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    January 10, 2008

    Another Bill gives in to Hillary

    Posted by: Chris

    Billrichardsongoodbye After finishing fourth in both Iowa and New Hampshire, Bill Richardson is apparently dropping out of the Democratic presidential race today. Despite a resume that outshone the leading contenders, Richardson was obscured by the celebrity wattage of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and even John Edwards.

    Part of the problem was Richardson himself, of course. He isn't as articulate as he is intelligent and was prone to gaffes, including his debate whopper of naming Byron "Whizzer" White as the Supreme Court justice he admires most. Give him credit for acknowledging that as his worst campaign moment when asked during last weekend's New Hampshire debate, a question both Clinton and Obama dodged.

    His campaign also suffered from two prominent gay gaffes -- the first taking place even before he officially announced his candidacy.  As Karen Ocamb and I reported on Gay News Watch, Richardson used the word "maricón" in an appearance on the Don Imus show. Most Hispanics consider the Spanish word to mean "faggot," and it was clear in context that's how Imus and Richardson meant it at the time. To Richardson's discredit, he tried worming his way out of the story by alternatively claiming the word means "girlie"  -- as if that made things better -- and blaming his opponents for leaking it -- when in fact it was a reader of this blog.

    The second gay gaffe took place in the Human Rights Campaign-Logo debate, when Richardson was asked by Melissa Etheridge if he believes homosexuality is a choice or not. Flummoxed, he guessed wrong and then failed to find his way out of the wildnerness when Etheridge tipped him off that he might want to reconsider. This second slip-up bothered me much less than the first, since he seemed tired and most likely confused how "choice" is a good word in the abortion debate with how much it's a bad one on gay issues. (In fact, he gave exactly that explanation in an interview with the Washington Blade last month.) All in all, the Richardson "choice-gate" is another example of where we still seek approval from politicians, rather than expecting good policy.

    Unfortunately for Richardson, his mediocre campaign performance obscured a record of actual results -- not just words, as Hillary is fond of saying -- that far exceeds any of the other candidates on gay rights. (That's what I said almost a year ago in a post titled, "Another Bill better than Hillary?") As governor of a marginally red state, Richardson nonetheless pushed through gay and trans-inclusive non-bias and hate crime laws and extended domestic partner benefits to state employees.

    Although Richardson opposes full marriage equality, he successfully headed off a gay marriage ban and when he didn't get domestic partnerships (which were actually closer to civil unions) through the regular session of the legislature last year, he called a special session. He came within a vote or two of succeeding.

    Richardson's gay record wasn't perfect; as a member of Congress he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and defended that vote up until last spring, when he said he favored full repeal. But still he has proven -- in ways that the leading candidates have not -- that he will convert his promises into performance. This has been the achilles' heel of Democratic Party support for gay rights at the federal level, and Richardson's candidacy at one point appeared to offer the antidote.

    Perhaps he will still land on the party's ticket as a vice presidential nominee, although the Iowa caucus shenanigans make that unlikely if Hillary is the nominee. Richardson would be a powerful V.P. pick for Barack Obama for a whole host of reasons, especially since his resume would fill out obvious gaps in the first-term Illinois senator's experience.

    Certainly nothing would present a new face for American to the world like having a woman or African American as president and a Latino as vice president. The question is whether Richardson's mistake-prone campaign ruined those prospects.

    (Photo via New York Times/Nathanial Brooks)



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    1. Tim C on Jan 10, 2008 10:33:31 AM:

      I was truly disappointed to hear about this yesterday. He's been my pick, hands down, practically from the beginning. I really disagree with his Iraq position, but I figured that should he reach the White House, reality would modify that position, and his positions on other issue outweigh my misgivings about his Iraq strategy. It's been a long time since I wasn't holding my nose with one hand and voting with the other, and thought that Richardson would remedy that for this cycle, but now it's back to the drawing board. Rats.

    1. Geena the Transgirl on Jan 10, 2008 12:00:47 PM:

      I grew up in New Mexico in the 70's-80's. The state was tolerant, but that was due more to apathy.
      Bill Richardson has changed the way New Mexico perceives itself and the positive role state government can make in a small state.
      The idea of a Hispanic governor from New Mexico being on the world stage of diplomacy and presidential politics was not conceivable 15 years ago.
      Bill Richardson has changed all that, and given citizens of New Mexico a reason to be involved in national politics.

    1. Monster Beats Sale on Nov 30, 2011 12:52:07 AM:

      a reason to be involved in national politics.

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