Karen Ocamb

Bill Richardson is a funny guy

Filed By Karen Ocamb | June 13, 2007 6:19 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Bill Richardson, politics

Bill Richardson is a funny guy. He's affable, charming, and amusingly mischievous. He's the kind of guy I'd love to have a beer with, if I still drank. And unlike that other amiable guy who wanted to be president - George W. Bush - Bill Richardson is smart. He's got the resume to prove it.

So when Richardson told me he wants to be an "activist" president on our behalf, I believed him. The problem is I've become skeptical, maybe even cynical, after our community's experience with Bill Clinton. Now I want to know exactly HOW Richardson - or any of the other candidates, for that matter - will fulfill their promises.

That's why I pressed Richardson on his pledge to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" at the ANGLE breakfast meeting in West Hollywood last Monday. Considering that Congress can't pass an immigration bill or end the war in Iraq, how in the world does he expect to repeal the policy? Richardson said:

By being bi-partisan. By making things happen. I'm a negotiator. You know I got from Saddam Husein two American hostages. From the North Koreans. Bad people like me - that's my point. (Laughter) ... I know how to do this. You know you don't want just presidents that give lofty speeches. You want presidents that get their hands dirty. Get in there, in the arena and are not afraid to tackle the difficult issues. DOMA will be tough. Don't Ask, Don't Tell will be tough. It's going to take legislation. I checked to see if by executive order you can repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell - apparently you can't. It has to go straight in an Armed Services bill and amendment to repeal.
Right. Richardson didn't mention the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. I reminded him that the religious right still holds sway over many in Congress and consider us "Satan's kids." How's he going to deal with them?
The first thing I would do is appoint a Secretary of Defense and a chairman of the Joints Chiefs and I would say to them...I will not tolerate any discrimination in the ranks and I would be the commander in chief. You start on the positive side. On the negative side, you fight. I don't think I'm going to be able to convince them...You fight, you set a strategy. ...Look, I can't give you the exact outcome. But I'm a fighter.
Then he talked about DOMA in that endearing, revealing way of his.
I made a mistake on DOMA. I mean, the excuse my staff said to say to you was that I was Clinton's Whip [which is what he told me, and I reported]. What does that mean? Deputy Whip in the House. You know, he said, you've got to vote for this. But the way we explained it, as I recall, is you're going to get something worse, we're going to get a constitutional amendment. We don't want that.
Hmmm. And now political consultant Bob Shrum reveals in his book, No Excuses, that Bill Clinton encouraged John Kerry to voice support for a federal constitutional amendment to counter Karl Rove. For his part, Richardson said he is not "with us" on marriage equality, but he is evolving. Meanwhile, he said, "we need to have a national civil unions." For more POV's, visit Ted Johnson's June 11th Variety blog and Greg Hernandez at his L.A. Daily News Out in Hollywood blog.

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Thanks for sharing this, Karen. Richardson is my personal favorite for the presidential nomination. I'd be interested to know if after the time you spent with him - is he someone you'd vote for as president? If so, why?

Thanks, Bil. I did enjoy interviewing Richardson and hope to interview the other candidates as well. Thanks to David Mixner, I was able to interview Hillary Clinton in 1991 - a portion of which he writes about in his book, Stranger Among Friends (p. 228). However, as a journalist, it is inappropriate to reveal my personal leanings. I hope you understand.