| I had the opportunity to attend a majority Republican fundraiser, with some Democrats too, for New Mexico Governor and Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Richardson in Arlington Friday night. The minimum to get into this event was $500, so I have a good friend with the Mid-Cities Democrats to thank for getting me in, and I'm really glad that she did because I walk away highly impressed.
As mentioned above, this was a majority Republican fundraiser; I never really figured that out even though I was getting odd stares with my Mid-Cities Democrats badge and my donkey pin on my coat. What gave it away was first, the host actually said so, and second former congressman Barry Goldwater Jr. was in attendance. Shows you the bi-partisan appeal that Richardson has.
I was the first to step in front and get face time with Governor Richardson as he entered the marbled entrance of this gorgeous, gated, secured, and secluded home in North Arlington. A very tall man, generally handsome, very charismatic, fluent in Spanish, knows how to work a room like a real pro, very self-deprecating, and a genuinely nice fellow. He took a picture with me and signed two books without a grimace like most politicians do. He looked groggy having come back from North Korea and arriving in Santa Fe at 4am Friday morning, but outside of that he was very willing to do whatever was asked. Might have something to do with the minimum donations of $500 though.
|Shortly after the governor arrived tornado sirens went off and the host of the fundraiser asked us to move to his storm shelter. So there I was following the host, practically leading by hand Gov. Bill Richardson to the storm shelter as he was standing next to me when the order came through. Let me paint the picture of this storm shelter folks because if you are going to be hit by a tornado let it happen as you relax in the confines of this secure establishment. We were led downstairs to a marble floored, plush furniture filled, antique desk decorated, wall to ceiling fireplace room, which overlooked a gorgeous view of the pool currently being hammered by hail and falling branches. As everyone arrived downstairs the owner sealed the room with storm shutters so we were ignorant of the monsoon taking place from that point forward. To my right was a full bar, a little farther back behind me was a guest bedroom, behind the bar was a full kitchen complete with a wine cellar. Considering there was no more then 25 at this event, I felt comfortable knowing if I were to die from a tornado at this point how cool it was that I'm with a Democratic presidential candidate, surrounded by an abundance of liquor, and all the food I could ever want. The downside was it was also a room full of Republicans, so indeed a precious balance of dying happy and dying with political enemies.
Lets talk substance now. Richardson focused a lot on his trip to North Korea, and claims news will come out Monday of deals made. He mentioned it was a bi-partisan trip, sanctioned by White House blessing, to gauge where North Korea was in dismantling their nuclear program per the February agreement all signed on to. I wondered why he went, why did the White House allow Richardson, a candidate for president, to go to Korea? Richardson replied, "Kim Jong Il likes me for some reason, he wont talk to anyone but Richardson." So the White House, eager to demonstrate they are doing something with North Korea, felt it was a win-win so long as it was bi-partisan. Richardson was joined by former Veterans Affairs secretary Anthony Principi and other Republicans too, but Richardson did most of the talking. He claims to have won the release of the remains of 6 U.S. soldiers from the Korean War, noting that North Korea still holds the remains of over 8100 young men from that conflict. Another 10 are likely to come, as a show of good faith by the North Koreans. Needless to say, Bill Richardson probably has the best foreign-policy credentials of any candidate in the race. Additional details to come Monday as to Richardson's trip to North Korea.
Moving from foreign policy Richardson struck a theme of being "practical, pragmatic, and patriotic." He struck that chord frequently and often. He noted numerous times that he was a pro-business moderate Democrat who was running in the center and would not be swayed. He said he will not be liberalized by Iowa or New Hampshire, and instead, is betting on states like Texas, with our likely move to February 5, as a delegate grab which will keep him in top tier contention. Expect to see him traveling our state more often then any other, for money no less, but taking advantage of the over 40% Hispanic population too in the hopes they get out and vote for him.
Final thoughts: Out of all the candidates thus far, I've had a chance to meet personally John Edwards, whom I really like, and Barack Obama back in July of '06 in Washington DC, who I thought was very stale, disinterested in speaking to our group, and inaccessible. I've seen the others on television. But I came away highly impressed by Bill Richardson. He exudes confidence, his experience is vast, he has a firm grasp on the issues, possesses a proven track record as governor, and a candidness about him that is easy to like. Him being governor of a swing state, and considering Americans love to nominate governors are good for him, but also being Hispanic, well credentialed, and able to continue fundraising competitively are good factors too. He has a deserving shot at the nomination.
Note: Bill Richardson will be on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on Sunday so check him out for yourself.