Last week was a significant one in Bill Richardson's campaign for President, with a major address in Washington, D.C. on climate change and how to end the bloodshed in Iraq, along with a visit to Iowa.
It was also a significant week for peace and stability in Korea and Asia – which highlights Richardson's expertise in foreign affairs and his diplomatic skills. With Richardson as President we get two for the price of one – a can-do leader on domestic issues and an experienced diplomat that knows how to bring people and nations together.
First, Richardson spoke in D.C. at the Take Back America Conference and set forth an unambiguous approach to Iraq – total withdrawal of U.S. forces combined with a diplomatic offensive:
But there is a fundamental difference in this campaign — and that's how many troops each of us would leave behind. Other than the customary marine contingent at the embassy, I would leave zero troops. Not a single one. And if the embassy and our embassy personnel aren't safe, then they're all coming home too.
No airbases. No troops in the Green Zone. No embedded soldiers training Iraqi forces, because we all know what that means. It means our troops would still be out on patrol with targets on their backs.
A regional crisis is worthy of military intervention. A true threat to our country's security is worthy of war. But a struggle between a country's warring factions, where both sides hate the United States, is not worthy of one more lost American life.
Richardson also discussed his plan to addressing climate change:
I'm proud to have the most aggressive plan of anyone running for president. Within twelve years, my plan would reduce global warming pollution by 20 percent, lower demand for oil by fifty percent, and push fuel economy standards to 50 miles per gallon.
By the year 2040, my plan would require that 50 percent of our electricity be generated from renewable sources and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent.
You can read the plan for yourself at my campaign website or you can listen to the League of Conservation Voters. They rated it the most aggressive plan with the highest goals of any other candidate. These aren't pie in the sky proposals, but they are ambitious.
If we can spend billions waging war in a country that never had weapons of mass destruction … then we can certainly find the will to stop the mass destruction of our planet.
It's time that we as a nation chose the collective good over the desire to collect goods. And frankly, buying carbon offsets isn't enough. Just like paying somebody else to go to church doesn't make you religious … paying somebody else to conserve doesn't make you a conservationist.
Earlier this year, Richardson visited North Korea and helped revive U.S.-North Korean negotiations on nuclear weapons issues. During his April visit, North Korean leaders promised Richardson that they would meet with U.S. officials and representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor the shutdown of North Korea's nuclear reactor, in exchange for the U.S. unfreezing funds owned by North Korea and held outside the country.
In a statement issued by the campaign, Richardson noted:
North Korean leaders made a promise to me to invite Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill to meet in North Korea. This high-level meeting comes on the heels of progress made toward shutting down the Yongbyon nuclear facility. Both of these actions are important steps in the process toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
In an Op Ed published in The Hill, Richardson called on Congress to pass and fully fund the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 in order to move America to a reliable and verifiable paper-ballot system now, and discussed efforts in New Mexico to adopt paper ballots:
In 2005 a grassroots coalition of concerned New Mexicans demanded action — and we acted. Working together with these citizens and the state legislature, I fought for legislation to increase voter confidence in our democracy through specific and concrete measures. We improved and standardized training for poll workers. We established statewide standards for provisional ballots to ensure that voters in low-income areas will not be disenfranchised. We made absentee voting fair, simple and uniform. And we established a random, statewide 2 percent audit of voting machines.
One year later, I signed a bill to move New Mexico to an all-paper-ballot system using optical scanners to count votes. We ended the hodgepodge of systems that confused voters and raised questions about reliability.
New Mexico’s conversion to a paper-ballot system made sense. Paper ballots are the least expensive, most secure form of voting available… .Using optical scanners meant quick and accurate results, while at the same time paper ballots became the permanent, verifiable, durable record of the vote.
Campaigning in Iowa, Richardson was asked to respond to John Edwards' claim that he is more electable than Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama. As reported in Iowa Politics, Richardson stated that the Rocky Mountain and Southwest states were becoming increasingly Democratic:
We in the Democratic Party seem to be nominating candidates that maybe are very strong in the East Coast and the far West Coast. The only dispute I have with the senator’s perception is that I can deliver the Rocky Mountain states that other candidates can’t.
