BILL RICHARDSON is PLAYBOY’S december interview
The Democratic Presidential Hopeful Chats About
The Big Issues: War, Immigration, Abortion and, Of Course, Baseball
“Yeah, I swear. Yeah, I smoke a cigar occasionally. Yeah, I make mistakes. The American people should know who I am. I’m overweight; I’m trying to lose weight. But I’m comfortable with who I am,” professes Presidential hopeful Bill Richardson in the December Playboy Interview (on newsstands and at www.playboydigital.com Friday, November 2). “I don’t mope around at night worrying that I didn’t look good on Jay Leno-though I saw myself, and though I’ve lost 30 pounds I’ve got to lose more.”
CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield set off on the campaign trail to Iowa, New Hampshire and New York with the governor of New Mexico to talk candidly about why he feels he would be the best president and his plans if he wins. Following are selected quotes from Richardson’s wide ranging conversation:
On if he would ever conduct a negative campaign: “I will never go negative. I will never attack them personally. I will, however, emphasize my advantage over senators Clinton and Obama. The so-called front-running candidates arrive, do a structured town meeting with a thousand people in a gym and then leave. I go into living rooms and meet people directly. I stay for three days, go into 10 homes a day, each with 100 people. I connect with people. My message is getting out. My ads are well received. Hell, there was some political writer who predicted I’ll win Iowa. Did you see that? You never know.”
On how he competes with the candidates with more media attention and money: “You target your efforts and resources in the two most important states in the race, Iowa and New Hampshire. People there aren’t swayed by the smarty-pants set in Washington and New York.”
On the troops in Iraq: “I want all troops out of Iraq. Residual troops, too. The other leading candidates don’t. They leave in 25,000 or 50,000.”
On how he responds to those who say withdrawal from Iraq will lead to disaster: “Too many people in Washington have been listening to the wrong military and political advisors. That’s why we’re in this mess. I would shift our priorities. Our obsession with Iraq has cost us the ability to form international coalitions and strategies to deal with international terrorism, nuclear weapons and the like. It may be the greatest cost of the war.”
On why he originally supported the invasion of Iraq: “When we invaded I said I supported the invasion in order to support the troops. At the time, I felt it was the best thing. As I look back, it was a mistake. At the time, however, I was making public statements and wasn’t participating in the decision to invade. The president should have gone to the UN and used diplomacy, but I didn’t push hard enough. I should have pushed harder for diplomacy. But remember, we were also operating on limited information. At the time, I thought, I don’t have all the intelligence; Bush says Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. However, I never bought the Al Qaeda link. So it was a mistake. And what happened afterward was massive incompetence and massive deception.”
On his plan for office, if elected: “The first week I’m president I would take on three issues, and we would have to come up with solutions-bipartisan solutions. One is Iraq. We’ve got to get out. The second is our $9 trillion deficit. Third is Social Security and Medicare.”
On abortion: “I am strongly pro-choice. I’ve always been pro-choice, to the consternation of my bishops in New Mexico. As president I would have a national goal to reduce abortions, and I’d promote strong adoption procedures. I would encourage family planning. But I wouldn’t apologize for my position on choice.”
On his border control plans: “I’ll first tell you what I did as governor. I proposed doubling the number of border-patrol agents, which is consistent with a 9/11 Commission recommendation. I can easily see 15,000 at the border. Right now it isn’t adequately protected. I would extend the tour of the National Guard. Many of us had reservations about using the Guard for this, but it seems to be working; they’re deterring the flow. I would also increase the detection equipment at the border. My worst nightmare is nuclear material-uranium, plutonium-being transported by a terrorist across the border. And two years ago I angered a lot of Hispanic and immigrant groups by being the first governor to declare a border emergency. At the time, the border patrol was almost nonexistent in my quarter. There were drugs coming in, violence-the flow was huge. I declared a border emergency, which enabled me as governor to hire local law enforcement. I took state appropriations to pay for law enforcement at the border, which is essentially a federal function. Also, I vetoed legislation that said local law enforcement couldn’t cooperate with federal law enforcement agencies.”
On meeting Fidel Castro: “Fidel Castro has an enormously powerful intellect and is well informed. He told me he reads every newspaper, sees every morning broadcast and reads prodigiously. He showed me all the books he read. While I have enormous dislike for his policies-especially human rights; he incarcerates everybody who disagrees with him-he is a fascinating character who tries to intimidate you with his intellect. Saddam Hussein, on the other hand, tried to intimidate me with his physical actions. He would try to stare me down. He had a bunch of the Revolutionary Guard around us. He was heavily armed. His gestures were menacing. But through his intellect, Castro would try to destroy every argument I made about why he should take certain steps.”
On if he emulates President Clinton: ’I don’t try to imitate him. This has always been my style. But yes, there’s a little bit of Bill Clinton in me. One of the things that used to drive me nuts about him, though, was how he would try to convince his enemies he was a good guy. He’d sometimes spend more time talking to his enemies than to his friends. I don’t believe I’m like that, but I do believe you try to seek common ground in order to convince somebody"
On gun control: “I resent some elites telling me my position on gun control is wrong, for example. It’s a cultural issue in New Mexico and the West, a respect for a way of life. Most gun owners are law-abiding. I’m not going to change my position. That’s where I may deviate from others in my party, too, the elites on the coasts. I have very common tastes.”
On his “common tastes”: “I like sports. I’m a regular person. I don’t make any pretenses. I like the arts-I like modern art-but I’d rather spend time watching a football game or a baseball game. I go to the opera and leave at intermission. I like to smoke a cigar.”
On his favorite baseball team: “I was asked, ”What is your favorite team?“ The Red Sox. Another time, the Associated Press asked, ”If you weren’t running for president, who would you rather be at this moment?“ I said, ”I would like to be number 7, center field for the New York Yankees, Mickey Mantle.“ So they asked, ”Is he a Yankees fan or a Red Sox fan?“ When I was growing up in Mexico City, the Red Sox didn’t exist. The Yankees were the universal team. Mickey Mantle was the hero of kids around the world. It was as if the Yankees were America’s team. But when I went to New England, to Middlesex and then to Tufts, I became an ardent Red Sox fan.”
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