Meet Obama’s Cabinet: 7 Things to Know About Secretary of Commerce Bill Richardson


His bio:  “Richardson, 61, was United Nations ambassador and energy secretary during the Clinton administration, and he is in his second term as New Mexico’s governor. He also served seven terms in the House of Representatives.  If confirmed by the Senate, he would take over a sprawling department that oversees the National Weather Service, the Census Bureau, economic development programs and more.  One of the nation’s most prominent Hispanic politicians, Richardson pledged — in English and Spanish — to work to renew the economy.” (AP)


The supposed demotion:  “In bureaucratic terms, the Commerce job is a step down from Richardson’s old role in the Energy Department.  In his new role, Richardson will oversee a budget of around $6.5 billion and about 38,000 employees. By contrast, the energy secretary today manages more than 100,000 employees and a $23 billion budget. Richardson’s willingness to take an apparent political demotion is in keeping with his political character. He loves being a politician and was frequently seen out in Washington as governor. He clearly wants to be in the mix and part of the Obama team, even if it’s a second-tier slot.” (Politico)


He’s a “closer:”  “Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has a reputation for doing whatever it takes to cajole companies to invest here in his home state, from giving movie producers his private phone number to building a special water-treatment plant for a cheese company.  A darling of business leaders, Mr. Richardson likes to become involved in the fine details of each project, often using his considerable powers of persuasion to seal deals with investors with a handshake…In his six years as governor, Mr. Richardson…has created 80,000 jobs while revamping this impoverished state’s economy…In perhaps his biggest gamble, Mr. Richardson has procured financing for a spaceport in southern New Mexico, called Spaceport America, from which he envisions tourists departing on cruises beyond the atmosphere.”  (New York Times


And ballsy:  He “bargained the release of three Red Cross workers held by Marxist rebels in Sudan 12 years ago. Two years ago, he bargained the release from a Sudanese prison of my then-Chicago Tribune colleague, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent Paul Salopek, Paul’s Chadian driver and interpreter.  I’ll spare you the details, but Richardson was a marvel in the Tribune mess. The newspaper and National Geographic magazine, for whom Salopek was doing freelance work when detained, had tried virtually everything and everyone. We tried former President Carter. We tried Bono. We tried Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Nothing worked.  Then, somebody thought of Richardson (Salopek lives in New Mexico). He flew to Khartoum and used immense personal skills to cut a deal with a very bad guy, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.”  (Huffington Post)


His role in the Wen Ho Lee case:  “In March 1999, as secretary of energy, Richardson fired Wen Ho Lee without cause from his job as an atomic scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and falsely identified him as a spy for China, which led to Lee’s arrest and solitary confinement without the benefit of due process.  Even after the FBI apologized for lying under oath, and the presiding judge apologized to Lee for the arrest on behalf of the federal government for judiciary misconduct, Richardson has continued to defend his actions in the case as proper.”  (San Francisco Chronicle)


He supports free trade:  “The Richardson selection may be the clearest signal sent by Barack Obama so far regarding his economic policies. Despite Obama’s anti-trade rhetoric during the 2008 campaign, the choice of Richardson as commerce secretary means the president-elect is much less likely to follow a protectionist course.  What makes the Richardson pick so significant? Three reasons stand out. First, Richardson owes his political ascendancy to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Second, Richardson, whose own White House bid fizzled in early January, stood out from the rest of the Democratic pack as the most pro-free-trade candidate during the campaign. Third, Richardson’s remarks in recent months offer clear insights into his–and Obama’s–true views on trade.”  (


His green record:  “During his presidential bid, Richardson was called by some the ‘Energy President,’ for his promotion of a revolutionary, Apollo-scale energy policy that would combat global warming, reduce dependence on foreign oil and increase research and development of alternative and renewable sources of energy. Specifically, he said he would seek reduction of 80 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, vehicles would get 50 mpg by 2020, and foreign oil imports would be cut substantially…Richardson hopes to pursue badly needed economic rejuvenation, in part through massive investments in alternative energy technologies and other ‘green jobs.'” (The Daily Green)


Posted by: Mariela


2 responses to “Meet Obama’s Cabinet: 7 Things to Know About Secretary of Commerce Bill Richardson

  1. Ok, I have a semi-crush on Bill Richardson.

    How did you manage to find the dorkiest picture of him to ever exist? That bowtie. That hair!! That weird beard.

    Bill needs Tim Gunn’s help…big time.

  2. Well said, a good article, very astute; he is going to make something very special out of this position, a chance to really do something great to benefit Americans, far more compelling than just being governor of NM, which he has done great work in over the past 6 years.

    Please read my detailed aritcle below, and comment if you wish. Thanks, and I will be taking this entire article printed out for him tomorrow to Gov. Richardson’s office in the NM Capitol.

    NEW IDEAS ON RESTORING U. S. ECONOMY, for the Next Secretary of Commerce, William Blaine Richardson III

    Thanks very much,

    Stephen Fox
    Contributing Editor New Mexico Sun News

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