Well, there’s a guy who knows how to ruin a party.
After Bill Clinton gave up that most prominent of Man Days, Super Bowl Sunday, to be the New Mexico Governor’s date and to pitch his best woo to his former protege, he figured it was a lock that Bill Richardson would get caught up in those famous Clinton charms and pledge his superdelegate love to the Senator Mrs. Clinton. Instead, Bill skulked away with his beer hat in hand, wondering why he didn’t spend the weekend over in Tempe doing body shots off of vacuous blonde women with loose morals and artificially enhanced breasts.
Then he goes and does this. The Obama campaign was reeling this week and Hillary was getting the first traction she’s seen in over a month. This after a relentless daily fusillade of personal attacks that attempted to paint Senator Obama as a well-intentioned but naive little upstart who looked just so darn cute playing Presidential candidate for a month but it’s a school night so it’s time to go to bed and let Senators McCain and Clinton get back to the grown-up business of campaigning. Then, after they had to shoot Geraldine Ferraro with a tranquilizer gun, throw her in a cage, and send her back to Queens after they let her get too close to the campaign ammo dump, Obama saw Hillary’s racial Dresden and raised her a Tokyo with the tirades of his spiritual patron, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. As he was busy mopping up the smoldering embers of that maelstrom, polls were showing Hillary with a reclaimed and widening lead against Obama, and suggesting that she was the more electable of the two against the increasingly doddering Senator McCain.
She was about to reestablish her claim to the party she felt was rightfully hers. With a trouncing of Obama in Pennsylvania putting enough led in her pencil to do him in in North Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky, and maybe even Oregon, all she had to do was corner a few hundred superdelegates and twist some arms without tearing any rotator cuffs (except where absolutely necessary) and she was going to make quick work of the pollyanna hopeniks who were keeping hype alive for Barack Obama and his silly “Up With People” rallies.
And, even if he wasn’t going to give his endorsement yet (which they’d begged him to do as recently as March 13), all Governor Richardson had to do was keep his mouth shut and this time next year Secretary Of State Richardson and Bill Clinton could be loading up the mini fridges in his State Department Boeing 757 and heading “piece” delegations to Amsterdam and Bangkok.
But no. He had to show up in Portland at another packed-to-the-catwalks Obama rally at Memorial Coliseum and give his endorsement to the Illinois Senator.
Bill Clinton may not like how Governor Richardson throws a Super Bowl party, and neither he nor Hillary are likely enamored of how he throws an entire party under the bus, but Bill Richardson will be Secretary of State this time next year. He did his part to bring order to a party that has seemed increasingly untidy amidst an all-out offensive instigated by the Senator from New York, who has been breaking way too many eggs in her attempt to whip up a very unpalatable Denver omelette. He did the right thing by admonishing the kids to stop fighting one another and get together to focus on Senator McCain this fall, and he righted the listing Obama ship.
Hillary is setting up her party to suffer through the most fractious convention since the 1968 Democratic outing in Chicago. To paraphrase the notorious and venerable Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley whose police force turned that convention into a bloody mess of epic proportions, “The Senator is not here to create disorder. The Senator is here to preserve disorder.”
Richardson’s endorsement stanched the bleeding in the Obama campaign, and sent a message to the uncommitted superdelegates: Enough is enough. This woman isn’t going to win this nomination without destroying the party and many of your careers with it. I’m getting off the fence and putting my money down for the good of the party. Join me at your leisure, though now would be as good a time as any.
This was no small defection from a man the Clintons thought for many months would end up in their tent at the end of the day. They had a rich relationship throughout and after Clinton’s Presidency. The popular Congressman carried the water for Bill Clinton in New Mexico, and Clinton appointed Richardson U.N. Ambassador and then Secretary of Energy. It’s a surprise only that Edwards hasn’t put the shiv between Senator Clinton’s ribs yet, but Bill Richardson was a superdelegate and extremely prominent party figure whom the Clintons had no doubt would show up at their rally and lend his weighty imprimatur.
Of course, the increasingly-despicable Clinton Spin Machine was ready with their dismissive take on the Richardson Obama endorsement. Said Mark Penn, who, if the murmurs from the Clinton campaign are to be believed, is increasingly lucky he hasn’t gotten fragged by the campaign footsoldiers, “The time that he could have been effective has long since passed…I don’t think it is a significant endorsement in this environment.” An amused Richardson seemed to intepret that as one part sour grapes and another part that they don’t need him anymore like they needed him when they were courting the Latino vote in Texas last month.
And, for their apparent contention that the Richardson endorsement isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, Richardson reported to NBC Nightly News that his Thursday conversation with Clinton was “heated” when he told the Senator that he would be endorsing Senator Obama. Remember that Bill Richardson is a diplomat, though, and that Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that Governor Richardson was applying a bit of downward spin of his own when he called the exchange “heated”. In any case, I’m sure their longtime friend is now being referred to as “that man” in their house and on the campaign trail, and Bill C. knows that his days of buying lap dances with his friend Bill are probably over for good.
2012 UPDATE: Upon further reflection, my revised position is that Bill Richardson is a turncoat, and the last bastard you would ever want walking into a dark alley with you. This is in part a reminder to myself on the importance of loyalty, and also from an encounter with a former member of Richardson’s staff who remembers his time on the governor’s team with the warmth one would attach to a hostage situation.