Presidential bid troubling for column writing

By Ned Cantwell: State Columnist

Where were we? Where were we before I decided to stretch out on a deck chair and watch the August monsoons? It was fun. Two column deadlines passed. It felt good.

But then I got to feeling guilty. I had made a pledge to my readers some time back and I was letting them down. Remember? This columnist had appointed himself Czar in Charge of Reminding the Public Bill Richardson Is Not Running for President.

So there I was, feet propped up on the railing, reading “1776,” in which esteemed historian David McCullough covers the military side of the momentous year of 1776 with characteristic insight and a gripping narrative.

OK, OK, so I wasn’t reading “1776.” I swiped that fancy description from to make myself look smart. Actually, I was reading Tawni O’Dell’s “Coal Run,” still a gripping narrative if not particularly intellectual.

It was about page 163 that I became aware venerable TIME magazine was once again spreading the vicious rumor that our governor may have his eye on the White House. This story has a life of its own, despite Richardson’s repeated denials and despite this column’s constant vigilance to remind New Mexico Bill is not running for president.

The latest version sprang from the magazine’s choice of the governor as one of two New Mexicans placed on its elite list of the “25 Most Influential Hispanics in America.” He walks in esteemed company, along with the state’s other entry, novelist Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez.

Why couldn’t TIME leave well enough alone? Why did it have to write: “It is no secret that Richardson is aiming for the White House in 2008 if he is re-elected governor next year. His name recognition is low, but his resume is impressive.”

Geez! That makes it so hard for me to do by job! As TIME reported in its own press release, Gov. Richardson told a Latino audience just this June that, “No, I will not run for president.” Then, according to the magazine, Richardson told the New Hampshire audience in Spanish, “Of course, I will be a candidate.”

That is the type of thing that makes New Mexico special. There are politicians all over the nation who can speak from both sides of their mouths. Few can do it in two languages.

TIME’s assertion that the governor has low name recognition is questionable. Richardson has been a darling of the national media. Thanks to the cable networks, he spends more time in living rooms than your average TV dinner stand.

The governor shows well on the screen, calm, articulate and well-reasoned, although when he is in a grumpy mood his mug looks like it should be on a can of Bulldog Beer.

Since TIME’s article the governor has declared a state of emergency in New Mexico regarding the illegal immigrant stampede across our borders, written a piece on that that subject for the op ed page of the Los Angeles Times and declared the state a zero tolerance zone for sex offenders. So much for low name recognition.

There are those of us who would miss Bill Richardson should he leave the Land of Enchantment. This columnist, for one, would have to find someone else to poke fun at. Were it not for Richardson and the state’s refusal to outlaw cockfighting, I might be out of business.

There’s always that deck chair.

Ned Cantwell is a syndicated New Mexico columnist. He welcomes response at: