Eminentoes

The Richardson Juggernaut

Nothing can stop it, not even bad jokes.

By 1.8.08

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Other candidates may have more money, better organizations, and an actual chance of winning, but Bill Richardson is the only person running for president who is a cross between Woody Allen and Rambo.

"Thank you for standing, I thought you were leaving," the New Mexico governor joked during opening remarks to Timberland employees at the company's headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire on Monday. That was the first of many one-liners for the self-deprecating comedian.

Talking about the environment, he quipped, "Al Gore has been right, I just hope he stays out of the race."

The line didn't get much reaction, so he said, "It's supposed to be funny. Don't you have a sense of humor?"

Moving on to the protection of wildlife, he explained, "I have a position on the Endangered Species Act: Get your paws off. Get it? Paws off. That's a new one. I just thought of it."

At a campaign stop in Perry, Iowa ahead of the caucuses, Richardson displayed another side of himself. He was introduced by John Early, an International Red Cross pilot who was taken hostage by a rebel group in Sudan in 1996.

Early's prospects of being released were grim until Richardson showed up for some hard-nosed negotiations. Richardson told him, "I promise, I will not leave here without you." And he kept his word.

But that was just another day on the job for Bill Richardson.

"I know this region," he said of Iraq. "I went head to head with Saddam Hussein. I got two American hostages out of Iraq. Not John -- I got him out of Sudan."

He's traveled to every hot spot in the world.

"I always keep coming back to the Darfur genocide," he said. "I've been there."

He is a man of action.

"With Bill Richardson, you're going to get somebody that will act," he said when discussing his strategy to pressure Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. "I will make mistakes by acting, not by stepping back."

And not just any kind of action.

"With Bill Richardson, you're going to get aggressive action," he said. "In the legislature in New Mexico, some say I'm too aggressive."

One questioner noted that he had been to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, and thought it needed to be cleaned. "It's a World Heritage site," the man reminded him.

Richardson acknowledged it needed to be cleaned, but asked, "Do you know who passed that protection...for Chaco? Did you know who did that?"

The questioner caught on. "I have a feeling you were involved," he shot back.

After speaking and answering questions for 40 minutes in an event that, like all of his town hall-style meetings, was called a "Presidential Job Interview," Richardson's aide told him that he only had time for one more question.

But in a Herculean effort, he asked his aide to write down the remaining few questions so he could quickly bang out answers to all of them. Eleven more people asked questions on issues such as global warming, immigration, and trains -- so he was trapped for another 30 minutes.

When Richardson spoke in Stratham the day before the New Hampshire primary, he made his closing argument to the audience.

"I need you to vote," he remarked candidly. "You know, I need your votes more than the others do."

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About the Author

Philip Klein is The American Spectator's Washington correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/Philipaklein