Saturday, March 22, 2008

Governor Bill Richardson Endorses Obama


What Governor Bill Richardson says in his surprise endorsement of Obama speaks volumes about the fierce battle within the Democratic Party over the negative and divisive role of the Clinton Machine in the primary race and about Governor Richardson's own considerable political integrity and independence in embracing Barack despite the fact that he is a longtime friend of the Clintons and served with them in important cabinet positions in both of Bill Clinton's two administrations from 1992-2000. Finally what Richardson says about Obama indicates that he fully realizes what Obama's actual strengths are as both a man and a politician and that he knows Obama has the right stuff to make a decent President. Whether Richardson's endorsement will help Obama at this point with the national Latino vote is anybody's guess and probably problematic given the Clinton's tight political rein on other national Latino leaders but it does indicate that not every major national Latino politician is for sale to the Clintons and that ideas, values, integrity, and vision do count more to Governor Richardson than cynical slavishness to political cronyism. Thank you Governor for having the guts, honesty, and the vision to fight for what you know is right instead of just "going along to get along" in the Clinton camp.


Richardson’s Endorsement of Obama

Published: March 21, 2008

The following is the text as prepared for delivery of Governor Bill Richardson's speech endorsing Senator Barack Obama in Oregon.

My friends,
Earlier this week, an extraordinary American gave a historic speech.

Senator Barack Obama addressed the issue of race with the eloquence and sincerity and decency and optimism we have come to expect of him.

He did not seek to evade tough issues or to soothe us with comforting half-truths.

Rather, he inspired us by reminding us of the awesome potential residing in our own responsibility.

Senator Obama could have given a safer speech.

He is, after all, well ahead in the delegate count for our party's nomination.

He could have just waited for the controversy over the deplorable remarks of Reverend Wright to subside, as it surely would have.

Instead, Senator Obama showed us once again what kind of leader he is.

He spoke to us as adults.

He asked us to ponder the weight of our racially-divided past, to rise above it, and to seize the opportunity to carry forward the work of many patriots of all races, who struggled and died to bring us together.

Senator Obama reminded us that cynicism is not realism, and that hope is not folly.

He called upon us not just to dream about a less racially-divided America, but also to do the hard work needed to build such an America.

He asked every American to see the reality and the pain of other Americans, so that together we can rise above that which has divided us.

He appealed to the best in us.

As a Hispanic, I was particularly touched by his words.

I have been troubled by the demonization of immigrants--specifically Hispanics-- by too many in this country.

Hate crimes against Hispanics are rising as a direct result and now, in tough economic times, people look for scapegoats and I fear that people will continue to exploit our racial differences—and place blame on others not like them.

We all know the real culprit -- the disastrous economic policies of the Bush Administration!

Senator Obama has started a discussion in this country long overdue and rejects the politics of pitting race against race.

He understands clearly that only by bringing people together, only by bridging our differences can we all succeed together as Americans.

His words are those of a courageous, thoughtful and inspiring leader, who understands that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

And, after 8 years of George W. Bush, we will desperately need such a leader.

Our national security and our global standing have been gravely damaged by the divisive partisanship of recent years.

We need a President who can bring us together as a nation so that we can face urgent global challenges and repair the damage done in the last 7 years.

Barack Obama will make the historic and vital investments into renewable energy, to help create clean energy jobs and fight global warming.

Barack knows that the safety and future of every American child requires that we restore our shared sense of national purpose, so that we can then set about the hard work of rebuilding our alliances and rehabilitating our image in a dangerous world.

By uniting our nation, we can reverse America's global decline.

We need a realistic, principled, and bipartisan foreign policy again.

We must restore our international reputation, our influence and our capacity to lead others.

America must become the beacon for the world again.

We need a foreign policy based upon American ideals, and not upon the mere ideology of a President.

A foreign policy of diplomacy and respect for international human rights.

We prospered and prevailed in the Cold War because both our friends and our enemies knew that containment of the Soviet Union and the promotion of democratic values was not a Democratic or a Republican policy – it was an American policy--the very essence of what America was.

Senator Obama understands the importance of realism, principle, and bipartisanship in foreign policy.

He opposed the Iraq war from the beginning because he knew that, despite what the Administration claimed, this war would not be easy.

He also opposed the war because he saw President Bush's rush to employ military force, and to do so without the support of most of our allies, as dangerous and unwarranted.

