Our featured Presidential candidate for today is New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democrat.
If memory serves me correctly, I first heard of Bill Richardson when I was watching Bill Maher’s program on HBO. Or maybe I saw him on Hannity and Colmes. These things get blurred after a while! In any case, Richardson seemed like a nice guy, despite his anti-Bush rhetoric. I went away thinking that he was your typical liberal Democrat.
What really caught my attention was a question that Brian Williams asked him in the first Democratic debate that I watched. I don’t remember much of the question or the answer, but I recall Brian Williams saying that Bill Richardson had the highest National Rifle Association rating of any Presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican. My jaw dropped. A Democrat has the highest NRA rating? That doesn’t speak well for the Republicans, does it?
As I did some research in preparation for this post, I found that Richardson has actually received a decent mark from another conservative/libertarian organization: the Cato Institute. In the Cato Institute’s Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2004, Richardson received a “B,” which is in stark contrast to Mitt Romney’s “C” and Mike Huckabee’s “D.” According to the Institute, “Governors who have cut taxes and spending the most receive the highest grades.” And, indeed, Bill Richardson has a record as a tax cutter. He reduced New Mexico’s income taxes from 8.2% to 4.9%, and he cut the capital gains tax in half. Maybe he should have joined that little spat between Romney and Rudy on who was more fiscally conservative!
Some libertarians are skeptical. In the libertarian journal Reason, David Weigel argues that Richardson approved of numerous fees that more than made up for the tax cuts. Weigel goes on to state: “And everyone agrees the governor started to slide off the fiscal wagon as he geared up for a second term and a presidential bid. Gasoline, special fuels, and out-of-state oil and gasoline distributors all got taxed. He delayed his income tax cuts for 2006. The cigarette tax, the path of least resistance for state lawmakers, was hiked to raise $127 million. In 2006 the Cato Institute lowered his grade to a C, still not bad for a Democrat (and still marginally better than the grades given Romney and Jeb Bush), but a reflection of how quickly the ‘market Democrat’ veneer can crack when it comes time to raise revenue.” For Weigel, Richardson is motivated more by pragmatism than solid libertarian principles.
Of course, nobody’s perfect. The closest that comes to fiscally conservative perfection in this race is Ron Paul, and even he’s helped divert some pork to his Texas Congressional district (see A Far-Right Texan Inspires Antiwar Left). Barry Goldwater did the same for his state, prompting LBJ to claim that Goldwater opposes “creeping socialism,” except for Arizona. Notwithstanding their glitches, Paul and Goldwater stood fairly consistently against the “tax and spend” mentality of Washington. But I wonder if Bill Richardson would be true to his libertarian principles once he gained the White House. He supports universal health care. How much of an increase in government will that entail, and who will pay for it?
And read what Richardson says about education: “Sometimes when I talk about education, the first thing you hear is, how are you going to pay for it? Nobody asks how we’re going to pay for the war. But it’s important to state that improving our schools, improving education, access to education to all Americans, should be America’s foremost priority. ” So his plan to improve education is for the government to throw more money at the problem. That’s not too libertarian!
While I’m on this quote, I want to address a common liberal argument about fiscal responsibility. Many liberals argue that Bush is a hypocrite. He vetoes expanding SCHIP and other federal programs under the mantle of “fiscal responsibility,” yet he is responsible for the costly Iraq War, which continues to plunge our country into debt. I agree that Bush can do a better job in restraining government spending, since he did give us the prescription drug benefit and No Child Left Behind. But my problem with the liberal argument is that it mixes apples with oranges. The Iraq War is a temporary endeavor. Sure, we’ll set up permanent bases there, but we’re not planning to spend billions of dollars on Iraq for all eternity. Even under Bush’s plan, once the job is done, the job is done. But liberals want to establish a welfare state that is permanent. They want the government to continue funding education and health care and welfare in huge amounts. And there will be no definable time when the job is done. After all, a new generation will arise, and they’ll need nanny government as well. So imagine the government taking the amount of money spent on war (or just a lot of money) and using it for domestic programs, year after year after year. That’s what the liberals want. How will they pay for it? They’ll raise taxes, or they’ll borrow. Both approaches will harm the economy.
As far as foreign policy goes, Richardson’s experience is that he was a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and negotiated with repressive regimes for the release of American hostages. The UN part is probably why one of my conservative friends sees Richardson as a “globalist,” that is, a one world government type. And, indeed, Richardson did try to strengthen the role and mandate of the United Nations Environment Programme, something which must give chills to conservatives concerned about national sovereignty. As far as his negotiation skills are concerned, I do not want to make light of his ability as a negotiator. I would caution, however, that negotiation is not necessarily the answer for every foreign policy problem. Neville Chamberlain and Joseph Stalin signed pacts with Hitler before he invaded countries. The Soviet Union often did not live up to its arms control agreements, which is why Reagan’s motto was “trust but verify.” Negotiating for the release of hostages is one thing. Deterring the ambitions of our enemies is something else.
On social issues, Richardson is pro-choice, which is not a big surprise. On homosexuality, he opposes “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military, since he wants homosexuals to serve openly, and he has also changed his position on the Defense of Marriage Act from “support” to “oppose.” So I wouldn’t count on him supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment or appointing conservative judges. Just a hunch I have!
My sources for this post were wikipedia, Bill Richardson on the Issues, and the articles cited above. Conservapedia and realchange.org mentioned some scandals, but I don’t want to get into that. Have a good day!
Just dicovered your site from David Hardy’s Arms and the Law.
I have given Richardson more credance than any other Dem, but really can’t handle his support of universal heathcare. Your comments have given me the most insight I’ve gotten on Richardson.
As for the NRA, sorry but their ratings mean nothing to me. The political bent on ratings has been quite pathatic in the past. Of course having been lied to, treated with arrogance by the NRA, plus having them come into our state(and other states) and mess up grassroots action that looked like it was going to pass, makes me quite jaded.
Thanks for writing, hkl. Glad to be of assistance. Yeah, I read on David Hardy’s site that Ron Paul got a B from the NRA. So maybe you’re right. On one level, the NRA has gotten somewhat liberal, as far as I can see. It often encourages the enforcement of existing gun control laws rather than the creation of new ones. But why not question the existing ones? Also, the NRA supports banning the sale of guns to people with mental illness. As critics point out, that should be more nuanced, since that could bar a war veteran from getting a gun.
Ron Paul twice voted against NRA’s top priority in Congress, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. PLCAA was designed to put a stop to the municipal suits brought against the firearms industry. I’d say he earned his “B” rating.
The more “hard core” attitude is to hold folks accountable for their anti-gun votes.
Thanks for your response, Mike. Paul’s response is that he wants to leave such matter to the states. In this case, he may have a point. Still, I think that the federal government has a role in protecting gun rights, since that is in the Bill of Rights. But telling people who they can sue? I can understand why someone would have problems with that.