Bill Richardson: Is Attorney General the Peoples’ Lawyer or Just a Political Flack?

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richardson prez.jpg
I think Warren Olney’s show, “To the Point,” airs in the Washington, DC area again tonight at 10 p.m. It aired earlier today at 2 p.m. Eastern and 11 a.m. Pacific. Bill Richardson is on for the last 10 minutes — and Richardson is just superb.
While I have written both critically and positively about New Mexico’s Governor, Richardson was the finest I have heard today in just ten minutes of air time.
Among the many blunt but insightful comments Richardson shared were that “Attorney General Gonzales needed to decide if he was the nation’s lawyer, the peoples’ lawyer, or whether he was just the President’s political flack.”
Richardson did not feel that matters that were essentially “political” should be shielded by executive privilege. Unless it was a matter of national security, Governor Richardson saw the effort to shield Congressional oversight from the Gonzales attorney firings as inappropriate.
On the Middle East, Richardson got the frame exactly right. He didn’t just focus on whether the surge would work or fail (though he called the surge “tragic”), he said that what needed to happen was a reconciliation process inside Iraq as well as a regional stakeholders gathering — including Syria and Iran.
I didn’t understand what Richardson meant when he said that we needed to give Iran its “fuel cycle,” though I think what he intended to say was to find ways to give Iran access to nuclear fuel for a civilian nuclear energy capacity. Russia has been trying to do something along these lines — but thus far Iran has rebuffed the offers.
Essentially, Richardson thinks that the same kind of regional deal-making that the Iraq Study Group called for is what we should be enthusiastically pursuing in the region.
All in all, Bill Richardson’s comments were excellent — and were the type of quick hit common sense that other candidates should try out.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

12 comments on “Bill Richardson: Is Attorney General the Peoples’ Lawyer or Just a Political Flack?

  1. Kathleen says:

    Hmmm, Hagel and Webb proposing legislation on Iraq. Hope they accept the Iraqi Peace Proposal and end this war with an agreement.
    Meanwhile, back in the Beltway, I have been asking the Senate Judiciary Committee to apply the same standards used for the Keating 5 scandal and censure Senator Pete Domenici and ask him to resign for his inappropriate role in the firing of US Attoreny Matthew Iglesias.
    If Senator Alan Cranston had to be censured and forced to resign for calling Federal Banking Regulators to ask them for a speedy investigation and trial for Charles Keating, Chairman of the failed Lincoln Savings and Loan, surely Senator Pete Domenici should be held to the same standards.

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  2. Carroll says:

    BTW…I heard today that Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel are introducing a bill on Iraq they put together.

