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    August 21, 2007

    How Bill Richardson blew it

    Posted by: Chris

    Billrichardsonforum A reader responding to my post on Hillary Clinton's inside gal for the HRC-Logo presidential forum posted a cite to an interesting piece in the Las Vegas Weekly, a mainstream alternative weekly (you know what I mean), on how Bill Richardson's "choice" gaffe cost him Las Vegas gay and, as a result, the crucial early Nevada caucuses and, as a result, his chance at the nomination.

    The column is by my friend and respected colleague Steve Friess, who knows the Vegas gay political scene like nobody else.  Friess has worked in gay and mainstream newspapers in Vegas and produces a gay-friendly podcast called "The Strip."  I don't doubt his analysis of how devastating the gaffe was for Richardson for the hundreds gathered to watch the forum at the Vegas Gay Center, and for the New Mexico governor's chances in Nevada generally:

    The room at the Center registered audible shock. Few gays view their sexual orientation as a choice because most have very early memories of same-sex attraction and because it’s illogical that so many people would choose to be social outcasts and family pariahs. As Carlson explained in giving the candidate yet a third chance to redeem himself, anti-gay forces use their claim that homosexuality is chosen to argue that gay people don’t deserve equal rights because they can change if they wish.

    Richardson didn’t get it, and it was over. Even his supporters knew it, vacating their space at the info table in the Center’s lobby first and punting all questions to a spokesman with a 505 area code.

    Summing up the general view was travel agent and activist Terry Wilsey: “I thought he’d make a pretty interesting vice-presidential candidate. But after that? No way.”

    Friess also takes Richardson to task for how he responded to the gaffe the next day, calling bloggers and claiming he was jet-lagged and didn't understand the question, which Melissa Etheridge asked twice and Margaret Carlson repeated a third time. The weak recovery reminds me of how he responded to the other gaffe, his "maricón moment" on the Don Imus show, claiming the story was a plant from a rival campaign.

    If Friess is right then it doesn't speak too well about the political sophistication of the Vegas gay community, ditching the one candidate with an actual record of results on a gay rights issue for giving an answer on "choice" that, Friess acknowledges, is actually not wrong and is irrelevant to our civil rights. Even though Nevada and New Mexico are (relatively) similar, Nevada has an anti-gay constitutional amendment and New Mexico doesn't. That's due in no small part to Bill Richardson.

    But candidates have imploded over sillier things. The Howard Dean "whoop" heard 'round the country comes to mind…

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    Comments

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel on Aug 21, 2007 4:47:28 PM:

      You seem to be speaking out of both sides. Do you support Richardsion or not? First you go to lengths to tell us about Richardson's gaff, then you make light of it and imply it should ignored because he is really a supporter of gays. Which is it with you? Do you support Richardsion's stance on gay "choice" or not? If not, do you support Richardson regardless?

    1. Citizen Crain on Aug 21, 2007 5:13:14 PM:

      I didn't say Richardson blew it, actually, Steve Friess did. I argued that his gaffe and our need for validation shouldn't overwhelm the most important factor: picking a candidate who will bring us results.

      It's too early to commit to one candidate; I haven't endorsed anyone. All of the Dems are good on gay issues and yet all are also flawed or raise doubts in their own way. At this stage, I like Obama and Richardson more than Clinton or Edwards, but the campaign is still young…

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel on Aug 21, 2007 5:29:51 PM:

      Thanks for your reply. You show you are as politically slippery as Clinton and Obama from actually committing to a position. You did say that you don't doubt Freiss's analysis of how the Gaffe affected the audience. You haven't said how the Gaffe affected you. Are you just being coy? Now you seem to be saying that anyone who was negatively affected by it is just politically naive. I was involved in a county supervisor race in California challenging an anti-gay anti-green Republican incumbant. The local green community had the same notion of backing the candidate who will "get results" and therefore backed another challenger who just happened to be perceived as a "moderate" Republican. Needless to say the green community was so confused that many didn't vote at all and the challengers together couldn't force a runoff. Ever since then I have written off anyone who says they back a candidate who will "bring us results" as being the one who is really naive. For example, in this race based on the positions the candidates have, Dennis Kucinich is the "gay" candidate as well as the "black candidate and the "green" candidate, yet almost every Democrat who is gay, black, or green won't stand up and vote their conscience for the one person who has the integrity to state their positions openly and honestly. That is the sorry state of politics we find ourselves in.

    1. Citizen Crain on Aug 21, 2007 5:49:54 PM:

      I'm not being coy at all but I've already written at length about how I responded to Richardson's gaffe:
      http://citizenchris.typepad.com/citizenchris/2007/08/grade-the-dem-4.html

      If you actually think the most politically astute thing gays can do is back Dennis Kucinich, who isn't legitimately qualified and marginalizes our issues, then that's certainly your right.

      I am not surprised that Greens were confused for whom to vote. They have wasted their votes for years on idealistic protest candidates like Ralph Nader who ultimately only help elect nightmares like George W. Bush.

      We ought to support the candidate best on our issues who is qualified and has a shot at the nomination. I think all four top Democrats can vie for that support at this point, but there's still lots of campaigning to do to flesh out their strengths, weaknesses and differences.

    1. Andoni on Aug 22, 2007 12:29:58 PM:

      I too was disappointed with Richardson’s “choice” answer. But here is something to think about. Back in the early 1990’s when a gay friend of mine attended a Town Hall Meeting Richardson held after he was first elected to Congress, Richardson gave some really bad answers to my friend’s questions on gay issues. My friend was very offended but challenged Richardson and Richardson asked his staff to set up a meeting with some gay folks to better understand their issues.

