As we New Mexicans dig out from under our unusual four inches of snow today, the world continues on much as it has done, which is to say it is heading off in strange directions in defiance of all common sense. Preposterously, our governor, Bill Richardson, is contemplating a run for the White House and has been gladhanding all over New Hampshire for the last few days. I now understand what Arkansans must have felt in 1991 looking at the prospect of their own ridiculous governor, also named Bill, taking a stab at the big time. The difference is that their governor actually had some outside chance of pulling it off. Ruben Navarette recently opined that Richardson would make a great candidate (provided that the mean, old nativists don’t get him!). Just look at his record! Indeed, let us look.
He has managed to be elected twice as governor on the Democratic ticket in a state where Democratic registration outpaces Republican at a rate of at least five to three. He is a Hispanic governor who has won election in a plurality Hispanic state. His previous electoral experience was as the effectively unchallenged Congressman from the Third District in the north of the state where, between jaunts to Haiti and North Korea on diplomatic do-gooding (where he did very little except pose for the photo op afterwards) in the ’90s, he did nothing. Then he was made Ambassador to the U.N., a post previously held by such political giants as Alan Keyes and Madeleine Albright, where he very capably did nothing (14 years in the House had prepared him well). Following this tour of glory, he became Secretary of Energy, where he was fortunate enough to preside over the greatest security scandal in the Department’s history as the massive security lapses at LANL, essentially in his own backyard, became public knowledge. Sen. Byrd famously declared his political career dead in a committee hearing, but Bill has never been one to pay attention to what other people said. After his colossal failure and screw-up of management on his part, he scurried on home to become the big fish (no fat jokes, please) in our very little pond. Now he would like people to ride useless trains to Raton and fly spaceships from our “spaceport”–all of it, I am sure, at no cost to us. He would also like us to give him supreme power. I suggest that we ought not to try that.
He has faced competition less challenging than Barack Obama has. The New Mexico Republicans put up the sacrifical offering, er, candidate of John Sanchez in 2002, who had only just knocked off the then-NM House Speaker Ray Sanchez (no doubt counting on the confusion of the last names to work in his favour among Valley voters) and who then went down to ignominious defeat in the gubernatorial race. This year the GOP had a no-name nominee who didn’t particularly want to bother with campaigning, so the party had to replace him mid-year with John Dendahl, long-time party operative and former chairman, who managed to barely get the registered Republican vote and nothing more.
On the basis of such “victories,” Bill Richardson claims his place in the sun as a viable presidential contender, as if he had ever won a seriously competitive election or fashioned a political coalition more lasting than the food on his plate. As holder of the Guinness world record for most hands shaken in a day, he is the ultimate flesh-pressing con-man and he will also certainly go nowhere in the primaries, try as the national media may to make him into a serious candidate and “the only Hispanic candidate for the nomination.”
In other news, The Wall Street Journal today profiled Vladislav Surkov, the half-Chechen deputy chief of staff at the Kremlin and former ally of many prominent oligarchs, who could win the contest for Most Neocon-like Russian hands down. In the profile, stories of his demonisation of domestic opposition as “true Nazis” and his belief that all critics of the Putin regime seek the “destruction of Russia” have an eerie familiarity to them. The campaign against Dmitri Rogozin, in which Rogozin was tarred by state-run television as a “racist and fascist” is Frumesque in its mendacity and opportunistic use of such charges. It’s almost enough to make a paleo feel sorry for Khodorkovsky and his ilk–almost. One of the great mysteries of our day is why the neocons constantly laud Mr. Bush as a defender of freedom when he often runs his administration in Putin-like ways while they despise Putin and his allies for running Russia in much the way they would like to govern this country. True enough, they sympathise with Putin’s enemies and do desire to undermine and weaken Russia for hegemonist reasons, so their contempt for Putin is based to some degree in the realities of power politics and to some degree in their sheer Russophobia. Nonetheless, the irony of the apologists for autocracy in this country resenting Putin’s autocratic methods is really too great to ignore.