Bill Richardson: Bold, Informed and Presidential

Today, Chase Martyn of the Iowa Independent reviewed a major policy speech by Bill Richardson earlier this week on how to improve the welfare of the human race and our environment.  Martyn is no supporter of Richardson, noting “I expected would be ridden with gaffes, pie-in-the-sky policy proposals, and poll-tested mumbo jumbo. Having not seen Richardson stump in person for a period of two months, I had no idea what I was in for.”

Martyn came away highly impressed.  Martyn described Richardson's speech as “bold and informative.  … I dare say he sounded presidential.”

In his speech, Richardson set forth  a global agenda to address the welfare of the human race, linking climate change, poverty, international disease and war.  Richardson stated:  “A hungry world will also hunger for scapegoats. A thirsty world will thirst for revenge. A world in crisis will be a world of anger and violence and terrorism.”

In Iowa this week, Bill Richardson gave a major speech on U.S. foreign policy, setting forth a global agenda to address welfare of the human race.  He noted:

For decades, we believed that the only Apocalyptic threat to human civilization was the possibility of nuclear war.

Now we know better. We know that poverty and overpopulation affect us all. Refugee crises. Pandemic diseases. Climate change. Environmental degradation. Resource Depletion. Ethnic and political instability. These are not just the problems of individual nations. They are the problems of an interdependent world.

These threats are insidious. They may take decades to develop. And they respect no borders. Problems that span time and continents can only be solved through coordinated and cooperative global efforts.  

Time is of the essence Richardson argued:

If we wait ten or twenty or fifty years to address these problems, it will already be too late.  Environmental degradation takes many forms, but the most urgent is global climate change. There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that the planet is getting hotter. This is a fact, not a forecast.

The ice caps and glaciers are melting. Sea levels are rising.
300 million human beings live less than fifteen feet above sea level. Unless we act now, homes, villages, cities, and entire nations will be submerged.

Those not displaced by rising waters may go hungry as our unrestrained addiction to fossil fuels threatens both regional and global food shortages. Already severe drought has cut the world's maize crops by as much as 15%, and wheat supplies will soon be at their lowest level in 26 years.

In a world where hundreds of millions go to bed hungry, major losses in staple crops foretell a time when we wake up to billions starving.  In America … in a nation that has long fed the world…catastrophically rising temperatures threaten to decimate our farmland.

As a world traveler and peace maker, Richardson has a witnessed in person the challenges facing developing nations:  

But we cannot comprehend the crushing burden of global poverty through statistics alone. Even in America, I have walked in communities with no access to clean water. We have all seen shamefully inadequate housing, and we know that even in our own country there are children that go to bed hungry every night.

In my travels abroad, I have seen human desperation — first hand. In the Sudan, I have been to camps filled with families who have lost every worldly possession. I was on the ground in Turkey during a terrible earthquake, where I saw impoverished mothers on their knees, digging through rubble for their lost children.

I've spent time in Darfur which today is the best-known example of environmental pressures cascading into instability and violence. A prolonged drought decimated the region's grazing lands and nomadic herders moved south in search of water and food. They encroached upon farming land that belonged to other tribes, igniting the conflict that now has turned into a genocide.

We urgently need to find the courage and the will to address such crises. Not only because we are a decent and compassionate people, but also because of this inescapable reality: America will never be safe in a world riddled by poverty, desperation, hatred and violence.

A hungry world will also hunger for scapegoats. A thirsty world will thirst for revenge. A world in crisis will be a world of anger and violence and terrorism.

And unless and until we have the wisdom and the skill to secure all the nuclear weapons and fissile material in the world, that terrorism could result in unthinkable death and destruction.

The key points of Richardson's global plan as summarized in the Des Moines Register are as follows:

Work through existing United Nations mechanisms to prepare for the possibility that millions of people could be displaced because of global-warming-related flooding of deltas and coastal areas.

Focus on education in developing nations, where 115 million children do not receive any schooling.

Institute a nationwide, market-based cap and trade system that reduces carbon emissions in the U.S. by 80 percent by 2040. Make sure China and India develop clean energy.

Accelerate research into cellulosic ethanol and other low-carbon biofuels and construct distribution networks for retailers.

Develop cost-effective methods for harvesting fresh water and cleaning up polluted rivers and streams. Protect tropical rain forests and pursue aggressive reforestation programs.

Fight cross-border crime, end slavery and make progress to eradicate human trafficking.

Specific to the UN, Richardson reaffirmed that the organization is a necessary and important framework to confront international problems.  He called for reforming and invigorating the UN, and he said he understands better than anyone in the presidential race the organization’s shortcomings.  Richardson added he knows the “incredible power” that the legitimacy of international cooperation can lend to peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, addressing climate change and economic development.

In reviewing Richardson's speech, Chase Martyn of the Iowa Independent wrote:

If there were an award for “most improved presidential candidate” to be awarded in 2008, no one would deserve it more than Gov. Bill Richardson.  The candidate Iowans got to know through a series of satirical TV ads over the summer is no longer kidding around.  On the campaign trail here this week, Richardson left the distinct impression that he means business.

Kicking off his latest campaign swing Thursday, the New Mexico governor gave a speech on global threats, one which I expected would be ridden with gaffes, pie-in-the-sky policy proposals, and poll-tested mumbo jumbo.  Having not seen Richardson stump in person for a period of two months, I had no idea what I was in for.

Richardson's address, which he delivered using a teleprompter with unexpected precision and rhetorical skill, was bold and informative.  Far from the repetition I have accustomed myself to in these sorts of speeches over the past few months, Richardson showed his true colors as a man devoted to humanitarianism and global citizenship.  I dare say he sounded presidential.

Martyn was not the only one impressed with Richardson's speech:  

When he finished, the crowd of over 250 in downtown Des Moines gave him a standing ovation, but the format of the event — and the governor's schedule — did not allow for questions.

Martyn decided to attend a town hall by Richardson that evening to see “if Richardson's newfound seriousness would translate to his “town hall” style events or if it was merely a product of his teleprompter.”

I expected the torrential downpour that had lasted for much for much of the afternoon to depress turnout, but when I arrived 15 minutes early, the chairs in the “Story County Outdoor Recreation for Everyone” complex were already full.

True to form, Richardson kept his stump speech short, folding new sections of his speech (based on his address earlier in the day) into his standard talking points.  “I'm troubled by the debate within the party on the war,” he said, before launching into a concise explanation of his plan to withdraw all troops from Iraq as soon as possible, because diplomacy will not succeed until our troops are gone.  “I'm not happy with the congress,” he said.  “They haven't even made a dent” on Iraq policy.

He quickly concluded his remarks and opened the floor for questions, which covered a wide variety of topics.  I had seen Richardson stumble at this point during previous events over the summer, so I was expecting things to get a little shaky.  Again, my expectations were confounded.

He fielded questions on subjects ranging from peace between Israel and the Palestinians to fuel standards, and his answers were coherent and specific.  He displayed an understanding of the complex problems facing the world, emphasizing the gravity of our situation, but he was careful to note that “I'm not trying to be an alarmist.”

… By the end of the event, Richardson had answered every question that audience members had, even if the last eight were done in rapid-fire succession.  Onlookers were impressed enough that several filled out supporter cards, and I was impressed enough to eat a slice of humble pie (look at what I have written about Richardson in the past) and write this post.

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