Richardson not usual lame duck

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By Jeffry Gardner

Legacy. Hank Thoreau wrote that most of us “lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Another writer, William Faulkner, I believe, said that some of us are driven to leave a mark on history.  A “scratch on anonymity,” is how he phrased it, I think.

Which leads us to Gov. Bill Richardson. To say he’s long been concerned with how New Mexico history will treat his tenure is akin to saying bears use the woods for respites. His initial term was dedicated to padding his resume for a run for the White House. Simply running for president should tell us all we need to know about Richardson (or anyone else who sets his or her sights on that office in this day and age).

So New Mexicans became proud hosts of the New Mexico Bowl – the football game that kicks off college’s post season. Of course, a nationally televised football game, though probably more than Barack Obama ever accomplished as an Illinois legislator or a U.S. Senator, is hardly enough bona fides to crown a man president.

We got a $450 million train and a $150 million “spaceport” to boot. There were licenses and college benefits for illegal aliens as icing to his campaign cake.

The governor thought that from the outside looking in caucusers in Iowa or voters in New Hampshire might be impressed. They weren’t. Since then, the governor’s legacy has been jeopardized by lobbying scandals, one featuring a months-long investigation by the U.S. Attorney.

Still, as the governor picks up his paper each morning, it’s been hard, one suspects, to see his second-in-command receiving most of the headlines. That happens during an election, of course, and lame-duck office holders suffer unknown pains. Our governor is that lame duck. Virtually headline-less these days. Or is he?

Perhaps that’s why Gov. Richardson stepped up and sided with the potash industry – more specifically a potash company from another state – to undercut state oil and gas interests in southeastern New Mexico. A questionable decision, to be sure, and one not in the best interest of our cash-poor state treasury. But a headline maker, yes?

Basically, if the feds agree with the governor, oil and gas – historically our bread and butter since roughly January 6, 1912, give or take a year or two – will find itself on the sidelines of a half-million acre chunk of land rich with  oil, gas and potash. It’s no secret that nationwide the oil, gas and, yes, the coal industries have been nothing short of vilified by the Obama administration. And, just like Reaganomics, it’s having a trickle down effect.

The numbers don’t add up. Potash contributes millions to state coffers. Oil and gas, a tad more. Billions, in fact. The move made headlines in newspapers around the state, and, if you’re one who enjoys seeing your name in lights, that had to be special for the governor. Curiously, Richardson raised more eyebrows and gathered more headlines when he opened the door to pardoning William Bonney. Yeah. Billy the Kid. The governor opened the door in 2003 by asking historians to look again into The Kid’s life.  Did Sheriff Pat Garrett put The Kid down? Did he wound The Kid and let the outlaw flee to Texas? Apparently the ghost of Lew Wallace, or at least his purported promise to pardon Bonney, has nagged at Richardson for some time.

The story has generated headlines across the nation, including network news. Legacy be damned, really. Richardson’s one lame duck with a lot of flight in him.