Mr. Richardson goes to New York
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson made a campaign stop on Manhattan's west side, where several hundred people turned out to listen and to ask questions. Following is my 2Â¢ worth (if it's even worth that much).
First of all, kudos to the Governor for spending more time taking questions than making his stump speech. There is something refreshing about that kind of approach. Of course, it does open things up to one or two nutcases, but hey, they vote too, so why shouldn't their voices be heard?
Early on, I was unimpressed, feeling that Governor Richardson was short on substance, regurgitating phrases from a standard stump speech rather than making specific policy statements, and, after promising repeatedly to finish, instead rambling on far longer than ... well, longer than this sentence.
In the middle, as he started answering questions, I decided that my first impression was accurate. Sorry, Governor, but I didn't hear a single specific idea.
He did finish pretty strong, with a three-day (actually four-day) plan for the beginning of a Richardson administration. Unfortunately, most of it was still the same general phrases.
His one specific course of action was on Iraq. He said he wanted to pull the troops out this year, and clearly would start his Presidency by getting out as quickly as possible. In addition, he vowed to bring in the neighboring countries -- he mentioned Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Syria to create regional stability. He also connected the Israel/Palestinian situation to the rest of the region. This was his finest moment.
His ideas on healthcare coverage were murky, convoluted, and frankly smelled of the same tired rhetoric -- "I'm going to [whatever]..." without explaining exactly what "whatever" is, or how to get it done (not to mention how to pay for it). While the issue is complex, there are not only simpler solutions than whatever he was talking about, there are better ways to say whatever he was trying to say.
His command of numbers is not good. How many hundreds of billions have we spent in Iraq? Six, four, five ... some other number? It's hard to tell, since he's all over the map.
My biggest disappointment was in the energy area. Richardson is a former Secretary of Energy, and he has a very good record as Governor. It seems to me that he should have a better command of specifics. For one thing, he should know the current limitations of clean, renewable energy sources. I'm sure he does, but he hid that knowledge well. And while he does mention green buildings and light rail (yea!), he is remarkably short on specifics. This, along with foreign policy, should be his strong point, but right now it isn't.
Overall, I'm still willing to give him time to refine his statements, make more specific policy statements, and get his campaign on track. He certainly has the best resume of any of the candidates; let's see if the campaign can match the resume.