And he saw the war also for what it so quickly became – a terrible source of partisan political division -- and a catastrophic distraction from the war that had united us against the real threat posed by Al Qaeda.

Now, I trust him to do what is so long overdue—End the Iraq war and bring our troops home!!

I know Senator Obama well.

I first got to know him when I chaired the last Democratic National Convention, where he gave that wonderful keynote address.

And then, last year, as we campaigned against each other for the Presidency, I came to fully appreciate his steadfast patriotism and remarkable talents.

I also felt a kinship with him because we both had one foreign-born parent and we both lived abroad as children.

In part because of these experiences, Barack and I share a deep sense of our nation's special responsibilities in the world.

Barack Obama, you are an extraordinary leader who has shown courage, sound judgment and wisdom throughout your career.

You understand the security challenges of the 21st century, and you will be an outstanding Commander in Chief.

Above all, you will be a President who brings this nation together and restores American global leadership.

You will make every American proud to be an American, and I am very proud indeed to endorse your candidacy.

Before concluding my remarks, I would like to say that we are blessed to have two great American leaders and great Democrats running for President.

My great affection and admiration for Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will never waver.

It is time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and to prepare for the tough fight we will face against John McCain in the Fall.

The 1990's were a decade of peace and prosperity because of the competent and enlightened leadership of the Clinton administration, but it is now time for a new generation of leadership to lead America forward.

Barack Obama will be a historic and a great President, who can bring us the change we so desperately need by bringing us together as a nation here at home and with our allies abroad.

I know that all Democrats will work tirelessly to get him elected.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to introduce to you the next President of the United States, my friend, Barack Obama.

First a Tense Talk With Clinton, Then Richardson Backs Obama

Senator Barack Obama accepted the support of Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico on Friday in Portland, Ore. Mr. Richardson ended his own bid for the Democratic nomination in January


Published: March 22, 2008

PORTLAND, Ore. — “I talked to Senator Clinton last night,” Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico said on Friday, describing the tense telephone call in which he informed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that, despite two months of personal entreaties by her and her husband, he would be endorsing Senator Barack Obama for president.

Senator Barack Obama at a rally Friday at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Ore. The Oregon primary is May 20.

“Let me tell you: we’ve had better conversations,” Mr. Richardson said.

The decision by Mr. Richardson, who ended his own presidential campaign on Jan. 10, to support Mr. Obama was a belt of bad news for Mrs. Clinton. It was a stinging rejection of her candidacy by a man who had served in two senior positions in President Bill Clinton’s administration, and who is one of the nation’s most prominent elected Hispanics. Mr. Richardson came back from vacation to announce his endorsement at a moment when Mrs. Clinton’s hopes of winning the Democratic nomination seem to be dimming.

But potentially more troublesome for Mrs. Clinton was what Mr. Richardson said in announcing his decision. He criticized the tenor of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He praised Mr. Obama for the speech he gave in response to the furor over racially incendiary remarks delivered by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

And he came close to doing what Mrs. Clinton’s advisers have increasingly feared some big-name Democrat would do as the battle for the nomination drags on: Urge Mrs. Clinton to step aside in the interest of party unity.

“I’m not going to advise any other candidate when to get in and out of the race,” Mr. Richardson said after appearing in Portland with Mr. Obama. “Senator Clinton has a right to stay in the race, but eventually we don’t want to go into the Democratic convention bloodied. This was another reason for my getting in and endorsing, the need to perhaps send a message that we need unity.”

In many ways, the decision by Mr. Richardson, a longtime political ally of the Clintons, was as much a tale about his relationship with them as it was about the course of Mr. Obama’s campaign.

Mr. Clinton had told his wife’s campaign that he had received several assurances from Mr. Richardson that he would not endorse Mr. Obama. One adviser who spoke to Mr. Clinton on Friday said that the former president was surprised by the Richardson endorsement, but described Mr. Clinton as more philosophical than angry about it.

Mr. Richardson looked anguished when asked in an interview if his relationship with the Clintons would withstand endorsing Mr. Obama. In doing so, Mr. Richardson was not only taking sides in the most bitter of political fights, but rejecting the candidacy of a close friend.

“There’s something special about this guy,” Mr. Richardson said of Mr. Obama. “I’ve been trying to figure it out, but it’s very good.”