      Well, after the meeting where they each told their stories, Richardson “got it” and began supporting gay legislation. He understood the discrimination they described and became a very good advocate for gay rights. Maybe in his meeting nobody educated him on the “choice” part.

      But the point here is that Richardson IS EDUCABLE (because he has been educable in the past) and if he makes a mistake he tries to understand it and then do the right thing. Isn’t that what we really want? It’s so easy to dismiss people on a negative.

      Unlike the stock market, I believe past performance in politics is the best predictor of future performance and I don’t like Hillary’s past performance. Edwards’ past performance doesn’t impress me all that much either.

      Richardson has a past performance I like --- as does Obama.

    1. Double T on Aug 22, 2007 1:06:38 PM:

      Chris, I was sitting in the Las Vegas Gay and Lesbian Center the night of the debate. I saw the look on people’s faces when Richardson opened his mouth.

      I think it’s extremely harsh that you would say .. “it doesn't speak too well about the political sophistication of the Vegas gay community”….. These are regular people. Not professional politicians with millions of dollars of public relations training. And Richardson was given three attempts to pull his head out of his ass.

      Richardson could have the greatest voting record on Black Civic Rights, but if he were to sit out in public and say nigger this and nigger that. People would be upset, and justifiable so. There is something not right here.

      And speaking of political sophistication, Richardson staffers did nothing to educate the crowd that night. They vanished.

    1. Alan Down In Florida on Aug 23, 2007 11:34:42 AM:

      Gov. Richardson's gaffe is no different in essence than John Edwards' admission that he has trouble "crossing the bridge" to approving same-sex marriage. It shows both ignorance and intransigence. Somehow I don't believe Gov. Richardson's belief in the politics of expediency as opposed to doing what is morally right is an indication of a man with the courage of his conviction but someone who will say what is necessary and accept crumbs as progress rather than fighting seriously for what is right even if it is unpopular. Whereas I still feel he is clearly the most qualified for the job he has lost my vote although, at this point, nobody has won it yet.

    1. Double T on Aug 23, 2007 12:14:51 PM:

      So, it sounds like we all vote for Hillary and pray she'll do the right thing.

      P.S. I'm not a Hillary supporter. I feel the Office of the President would then be limited to one of two families.

    1. Andoni on Aug 23, 2007 1:15:51 PM:

      I think it is ABSOLUTELY STUPID for the Democrats to choose their nominee so early. The Dems really need to win in 2008 and it’s not a sure thing that that will happen. Certain Republicans beat certain Democrats in polling at this stage.

      1. If I were a Republican PR person I couldn’t wait to have Hillary be the nominee. I think a good PR firm can devastate Clintion with the argument that the Founding Fathers were trying to get rid of Kings and Dynasties and familial lines of power. I can see the ads now: Louis XIV, Louis XV, Henry the Seventh, Henry the Eighth, Bush I, Clinton I, Bush II….. Clinton the Second?? And I bet they would have very good visuals. “Is this what America was founded to become?”


      2. Why is Karl Rove lambasting Hillary? One theory goes that he knows a reliable segment of the Democratic Party will rally around her and ensure she is the nominee. That is what he really wants……his dream opposition. Hillary’s numbers against specific Republicans isn’t as good as the other two in the top tier.

      3. Finally, if the Dems were smart and really intent on winning, they should wait to see who the Republican nominee is. The Republican Convention goes first this year. We should put up the candidate who polls best against their nominee. This is a battle and the goal is to win. Clinton may not be the best candidate against Giuliani, but may be against Thompson. At the moment, Edwards beats all the Republicans, whereas Hillary doesn’t. Doesn’t anyone else care about this?? The goal is to win.

      4. Watch out for Romney. If the Christian Right doesn’t knock him off in the primaries, he will be formidable. He is a smooth talker with good looks. He looks to me like a cross between JFK and Ronald Reagan. It doesn’t matter that what he says doesn’t add up. Bush II said things that didn’t add up, but the country bought them.

    1. dcjrb on Aug 23, 2007 2:13:56 PM:

      In all fairness to Richardson, having watched the interview I truly don't believe he heard the question correctly. Instead of saying sorry I misunderstood he forged on with a Gerald Ford " Poland is not under the domination of the Soviet Union" style answer.

    1. Raul Pon on Aug 23, 2007 4:43:21 PM:

      Chris, you're being too hard on Kucinich. If you believe in individual liberty, he's the only electable candidate, as we've explained at LibertariansForKucinich.com

    1. Double T on Aug 23, 2007 5:45:05 PM:

      Kucinich is NOT an electable presidential candidate. I believe he's a great person. He has a good heart. I love having him in our corner.

      But what's that old saying about reach exceeding your grasp?

    1. Double T on Aug 23, 2007 5:49:22 PM:

      Oh, and one more thing. Whenever I see a comment beginning "In all fairness..." I just ignore that comment. Obviously the person writing it is not aware that nothing in politics is FAIR!!!

    1. Brian Miller on Aug 27, 2007 9:41:35 PM:

      I don't support Richardson (and never did), but I do find the gay Democratic insistence that politicians "tell us they love us" to be hilarious.

      Who cares whether sexual orientation is a "choice" or not?

      The Democratic gay machine's insistence on this issue is the left wing's equivalent of the religious right's insistence that every candidate accept Jesus as his personal savior or drop out of the race.

      I don't believe my sexual orientation was a choice, but my belief on that front (or a politician's for that matter) is completely irrelevant to the actual issues on the table. Then again, the Democratic Party has always been the party of "feelings" and not the party of thinking, so I cannot get too surprised.

      Remember, these were the folks who "felt great" about Bill Clinton, only to get DOMA and DADT as a result. :P

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