Seneca’s observation on the Richardson withdrawal

January 4th, 2009 · 16 Comments

The Governor Bill Richardson debacle is indeed disappointing but not totally surprising. Bill has been known at times for demonstrating some hubris in his public behavior, and there has been the careless chatter about his roving eye. But fortunately, no one has ever put a face and name to any particular woman. Hence this can be dismissed as mere mischievous gossip or speculation, but this contracting business tangle is truly more a ‘trust’ issue with the public and therefore becomes a deal breaker.

At the UN, Richardson had a rap for not really preparing for his brief and winging it. This may have been the career foreign service just grousing over his style since there was never any egregious act or omission cited as evidence of deficiency or neglect. In fact, he was well-liked and viewed as being effective by the other member countries’ diplomats. The betting is that there is probably nothing substantively gone awry in this latest development, but the optic of conflict of interest in the wake of Governor Blagojevich’s scandal is enough to have forced him to withdraw his name for nomination to be Secretary of Commerce.

The fact remains that Bill Richardson has been one of seven Hispanics to have ever been named to the Cabinet in history. He was both UN Ambassador and Energy Secretary under Clinton, yet this does not minimize the deep regret felt among many Latino circles. Richardson has been the numero uno among national Latino political leaders in recent years. His anticipated presence in Washington was widely regarded as him becoming the official Alpha-dog in the Latino community. This now has been snuffed out and reminds one of Henry Cisneros’ political demise, which in his case was riven with high-drama personal scandal. Cisneros too greatly disappointed the Latino community. The new Latino cabinet members Ken Salazar and Hilda Solis come with regional or local stature, not the national one that Richardson represents. Therefore, it remains to be seen if either or both will acquire national presence and more importantly have the ‘power of convocation’ (poder de convocatoria as we say in Spanish).

With no Mexican American in the Senate now that Salazar is going to Interior and the only Latino Governor (Richardson) seriously wounded, the need for more activist Latino leadership would be most welcome. GOP Senator Mel Martinez announced that he is not running for re-election, and this has rendered him less than effective. This leaves Bob Menendez of New Jersey as the principal Latino torch bearer in the Senate, a role he can handle extremely well. In the House, Nydia Velazquez of New York will be the new  Congressional Hispanic Caucus honcho. However, she lacks national presence but is viewed as a ‘live firecracker’ in political circles and potentially an ‘unguided missile.’ Let us see how seriously she is taken. Silvestre Reyes will again be the only Latino in Congress chairing a full committee, a most influential one at that: the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

In terms of the Latino agenda, specifically the possibility (remote) of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) legislation, the obvious Latino lead on this has been interestingly enough not a Mexican American, but the Puerto Rican Congressman from Chicago, Luis Gutierrez. Congressman Gutierrez has been the most vocal advocate in the House on this issue. The interesting fact with Gutierrez is that immigration is not a driving issue among Puerto Ricans, as a whole, since they are born US citizens. Lastly and again, the latest Latino star, Bill Richardson, a truly affable human being, with a brilliant and astute political nose, and the self-confidence and demeanor of a world statesman, has had to remove himself from further national public office. As the Latino community prepares to welcome the Obama Administration, it will sorely feel the absence of Governor Richardson. One can already sense the hurt among the Latino community’s enthusiastic young aspiring leadership. It now remains to be seen where and how many and who of the young Latino Obamistas will get second and third tier or even fourth tier (assistant secretary level) appointments. This will help institutionalize the Latino presence in the federal bureaucracy as well as recast its prior focus, yet the absence of the Gran Jefe Bill Richardson as a guide and mentor will definitely be felt, a political tragedy for the Latino community.

Photo Credit: AP, Bill Richardson meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Tags: Barack Obama · Bill Richardson · Congressional Hispanic Caucus · Henry Cisneros · Immigration · Rep. Hilda Solis · Rep. Nydia Velazquez · Rep. Silvestre Reyes · Sen. Ken Salazar · Sen. Mel Martinez · Sen. Robert Menendez · Seneca

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Carolyn S. // Jan 4, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    I think this is a loss for the business community. I had high hopes for Richardson in the position of Commerce Secretary. I’m still mourning the loss of Ron Brown.

