As if Blagogate wasn’t distraction enough for President-elect Barack Obama, now New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is withdrawing his nomination to be commerce secretary.
According to CNN, Obama aides pushed for the withdrawal because of a federal investigation involving a California company that was awarded a $1 billion contract for business with New Mexico after contributing to various Richardson causes. The investigation began before Richardson was nominated for commerce secretary, but that was before federal prosecutors charged Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich with attempting to sell Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, and apparently the Obama team’s threshold for ethical distractions is one at a time.
My first reaction to this news is that Obama apparently chose wisely by picking Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. Richardson wanted that job, and many people (especially Latinos) disagreed with Obama’s decision. But perhaps Obama (or his advisers) had a feeling the federal probe into New Mexico state government business dealings might cause political problems at some point, and it is less controversial to have a commerce secretary-designate step down than a state secretary-designate.
Even if the Obama team didn’t anticipate the possibility of Richardson withdrawing his nomination, the decision to pick Clinton instead of Richardson for secretary of state turned out to be a stroke of genius. Obama likely will be under pressure from Hispanic groups to replace Richardson with another Latino, which would’ve happened no matter which Cabinet post Richardson was slated to fill. But had Obama picked Richardson instead of Clinton for secretary of state, not only would the president-elect face pressure from Hispanic groups, but also from Clinton supporters who likely would question why he didn’t pick her for the job in the first place.
In that case, America likely would experience deja vu as the mainstream media beat to death the idea of Obama not giving Clinton her proper due, as they did after the Democratic primary finally ended. Fortunately we don’t have to live through that again, because there are a lot more important issues to worry about now.