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March 08, 2007

Bill Richardson, The Hands-On Governor

Wow, it's Dirty Thursday or something.

I came across this via Geraghty's mention of Mickey Kaus' allusion to dirt on Governor Richardson. Some are suggesting that the Governor is a mite touchy, perhaps in a Schwarzeneggerian fashion, as regards women he encounters.

He also writes:

Kf 's tip for reporters and others hoping to help the pecadilloes make the ontological transition from unfounded to founded: Ask around at Cafe Milano, D.C.

Which I find rather odd of him to say -- look, I realize he's in LA, not DC, but if he actually knows something about what a woman at Cafe Milano might say, why not report it himself? Why is he hinting he knows what she'll say, but asking a reporter to ask around rather than just reporting it himself?

At any rate, calling all DC bloggers: Cafe Milano. Go forth and make news.

The Politico, based in DC, is reporting on these whispers; can't they just ask? Why all the masque and mystery?*

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's 2008 presidential campaign has been burdened by unusually public discussion about his behavior with women.

The lieutenant governor of New Mexico, Diane Denish was quoted in the Albuquerque Journal saying she avoids standing or sitting near Richardson because of his physical manner, which she said was not improper but was "annoying." The governor, she said, "pinches my neck. He touches my hip, my thigh, sort of the side of my leg."

On repeated occasions, Richardson has been pressed by reporters or Democratic activists on whether his personal conduct can withstand public scrutiny.

Richardson, in an interview with The Politico, denied behaving inappropriately, calling the talk "mean-spirited." Still, the concerns have become enough of a headwind for Richardson's campaign that the candidate has a more substantive response -- that his personal conduct was vetted, and effectively given a seal of approval, when he was considered for the vice presidential nomination by John F. Kerry in 2004.

"The Kerry people vetted me for vice president," he told The Politico last week. He knew this, he said, because Jim Johnson, the veteran Washington lawyer and Democratic insider, "has said so."

But that line of defense may be less effective in shutting down speculation than Richardson hopes. After five days of phone calls and e-mails, and an initial refusal to comment, Johnson released a one-sentence statement saying Richardson had been "vetted" but offering no details about what that entailed.

"The Kerry campaign vetted Governor Richardson, and nothing was found that would have prevented him from being chosen as John Kerry's vice presidential candidate," Johnson said.

...


Denish -- a Democrat who ran on the same ticket as Richardson -- said that she sometimes finds Richardson's physical style "irritating and annoying" but that he had never touched her in an improper way. Still, she said, his behavior was inappropriate in public because it could be misconstrued.

...

Richardson chalks the rumors up to his campaign style.

"There's nothing I can do except just basically continue," he said. "I've never touched anybody inappropriately. No one's accused me of it. I shake hands a lot. I hold a handshaking record. I believe in the physical side of campaigning. I guess I hug people sometimes. That's me. That's my character."

There's a difference between groping -- plainly out of bounds -- and touching innocently but in a way that suggests an intimacy which doesn't exist. So far the allegations seem about the latter.

The old Albequerque Journal article about this (mentioned above) is here, but you have to sit through a 30 second commercial to get it. And, considering we're talking about not-very-powerful charges leveled against a third-tier candidate (for Vice President, don't let his claims of a presidential run fool you), I don't know if it's worth sitting through. Here's some of the juice:

Gov. Bill Richardson likes to touch people. He hugs, pokes, jabs and tickles. If he sees a man with a bald pate, he rubs it. Looking to start a conversation, he might lean forward and head-butt someone— male or female. Richardson says he's just joking and teasing to ease tension and boredom. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish says she finds the practice irritating. She said she tries to avoid sitting or standing next to the governor at public events.

...

"I think it's irritating and annoying," Denish said in a recent interview.

"I try not to put myself in that situation, trying not to stand or sit next to him."

...

Denish, who also used the terms "teasing," "adolescent" and "silly," made the comments after looking at photos taken at a groundbreaking ceremony for a train depot in Bernalillo.

Seated next to Denish, Richardson reached his hand behind her chair, turned to her and grinned.

Denish said the governor was poking at the side of her leg.

It went on for five or 10 minutes— the state's bored governor picking at the lieutenant governor, who tossed him some exasperated glances as he caught her eye and laughed.

"He pokes me," Denish said when she was asked about the incident.

At other times, she said, "He pinches my neck. He touches my hip, my thigh, sort of the side of my leg."

She said that he has never touched her in an improper way but that such physical contact in a public setting was inappropriate because it could be misconstrued.

Richardson said he didn't remember much about the Bernalillo event except that it was hot, long and boring.

"I have a short attention span," Richardson said. "I get bored easily."

"Sometimes, when she's sitting next to me, I'll tap her sort of like, 'Can you believe they said this?' '' he said. "It's innocent. I'm teasing. I'm playing around."

Richardson said he picks at Denish like he does everyone on his staff— innocently and playfully.

"I tease Diane. I touch guys. It's my way of lessening tension," he said.

Again, this seems like boorish behavior, but non-sexually so, not respecting people's boundaries and autonomy. A bit worse than a close-talker, but not lecherous.

But, again, Kaus is hinting: Cafe Milano. As I imagine Richardson's former Lt. Governor doesn't hang out there 24 hours a day, I'm assuming he's talking about a waitress. And there are only so many places to touch a waitress as she's whisking by.

The leads are good. There's money out there just waiting for you to take it. Are you man enough? Are you man enough? Go and do likewise, gentlemen.**


* Where?

** Seems too easy, but where? (I know it's not exact.)

Crotchety, Too? Allah has some stuff on this too, including an accusation from an unlikely source -- a blogger at the Huffington Post.

Steve Clemmons "asks" Richardson (I put "asks" in quotes, because Clemmons, for some reason, thinks that the word "question" belongs in quotes):


I will frame this as a “question” for Bill Richardson.

Have you behaved inappropriately or not in public settings with female members of your government administration, jokingly or not? Have you gestured to female public servants and political appointees — who work as colleagues with you — and made lewd gestures, specifically pointing to them and then pointing at your crotch with a room full of media and other politicos there in the room?

I ask this not to demean or undermine Richardson.

I ask it because I was not in the room when this particular incident occurred but many others were — and rumors have long swept around Santa Fe that Bill Richardson makes a constant festive joke out of demeaning women.

I hope Richardson "answers" this allegation "promptly."



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posted by Ace at 01:21 PM

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