    Reply

  3. Carroll says:

    Speaking of presidential candidates…you will need a barf bag for this one.
    I don’t know how you can be a legend in your own mind when you don’t even have a mind, but somehow Biden manages.
    http://njdc.typepad.com/njdcs_blog/2007/03/biden_makes_str.html
    March 22, 2007
    BIDEN MAKES STRONG STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF ISRAEL
    In an interview with The Forward Senator and presidential candidate Joe Biden (D-DE) made a strong statement in support of Israel:
    “In my 34-year career, I have never wavered from the notion that the only time progress has ever been made in the Middle East is when the Arab nations have known that there is no daylight between us and Israel,” Biden said. “So the idea of being an ‘honest broker’ is not, as some of my Democratic colleagues call for, the answer. It is being the smart broker, it is being the smart partner.”
    The entire interview, from The Forward:
    FORWARD: How would a President Biden handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict differently from President Bush?
    BIDEN: I’d be proactive; I wouldn’t be absent at the creation. Let me give you a couple of examples of things I’ve tried to do as Senator Biden that I would have tried to do as President Biden. I don’t doubt the heart of the administration when it comes to support for Israel, but I have grave doubts about its judgment, and I think it has put Israel in a position in the last six years that is less advantageous than it was when the administration started … Let me give you three examples:
    I was in Lebanon two Januarys ago for the election, and met with everyone. … I came with away with a couple of clear impressions, and I communicated these to the administration. The first one was that there was an overwhelming sentiment among all of the confessional parties that they did not trust, nor like nor support Hezbollah. Secondly, that with the vaccumm being created … to get Syria out of the Valley and off the border, there was going to be a real vacuum created that was going to require immediate action on our part. I argued that we should have been getting NATO to get engaged in training immediately, what had become a fairly dysfunctional Lebanese military force….Not only do you have the Syrians leave, but you disarm Hezbollah and you intercede a force in the vacuum. What did the administration do? Nothing – virtually nothing in the name of supporting Israel…. I argued that we should be putting extensive pressure on the Saudis and others who were floating in oil profits to support the Sinora government, which was a pro-Western government in Beirut, and we did nothing, we were absent.”
    Now fast-forward. The Israeli soldiers were captured and I argued that what we should be doing is giving the Israelis justification for their actions by calling for a cease fire with the Israelis conditioned on total disarmament knowing that they would never disarm – thereby putting Israel on the right side of the argument. What did we do? We remained silent, did nothing. My sources in Israel … indicated that they really didn’t hear from anybody in the administration for the first several days. What the hell is that all about? What kind of friend is that? … Well the backing of Israel in that context did not give Israel the kind of coverage it needed.
    Now, fast-forward again… With all due respect, Israel is in a very difficult political situation. There is no politician in Israel, who at this moment is in a position to take a real chance politically because [they don’t have the] support of Israel consensus. So what are we doing? We’re standing by again as Hezbollah becomes a legitimate political force in Lebanon. They’re handing out checks to people to rebuild their homes for $19,000 or $20,000 bucks.
    FORWARD: Speaking of taking a political chance for peace, there have been reports that the administration has strongly discouraged Israel from opening informal talks with Syria. What do you think of that position?
    BIDEN: It’s ridiculous. You know, out chaos, often comes opportunity…. We’re sitting here, you and I, in support of Israel, and I say to myself, ‘Okay, what looks good for Israel out there on horizon?’ You’ve got Iran, you’ve got us bogged down in Iraq with no apparent strategy for a political solution. … you have Lebanon in some chaos still, you have Hezbollah and Hamas, which have been legitimized by the administration unintentionally — and so what do you do? Well, it seems to me that you recognize a real opportunity. For the first time since I’ve been involved, and I’ve been there for seven presidents, there is a common enemy and concern with Israel’s most ardent group of enemies, the Sunnis. What is it? It’s Iran and Hezbollah.”
    My information is that as far back as Sharon, before his stroke, there was a desire, expressed by the Israeli government, to open quiet negotiations or at least discussions, with Syrian, and that we put the kibosh on that. First of all, we shouldn’t be directing Irsee’s policy, if that’s true. Second, it is mistake not to let Israel, if it wishes to, if its sees an opportunity, because they know the area better than we do, to go out and explore possibilities with the Syrians.
    The Syrians have backed themselves into corner where their only ally is an uneven ally and an uneven peace with Iran. Figuratively speaking, and I please emphasize figuratively, if in fact the ‘revolution’ comes, does anyone think that [Syrian President] Bashar Assad is going to be embraced by Tehran? They’ve got to know that.
    I would do as a president what I do as a senator, but only more pointedly. I would sit down and think to myself, which I do, ‘If I’m in Damascus what’s in my best interest?’ Well, my best interest is to be free of Iran’s yoke, on the good side of the equation with the oil-producing Sunni states, and being able to deliver for my people what appears to be a victory by having a settlement on the Golan. Not born out of any real desire to do good, just simple, straightforward self-interest. Now, whether that can be accomplished because country’ often act against their own self-interest, remains to be seen, but it should be explored. But only be explored in conjunction with and with the approval of the Israelis, not the United States.
