Get to Know the Candidate: 2008 U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate Governor Bill Richardson in a conversation with Fernando R. Zazueta hosted by The Commonwealth Club of California.
Richardson engages in a wide-ranging conversation about his political views and background. As a seven-term congressman from New Mexico, Richardson focused his energies on major foreign policy and energy issues. In 1997, he was appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and was later secretary of energy under President Clinton.
Since 2002, Richardson's moderate approach to politics has characterized his leadership of New Mexico, where he has been devoted to clean energy use. Richardson's Hispanic heritage and approach to immigration issues make him an important figure in the long-term debate over border security and how to deal with illegal immigrants.
Governor Bill Richardson
Governor Bill Richardson was elected governor of New Mexico in 2002 by the largest margin of any candidate since 1964.
Governor Richardson just completed his third legislative session, cutting taxes for more than 500,000 working New Mexicans, creating a statewide pre-kindergarten program, revamping the state's higher education system, and increasing access to quality health care. He was a candidate for the 2008 presidential election.
Good afternoon and welcome to another program in the Commonwealth Club's 2008 Presidentialcandidate's conversation series. Today's program, co-organized by the Mexican Heritage Plaza inassociation with ABC 7 TELEVISION, KGO Newstalk radio AM 810, and the Bay Area News Group.I am Steve Wright and I am the Editorial Page Editor and Vice President at the San Jose MercuryNews. Today's program features Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico and 2008 DemocraticPresidential candidate. As with all Presidential candidates appearing before the Commonwealth Clubwe have asked Governor Richardson to engage in a wide ranging conversation rather than giving atraditional speech. This should allow us to cover the greatest number of the issues of interest to the American public.Let me give you some brief background on Governor Richardson. His credentials include 14 years asUS Congressmen from New Mexico as well as US ambassador to the United Nations and US Secretaryof Energy under Bill Clinton. Bill Richardson was born in Pasadena, California. He grew up in MexicoCity and later Massachusetts. He graduated from Tufts University and Tufts' Fletcher School of Lawand Diplomacy. Governor Richardson is now in his second term as Governor of New Mexico where hehas championed efforts to make the state known as the clean energy state by focusing on renewableresources and reducing carbon emissions. For his human rights work and international diplomacyefforts in North Korea, Iraq and China, Governor Richardson has been nominated for the Nobel PeacePrize four times. Today Governor Richardson will be in conversation with Fernando Zazueta. He is aprominent Silicon Valley Attorney and founding member of the Commonwealth Club's Silicon ValleyAdvisory Council. Fernando Zazueta holds a Law Degree from the University of California, Davis. Heis also the founding Board Chairman of the Mexican Heritage Corporation and he is fluent in Spanishand English. Mr. Zazueta is also a member of the San Jose Mercury News Hispanic AdvisoryCommittee. Ladies and Gentleman please join me in welcoming Governor Bill Richardson and Fernando Zazueta.Thank you Steve, as a reminder to our radio audience, you are listening to the Commonwealth Club ofCalifornia radio program and our guest today is Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico and the2008 Democratic Presidential candidate one of several. Thank you for being with us today, GovernorRichardson, as your moderator I will cover a set of topics which the Commonwealth Club will discusswith all Presidential candidates who come before us. We are going to look ahead today, exploring whoBill Richardson is and what he would do as President rather than just talking about today's news. Wewill start with a conversation between us and then following the Commonwealth Club tradition I willthen disperse questions submitted by our audience here at San Jose. Although some of the questionsmay overlap these groupings, in order to help the flow of our conversation I I have divided thequestions into the following three groups. First who is Bill Richardson as a person before he came onto the public stage? Second as President how would he deal with the daunting array of domesticchallenges facing our country? And third, how would he shape America's Foreign Policy in thisincreasingly complex and troubled world?I said this to the governor earlier but I will say it again, we have a lot of issues to discuss, so pleasemake your responses brief and to the point of the question. First let's start with you as a private person,before you became a public figure. The name of Richardson doesn't immediately suggest a Hispanicbackground. And lot of people are just beginning to learn about you and your campaign for President.So why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself. What or who shaped you? And what were youdoing before you came on to the national scene?Well [Foreign Language] Now thank you thankyou. You know I have to do that because the name Richardson is not Hispanic. And I am trying toobviously not run as a Hispanic candidate but as a Governor very proud to be Hispanic. Who is BillRichardson? I am a regular person like you. I am not a candidate with lot of advisors; I am not acandidate