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What began as an upbeat reception ended in disappointment a week ago Monday in Santa Fe when presidential candidate Bill Richardson ignored two requests to address his position on Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Given the financial uncertainties plaguing LANL and Sandia National Laboratories, we thought the former secretary of energy and our current governor would jump at the chance to clear up the conflicting messages he's recently expressed on the subject.
We were wrong.
What has us troubled is that Richardson, as governor, sent a letter to Congress last month voicing opposition to a proposed 3.2-percent budget cut to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which funds LANL and Sandia. Then he turned around the next day, as presidential candidate, and proposed a 53-percent cut to NNSA's budget.
We wanted to know why he gave opposite messages to opposite audiences. We wanted the people of Los Alamos to know why, too.
So Richardson was asked - twice - and he refused to answer - twice. He didn't even acknowledge the questions. His cold reaction caught us off guard, especially after observing his effusive speech to some 100 women at the inauguration of the New Mexico chapter of Women for Richardson moments earlier.
Following his speech, the presidential hopeful worked the crowd, shaking hands and patting backs, and with a load of conviction, yelled, "I love you" to the cheering women.
When it came time to meet the press, his jovial demeanor shut down after being asked about Los Alamos. We find this puzzling. Is it the realization that he was caught here with inconsistencies?
That he can't undo the damage no matter how he answers the question? Or is it arrogance?
The New Mexico Republican Party said he threw us under the bus on this issue. We now tend to wonder.
We can't forget how Richardson the governor made several visits to Los Alamos during last year's gubernatorial election, expressing interest in the town and the laboratory. We find that interest now falls flat. Richardson the governor may have needed us, but it appears pretty clear that to Richardson the presidential candidate, Los Alamos and Sandia are no longer worth his attention.
He's appealing to the national audience now and leaving us behind. What a pity.
And what if Richardson returns to New Mexico in January having lost the primary and eyes the senate seat? He may just find that he is no longer worth our attention.