    [But when you have] a prime minister with very very low approval [in the polls], you can’t expect him to be able to make a significant initiative. If I’m your friend sometimes I have to — to use a colloquial expression in my town — sometimes I have to wear the jacket for you. Sometimes I’ve got to be the devil made you do it. Sometimes I’ve got to give you some excuse if I’m you’re friend. So only if the Olmert government was prepared and wanted to reach out, that’s what friends do. Friends provide the circumstance for you to be able to do what you think you want to do….
    We contract out our foreign policy. That is a dangerous situation…. What do you expect when you bring Hamas and Fatah to Mecca, sit them in a room, and say, ‘We want an agreement.’ Do you think there’s any reasonable prospect that the Saudi are going to push Hamas to recognize Israel? Where’s the pressure going to be — on Fatah. So what d do we get? Now we have a ‘unity government’ and we’re going, ‘Oh my goodness, we have a problem.’ And Olmert has no option but to say, ‘Hey, don’t count me in this deal.’ And what do we say? Now we have a possibility of splitting us and the Quartet, which is the one thing that might have been able to begin to move Europe towards Israel’s position to get an agreement – and they call that leadership? …. They are A-W-O-L. And we do this all the time; we have little coherent notion of a foreign policy.
    FORWARD: Last Sunday, Nick Kristof of The New York Times wrote a column discussing what the termed the administration’s “crushing embrace” of Israel. Do you think the next president needs to strike a better balance between being a 100% neutral broker and being completely with the Israelis?
    BIDEN: No…. It’s not so much being perceived as neutral, it’s being more of a partner to Israel, so that you don’t let bad things get out of control. You don’t put Israel out in front on everything, when they’re not able to play in a half-dozen arenas. They can’t affect whether or not Saudi Arabia calls [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas and the Hamas leadership to Mecca — we can….
    In my 34-year career, I have never wavered from the notion that the only time progress has ever been made in the Middle East is when the Arab nations have known that there is no daylight between us and Israel. So the idea of being the ‘honest broker’ is not I think, like some of my democratic colleagues call for, is not the answer. It is being the smart broker, it is being the smart partner….
    I believe the people who are suffering are the Israelis. Imagine what it feels like every time an Israeli mother packs up her kids’ lunch and sends them to school, and they walk out the door…. The suffering is real on both sides, but there is a side that can impact on ending it. The responsibility rests on those who will not acknowledge the right of Israel to exist, will not play fair, will not deal, will not renounce terror….
    FORWARD: In what ways does the U.S.-Israel partnership need to change?
    BIDEN: It’s a little bit like my saying to you, as a woman, taking you down in the middle of the night through the Bowery and saying, ‘Look, I’m supporting you completely, and you get out of the car and you walk the next 20 blocks through the Bowery. I’m with you no matter what happens, if you take out a gun and shoot a passerby, I’m with you. If you get attacked, I’ll help you.’ Am I helping you, for God’s sake. I’ve got to get out of the car and walk with you, with you, and not tell you where to walk. Sit with you and say, ‘Now tell me … which way you going to walk here, let’s talk this through.’ And say ‘I agree with you’ or say, ‘If you’re going to walk the other direction, I think it’s a real mistake,’ and have a real argument with you about it, privately…. That’s the relationship.”
    I’ve had my shouting matches over 25 years, privately, in my office in the offices of prime ministers. I’ve had disagreements. Israel’s a democracy and they make mistakes. But the notion that somehow if Israel just did the right thing this would work, I mean that’ the premise, give me a break.
    FORWARD: What should our approach be to the unity government? You signed a letter that is currently circulating in Congress that asks the administration to cut off all contacts with the Palestinian authority, but you reportedly had a few concerns.
    BIDEN: I wanted to make sure … that there was the ability to have direct contacts with Abbas, personally, not as a governmental person … because there has to be some way to have a connection with somebody who we know … who has recognized Israel, who has talked about the need for a two-state solution. There has to be some ability to have some contact.
    FORWARD: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, has faced a lot of criticism on the left for supposedly being too hard-line on the Middle East, and you’ve sometimes conflicted with Aipac due to your vocal criticism of the Bush administration, which Aipac has seen as a major ally. Do you see any change in how Aipac is views what the U.S. role should be?
    BIDEN: What I think has happened is a lot of folks at Aipac bought into the intentions and the emotions and the commitment [of the administration], but have become disillusioned with the [actual results]. But they’re a little afraid to embrace what they see as an alternative [on the left] … that looks like it is has gone from the embrace [of Israel] to just holding hands. That’s why I think I’m going to be the next president, for real. I’m not being facetious. That’s why I think that at the end of the day I will get a vast majority of support from the Jewish community that has been my ally for 34 years, but also Aipac, which has been somewhat critical of my criticism of Bush for four years.