that goes by polls. I am a little rough on the edges. I have been in public life literally all mylife. I was raised in Mexico, by a mother who only spoke Spanish to me. I was my father when hespoke to me spoke to me in English, totally bicultural background. I feel very strongly that mybicultural routes have enabled me to participate in politics and diplomacy and negotiating. I believe theessence of governing is diplomacy, it's talking, it's dialogue, it's mediation. It's not first seeking amilitary solution. I believe that I can bring this country together because of my background. All my lifeI have worked to do that. Republicans and Democrats, nations I have brought hostages home fromforeign lands. What you see is basically somebody that, I believe, is committed to making this nation alittle better. Who else am I? I am like you. I love sports, I love music, I love the Eagles, I love theDionne Warwick who sang the song of San Jose. You are all too you are all too young to know that.But I am very pleased to be here and I am very pleased that all of you have shown up, although I can'tsee you. I can't see anybody here.Did you love that San Jose State beat New Mexico in the Football Ball and ?I was at that game and you have you have a formidable team, I met your President Les Francis.Obviously San Jose, I have been here many times. I like this community. I like Silicon Valley. I likethe fact that Silicon Valley represents technology, economic growth. I love this state because you setpositive trends; you have had great positive results and making a better climate for not just yourselvesbut the country global climate change. And you are the seventh largest economy in the world. Andthe only message here, with respect to San Jose State in California, is now California is important inthe Presidential selection process. In the past you only were important to candidates because they camehere to raise money, pick your pockets and now you have a major stake because February 5th you willbe the second wave of primaries. And California issues, such as agriculture and water and protectingthe environment and transportation and immigration, now rise to the fore.I think our second broad group of questions deals with Domestic Policy issues. And as you know wehave a record $8.8 trillion deficit in our budget. So please frame your responses with this deficit inmind. Begin the first of all with health. One of the biggest challenges we face as the nation is that wehave over almost 50 million Americans who don't have health insurance. Is this a problem you think you can fix?Yes, I am optimistic about resolving problems. I am not a nay sayer. I am positive about this country. Ibelieve bringing people together, negotiating, working with both sides of the isle, we can get this done.I have done this in New Mexico. What would I do about a national healthcare plan? Number one Ibelieve that it's a right; I believe that every American should have healthcare. Number two I believealso that we have got to do it right. And I am not a Democrat that says we got to tax you to do it or tospend more. Our system today on healthcare, we spent $2.2 trillion on the healthcare budget. Yet today47 million Americans are uninsured. And what is needed, in my judgment is a plan that coverseverybody, that has the following principles. One, if you have a healthcare plan, any of you and you aresatisfied with it, you can keep it. Two, and this is fundamental, everybody should share in a healthcareplan. Everybody should contribute a little bit, the worker, the business, the state, and the Federalgovernment. We should be a lot more efficient than we are. Number three, in this nation I think weneed to emphasize prevention I got rid of junk food in schools in my state. We need to do thatnationally. We should have we should have healthy breakfast. We should have a mandatory phys. edWe should give incentives to companies to make sure that their employees have healthierlife styles. Work out Medicare, 33 percent of it is diabetes. Yet there is no prevention efforts.I would take other steps too to make sure our healthcare system includes everybody because it's aproblem of cost and coverage. Number one, the states, we should handle Medicaid. Children, astuteprograms, programs that deal with working families, the federal government, Medicare, Seniors, thedisabled, there is such a conglomeration of bureaucracy $2.2 trillion budget, 31 percent goes toadministration, goes to red tape does not go to direct care. What we need is electronic records tomake it better. Any Veteran that is here, what I would say an enlisted person you have to go today asa Veteran to the nearest VA Hospital, hopefully there is one nearby here. What I would do is make itmore efficient. I would give that Veteran a hero's health card. And that veteran could go anywhere,with any doctor, with any hospital to get that healthcare. And then now Fernando, this is a reallycomplicated question so I am you said be brief but I am I am almost finished.What I would also do is give a refundable tax credit to any small business, to any individual that needsthat healthcare. That would be a check up front to health. I put a limit on credit cards, in the interestrate for those who pay there healthcare through credit cards for catastrophe, I would eliminate the preexisting condition requirement. I would make sure also that we find a way to as I mentioned fundbetter the National Cancer, to Stem Cell Research, Bio Medical Research. And this is I believe acommunity in Silicon Valley where you specialize in that kind of