I’m puzzled by Bill Richardson’s withdrawal as Obama’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Commerce. Obama has pledged to act swiftly in all matters, but did he act too swiftly in this one?
In a public statement, Richardson cited a “pending investigation of a company that has done business with New Mexico state government [that] promises to extend for several weeks or, perhaps, even months.”
He avowed no wrongdoing, but withdrew to avoid delaying the work the Department of Commerce needs to do. According to his statement, “I have concluded that the ongoing investigation…would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process. Given the gravity of the economic situation the nation is facing, I could not in good conscience ask the President-elect and his Administration to delay for one day the important work that needs to be done.”
Richardson, currently governor of New Mexico, is one of the best-known Latinos on the national scene. He was a contender for Obama’s new job. His resume includes appointments as ambassador to the United Nations and Energy Secretary in Clinton’s administration.
A CNN report seems to suggest that the withdrawal was prompted by the Obama team’s desire to avoid another controversy so soon after the allegations concerning Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
If so, was this the right decision? Avoiding controversies is sound political strategy, especially with the inauguration only two weeks away, but so is sticking to one’s choices. Obama didn’t have anything to do with Blagojevich’s alleged peddling of Obama’s vacant Senate seat.
The Obama transition team has carefully vetted applicants to jobs in the administration, including high-level posts all the way up to the Cabinet. I’ve read that each applicant has to complete a seven-page questionnaire containing over 60 items.
Presumably, Richardson passed this vetting process. Perhaps Obama should have stuck behind him, at least a while longer.
What do you make of all this?
Did Obama make the right decision?
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