Richardson seen as tireless, warm

Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, President-elect Barack Obama's pick for commerce secretary, is described as having earned success through the many facets of his personality. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, President-elect Barack Obama's pick for commerce secretary, is described as having earned success through the many facets of his personality. (Emmanuel Dunand/ AFP/ Getty Images)
November 24, 2008
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With the selection of Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, President-elect Barack Obama will get a secretary of commerce who has been described as relentless and competitive, with a jocular sense of humor.

Obama plans to announce the nomination after Thanksgiving.

Richardson, 61, who was elected governor of New Mexico in 2002, is a former US representative and official in the Clinton administration. He served in the House from 1983 to 1997 before being named UN ambassador by President Clinton and, later, energy secretary.

Clinton sent Richardson on several high-level diplomatic missions while he was in Congress, including direct talks with Saddam Hussein.

Richardson is a seasoned international negotiator who mediated with North Korea over the downing of two US Army helicopter pilots; hammered out a deal with Hussein for the release of two US oil workers; won the release of three Red Cross workers held captive by Sudanese rebels; and was later sought out by the North Koreans to discuss nuclear issues.

His success, said David Goldwyn, national security deputy at the United Nations in the late 1990s, stems from the many different facets of his personality: whether it's the athlete - he bonded with Fidel Castro over baseball - the tireless adversary (he spent four hours at the table trying to persuade President Laurent Kabila to let a UN team investigate massacres in Congo), or the regular guy.

"Richardson is all about crashing through boundaries," Goldwyn said in 2007. "He says hello to the security guy, and if he's Hispanic he'll say something in Spanish. If he's African-American, he might call him 'his brother.'

"People think it's undisciplined and so they think he's undisciplined, and that is a mistake. . . . His personality gets him in the door. From there, he's got to deliver the message, he's got to be persuasive, and he's got to secure the objective. That's where the other part of his personality comes in: his relentlessness."

Richardson ran for the Democratic presidential nomination but dropped out in January after a poor showing in early contests. He went on to endorse Obama at the height of the Illinois senator's primary contest with Hillary Clinton, angering many Clinton supporters who viewed the endorsement as a disloyal snub.

Obama considered Richardson to be secretary of state and brought him to Chicago to discuss the job. The president-elect has decided to name Senator Clinton to the top diplomatic post.


Democrats look to Big 3 to show they deserve help
Leading Democrats expect US automakers will show Congress next month they are worth rescuing and are capable of returning to global preeminence. Skeptical Republicans said yesterday that Detroit's Big Three needed to convince taxpayers that they deserve an emergency $25 billion lifeline.

With the survival of major US manufacturers at stake, a top adviser to President-elect Barack Obama warned the companies that there is little the government can do without a viable plan to retool and restructure. One leading Democrat urged Obama to become more involved.

Executives from Detroit's Big Three returned home after a pair of disastrous hearings on Capitol Hill last week, under orders from Democratic leaders to provide Congress with a detailed accounting by Dec. 2 of their financial condition and short-term cash needs, as well as a plan for viability over the long term.

Hearings are expected the week of Dec. 1. Lawmakers could consider legislation the following week if they are satisfied by the companies' responses.

"My expectation is that we are going to see something, that the auto companies are going to respond in a way that I think will give confidence to the Congress and to the American public that we need to assist these companies," said the House's second-ranking Democrat, Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

Asked in a broadcast interview about passing a bailout in December, Hoyer replied: "I'm hopeful that we will come up with the information that will justify doing so."

Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Congress cannot provide money without a plan for the future. "There can be. There will be. And then Congress will step up to the plate."

But the House Republican leader, Representative John Boehner of Ohio, was less certain the automakers would change enough minds by next month.

"I'm not sure that they will have a plan by early December, a real plan," Boehner said. "And on behalf of the American taxpayers, they're not interested in investing money that - it's going to be really thrown away."


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