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Unemployed Governor hits the Montante stage

Photo by Flickr.com creative commons user MikeSchinkel

blog by The Canisius Griffin  • 

Michael V. Haselswerdt, Ph.D., walked on the stage toward the podium in Montante Cultural Center on Tuesday evening, Sept. 20, followed by Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico.

Gov. Richardson stood in tow behind Dr. Haselswerdt as his long list of accomplishments was read aloud to the packed audience, gauging the crowd. For a man who has addressed world leaders and international audiences, he appeared a little nervous. But as he took the microphone, his nerves quickly settled and he began working on loosening up the audience.

“First,” he began, “I want to say that I agree with all the nice things you said about me.” The audience roared with laughter and the governor smiled from behind the podium.

Richardson visited Canisius as a distinguished speaker of the William H. Fitzpatrick Chair of Political Science Lecture Series. His speech was entitled “A Look at Politics in America and the Race to 2012.”

“I’m an unemployed governor,” he joked, explaining that he gives speeches around the country as an employment substitute.

He also made a special request that female members of the audience ask questions following his speech, remarking that he usually finds them under-represented in such situations.

The speech focused primarily on the state of United States politics today, relative to economic developments, international events, and grassroots political movements like the Tea (Taxed Enough Already) Party.

Richardson represented the 3rd Congressional District of New Mexico for nearly 15 years from 1983 to 1997. During this time he worked as a special envoy to places such as North Korea, Iraq, Cuba and Sudan, before he was named the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1997. He then served under President Bill Clinton as Secretary of Energy from 1998 until the end of Clinton’s term as president, when he became an adjunct professor at Harvard University.

Richardson won the gubernatorial election in New Mexico in 2002, and he served in this position until Jan. 2011. While governor, he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for United States President in 2008 against Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. During this time, he became friendly with future President Obama.

He spoke particularly about the debates in which he participated.

“They always set the minorities in the corner,” he joked. “You know, the Hispanics…” The audience cut him off with laughter.

At one debate, he was talking to Sen. Obama between questions. Since he was not polling very well, he just wasn’t being paid much attention. Eventually, his staff asked the debate hosts to send more questions toward Richardson.

“I wasn’t listening!” he laughed. “I was talking to Obama!”

But Obama didn’t “throw [Richardson] under the bus,” and instead told him that the question related to Hurricane Katrina.

“That’s when I started to like him.”

Richardson eventually endorsed Obama over Clinton, creating tension between him and his old friends. But that eventually passed and Obama went on to secure the nomination and win the presidency.

In terms of 2012, Richardson thinks the President will be re-elected.

“I think the President is re-elected very narrowly,” he said.

He suggested that the President’s campaign would focus primarily on inheriting an economic mess and national security accomplishments, like the successful killing of Osama bin Laden. But the President, he said, will have an easier time beating Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a general election than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“We’re a centrist country,” he said. “We’re a moderate country.”

Richardson emphasized the two most important elements of the upcoming campaign, in his opinion. The tea party, he said, “is a force to be reckoned with,” and technology will no longer benefit only Obama.

“This time [the effect of technology] is probably a wash,” he remarked.

During the question and answer session that followed the speech, Kevin Hardwick, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, took to the microphone. He asked a three part question: how did Richardson like Horatio Sanz’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live; what does he think of the growing influence of comedy television on national politics; does Tina Fey want Sarah Palin to run for President?

To the first question, Richardson said, “I liked that.” He also commented that comedy shows like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have a “major influence, especially on young voters.” In regards to Sarah Palin, he said only that he doesn’t think she will run for President.

The Fitzpatrick series will next co-sponsor Dagmar Freitag, a member of the German Bundestag (Parliament), with the Office of Academic Affairs. She will address Canisius on Monday, Oct. 3 at 4 p.m. in the Grupp Fireside Lounge on the second floor of the Richard E. Winter ’42 Student Center.

By Jonathan Beck
News Editor

TAGGED: bill richardson, canisius college, canisius griffins, dr. haselswerdt, jonathan beck, new mexico

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