The Richardson retreat from the Commerce Secretary nomination has left the Latinos as a whole dispirited and confused as to just how vital they may be to the new Administration after this Cabinet nomination stumble. Politico this week reported that new life has been breathed into the Latino advocacy groups to have other prominent and nationally known Latinos be considered to replace Governor Richardson, who is widely viewed as the only true national political Latino celebrity. In the mix supposedly being considered includes: Rep. Xavier Becerra (who turned down the USTR); Gilbert Casellas, a stellar Veep at Dell Computer (would be the first Puerto Rican on the Cabinet); George Muñoz, Texas-born Chicagoan who held office in the Windy City before moving to Washington when President Clinton appointed him Assistant Secretary of Treasury and CFO and then went on to be named President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in the latter part of the Clinton period. Subsequently, he set up his own consulting firm in the Washington area. He is widely acclaimed for having acquitted himself as a first class executive. He is board member of Marriott International and Altria; another possibility mentioned was businesswoman, Linda Alvarado. Other publications have mentioned private sector heavies like Kodak CEO Antonio Perez and Hector Ruiz, CEO of AMD, as possible candidates.
The buzz in the Mexican press is that Frederico Peña will be named US Ambassador to Mexico. Peña, another Texas-born achiever, was formerly mayor of Denver and occupied two cabinet positions in the Clinton Administration: Energy and Transportation. Perhaps that is why he has dropped from sight and receded to the background during this transition period: he already had secured his hueso. Peña certainly has the stature which pleases the Mexicans; now they appear to wonder how good is his Spanish speaking ability.
Lastly, one disconcerting note: increasingly there are sotto voce comments about the divisiveness in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It is commented that one California Latino Congressman is actively seeking to torpedo his fellow Congresswoman, Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor. In fact, it is reported that he has gone as far as seeking support among the Texas Latino delegation to help scuttle the nomination. If this is true, it will only serve to demonstrate the immaturity, unprofessionalism, pettiness and certainly the lack of unity among the Latino political leadership. This ugly and deplorable incident would only serve to convince outsiders that we Latinos are not ready for prime time. Admittedly, the California Latino (Mexican-American) delegation appears to have this chronic problem. Among the Texas, New Mexico, New York, and the Arizona Latino Congressional delegations, this type of behavior has happily not been detected. Besides California, only Florida has experienced such vindictiveness among its Latino (Cuban-American) Congressional delegation. It manifested itself with a smattering of jealousy and resentment. This was most apparent when HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, reportedly tapped by Karl Rove, ran successfully in the GOP primaries some years ago for the Senate. Both Washington DC and Florida were riven with gossip about how the Diaz-Balart Congressional brothers did not support Martinez in the primary and seriously wanted Mel defeated; much animosity was detected. If this behavior persists or reoccurs, it will weaken and badly tarnish the National Latino/Hispanic political leadership. Plainly, it would render the Latino presence at the national level as ineffective and unimportant. The challenge is for the Latino community to foster and develop some semblance of adult supervision for such behavior.
H/T to MediaCritiques.com for the Richardson cartoon