Thursday, November 30, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: AT THE MOVIES

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
November 30, 2006


Gov. Bill Richardson loves the movies. Now he’s in one, showing this weekend as part of the Santa Fe Film Festival.

Inside Bill Richardson is the work of Neil Simon. No, not the famous playwright. This isn’t “The Good-bye Governor.” It’s Neil H. Simon, former KOB-TV newsman, who now works as a freelance journalist in Washington, D.C.

Weighing in at only 30 minutes, the film is basically a television public-affairs special — which it originally was — not a full-length documentary in the Michael Moore/Morgan Spurlock/Al Gore vein.

For those who have followed Richardson’s career, there are not many startling revelations. But it’s a good, balanced overview of Richardson’s career.

There are old black-and-white still photos of baby Bill, as well as old news footage of a younger, slimmer and bearded (!) Bill Richardson pressing the flesh.

The film covers Richardson’s triumphs — campaign victories, his renown hostage-release missions and legislative conquests. There are glowing words from Richardson’s staff; friendly comments from Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce president Terri Cole; and an interview with the guv himself.

There are even clips from the Richardson spoof on Saturday Night Live last year (Comic Horatio Sans has to be praying that our governor’s 2008 dreams come true) and Richardson’s 2004 appearance on The Daily Show. (“I’m getting the sense that you’re here for selfish reasons,” host Jon Stewart tells him.)

This film never will be used as a campaign tool for any future Richardson campaign. The film discusses Richardson’s temper and his speeding, and shows low moments, such as the bi-partisan blasting he got from U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., at a 2000 Senate Armed Services Committee meeting when Richardson was the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.

There are local critics, too. There are interviews with usual suspects, such as state Rep. Dan Foley of Roswell (now House GOP whip), state Sen. Joe Carraro, R-Albuquerque, and Republican operative and blogger Whitney Cheshire.

But there are some discouraging words from unexpected sources. Christine Trujillo, president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor, says “We just sort of shake our heads in awe because we feel very disenfranchised.”

University of New Mexico political science professor Christine Sierra says in the film that some critics “felt that, in a way, Bill Richardson was too much of a compromiser, that he would, you know, wet his finger and see which way the wind was blowing and then decide to take the path of least resistance.”

Inside Bill Richardson will be shown at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the theater formerly known as the Jean Cocteau Cinema, now the New Mexico Film Museum, 418 Montezuma Ave. Tickets are $5 at the door.

A discipline problem: Richardson was discussed Wednesday in The Washington Post’s online chat with political blogger Chris Cillizza. A participant from Baltimore wanted to know, “Is there anything you see holding him back from grabbing the center should Hillary Clinton not run?”

Cillizza replied, “I think a candidate with the résumé of Gov. Richardson certainly belongs in the conversation about the 2008 nomination but continue to hear concerns from Democrats that he is simply not disciplined enough to run a campaign under the national spotlight. At the moment, that question is unanswerable.”

Cillizza last week raised the same “discipline” concern In his blog (The Fix), but added, “Before you write off Richardson, however, ask yourself what other potential 2008 candidate could have pulled off this ad?”

There’s a link to Richardson’s well-liked western parody campaign ad from the recent campaign.

Speaking of ads: Another D.C. publication, The Hill, published a story Wednesday that some Republicans are angry at the Republican Governors’ Association over a $115,000 anti-Richardson ad.

The comical ad featured a bobble-headed — and incredibly thin — cartoon Richardson bouncing from one state to another, mumbling and squealing “Whee!” The basic thrust was that Richardson’s out of state too much, running for president.

“That late expenditure in the noncompetitive race was the coating on a bitter pill for GOP operatives in several red states with Democratic governors,” the story by Aaron Blake says. “Their candidates received little financial help from the governors’ association and went on to lose by stunning margins.”

Not to mention the irony that the RGA is headed by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is running for president himself.

Making the move: The contest for speaker of the New Mexico House isn’t the only leadership battle brewing among House Democrats. Besides the pending Ben Lujan/Kenny Martinez showdown, at least two candidates are vying for majority leader.

In addition to the previously reported bid by Rep. Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces, Rep. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque confirmed Wednesday that she’s running, too. “I’ve served for 12 years,” she said, “and I have a real understanding of the workings of the floor and committee system.”

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