Another Reason to Oppose Richardson

Gov. Bill Richardson [D-NM] looks like an excellent presidential candidate on paper. Like the only two Democrats elected president in the last thirty years, he has gubernatorial experience. Unlike them, though, he has foreign policy experience, having served in Congress and as the US Ambassador to the UN. He even has executive experience at the federal level, having served as Energy Secretary. If that were not enough, he’s the enormously popular governor of a swing state, and is Latino, meaning he could turn key states like Florida, Arizona, and – just maybe – Texas. One would think that this would add up to an enormously well-qualified, and extremely electable, candidate.
I started having my doubts about Richardson’s electability when I met him about a year or so ago. He’s a friendly guy, but he can’t give a stump speech for his life. Actual quote: “One thing no politician talks about is education.” Seriously. As Kerry’s failure to win a completely winnable election showed, charisma and oratorical ability matter, and from firsthand experience I can say that Richardson has neither.
But even after that I believed that Richardson could – if he won the primary and general elections, which I thought were long-shots at best – make an excellent president. Now I’m not so sure. You see, back in the 1970s, when he was a Congressman, Richardson was a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, a group led by Scoop Jackson. Scoop Jackson, of course, was the right-of-Nixon anti-communist Senator who – motivated by little more than thousands in Boeing campaign contributions – birthed the neoconservative movement. His staff included – this is a Democrat, mind you – Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith and Richard Perle. The CDM itself was particularly shady, supporting “foreign allies who share America’s democratic values — whether it is the government of Israel in the Middle East or the government of El Salvador’s Jose Napoleon Duarte in Central America.” Jose Napoleon Duarte, of course, led a military coup in El Salvador and presided over numerous death squad massacres, such as El Mozote. The CDM also lent its offices to Team B, a Ford Administration project that worked to dramatically exaggerate Soviet capabilities without any basis in fact. In short, the CDM formed the larva of neoconservatism, and Richardson was a member.
This could be written off as youthful indiscretion if it did not influence Richardson’s later views. But in retrospect, it has. He has called a phased withdrawal from Iraq “not sensible policy”. He has praised the “Bush Doctrine” for creating the Cedar Revolution, even though the two aren’t connected in the least. Moreover, his rhetoric in both statements was suspiciously like that of a neoconservative. The bottom line is that after the last eight years, we cannot afford to turn our foreign policy over to someone who comes from the same intellectual tradition as Wolfowitz, Feith, and Perle. It’s just too dangerous.

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