  • 2 Anna // Jan 4, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a political tragedy for the Latino community. That’s a bit dramatic.

    Richardson is still a sitting Governor, and if this investigation turns out to be much ado about nothing, then Richardson will be back.

    You make it seem like his whole career is over. It’s not like he’s John Edwards.

  • 3 DfD // Jan 4, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Bill Richardson is doing the same stuff that Fabian and Maria Nunez do. Crooked as a dog’s hind leg!!!!

  • 4 Reyfeo // Jan 5, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Anna refuses to see the truth…I suspect Bill wouldn’t have withdrawn if this wasn’t a serious issue/dig into his crooked affairs.

  • 5 Anna // Jan 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    No, he withdrew because this investigation could be used as an excuse not to confirm him for Comerce Secretary, in which case his career would be over. By withdrawing, he’s still Governor of New Mexico.

    You guys are so dumb. An accusation without any charges is not the same as a finding of guilt.

  • 6 DfD // Jan 5, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Democratic Gov. Bill “Payola” Richardson is a tainted governor with a dark cloud over his head and is no longer competent to perform his duties and should resign or be impeached. He’s done!

  • 7 webmaster // Jan 5, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Anna, I agree with you, right now Bill Richardson is being investigated, and we don’t yet know the outcome.

    Sure, the accusations are damning, but we don’t know all of the details. I have heard through a source that there are Republicans in the NM state administration who would love to stick it to Richardson. This is the same state that Heather Wilson pushed the US Attorney to investigate Dems for corruption (politically motivated):

  • 8 S.Aran // Jan 5, 2009 at 7:02 pm

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    Currently we have a project going on at CHANGE.ORG, a website that will present the top 10 ideas that it generates to the Obama administration upon its inauguration. The members of your organization are more than welcome to vote on our idea in order to keep it in the top 10. Heres a link to the site:


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  • 9 Reyfeo // Jan 5, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Again, I say, if the “allegations” weren’t true and or very serious, then Payola would have stayed on for Commerce…This is a Democrat congress…why would he have trouble getting through his own party’s nomination process if the allegations wern’t damning to begin with.

    The fact is he’s corrupt and he did the right thing bailing out. So much for contibuting to the Obama Admin.

    And BTW

  • 10 Anna // Jan 5, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I disagree. The Republicans could have held it up. It would only take one Senator to do it.

    And he’s not corrupt. Give me a break.

  • 11 dfdeportation // Jan 5, 2009 at 10:27 pm

  • 12 Red Baron // Jan 6, 2009 at 4:25 am

    The “pay to play” allegations against Richardson were were being investigated before the nomination. Therefore, we should be skeptical of the claim that Richardson is backing out for that reason. I suspect that something else arose relating to his well-known financial problems and womanizing. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been around Washington long enough to know that the public rationale is rarely the real one. I am somewhat astonished that anyone thinks we can take Richardson’s stated rationale at face value.

  • 13 BettyM // Jan 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Let’s hope there are no other politicians tainted by CDR. Another lesson learned….

  • 14 Michaelr // Jan 6, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    There are lots of politicians tainted by CDR. But they haven’t been invited to join Barack Obama’s cabinet as of yet. There are also a lot of politicians tainted by Mobil-Exxon, but they have a more exclusive arrangement with Congress.

  • 15 No-Politician // Jan 9, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I wish real visionary workers to be the leaders in Obama’s Federal government team, not corrupt politicians. For Richardson, his track records will tell us the truth. One example, for a democratic law system decided case, he has insisted his biased stand. See:

  • 16 Update on Governor Richardson - Cleared of Criminal Wrongdoing // Aug 27, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    […] Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who had to withdraw from the Secretary of Commerce cabinet position back in the beginning of the year due to a federal […]

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