May 31, 2007

Bill Richardson, a.k.a., Bill Richardson Lopez, a.k.a. William Blaine Richardson III

The New Mexico governor and Democratic Presidential candidate has an unusual background -- New England high WASP and Mexican. His grandfather was a Boston naturalist of Mayflower descent who collected specimens in Central America and married a Mexican lady from a prestigious family of Oaxaca. He became a planter and rancher in Nicaragua, and, according to the candidate's autobiography Between Worlds, "fathered children by four different women in Mexico and Central America."

Richardson's father was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Latin America and on the Eastern Seaboard, including Boston, Vermont, and Fisher's Island in Long Island Sound, home to an ultra-exclusive Charles Blair Macdonald golf course. During the 1913 Tufts-Army football game, he tackled cadet Dwight Eisenhower, breaking his leg. Richardson's dad went to work for what is now Citicorp in Italy and married an Italian colonel's daughter in Genoa. He was the top Citicorp banker in Mexico City from 1929-1956 and married his Mexican secretary (making Richardson 3/4th Mexican, 1/4th WASP). Richardson's father sent his pregnant mother to Pasadena, CA so that Richardson would be born in America (making him eligible for the Presidency).

Richardson was raised by his parents in Mexico City for 13 years before being sent to prep school in Massachusetts. Richardson then attended private Tufts U. as a legacy, to which his father had donated generously. There he majored in international affairs at the Fletcher School. He married a Massachusetts girl of (I believe) Irish and Jewish descent.

Richardson went to work as a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations committee. In 1978, Richardson carpetbagged his way to heavily Hispanic New Mexico and became a professional politician. He has held a variety of posts such as Congressman, Energy Secretary, UN Ambassador, and the Clinton Administration designated negotiator with foreign dictators. He is now a second term governor of New Mexico.

Presumably, his career has been helped along by being a twofer -- he's one of these new-fangled Mexican-Americans and he's a traditional preppie WASP Old Boy at the same time!

Richardson's resume resembles the elder George Bush's -- lots of impressive sounding jobs, both in a Southwestern state and in the corridors of power of the Eastern Establishment, but nobody's too sure whether he did a good job in any of them.

On paper, he sounds like a plausible Democratic nominee in 2008. To win, the Democrats don't seem to need to gamble on a high-risk candidate like the irascible Hillary or the sometimes brilliant but moody and self-absorbed Obama. They just need a guy who won't blow it for them. And yet, Richardson's candidacy doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

That Richardson is 3/4th Hispanic has generated only a tiny fraction of the frenzy of interest that Barack Obama being 1/2 black has generated, which fits my theory that most Americans barely notice mestizos compared to blacks, especially if they don't have a Spanish surname. Americans really aren't very interested in Mexicans, while, love 'em or loathe 'em, they find blacks fascinating.

Obama, who wrote a 442 page thematic autobiography about his being psychologically tortured by his lifelong resentment of his mother's race, is praised by people who obviously haven't read his book for being the "post-racial" man "comfortable in his own skin" who "transcends race." Ironically, all those phrases would seem to fit the sunny, glad-handing Richardson far better than they apply to the race-obsessed Obama. And yet, while so many people credulously project their racial fantasies onto Obama and pay no attention to what the man actually wrote at age 33, Richardson, when anybody notices him or his ancestry at all, seems to attract suspicion and irritation, as on Meet the Press on Sunday, when Tim Russert grilled Richardson in a way that he wouldn't dare with the widely-worshipped Obama.

Running for President, Richardson can't seem to figure out what to do about his dual ethnicity. His whole career, it's been this nice little advantage for him, but now he's running for President and it's taking on this symbolic importance that he can't quite figure out how to spin. Sometimes Richardson sounds as ethnocentric as Cruz Bustamante, the centrist Democratic Lt. Governor of California who could have gotten himself elected California Governor in the three-way recall election of 2003 against the Republicans Schwarzenegger and McClintock, but, for some inexplicable reason, decided to campaign for Gobernador de Alta California instead. (Perhaps he believed Karl Rove's hype about the size of the Latino vote?) Bustamante ended up turning an early lead in the polls over Arnold into a 17 point loss.

Other times, Richardson sounds like the Washington insider he is.

He ends up seeming phony, which, combined with some veracity problems (e.g., he always claimed he was drafted by a big league baseball team, but he wasn't) and New Mexico's reputation as the Louisiana of the desert when it comes to crooked politicos, isn't helping his campaign.

The only other prominent American I can think of who was high WASP and Mexican (assuming the President's nephew George P. Bush is not a prominent American yet) was the CIA's paranoid genius spymaster James Jesus Angleton. (Matt Damon played him as a dull WASP in last year's oddly intentionally-less-interesting-than reality Robert De Niro movie "The Good Shepherd.") Angleton's father was a cavalry officer in Pershing's 1917 punitive expedition into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa and his mother was a 17-year-old Mexican society beauty. Angleton was raised mostly in Italy where his father was an NCR executive and attended prep school in England.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

8 comments:

Mark said...

