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Richardson hopes to 'come in under the radar'

Says background, N.M. successes buoy his résumé

Bill Richardson said the US shouldn't be the world's police. Bill Richardson said the US shouldn't be the world's police.
Email|Print| Text size + By Foon Rhee
Globe Staff / November 20, 2007

Bill Richardson is running an against-the-grain campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The New Mexico governor says he is not interested in the "class warfare" being practiced by John Edwards with a populist crusade against the moneyed interests in Washington.

He has nowhere near the rock-star status of Barack Obama. He has been the most vocal in defending Hillary Clinton against what he calls personal attacks on her trustworthiness and character.

Whether his campaign takes off, he told Globe editors yesterday, hinges on finishing in the top three in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, early-voting states where he stands fourth in the polls.

"I want to come in under the radar at the end," he said, while still chiding the national media, including the Globe, for not giving him more coverage.

Richardson said he deserves more attention than he has received, based on his experience as negotiator with Iraq and North Korea and his stint as the US ambassador to the United Nations, his knowledge as energy secretary during President Bill Clinton's second term, and his accomplishments as governor on issues such as jobs and education.

"A lot of these candidates have 10-point plans," he said. "I've done it."

For instance, he managed to push through driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, which he said cut traffic deaths and the ranks of the uninsured in New Mexico, where he is in his second term as chief executive.

The subject has roiled the Democratic field, and he said middle-class economic worries and the rhetoric of talk-show hosts has created "a lot of fear," often aimed at illegal immigrants.

Richardson said he has an aggressive plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy independence. He has written a new book about the issue, and said the next president can use the White House to ask Americans to sacrifice a little. "A lot of voters are ready to be inspired," he said.

He also contended that he has the most aggressive plan to get US troops out of Iraq: He would not leave any residual forces behind but would withdraw all except the Marine detachment guarding the US embassy by the end of his first year as president.

A withdrawal, he said, would give the United States the leverage to convene a peace conference, similar to the Dayton talks for the Balkans conflict, to push for power- and oil revenue-sharing agreements among the Shi'ite, Sunni, and Kurdish factions, followed by a United Nations-led peacekeeping force.

The United States, he said, needs to stop being the world's policeman and start being the world's conscience again.

Richardson, who turned 60 last week, has drawn quite a bit of attention in the last two Democratic debates for defending Hillary Clinton against what he describes as personal attacks from Edwards and Obama.

He said pointing out differences on the issues is fine. For instance, he criticized fellow Democrats for not standing up to the Bush administration on the damage of antiterrorism measures to civil liberties, and for not filibustering the nomination of Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Still, his defense of Clinton has prompted talk that he is angling for a high post if she is elected. Richardson addressed the issue: "Am I running for vice president? No."

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