been brutalized by the Republicans for over a decade and has probably come up with some creative ideas for payback during the next election cycle. And having Bill in your corner isn't a bad thing.

Obama's a nice guy and all, but the Republicans would start by appealing to the (not so) cryptoracists in their party and just rolling that stone downhill from there.

Anonymous said...

Your related posting from this past January 29th: "Things I Don't Understand" provoked some good comments on this issue.

Anonymous said...

A couple quotations from Ezra Klein's blog back on Feb 20 and 21:

Feb 20 - Celebrity Politicians:

*I should probably say that I attended a small policy breakfast with Richardson and found him very underwhelming. He talked of tax cuts and making Democrats "the party of space." His is a resume without -- at least thus far -- an inspiring vision or a clear ideology, and it's worth saying that pure technocrats rarely win national elections. The hunger for celebrity is unfair, but the appetite for inspiration isn't necessarily off-base.

Feb 21 clarification of Feb 20 - Beyond Ageeable:

Richardson has said a lot of things I agree with, but nothing I'm motivated to get behind. He's offered no health care plan that would radically transform the country for the better, nor a humane Iraq plan that distinguishes his vision from the other contestants. For partisans, presidential primaries offer a field of people you basically agree with -- so the question is what they have beyond basic philosophical acceptability. Sometimes, the answer is electability, sometimes, the capacity to inspire, sometimes, a policy platform that rockets past agreeable all the way into achingly desirable. For now (and it's very early), Richardson hasn't distinguished himself on any metrics aside from experience*. And given that I think most any Democrat will be competent enough to pursue broadly popular, basically incremental policies, that's not enough.

*He's a very good diplomat, as it turns out. But that would seem to militate towards making him Secretary of State, not President.

Fritz said...

Senators are national media partisan advocates whereas Governors are local media pragmatic administrators. As Presidential candidates, Senators carry around too much partisan baggage, Governor an administrative record of accomplishment. The latter is what the public desires. It actually helped that Kerry was such a quiet Senator during his career.

This Republican knows Richardson is stronger on top of the ticket than any Senator running. If President Bush were to call Governor Richardson, common interests would be discussed. If he were to call any Democratic Senator running, they would issue a cynical press release in rebuke, they can't help themselves.

eightnine2718281828mu5 said...

But that would seem to militate towards making him Secretary of State, not President.

Personally, I don't think the positions are mutually exclusive.

I would have much rather seen Colin Powell in the oval office than its current resident.