economic growth. I believe theDemocratic Party should be a party of entrepreneurship, innovation, economic growth, space we haveforgotten about that. You are looking at a democrat too that has cut taxes, personal income tax, statepersonal income tax, capital gains, to bring renewable energy companies to my state. To bring moviesto my state, some from you guys but that's okay. But also that we should find ways to grow theeconomy so that the middle class which has been excluded from economic growth in this country, highhealthcare cost, pensions, ways that wages don't stay high, can be included in a globalized world that isnot providing for that middle class.You asked also about the deficit. Can I answer that because you know any politician that doesn't tellyou that we got a deficit $8.8 trillion and we will do nothing for it. Here is what I would do about thedeficit. One, the $450 billion that we spent in Iraq oops to domestic needs, to reduce the deficit.Number two number two I am a governor, I have to balance budgets. I balance five you know,you almost may get impeached if you don't do that as a governor. I have a constitutional amendment tobalance the budget. I would have line item veto, I would have pays, you go policies. Basically if yougot to have a new program or you got to cut taxes find a way to pay for it. I would get rid of corporatewelfares $71 billion. Now this is not going to make me popular with your delegation. I get rid ofCongressional year marks because that is waste there is pork. And then lastly I would reorderpriorities. I am somebody that believes that human needs, healthcare, education, should be the prioritiesof a nation that needs to invest than its people.We are facing some cuts here in the mental health field for the county of Santa Clara. And that seemsto be the area that gets cut first out when ever there is short fall of funds. Would your health plan, thatyou envision, cover those mental health issues as well as the physical health issues.Yes, Fernando, I in New Mexico when I became governor, we had mental health handled in about 16departments. Tariff issues when I was in the Congress too mental health and it still doesn't havewhat is called parity, with other illnesses. I would change that. One out of four Americans, if youinclude depression, has a mental health problem. Children kids today, autism among kids is rampant.And it's is a problem of not just learning disability but it's a mental health problem. What would I do?In New Mexico we brought all the mental health we are the only state that has done it, into what iscalled the collaborative, into one agency. But as a President I would give mental health a parity thatcancer and other illnesses have. It's going to cost more. But I believe in terms of coverage, ofinsurance, of treatment you know, we got huge problems with meth, we got huge problems withPTSB, PTSD, with our veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. And we don't know how totreat it. You know, we really I have got a lot of my people in New Mexico they say, give me moremoney for it, that will help. I said, no what kind of treatment. I think we need to find ways that weconsolidate mental health and give it the priority it deserves in our medical system.One of our nation's most contentious issues is immigration. And we have all seen the TV coverage ofdesperate people risking and sometimes losing their lives to enter this country without waiting forformal permission. How does your Hispanic heritage help you deal with this issue, when estimated 12million folks who are in the United States they don't have the documentation to be here legally. Andshould they be given a path to citizenship ultimately, should they be send back to their home countriesor do you have some other alternative?Well my vision is that we are a just we are a good country. We should do what's right we are nationof immigrants. We should also do what's practical. And what's happening today in the Congress is adysfunctional relationship between the Congress and the President, where last week negotiations, thatwere moving in the right direction, just collapsed just collapsed. Not enough Republican votes, notenough Democratic push we have got to do better and I believe we have to fix this problem notbecause it's economic issues. But it involves the soul of our country. A lot of ugly things are being said.You know, you hear those Talk Show, Radio, people and others on TV, inflaming what are called thepolitics of fear. This is what I would do. I would basically take five steps and I will be quick.One, we have to secure the border. More border patrol agents. No question about it, more technology.But I am not going to be somebody that says we should build a wall. That's not America, a wallbetween two countries. And you know, - and you know Fernando you and I are old enough to knowthat - remember Ronald Reagan you know, I didn't vote with him much when I was in Congress but Ilike one thing he said, he went to the Berlin Wall, he had a conference with Gorbachev and he said Mr.Gorbachev, tear down this wall. You know I was proud of our country.Now, what else do we do? Number two, those who have knowingly hired illegal workers should bepunished. That law should be enforced. You don't do that. Number three, how about Foreign Policy,how about being frank with our friends in Mexico? I know President Calderon. We are countries thatare close. How about saying to Mexico hey Mexico instead of having those summits you know, thePresidents get together with the big flag well you don't have the flag. The with the