Governor caught in teddy bear scandal

By Ned Cantwell: state columnist

Let’s see, how do I start this thing?

There’s something beary strange going on in Gov. Bill Richardson’s office. B-e-a-r-r-y strange!

No, too cutesy.

This column has called Bill Richardson a gruff old guy with a teddy bear heart. Could it be he collects the stuffed animals?

Nope, a tad vague.

What is Big Bill’s connection to a lobbyist for nudes?

Why don’t I just get on with telling you the story? The governor of New Mexico, he of the heavy résumé, continues to put our state in the spotlight. The three major networks and an array of cable newscasters fawn over the guy.

Just this Monday morning I clicked on to CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, and there’s Bill discussing the Middle East conflagration. He’s got on his Bulldog Beer face, the one he uses for serious dialogue or when, as is the case now, it is just past 6 in the morning and he has yet to have his first Snickers Bar fix.

Soledad, who makes my “American Morning” just a little brighter since Katie Couric fled the “Today Show,” was trying to get our governor to criticize United Nations delegate Josh Bolton, he of the heavy mustache.
Richardson did not become one of the nation’s smoothest politicians by falling into such traps. Instead, he said Bolton is doing a good job of carrying out the inept policies of the Bush administration.

Here’s the thing. We’ve had governors who thought Hezbollah was a video game, and now this New Mexico guy, our guy, in the midst of a truly ominous situation, is being sought out for advice on the national stage.

So, I ask you, why can’t Bill Richardson become president of the United States, the leader of the free world? I’ll tell you why. Bill Richardson has a dirty little secret and I know what it is.

A little girl in Baltimore is missing her teddy bear and all evidence indicates our governor has the animal and won’t give it up. I come by this information thanks to a tip from New Mexico radio personality Harvey Twite who sent me a column by Laura Vozzella of the Baltimore Sun.

Laura’s column related the whole sordid affair. Eight-year-old Branden Murphy of Maryland participated in a class project wherein the students each sent a teddy bear to dignitaries around the country. The idea was you got the bear, sent the kid a postcard, then forwarded the bear to another heavy hitter.

At the end of the school term all the kids got their bears back. Except Branden. Branden’s Popeye —that’s what she called the teddy — never made it back to Tridelphia Ridge Elementary.

Enter Don Murphy, Branden’s uncle and a lobbyist for nudists. We could divert here to discuss why nudists need a lobbyist, but let’s not. The point is that Murphy tracked Popeye through Wisconsin, Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and Arizona and straight into the office of Gov. Bill Richardson where the trail turned cold.

Richardson office responses to Baltimore inquiries have ranged from “We never got it” to “We thought it was a gift.”

Governor, I implore you. Nip this scandal in the bud. Send Branden a bear. A HUGE bear. Call him Smokey. Let me help you here. Let me be the one who informs Sun columnist Vozzella you are going to do the right thing by that little girl.

Smokey the Bear. It could catch on.

Ned Cantwell does not have a teddy bear but occasionally hugs his blankey. Contact him at: