Richardson Blog Round Up for Thursday, August 23, 2007

In less than an hour, the first ever presidential candidates forum held on Indian land will begin. According to USA Today's On Politics blog, the Prez on the Rez forum will be taking place at 3:30 PM PDT (6:30 PM EDT) on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians' reservation in Southern California. At the forum will be Native American elected tribal leaders from all around the country. All Democratic candidates were invited to participate in this historic forum, but only three will be showing up to talk about the issues most important to Native American communities everywhere. New Mexico political blogger Heath Haussamen wondered why the rest of the Democratic field "couldn't make time for the first Americans, those who have been stepped on by their government for so long?" He isn't the only one asking this question.
Robert J. Miller, author of Native America, Discovered and Conquered (Praeger Publishers), wrote about the disappointing turnout for Prez on the Rez:
Only three Democrats will participate in the "Prez on the Rez" forum today on the Morongo Reservation in California. All the candidates were invited, but only New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former Sen. Mike Gravel and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Illinois said they could attend. The front runners -- Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York, Barack Obama of Illinois and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina -- said they had scheduling conflicts. Clinton also had concerns that tribes in California are opposing labor unions. "If they won't come talk to us now, they certainly won't be responsive to us if they get in the White House," Kalyn Free, the organizer of the forum, told Gannett News Service.
At American Chronicle, June Caldwell wrote about the significance of Prez on the Rez, and the insultingly transparent manner in which the rest of the Democratic field excused themselves from participating in the historic event:
What do you get when you put 150 Native American leaders in a room to have at it with the three Dem Presidential candidates that are too radical for prime time, and throw in Chairman of the Democratic Party, the rebel yeller himself, Howard Dean? The most head banging peyote trip ever? Maybe not, but on August 23 you can catch it streaming live on www.prezontherez.org at 3:30 pm PST (5:30 pm Central). If you see one Presidential debate all year, catch this puppy!

Guaranteed, these three candidates, Governor Bill Richardson (NM), Congressman Dennis Kucinich (OH), and former Senator Mike Gravel (AK) are the ones that seem to have left their spin doctors at the door, and shock and awe nearly every time they open their mouths. They are usually brushed off by the mainstream media for the more big buck candidates and the retread sound bites of the purported duking it out by Hillary and Obama at the other debates, so this is a rare opportunity to hear some genuinely fresh and fearless voices hash it out. And the other `silent' America, the Native Americans, get some long overdue quality time too. I don't recommend missing it...

All the Democratic candidates were invited. Rumors were floating that Union conflicts with the casino hosting the event was the reason the big 3 candidates declined, but that panned out to be just a convenient excuse.

When I asked Dave Parker, INDN [Indigenous Democratic Network] List Political Director, about those rumors, he explained

"In the early stages of planning this event, we were made aware of the concerns of one union, UNITE/HERE, and the subsequent reticence of some of the candidates to participate in the event given those concerns. We worked diligently to eliminate those concerns, including offering to move the forum to a neutral site and using union labor in the production of the event, so the candidates no longer have any `labor' excuse to boycott Prez on the Rez. The bottom line is, some candidates have made a political calculation that they do not need to participate in a forum which brings together tribal leaders from Indian Nations across America -- that they can take Indians for granted once again -- and not have to pay a price for their neglect. Our organization was founded to ensure candidates in the future no longer see that as a viable calculation."
Find out more about INDN's List, click here.

It's no surprise that Governor Richardson was the first candidate to confirm he would be participating in the Prez on the Rez forum, given his strong record on issues most important to the Native American community, and his history of reaching out to tribal leaders sincerely and often to build positive relationships and engage in serious discussions about issues. At Daily Kos, Ken Camp wrote about the Prez on the Rez forum and Governor Richardson's record on Native American issues:

While the focus in these candidate diaries tends to be on Iraq, health care, energy, education or the environment, tomorrow three of the Democratic candidates will take their campaigns to Indian Country for a first-ever debate.

No, it isn't the so-called frontrunners who are headed to Prez on the Rez in Cabazon, California. Only Bill Richardson, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich care enough about Native American issues to attend this debate. You will likely hear about scheduling conflicts or too many debates from those who can't attend, but the fact is that this event has been planned for months and only Richardson, Gravel and Kucinich have shown the respect necessary to win the Indian vote. And of the three, Bill Richardson has the strongest record on issues that matter most to Native Americans...

In my limited experience working in government with Native Americans, I've learned that respect on a government to government level can get you a long way. Bill Richardson understands this and views Native American leaders in his state as partners.

As Energy Secretary in 2000, Bill Richardson required the department to consult with tribes with regard to actions that would affect them, respecting their sovereignty.

After he was elected in 2002, Governor Richardson moved quickly to include Native Americans in New Mexican government.

...In 2004, Governor Richardson demonstrated leadership by establishing the New Mexico Department of Indian Affairs, the first cabinet level state agency on Native American affairs in the nation. Bill Richardson has said he will do the same on the federal level as President.

... When it comes to the Native American vote, Bill Richardson doesn't need to pander or make promises or grand gestures to gain support. Richardson has support because he has shown his respect for tribal government and made a good faith effort, that is too often lacking, by American governments to work with tribal governments.

Commenting on Ken's diary, CupofTea wrote:
I wish more people were aware of just how lucky we are to have an honest and candid person like Richardson running for our country's highest office. He just strikes me as a really solid person.
I wish more people were aware of that too! As I mentioned yesterday, there are loads of ways you can support Governor Richardson and spread the word about his candidacy. Join the campaign as a supporter, sign up to volunteer, join a grassroots group of supporters and volunteers in your area, reach out to others to encourage them to join the campaign, write a letter to your newspaper about an issue that matters to you -- like, say, what a crime it is for politicians to ignore Native American issues, or how important it is for us to withdraw completely from Iraq in order to begin the necessary diplomatic work --, make a contribution, attend a campaign event in your area... There are so many ways you can help out, so get involved today!

The Bush Administration is trying once again to convince the Amereican public that the "surge" strategy has put us on a direct path to "victory." The President even compared the War in Iraq to the Vietnam Conflict. Democracy for New Mexico blogged about Governor Richardson's response to the President's latest efforts to construe facts to create his own special -- and false -- reality:

And today Bush compared the Iraq occupation with Viet Nam, drawing exactly the wrong lessons. It wasn't long ago that Bush was demeaning Iraq War critics for bringing up Viet Nam, remember? And the main lesson we learned from Nam? That the last four years of the war brought huge numbers of deaths without affecting the outcome one iota -- while Richard Nixon diddled for political gain. Sound familiar?

Governor Bill Richardson was one of the first out of the box today to call Bush on his distortions, while on the campaign trail in Nevada. He reiterated that he has the most effective plan to end the war and that the surge has failed. He again called for a withdrawal of all our troops leaving no residual forces. Here's his statement:

RENO, NV -- Governor Bill Richardson, campaigning in Nevada, today released a statement in response to a speech by President Bush comparing a withdrawing of U.S. forces from Iraq to America's withdrawal at the end of the Vietnam War.

"The correct conclusion to draw from our experience in Vietnam," said Governor Richardson, "is that dragging out the process of withdrawal will be tragically worse in terms of U.S. lives lost and worse for the Iraqi's themselves in terms of the ultimate instability we will create by staying longer."

In 1968 Nixon ran on a platform of ending the war with honor. It took 7 years to get the last American soldier out of Vietnam. In the meantime, tens of thousands more Americans died. The costs in terms of tragedy in Southeast Asia itself are a matter of historical record. Millions of civilians ultimately died in Vietnam, in Cambodia and the killing fields and millions more ultimately had to flee their homes.

"We have now been in Iraq longer than it took to win World War II," Governor Richardson continued. "My plan for Iraq is designed to end this war with the least possible number of U.S. casualties and with the least damaging effects of Iraqi's reconciliation process. This means getting all of our troops out as quickly and safely as possible. Leaving residual troops in Iraq as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have suggested will only drag out the process to the detriment of all involved. Reconciliation can only occur when the U.S. has completely withdrawn. Everyday, more and more experts are coming to the same conclusion I drew seven months ago. My position has been consistent and unwavering. A fast, safe withdrawal with no residual troops."

In addition, Governor Richardson reiterated his belief that the so-called "surge" in U.S. forces in Iraq has been a failure, and responded to Senator Clinton's change of heart regarding the lack of progress in the war.

"I am pleased that Senator Clinton, today, recognizes that the surge has produced no progress of any long term significance to the Iraq debacle. That is different from what she said yesterday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. But, it is that audience, who has sacrificed more than any of us, who deserves to hear a clear statement that our sons and daughters and mothers and fathers are not going to be sacrificed because of an irrational commitment to a failed strategy.

"The President is asking the country to wait for next month's progress report from General Petraeus. The chances are that report will be just another White House spin job and attempt to justify this war. This has been the bloodiest summer yet -- our troops have done an admirable job at trying to make a bad idea work, but the surge has failed, the war has failed, Bush has failed. It is time to end this war and bring all of our troops home as soon as possible. I'm glad Hillary Clinton has retracted her comments yesterday and has declared the surge a failure today -- but I still haven't gotten an answer to my question -- a peace in Iraq will fail as long as we leave troops behind -- how many would you leave behind? Every other major candidate would leave thousands of US troops in Iraq for an indefinite. I will leave no U.S. forces there. Zero.

"The only way out of the Iraq mess is to remove all U.S. troops, and to use that leverage to get the warring parties to resolve their differences, and surrounding Muslim nations to help stabilize the country. Any residual U.S. force reduces the chances for success, and exposes our troops as targets. Our brave troops, and the American people, deserve better."

To learn more, go to No Troops Left Behind.

Strategic Vision released a new poll today that shows Governor Richardson is closing in on the so-called frontrunner candidates. Ron Chusid of Liberal Values Blog covered the poll results, remarking that in Iowa, it's a solidly four-way race:

The latest Strategic Vision poll shows that there's still a four way race in Iowa. John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama are virtually tied. Bill Richardson trails in fourth place, which happens to be the spot where John Kerry was before he came from behind to win in the final days before the 2004 caucus. The results:

John Edwards 23%
Barack Obama 22%
Hillary Clinton 21%
Bill Richardson 14%
Joseph Biden 5%

Heath Haussamen also commented on this latest Iowa poll:
A new Iowa poll places Gov. Bill Richardson only seven points behind the leader in a narrowing race in the first state to hold a presidential nominating contest...

Another question asked in the new poll might indicate why support for Richardson is increasing. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed said they favor a withdrawal of "all United States military" from Iraq within the next six months. Only Richardson proposes such a plan; in fact, the others say it's logistically undoable.

That difference was highlighted as Richardson asserted himself and challenged the others during Sunday's debate, which might have helped him on the last day the poll was conducted... He has said he has to beat one of the three frontrunners in Iowa; this poll places him within striking distance of all three.

Finally today, I encourage everyone to check out liberaltruthsayer's diary, in which she highlighted several YouTube videos of supporters of Governor Richardson:
I think we can all agree that You Tube has revolutionized political campaigns. Instant clips of debates and fora, previews of snazzy new campaign ads, and for those not suffering from short attention spans, even full length speeches. I have to say though, that by far the most interesting and revolutionary part of this whole new media is the personal testimonials. I have pulled a few of my favorites to share with you.
I hope you'll watch all the videos in liberaltruthsayer's diary.

That's all for today. I hope you'll come by again tomorrow. Until then...

Tags: 2008, Bill Richardson, Blogosphere, Democrats, Iowa, Iraq, native americans (all tags)

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