Obama could do worse than Richardson
An Obama-Richardson administration. Interesting thought.
Particularly now that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has endorsed his former adversary, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, for president.
Obama, a Hawaii native, could do worse than Richardson on his ticket. In fact, it makes perfect sense.
» Obama, as a senator and former Illinois state legislator, lacks executive experience. That's how come we saw his chief rival, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, attack him with the "3 a.m. phone call" ad, suggesting he wasn't ready to deal with international crises.
Richardson, as a governor, former Energy Secretary and U.N. ambassador under President Bill Clinton, has plenty of executive and diplomatic experience.
» Obama does poorly with Hispanic voters, as evidenced in Texas. Richardson is Hispanic.
The old notion (as expressed in a 2007 column of mine) that the Democrats need a Southerner on the ticket to win has been shot out of the water by Obama's huge support among blacks in the South.
So, yeah: Richardson.
What else can we expect?
For one thing, Richardson as vice president (or secretary of state) would walk point on North Korea.
That is because he has been there numerous times as a negotiator whom the North Koreans apparently see as a straight-shooter. And that fits with Obama's assertion that the United States should converse with its adversaries.
In 1994, Richardson was on a fact-finding mission in North Korea when he learned that the North Koreans shot down a U.S. Army helicopter that had strayed into their airspace. Clinton asked him to stay in North Korea until he got the soldiers out.
"After days of tense discussions," to quote Richardson's Web site, "and stonewalling by the North Koreans, the world learned that pilot David Hilemon died when the helicopter went down, but that Bobby Hall, his co-pilot, was fine. Richardson refused to leave North Korea until he secured Hilemon's remains, and Bobby Hall was released a few weeks later."
In January 2003, Richardson talked with North Korean diplomats even as their leader, Kim Jong Il, had decided to withdraw from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty because of U.S. claims that it had a secret uranium weapons program.
In the 1990s as a congressman and as recently as last year, Richardson has negotiated the return of remains from Americans missing from the 1950-53 Korean War.
Just a year ago, Richardson went to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, as part of U.S. delegation to press North Korea to fulfill its commitments under a denuclearization agreement hammered out with the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.
Now, I'm no expert on North Korea, although I have been there. (I went to the Kumgang tourist resort last April as part of an East-West Center journalism exchange.)
But I sense that if Obama wins the nomination and the presidency, Richardson would be a very active veep.
Jim Borg is a Star-Bulletin assistant city editor.