Editor’s note: The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., published this editorial in its Saturday edition. Its owner, Freedom Communications Inc, also owns this newspaper.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat who has punched every ticket a politico can in his quest to amass a White House-worthy resume, has been diligently working the rubber-chicken circuit, tuning up for a possible run for president. But Richardson already has one presidential attribute down pat — the ability to straddle both sides of an issue.
Richardson, who served in the Clinton administration as Secretary of Energy and Ambassador to the United Nations, last week announced that New Mexico would petition the Department of Agriculture to retain 1.7-million acres of Clinton-era “roadless” areas in the state — even though Richardson adamantly opposed giving governors such authority when the Bush administration decided to take that tack. In fact, Richardson is actually proposing an increase in roadless areas in New Mexico, as a way to block oil and gas drilling in some national forests — which is par for the course for a former energy secretary who did nothing to anticipate or avert the energy crunch we are experiencing today.
Even more strangely, New Mexico is one of a number of states suing to reverse the Bush administration’s decision to hand off the roadless issue to states — a process Richardson is now taking full advantage of. The lawsuits are the work of grandstanding attorneys general, Democrats all, who are trying to score political points against the president and court the support of environmental groups.
Compounding the disconnect, New Mexico at one point demanded $500,000 from the federal government to help pay for the roadless area public hearings process — even while suing to block it. The Department of Agriculture understandably balked at the request, so Richardson made his decision based on one public hearing and some probably biased polling results. And what a surprise — he whole-heartedly backs the Clinton plan.
A Richardson spokesman, John Goldstein, denies there is anything inconsistent in Richardson’s positions. “He’s opposed to the Bush administration roadless plan, but he’s also a realist,” says Goldstein. “The lawsuit could take years, but while that plays out in the courts, we’re going to do the best we can.”
“Realist” is one way to describe Richardson’s attempt to have it both ways. “Cynical” is another. “Presidential” is a third.