When questioned on his position on abortion rights, Richardson made clear his support:
Democrat Bill Richardson says that if he's elected president, he would reject any Supreme Court nominees who believe Roe versus Wade should be overturned… Richardson made the comment today in Des Moines, acknowledging that his stance probably upsets some people. Presidents typically say they don't ask potential justices about their views on specific cases, but Richardson says he would make an exception for Roe versus Wade.
The Times Republican observed:
Richardson said he’d treat abortion rights differently than other issues because it’s so crucial to so many Americans. ‘‘I say this because we always dance around this issue,’’ said Richardson. ‘‘I’m also going to ask them, you do support civil rights, right? You do support a right of privacy, right?’’
By not directly discussing standards for picking nominees, Richardson said presidential candidates hide vital information from voters. ‘‘I would put men and women on the court who would shape policy for a generation,’’ said Richardson. ‘‘That’s the biggest legacy of a president. We’re already paying for the Bush legacy with these last few decisions on privacy and choice.’’
Questioned on his position on illegal immigration, Richardson stated:
I have to deal with this issue every day as the governor of New Mexico. There are four border states, and we are one of them. Am I for this wall? No. It’s a 10-foot wall. First of all, Congress didn’t fund the whole thing. And do you know what’s going to be built? Eleven-foot ladders.
Richardson criticized the new Senate energy bill passed by the Democrats as a Band-Aid approach that did not go far enough to curb our dependency on imported oil or spur serious technological innovation and promote renewable energy. The Chicago Tribune reported:
A haunting question hangs over the new energy bill passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate just before midnight Thursday: Would it work if it became law?
The real answer lies far in the future, but skepticism was rampant Friday. One prominent presidential candidate, New Mexico's Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, called it a “Band-Aid approach,” a sentiment expressed by other critics. Some called price-gouging provisions in the bill virtually meaningless, and President Bush has threatened to veto any bill containing such provisions.
Democratic leaders held out great promise for the legislation, saying it would reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil and help keep gasoline prices in check. “A giant leap forward,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) declared.
…In counterpoint to high Democratic praise in the Senate, Richardson, who served as energy secretary in the Clinton administration, said in a statement the bill did not go far enough and would not break U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
“It's another Band-Aid approach, not the comprehensive medical treatment our nation's energy policy needs,” he said. He called for a 50 m.p.g. fuel economy standard for cars instead of the 35 miles per gallon in the bill, which would have to be attained by 2020.
Richardson called for legislation that would incorporate the following elements as part of a comprehensive, integrated approach to climate and energy policy by 2020:
* Sharp incentives for making the plug-in car 50% of the auto market, giving consumers the option to fuel up at a fraction of the cost of gasoline;
* A 50 mpg fuel economy standard for conventionally fueled vehicles, helping stimulate technologies that save fuel and save consumers gas money;
* A 30% renewable energy requirement, which will help fuel our plug-in cars and will cause the retirement of dirty old coal plants;
* A 20% improvement in energy efficiency across the board;
* A climate change cap and trade program that auctions rights for industries and utilities to emit carbon at lower and lower levels — at least 20% less by 2020, and 80% less by 2040.
Finally, Richardson, who earlier in the month attended an Iowa Pride Fest, spoke on the importance of LGBT rights and Pride Month:
I am very pleased to join my friends in the GLBT community and Americans across the country in celebrating Pride Month. This month is a deserved commemoration of the contributions of GLBT Americans to the United States and a welcome symbol of how far we have come as a nation.
We must also acknowledge that we are in the midst of a difficult struggle for basic human rights and we have a long way to go. This month is a worthy symbol of our progress towards full civil rights for every American, but we cannot ignore the challenges we still must conquer before we can truly move forward and create a better society.