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  4. Tony Foresta says:

    A rhetorical question of course, but the key point, and the point all democrats need to force into the political bloodstream. This is the critical issue that defines the Bush government. They simply do not represent, or advance the best interests of the American people. Contrarily, and tragically, – the fascist warmongers and profiteers in the Bush government are singularly and exclusively bent on advancing the political interests and engorging the off sheet accounts of select cabals, klans, coteries, cronies, and oligarchs,… period.
    The America people are nothing but a “focus group” to be dismissed and ignored. The constitution is just “goddamn piece of paper”. The laws of the land, and the rule of law do not apply to the fascist warmongers and profiteers in the Bush government due to unknown unknown national security issues, and because godwillsit.
    The president is the decider in Bush governments perverted mangling and betrayal of democracy, – and anyone daring to question, challenge, dissent, or oppose the Bush governments fascsist machinations, designs, policies, and activities, is an antiAmerican, unpatriotic, conspiratorial, communist, “librul”, lunatic, spawn of the devil, giving aid and comfort to the enemy. A reading from the gospel according to Rove. Amen.
    “Deliver us from evil”!

    Reply

  5. Pissed Off American says:

    Impeachment: I’m asking you. Do you think it’s time?
    Dear Friends,
    Today is the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. We know it was wrong to go into this war and it’s wrong to stay in.
    For four years I have been working to end this war, including leading the effort to cut off continued funding for the war. There is enough money to bring our troops home and we should do that.
    But the Bush administration, with the help of some in Congress, wants to pour more money into this war.
    Worse than that, the Bush administration now is signaling its intention to wage war with Iran. We cannot allow that to happen.
    So I’m asking you. Do you think it’s time?
    I’m talking about time for impeachment.
    I ask because we are now have a condition in this country where we are told to take impeachment off the table, and keep on the table a U.S. military attack against Iran.
    This situation calls for us to reconsider very deeply the moment that we’re in – where our Constitution is being trashed, where international law is being violated, where our hopes and dreams for the education of our children, for the health of our people, for housing, for our veterans, are being set aside as we go deeper and deeper into war.
    We need a whole discussion in America. And with your help, we’re about to have one.
    Please go to my website, and watch the video posted today, “Impeachment: I’m asking you. Do you think it’s time?” …
    http://tinyurl.com/2vxhzx
    Once you’ve watched or read this statement, please send me your comments. Over this past weekend there were thousands of demonstrations against this war being waged by the President with the consent of Congress. This must stop.
    Then talk to your friends, family, and neighbors. Get them together for a house party to discuss this war, and our options to stop it. Click here for information on a house party kit.
    Please join with me on this day by signaling your continued support for ending this war. Your voice is important.
    And so is your contribution. We need your help to carry our message forward. Our goal is to raise $50 million for this campaign, $50 at a time from one million concerned Americans:
    http://tinyurl.com/38oaf8
    Be One of a Million. Please contribute today to show your support for ending this war.
    Thank you,
    Dennis J Kucinich

