Richardson: Regret that we didn’t talk about global warming, or education. I hope you’ll ask me about that.
Iraq is not just an Iraqi solution, it’s a middle eastern solution — involves Syria, Iran. I know that if we had talked to North Korea sooner, we would have had a solution earlier. Politics and diplomacy is personal — it’s how you relate to another human being.
[Now he’s relating the story of his visit with Saddam Hussein when he secured the release of a couple of detainees.]
I’d be ready to meet with just about anybody, without preconditions, but let’s have an agenda. No meetings just for photo ops. I would meet with North Korea in order to talk about their getting rid of all their nuclear reactors. In exchange, they get aid, food, and energy assistance.
Iran: he’s unpredictable, but I’d open dialogue with the Iranian people. Businessmen, students, clerics — there is a moderate movement in Iran.
Q: Who would be your “Bill Richardson”?
A: I offered it to Biden in the last debate, but he turned it down. Most of it would be the Secretary of State — only a few special envoys. But we have to stop outsourcing diplomacy (e.g. having China take the lead on N. Korea). And I’d do a lot of it myself — I’d be my own Bill Richardson.
Q: Are you willing to challenge enormous entrenched economic power in America?
A: Public financing. Achievable? Not sure. Worth trying. Build a citizen corps of activists to lobby Congress. E.g., on energy: need an Apollo-type program that involves everyone.
Q: why a federal balanced budget amendment?
A: I’ve done it 5 times as Governor. And when you balance the budget you’re growing the economy. Deficit spending hurts the economy.
Q: why can’t I fly without disrobing?
A: security is important, but we have to be more customer friendly. We have to protect ports, subways, but not at expense of customer friendly.
Q: regarding education: any response from other candidates on scrapping NCLB?
A: My solution on NCLB. I dealt with it for five years. It’s got to go. It is flawed in that one size fits all testing doesn’t deal efficiently or fairly with all kids — disabled, learning English, autistic, are all treated unfairly. Also, NCLB doesn’t emphasize teacher training. We pay them garbage. My minimum wage for teachers: $40,000 to start. Best federal role is a partnership with states. Also: have to reintroduce art, music, dance in the schools. Also: one year of service to your country (including working in inner city, serving in military, etc.) and we help you with student loans.
Q: mass transit — what’s the strategy.
A: Answer is not just putting more money in. My solution to a lot of things is public-private partnerships. Gov’t should work with private sector, foundations, 501(c)(3).
Q: give me your vision.
A: this race shouldn’t be about who has the most money or the most political pedigree or the most glamorous or the biggest rock star. It’s about who has the experience and vision to restore America’s reputation around the world. My vision is that government can be a catalyst for change. American people are very ready to sacrifice — they want to be inspired. I bring experience to make that happen — I’ve done is as Governor, and as a diplomat. Who 1: can change the country: 2: has the experience, and 3: is electable.
Q: what about the faith-based initiative?
A: Won’t dismantle it, but be sure there’s no bad science, and in awarding of grants, politics and ideology don’t trump science; won’t wear religion on my sleeve. They have to compete like everyone else.
Q: on water policy.
A: in NM, our problem is that we have no water. There is no national water policy, and we need one. Create within Dept. of Interior, a cabinet-level water department. Encourage compacts between water-producing and water-needing states. Answer is leadership — not just an issue for the west, it’s the whole country. Need a water summit for all the states to develop national water policy.
Q: how to help veterans?
A: 1: appoint a credible veteran to be secretary. 2: biggest problem is post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental illness, depression, PTSD have to have parity with other illnesses in this country. 3: every vet gets a hero’s health card — any vet can get health care anywhere they want.
Q: Employee Free Choice Act?
A: I’ll be a pro-union president. I’m for EFCA, card share. Best public employee deal in the country is in NM, and I negotiated it. You need a president who knows how to get things done.
Q: gay rights — what will you do?
A: As Governor, I took far-reaching steps, and I’ll do it as president. 1: promote civil unions with full marriage rights. 2: promote hate crimes act — and it will cover trans-gender. 3: I’m the only Governor that called a special session on domestic partnerships. 4: I will lead — I will push these things. I’ll get rid of DADT.
A: Five things. 1: more border security — more agents, detection equipment. But not the fence — makes no sense, and it’s not going to work. 2: punish employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. 3: foreign policy. Say to president of Mexico: help your people — give them jobs. 4: set up a legalization program — Kennedy/McCain approach. You can apply for citizenship, on conditions: [he rattled them off too fast]. 5: raise quota on legal immigration. It’s more bureaucracy, expensive, messy. But there are no acceptable alternatives.
[Richardson’s internet director just tried to stop the event. Richardson said “Joaquin, I’m at 13%. I’ll take a few more.” Much laughter.]
Q: AIDS policy — allow access to drugs before people get sick?
A: Yes. Also have to embrace some unpopular programs, like needle exchange, easier access to condoms, more research. We don’t focus on prevention in this country. I’d get rid of junk food in schools; mandatory PhysEd; smoking bans. The key is research. We have no strategy for Alzheimer’s, which is 33% of Medicare costs.
Q: public financing. Do you support the Durbin/Specter bill?
A: Yes. I’m for it, but I also did it in NM. Our judges and certain other officers are under public financing. But have to be practical — it doesn’t always generate public support because it’s about you paying for my TV ads. We should combine private with public financing.
Debate over taking money from lobbyists is a silly debate. Is it wrong to take money from Sierra Club lobbyists? I’d rather focus on getting it done, instead of taking pledges. We must update and be realistic about the existing system.
Q: your attitude on bilingual and ESL?
A: You should learn English to get a green card. Don’t support “English Only” movement, because that promotes divisiveness.
Q: What’s the role of faith in governing?
A: I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve. My sense of social justice comes from being Catholic, but I annoyed my bishop by being pro-choice. I’ve worked with churches to raise minimum wage, protect against predatory lenders, etc. We shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about what we believe, but religion shouldn’t be a big factor in determining public policy. E.g., stem cell debate — religion shouldn’t dictate science policy.
Q: ONE organization: how to reduce poverty through education?
A: My foreign policy will say, first, we’re rejoining the international community.
Have to rejoin NATO, UN. International poverty policies should shift foreign aid towards human needs, rather than “budget support.” Current aid policies promote debt in foreign countries. Support microlending. New programs to help build an Arab middle class. Use internet to communicate with young people in Muslim world — Radio Free Europe is outdated. Reducing international poverty is a key part of my foreign policy.