Mr. Clinton helped elevate Mr. Richardson to the national stage by naming him his energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations. And Mr. Clinton left no doubt that he viewed Mr. Richardson’s support as important to his wife’s campaign: He even flew to New Mexico to watch the Super Bowl with Mr. Richardson as part of the Clintons’ high-profile courtship of him.

But Mr. Richardson stopped returning Mr. Clinton’s calls days ago, Mr. Clinton’s aides said. And as of Friday, Mr. Richardson said, he had yet to pick up the phone to tell Mr. Clinton of his decision.

The reaction of some of Mr. Clinton’s allies suggests that might have been a wise decision. “An act of betrayal,” said James Carville, an adviser to Mrs. Clinton and a friend of Mr. Clinton.

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

Mr. Richardson said he called Mrs. Clinton late on Thursday to inform her that he would be appearing with Mr. Obama on Friday to lend his support.

“It was cordial, but a little heated,” Mr. Richardson said in an interview.

Mrs. Clinton had no public schedule on Friday, and spent the day at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y. Her chief strategist, Mark Penn, played down the importance of the Richardson endorsement, suggesting that the time “when it could have been effective has long since passed.”

Mr. Richardson called Mr. Obama about two weeks ago to tell him that he was “99 percent with him,” Mr. Obama’s aides said. The announcement was delayed because Mr. Richardson had been scheduled to go on vacation in the Caribbean. Even though Mr. Richardson had promised Mr. Obama that his mind was made up, Mr. Obama’s aides said they grew worried that the furor over the racially inflammatory remarks made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor might lead Mr. Richardson to reconsider.

But Mr. Richardson, who had sought to become the nation’s first Hispanic president, pointed specifically to the speech that Mr. Obama gave in Philadelphia on Tuesday in explaining why he endorsed him.

“Senator Barack Obama addressed the issue of race with the eloquence and sincerity and decency and optimism we have come to expect of him,” he said. “He did not seek to evade tough issues or to soothe us with comforting half-truths. Rather, he inspired us by reminding us of the awesome potential residing in our own responsibility.”

He added: “Senator Obama could have given a safer speech. He is, after all, well ahead in the delegate count for our party’s nomination.”

Mr. Richardson said he was dispirited by the tone of the Democratic nominating fight, reflecting a sentiment that has been increasingly voiced by party leaders. Unlike many others, though, Mr. Richardson placed the blame on Mrs. Clinton.

“I believe the campaign has gotten too negative,” Mr. Richardson said, speaking to reporters in Portland. “I want it to be positive. I think that’s what’s been very good about Senator Obama’s campaign — it’s a positive campaign about hope and opportunity.”

Mr. Obama and Mr. Richardson appeared together on stage of the Memorial Coliseum in Portland on Friday morning. Mr. Richardson was still wearing the beard that he grew during what he called a period of decompression after leaving the presidential race.

On their own, endorsements in contests like this — with two such well-known candidates — do not necessarily move votes. Mr. Obama won a boost of publicity after he was endorsed by Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts; Mrs. Clinton, however, then won the state’s primary.

But the audience now is less primary voters than superdelegates — uncommitted elected Democrats and party leaders — whose votes will be critical in helping Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama get the 2,024 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Mr. Richardson is the 62nd superdelegate to endorse Mr. Obama since Feb. 5, compared with fewer than five who have moved into Mrs. Clinton’s column since then.

The move by Mr. Richardson could give license to other superdelegates who had been holding back, at the request of the Clintons. His endorsement could prove particularly potent with this group because of the way he chastised Mrs. Clinton for the tone of the campaign, and his call for the party to unify around one candidate.

It also came at a moment of vulnerability for Mr. Obama, in which he was dealing with questions about his former pastor. Mr. Richardson’s decision to step out was a signal to primary voters and superdelegates that he did not believe Mr. Obama had been hurt politically by these events — or at least that he was willing to use whatever influence he has in the party to limit the damage.

At this point, the number of Democrats whose endorsements could shake the race is down to Al Gore, the former vice president and presidential nominee; John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina who dropped out of the race last month; and Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker. Aides to Mr. Edwards and Mr. Gore said that they did not expect either man to endorse anyone in the immediate future, if at all. Aides to Ms. Pelosi said she was unlikely to endorse at all.

Adam Nagourney reported from Washington, and Jeff Zeleny from Portland, Ore. Pat Healy contributed reporting from New York