    Reply

  6. Pissed Off American says:

    Impeachment: I’m asking you. Do you think it’s time?
    Dear Friends,
    Today is the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. We know it was wrong to go into this war and it’s wrong to stay in.
    For four years I have been working to end this war, including leading the effort to cut off continued funding for the war. There is enough money to bring our troops home and we should do that.
    But the Bush administration, with the help of some in Congress, wants to pour more money into this war.
    Worse than that, the Bush administration now is signaling its intention to wage war with Iran. We cannot allow that to happen.
    So I’m asking you. Do you think it’s time?
    I’m talking about time for impeachment.
    I ask because we are now have a condition in this country where we are told to take impeachment off the table, and keep on the table a U.S. military attack against Iran.
    This situation calls for us to reconsider very deeply the moment that we’re in – where our Constitution is being trashed, where international law is being violated, where our hopes and dreams for the education of our children, for the health of our people, for housing, for our veterans, are being set aside as we go deeper and deeper into war.
    We need a whole discussion in America. And with your help, we’re about to have one.
    Please go to my website, and watch the video posted today, “Impeachment: I’m asking you. Do you think it’s time?” …
    http://tinyurl.com/2vxhzx
    You may find the printed transcript of this video at …
    http://tinyurl.com/346pn7
    Or you can see this video on my YouTube site, at …
    http://tinyurl.com/3bnq5w
    Once you’ve watched or read this statement, please send me your comments. Over this past weekend there were thousands of demonstrations against this war being waged by the President with the consent of Congress. This must stop.
    Then talk to your friends, family, and neighbors. Get them together for a house party to discuss this war, and our options to stop it. Click here for information on a house party kit.
    Please join with me on this day by signaling your continued support for ending this war. Your voice is important.
    And so is your contribution. We need your help to carry our message forward. Our goal is to raise $50 million for this campaign, $50 at a time from one million concerned Americans:
    http://tinyurl.com/38oaf8
    Be One of a Million. Please contribute today to show your support for ending this war.
    Thank you,
    Dennis J Kucinich

    Reply

  7. Marky says:

    What’s so striking about so many of the Bush apparachiks is their stunning medicrity.
    Gonzalez, frankly, looks stupid. If he’s not reading from a script he becomes quite befuddled.
    Miers was hardly better. Tony Snow? Sure he looks smooth one day at a time, but he can’t keep from contradicting himself over time, as we see now. Rice?
    A LOT smoother than Gonzalez, but totally clueless.
    Michael Brown almost looked like the genius of the litter, IMO.

    Reply

  8. Brigitte N. says:

    I like Richardson a great deal. But the point here is not that Gonzales needs to decide whether he is the people’s lawyer or the president’s lawyer. This attorney-general has long decided that he first and foremost and completely what he perceives to be the president’s lawyer. Never thought that John Ashcroft could look pretty good–in comparison.

    Reply

  9. Carroll says:

    I like that. Richardson is sounding better. I will overlook his macho attitude toward women long enough to listen to him. With some social etiquette classes he may be able to overcome his bad rep among the ladies and have a chance.

    Reply

  10. opit says:

    I understand Iran is in a bit of a pickle. Domestic policies have priced gas at almost nothing for the Iran market. Meanwhile the U.S. has interfered with replacing worn petroleum production infrastructure. (You know what happens to political support in the U.S. when prices go up.)
    Coupled with interfering with Iran’s ability to conduct normal banking while flogging them with a truly hypocritical stance involving their ability to use newly purchased power generating equipment in the way which it was designed and inciting penalties on that basis really puts the pressure on : they need power from somewhere.
    All this while the navy is detailed to put in an appearance nearby : an unsubtle reminder of the ability of the U.S. to hit without being threatened. ( Except for the American Expeditionary Forces nearby: assets or hostages ? )

    Reply

  11. mitch says:

    Matthew Yglesias had a piece (http://tinyurl.com/2gobf4) wondering why Richardson isn’t taken seriously as a presidential candidate, given he’s the 2nd-term governor of a swing state, has incredible international experience (ambassador to UN under Clinton, negotiated release of prisoners with Saddam, and with Sudan), and was energy secretary under Clinton. Clearly the most qualified candidate in the race; just seems to lack starpower.

    Reply

  12. marky says:

    What I like about Richardson is that he doesn’t use stale, cliched language when speaking about foreign policy—at least from what I’ve heard.
    I think the next President should be very careful about using a formulation like “all options are on the table” when discussing a rival state. Thanks to Bush, that phrase now means “an attack is coming, period”—there is nothing implied about the threat.
    I’m sure there are other examples like this.
    Because of Bush, the level of trust that the next President will start with will be quite low. It will help to use fresh new language when seeking to mend fences.

    Reply

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