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What Bill Richardson Endorsement Does for Obama

Tuesday, 25 Mar 2008 09:08 AM

By Lowell Ponte

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Will New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson become Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s running mate?

It could be a Democratic political marriage made in heaven.

Much of Obama’s appeal comes from his identification with both his African father and white mother, which has given him the ability to understand and communicate with voters on both sides of America’s deepest cultural-racial divide.

Three of Richardson’s four grandparents were Mexican citizens, but through his namesake international banker father Bill Richardson’s family tree traces back to the Mayflower. He is the ultimate Roman Catholic Hispanic and the ultimate WASP.

Gov. Richardson, who served as United Nations ambassador and as energy secretary in President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet, is America’s best-known Hispanic politician.

Richardson’s endorsement of Obama last Friday prompted longtime Clinton apparatchik James Carville to accuse his old comrade of “betrayal.”

“Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver,” said Carville, “so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic.”

Carville later refused to apologize for comparing Richardson to Judas Iscariot, who according to the Bible betrayed Jesus Christ.

Spokesman for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign Howard Wolfson likewise refused to apologize for Carville’s harsh statement.

In recent days the campaigns of both Obama and Republican nominee-in-waiting Sen. John McCain have distanced themselves from and punished staffers and associates who made statements far less incendiary than Carville’s.

Sen. Clinton also has not moved an inch to distance herself from her longtime adviser and hitman Carville.

As Rush Limbaugh and others have noted, Carville’s remark did more than call Richardson a Judas. It also, by inference, compared Hillary Clinton to Jesus Christ, a comparison her personal silence on this matter seems to accept.

“That’s typical of many of the people around Senator Clinton,” Richardson said on “Fox News Sunday.” “They think they have a sense of entitlement to the presidency.”

Richardson on Fox refused to respond to Carville by getting “in the gutter like that.”

Both Bill and Hillary Clinton had seemed delighted during early Democratic debates when presidential aspirant Richardson sycophantically criticized rivals who challenged her.

Many, including this columnist, speculated that Richardson was in the race as her stalking horse, or was running merely to become her vice president.

After Richardson dropped out, the Clintons eagerly sought his endorsement. Falling behind in a desperate race with Obama, Ms. Clinton has looked to Hispanic voters in key states to help offset Obama’s growing advantage with fellow African-American voters.

At least one prominent Latina Clinton activist in Texas spoke openly of ethnic antipathies that pit Hispanics against blacks, a polarization the Clinton campaign has done little to discourage.

If Richardson’s endorsement and active campaigning shift even a strong minority of Hispanic voters to Obama’s banner, Clinton can kiss her aspirations to be president goodbye.

No wonder Carville reacted with infantile rage in a savage attempt to smear and denigrate Bill Richardson.

William Blaine Richardson III was born in California days before Thanksgiving 1947, but he was raised in Mexico City. He returned to the United States at age 13 and entered elite Middlesex prep school in Concord, Mass.

At New England’s prestigious Tufts University he earned a bachelor’s degree in French and political science in 1970, and a master’s degree from its highly regarded Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1971.

Although his dream career was to be a professional baseball pitcher, after failing to be drafted by a major team Richardson went to work for Republican Massachusetts Congressman Bradford Morris, then the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and then in Henry Kissinger’s State Department during Republican President Richard Nixon’s Administration.

Richardson thereafter moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Running as a Democrat, he narrowly lost a race for Congress in 1980, then won election to the state’s new third congressional seat in 1982.

On Capitol Hill he by 1983 was chosen chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He soon established a reputation for sponsoring legislation to benefit Native Americans.

By the time Bill Richardson joined the Clinton administration, he had already served more than 14 years in Congress, a veteran moderate lawmaker liked on both sides of the aisle.

Imagine what it must have been like, therefore, when Bill Clinton in 1997 allegedly ordered his distinguished U.N. Ambassador Richardson to create a job for the president’s mistress Monica Lewinsky. Richardson complied, basically prostituting his position of public trust.

Richardson created for Lewinsky a well-paid job with taxpayer dollars in his office’s public affairs department.

Bill Clinton has never confessed what he ordered Richardson to do. Was the U.N. job a way of providing hush money to buy her silence? Or of getting a love-struck mistress out of his hair with a job hundreds of miles away in New York City?

But after Richardson had debased himself, Lewinsky turned the job offer down.

The little lies Richardson had told under oath before Congress, e.g. claiming that this job had preexisted and not been created just for Monica, almost derailed his 1998 confirmation as secretary of energy.

Bill Richardson knows the Clintons as only an insider can. He knows how ridiculous and obscene it is for James Carville to compare Hillary or Bill to Jesus Christ. No wonder Richardson wants to save America from a third term of the rapacious Clinton co-presidency.

Obama’s poll ratings had been sliding since the Clinton-orchestrated public outrage over his radical minister hit the news. But Obama’s polls began heading upwards again after Richardson’s public endorsement last Friday.

Voters apparently are smart enough to see that if this ultimate knows-where-the-skeletons-and-corruption-are-buried Clinton insider has turned against them, then all decent Democrats should follow Bill Richardson’s lead and switch to Barack Obama.

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