Richardson's father sent his pregnant mother to Pasadena, CA so that Richardson would be born in America (making him eligible for the Presidency).

Even if Richardson had been born in Mexico, as the son of an American citizen he still, doubtless, would qualify to be president. Mitt Romney's father George, who also ran for president, was in fact born in a Mormon colony in Chihuahua, and I don't know of any controversy surrounding his meeting the constitutional prerequisites for office.

I note from Richardson's genealogy that he is a descendant of William Brewster (a double descendant, in fact). I, too, am a double descendant of Brewster, but I doubt I'll be voting for my "cousin."

Anonymous said...

Richardson is a gladhanding compromiser, not a strategist or rational thinker. poor thinkers tend to flame out in meaningful political races in the face of rational, motivated competitors and too many decisions to be made(remember, al gore hired donna brazile to manage what should have been a winning campaign, despite his deficiencies, in 2000, one of the great strategic blunders of all time). On the republican side, the rational thinker factor suggests Romney will do better than expected, McCain worse. Romney's Mormon axis, Boston insider, Bain Capital angle suggests an isteve research project. I don't love Romney, but as a candidate at least he has the advantage of actually having accomplished something outside the fairyland of the media, govt., and politics.

Anonymous said...

"...race-obsessed Obama."

the irony meter is going berserk!

Anonymous said...

Steve -- the problem with Richardson is not his race, and Obama is not getting all this play because of his race.

The dominant factor in Dem/Media politics is Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Clinton's machine is formidable, but has generated also a lot of opposition. Obama benefits and as you say people project fantasies upon him without reading what he wrote. But IMHO this due the search for an anti-Hillary figure not racial fantasies.

If you were on the outs with Bill Clinton in Dem politics you want a Dem restoration, without Hillary. If you were part of the Billary machine in the 1990's then you want a Billary restoration, simple as that.

You might as well ask why Biden, Dodd, Kucinich, and other fringe actors get no love from the media. Or why Edwards is laughed at, a man of the people who makes Elmer Gantry look genuine.

It's Billary and anti-Billary/Obama. That's it.

currahee said...

Richarson, despite his lack of charisma, is very electable for the reason Steve cited: no reason to not like him as he is not identified as anything at all. Yes, the dems should win in '08; but they sure as hell should have won in "00 and '04.

The only way you can lose running against a total doofus like bushjr.,is to find a candidate as weird and unlikeable as the gorekerry thing.

Anyway, theirs to lose.

Currahee

Anonymous said...

The betting markets give Richardson a decent probability of being the VP nominee. Less than Obama, but more than Gore or Baygh.

Dave said...

"Romney's Mormon axis, Boston insider, Bain Capital angle suggests an isteve research project. I don't love Romney, but as a candidate at least he has the advantage of actually having accomplished something outside the fairyland of the media, govt., and politics."

I'm starting to think Romney's going to get the nomination. McCain strapped the immigration bill dynamite to his candidacy and blew it up. Romney was smart enough to feign outrage at it.

Interesting comparison between Romney and Richardson re flip-flopping: Romney can get away with it because he is clearly highly intelligent and a great salesman; Richardson clearly is neither.

Also, one thing I like about Romney's experience with private equity (part of Bain's business): private equity guys know having great ideas aren't enough -- you also need to hire the best managers to implement them.

I doubt Romney's being a Mormon is going to be a serious obstacle to him. Most Americans who have met Mormons have positive opinions of him, and secular types will assume Romney doesn't really buy into the Mormon theology anyway. The only wild card would be the evangelicals, but I don't see them voting for a Dem.

Mark said...

The betting markets give Richardson a decent probability of being the VP nominee. Less than Obama, but more than Gore or Bayh.

I don't see Hillary risking her shot at the White House to name the first "double minority" ticket. She's too damn ambitious for that. She would have to have a whole lot of polling data to demonstrate the appeal, and even then she'd have to worry about the folks who talk one way and vote another.

The biggest problem white Americans have with the Dems is that they play the race and gender card too much. A woman/black or woman/hispanic ticket would remind them of that concern all the way to the polls. Republicans need about 60% of the white vote to do well in elections. Hillary/Obama would aid that effort.

McCain strapped the immigration bill dynamite to his candidacy and blew it up. Romney was smart enough to feign outrage at it.

Is Romney "feigning outrage," or is he demonstrating that he understands the concerns of the voters? We're choosing a president, not a dictator, which is something that George and John and Hillary keep proving that they don't understand. Presidents are supposed to listen to the citizens.

Romney has proven competence (as does Giuliani), and he's also shown that he's not as mulishly stubborn as the current occupant of the White House. Those are two traits voters may be looking for come next year.