flags and theysay nothing they say you know, we are going to reduce immigration and nothing happens. You say itto Mexico; do a little more to help your own people. Give them some jobs. But at the very least youknow, may be we can work together to have some joint border projects. But at the very least stopgiving some of the some of your people maps in the most porous areas in the border at least do that.So that's another element. Another one is one that is I think important here to Silicon Valley. Raise thelegal emigration quotas. Raise them for jobs that we need, H1B visas and many sectors where we needthat competitiveness. The problem there is back log, its bureaucracy, its red tape. It's not enough staffand so many regulations and lot of good people can't come in. And then lastly, a legalization plan.What's the alternative? The alternative got to be we got to deport 12 million people, who is going tofind them? Where are they? Who is going to bear the cost of this and that's not America. So what youdo and this is controversial. You set up and earn legalization program.And this is what happens. You must follow the following conditions. If you want to stay and it's notamnesty, it's not automatic citizenship, here is what the conditions that are kind of in there, but I thinkshould stay. One, you got to learn English. Two, you got to you got to pass a background check andobey the laws. Three, you got to payback taxes you got to pay fines for coming here illegally. Youhave got to also have what's 45 oh I got to finish. Oh okay. Because I wondered its 45, okay ohyou are telling him okay. Finally what I would do is have this legalization process, but you know thereare some problems with the bill. One, it divides families. We shouldn't have an immigration law thatdivides families. Two, the guest worker provision doesn't have labor protection you know, you got tobring gas workers, agricultural workers, for god's sake give them the healthcare, give them the right tounionize, give them a chance to like have some protections. And then the wall is a problem. But Ibelieve all of these issues are resolvable. I am a little hopeful that the Congress is going to go back andmay be for the first time do something in a bipartisan way in years. Now I I do believe that this is anissue that we should not look at political gain. Do what's right, it's not pleasant. You are not going toget any votes out of immigration you know, the Hispanic vote they are going to see who has donesomething to make it right.Well certainly the environment has become the environment has become a hot topic. What did youlearn as Secretary of Energy under President Clinton that you would implement as President in your first term?Well what I learnt is that we never had an energy policy in this country. What I learnt that we tried inthe Clinton administration we did a little bit. Both parties have been derelict in dealing with theenormous problems we have, the high gasoline prices, but the fact that 65 percent of our oil is importedand it's countries like Iran and OPEC that are unfriendly, the fact that we don't have energy efficiencyin this country. This is what I would do as President. I have noticed that the Congress is going to passan energy bill, they are going to try to come up with something, I think that's meaningless. I don'tthink it's going to mean anything. What I would do as President - is I would do the following. I wouldask every one of you here to sacrifice a little bit. This is what I would do. But that's not going to be apopular word with my consultants consultants have told me, don't use that word. People don't theywould think of Jimmy Carter. I believe we all I remember John F Kennedy, he said two things thatare very important. One, he said we are going to the moon in 10 years. He thought big. The secondthing he said, we got to have we want somebody that can inspire the American people to dosomething for the collective good. And I think the American people are ready.What I would do? An Apollo program, a Manhattan program, that would reduce that dependence from65 to 10 percent by a massive shift. Fossil fuels to renewable technologies, solar, wind, biomass, fuelcells, distributed generations, ethanol, bio fuels. I would say it to Detroit; by 2020 you have to havevehicles at 50 miles per gallon - 50. I would also say that we got to develop the plug in hybrid a 100miles per gallon. We can do that we have that technology. And what I would say to everyone here isthis is not going to be a mandate, but in your daily life with appliances, with mass transit, with airconditioning, with heating, with lighting, just be a little more energy efficient and in fact if you come into work here in vehicle in a month, one day coming by mass transport. And this is another issue here inCalifornia. I have been all over the state. I have come to a conclusion you have a traffic problem inthis state. But you know, we have never had a President and a President should say to the San Jose, tothe Los Angeles hey you know, let's think about smart growth and open space and the way we live inthe future. As a President my annual port highway bills got to shift we are going to find ways to workwith states and local communities, to deal with mass present, energy efficient, light rail I did that inNew Mexico - Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It's very popular now and we only have two million people.The people can't you can't keep people off the train. I can't get on it. Well, I can. But but I believewe we have to look and not be afraid of the future. Thank you.