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Friday, April 17, 2009

WaPo: Bill Richardson, at Peace In the Political Desert

Gov. Richardson in his Santa Fe office

The Washington Post today features a longish story on Governor Bill Richardson based on an interview conducted recently in Santa Fe that examines Richardson's response to being "politically exiled" from service in the nation's capitol. It also includes some audio sound bites and a couple photos, including the one above. The piece starts out:

If all had gone according to plan, Bill Richardson would be at center stage in Washington, wheeling, dealing and glad-handing around the globe -- as president, or at least as secretary of state.

But Richardson remains the Democratic governor of New Mexico, barreling across the vast high desert here, the wind howling and the sand flying as he races to build a legacy and rebuild his career. The nation's most prominent Latino politician is stuck in virtual exile, term-limited from office in two years with no easy next step.

The Governor expresses his acceptance of the situation,

"The end-all, be-all for many in politics is Washington," Richardson, 61, said last week over breakfast at the adobe-walled governor's mansion here, in his first extensive interview since withdrawing as President Obama's nominee for commerce secretary.

"I've been there, I've done service in the Congress, Cabinet, the U.N.," he continued, adding: "I don't miss it one bit. I really don't. I wish them well. I'm satisfied with what they're doing. I don't have to be part of it to feel satisfied. I really don't. This is hard convincing people because they know me, but I've found the ultimate job in being governor. I really have."

As to the ongoing federal grand jury investigation into how campaign donor CDR won state contracts:

The governor said he is "very confident that we did nothing wrong," but he complained that the inquiry "just drags on."

As to his life now:

Richardson acknowledges having been "disappointed" about withdrawing. But here in Santa Fe, he enjoys what many might consider an idyllic life. He wakes up in a sprawling house in the desert hills with stunning views of this old Spanish colony. He works out, plays tennis and shoots skeet. Riding his horse, named Toby (after the country singer Toby Keith), has become his passion. "It's kind of a sense of solitude," he said. "It's the one time I can get away from BlackBerrys and cells."

On Bill and Hillary Clinton:

Questioned about his relationship with Bill Clinton, Richardson let out a deep belly laugh and nearly spit out his breakfast.

"Nonexistent. He's ticked off with me," he said. "I still have his picture here. I still enjoy my service with him. I don't bear grudges, but he apparently does, but that's okay. That's politics."

But the man who says he is at peace outside Washington still talks regularly with Hillary Clinton about foreign policy. He held two fundraisers for her to help retire her campaign debt and counseled her before her visit to Mexico City last month. Richardson also continues to serve as a kind of ad hoc diplomat with difficult governments.

Describing his still-frenzied pace:

Richardson does not like to waste time. On this day, he made the 67-mile trek between Santa Fe and Albuquerque four times, racing to build his legacy. He signed energy bills offering tax credits for renewable energy, as well as legislation that creates stricter accountability measures in public schools. He attended the home opener of the Albuquerque Isotopes, the minor-league baseball team ... Richardson also visited the Albuquerque soundstage where a crew was filming the movie "The Book of Eli."

On his future:

Soon, back on the road, Richardson pondered his future. He has been knocked down, but he knows it is possible to return in a blaze of glory. "You know, I've got years ahead of me," he said. "I'm not a long-range planner."

The entire piece is well worth a read. It includes quotes from pollster Brian Sanderoff and former State Senator John Grubesic, as well as mentions of the Governor's bolo tie and his Mickey Mantle commemorative cuff links.

(Photo By Craig Fritz For The Washington Post)

April 17, 2009 at 09:22 AM in 2008 General Presidential Election, Current Affairs, Media, Obama Administration | Permalink