Bill Richardson is an old pal. We go back to the Carter days, before he was a Congressman. Probably before he had either thoughts about being an Ambassador or President of the United States. It was a time when there were a small group of us, almost all who were political appointees, and we would party on weekends and other extraneous numerous occasions. We never needed an excuse—just a time and place.
The tone of the times among the people who were involved in politics a few Presidents ago, was much different than it is today. We were not fearful about the press. Quite the contrary, they had traveled with us on varying Presidential campaigns and had become our friends. In those more congenial, gentler times, the TV personalities, pencil press, and photographers, spent the day working, then filed or shipped their stories and immediately proceeded to whatever hotel bar happened to be the closest to the most people. Here we all proceeded to recount the events of the day and drink ourselves into a stupor—OK maybe not a stupor but enough to make us confess intimacies as well as outimacies (which were sometimes more interesting.)
But what about Richardson and why did he endorse Obama -- you probably want to know. I’ll get there soon. First let me say, Bill is a terrific guy. He is charming, funny, and has an incredible capacity to remember events and people. Even after I hadn’t seen him in ten years, he was able to vividly recount details about evenings which—even under threat of bodily mutilation – I could absolutely not recall. He is a person loyal to friends and generous of spirit. But if you cross him or if you are unkind to anyone he loves, you will assuredly suffer his diplomatic wrath. He will not forget or forget a slight or perceived slight.
That being said, and painful as it is for me to share, the Clinton campaign is infamous for their lack of grace, their sense of entitlement and their ability to anger even the sweetest of people. Although contrary to the Hillary I know, and I am not sure the candidate is aware of the way in which her staff operates, but she should be – this is a reality. So you put these two ‘knowns’ together and what do you get? A former Clinton Administration Ambassador who, although it was certainly not necessary, decided to endorse a stranger instead of a long time friend. Could it be that the Clintons either dissed or dismissed Governor Richardson in some way? I’m guessing this is a possibility.
“There is something special about him”. Richardson said in his speech. “I’m not sure what it is but it is good.” When I heard that statement I thought, come on Bill spell it out. But then I thought, the Governor is in the same place as so many people. I guess what I think is special is that he talks to the general American public like they are grown-ups. Unlike Mr. Gore, or Senator Clinton, he does not seem to care if he is smarter than we are—he wants us only to be smart enough to understand the some important truths. With regard to the issue of race, the truth is that there are Blacks who feel disenfranchised and discriminated against and Whites who are angry about the possibility of being or having been denied their own opportunity at the expense of Blacks and Hispanics.
What was also special about the Speech and the man was that he understood the limits of where he could go. It was not a speech that addressed economic issues, or welfare mothers, or inequity in the schools. It was an elegant explanation of why he couldn’t throw Reverend Wright “under the bus” (wherever did we find that colorful metaphor), how he didn’t agree, denounced, decried, was reviled by and found unconscionable those controversial statements and how he thought it was time to have an honest discussion about racial tensions, misunderstandings, difficulties. He felt the only way to get beyond them was to have a national conversation about them. How refreshing. So this man who wants to lead the country is articulate, honest, a visionary and refreshing. Agree or disagree with the depth and scope of the content, who wouldn’t endorse that?
I hope my speculation about why Governor Richardson did what he did satisfies this readership. Although it’s just a guess knowing the persons and personalities, my anecdotal surveys support these contentions. It has been said that politics makes strange bedfellows – clearly this is true when you look at what’s happened to the Governors of New York and New Jersey. But as a woman, my concerns go way beyond who’s sleeping with whom and how many of them there are. I want to feel assured that Senator Obama, will eventually give the same kind of speech about gender. Although I do understand that in the initial stages of the campaign they needed to be focused on early wins, I now want to see him develop the kind of relationships that will help him to understand the importance of giving women a voice in the White House. Bill Clinton did this to some degree and Hillary, although not in involved in the beginning of the Administration, eventually came to support the effort and she is now supported by the women (and organizations) who had a voice. These are the women that changed the way money was donated in elections, that fought diligently for Title IX, Family Leave, and Choice. Is it any wonder that they remain staunch Hillary advocates? Is it a surprise that they are reluctant to trust any other candidate to support the enormous gains they made. And is it impossible to understand their fear about losing their powerful place in Democratic or Presidential Politics. I would think not.
While he has advocated for Choice and women’s economic opportunity, Senator Obama is an unknown in the world of Gender politics in which these important ‘girls’ play. They look at a fairly inexperienced campaign with young people in senior positions and they say, “ is this new generation going continue to fight, stay the course or think the work is done.” What relationships will the Senator develop that will take him to the place they want him to be? One good sign is Betsy Myers—who headed up the White house Women’s Office in the Clinton Administration. Another is Karen Mulhauser, the former Executive Director of NARAL.
Given the reality of the Primaries, it may be time for women of a ‘certain’ age to trust that Senator Obama really does have a special qualities and they are, as the Governor says, 'good.' What I know for sure is that the more we talk about these things the healthier a Presidential season we will have...Iris