Bill Richardson in Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson

On Foreign Policy: Clinton administration negotiated North Korea nuclear freeze

In the 1990s, South Korea was an extraordinary success story. North Korea, on the other hand, seemed a fossil frozen in a bizarre prehistory, its politics imprisoned in a Stalinist cult of personality, its economy a stagnant relic isolated from market forces driving prosperity elsewhere.

North Korea did have one claim to modernity that earned it the enmity of the US and other Western countries: It had a fairly sophisticated uranium-enrichment program dating back to the 1980s that was not limited to uses permitted under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By the early 1990s, in fact, it was clear that North Korea was prepared to produce nuclear weapons and might even have made a couple of them.

Pres. Bill Clinton engaged North Korea in a long and arduous set of negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear-weapons program. In Oct. 1994, the two countries signed an agreement to freeze and eventually unplug the North Korean nuclear facilities that were capable of making atomic weapons.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p. 132-133 Feb 2, 2005

On Homeland Security: Negotiated for 1994 release of pilots downed in North Korea

We landed in Pyongyang on Dec. 17, 1994 [for a Congressional tour. The same week included the] downing a US military helicopter in North Korea. I asked after the crew. The Vice Minister told me the helicopter had a crew of two, but he said he could not comment on their condition. With that, my mission to North Korea was utterly transformed. "It is critically important to turn over these pilots to US authorities," I told the Vice Minister. Not possible, he said: This was a military matter, and nothing would be done until the Korean People's Army completed its investigation of the incident.

The US Secretary of State confirmed my mission. One pilot, Bobby Hall, was fine, but David Hilemon had perished in the downing of their helicopter. [After days of negotiating], on Dec. 21 offered that if I left Pyongyang, I could escort Hilemon's remains home, and Hall would be released `very soon.' I accepted. Hall was released on Dec. 30, with the US signing a document expressing `sincere regret'.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p. 135-144 Feb 2, 2005

On Homeland Security: Negotiated for 1995 release of US workers arrested in Iraq

On March 13, 1995, three oil mechanics working in Kuwait for US defense contractors, got lost near the border, and found themselves in Iraq and under arrest by Saddam's border guards. They were sentenced to 8 years in Abu Ghraib Prison, for spying and potential sabotage.

About a month later, I got a call, after Jimmy Carter and Rev. Jesse Jackson had failed to negotiate their release. The Iraqis were clearly seeking a way out of what was an embarrassing episode at a particularly sensitive time. Saddam's people wanted to talk to someone they thought they could trust--and they considered me an honest broker.

Iraq wanted a formal letter from the US expressing appreciation for releasing the prisoners. No way, I said. [I worked through that point, and numerous others, negotiating as a member of Congress and not as the President's official envoy. After meeting with Saddam personally], Saddam agreed to release the oil workers into my custody]. Pres. Clinton's quiet but firm diplomacy was effective.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p. 150-3 & 161 Feb 2, 2005

On War & Peace: Voted against Kuwait war but later regretted it

[While negotiating in 1995 with Saddam for the release of two US oil workers arrested after getting lost near the Iraq border, I pointed out that], I did not vote for the Kuwait war, because I believed further diplomatic activity should have been pursued Later, when I became UN ambassador and had to deal with Saddam again, I realized that me congressional vote on the war had been a mistake. Seizing a neighboring country which happened to be a major oil exporter added up to a threat in my book.
Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p. 160-3 Feb 2, 2005

On Free Trade: NAFTA critically important for US as well as Mexico

NAFTA was critically important, and not only for the reasons commonly cited by its supporters. Yes, the treaty would create the world's largest free-trade region, a market of 360 million people in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Estimates of NAFTA's economic impact varied, but the treaty promised to be a win-win-win for all three countries.

That didn't mean the absence of dislocation: while NAFTA figured to create more jobs in the US, some jobs would be lost. A key part of the final bill presented to Congress needed to include worker-adjustment programs and other so-called side agreements addressing such issues as labor standards and the environment.

I felt the treaty was crucial to Mexico. I thought NAFTA would create positive economic change and help to stimulate a broader political debate. I thought it also had the potential to affect the immigration issue: if Mexico's economy boomed, beter-paying jobs would provide Mexicans an incentive to stay home.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.112-3 Nov 3, 2005

On Foreign Policy: First to visit Aung San Suu Kyi under Burmese house arrest

Aung San, the prime mover behind Burma's independence, was murdered by a political rival in 1947. His daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, got deeply involved in Burmese politics in 1988. A free election was held in 1990 & her party won 80% of the seats. Instead of becoming prime minister, she was placed under house arrest by the military. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Feb. 1994, I became the first non-family member permitted to visit Aung San Suu Kyi since her arrest. I urged the military junta leader to open a dialogue with her, and I volunteered to mediate. She is the key to Burma's reputation in the international community, I said, particularly in the US. I said at a press conference that she should be released without condition. She was released in July 1995 and since then has been in and out of house arrest--mostly in.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the Nelson Mandela of the Burmese people, and one day, she will lead a new democracy movement in her country.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.122-5 Nov 3, 2005

On Foreign Policy: Negotiated with Castro to halve fee to emigrate from Cuba

I met Fidel Castro in Havana in 1996. We spoke in Spanish and covered topics including human rights, the release of jailed dissidents, and the fees the government charged any Cuban who wanted to emigrate to the US.

At that time, Cuba charged $600 for exit documents. This was prohibitive to thousands who wanted to leave. The "Richardson Agreement" cut that figure in half for up to 1,000 Cubans per year who could demonstrate financial hardship. Castro suggested, without making a promise, that we could build on this agreement, perhaps leading to the relaxation of restrictions in other areas. I also succeeded in returning home with several imprisoned dissidents.

I am no fan of Castro's politics and the repression he has visited upon Cubans for the past 46 years. But all in all, he was probably the best-informed foreign leader I met during that period in the mid-1990s.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.168-171 Nov 3, 2005

On War & Peace: Iraq was single biggest issue as Clinton's UN ambassador

Secretary of State Albright had said that Iraq was the biggest issue for the administration during my tenure as UN ambassador. I needed to make sure that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan remained aligned with us. Second, I had to keep an eye on the UN Special Commission--UNSCOM--the weapons inspectorate established after the Gulf War.

Iraq accepted Resolution 687 three days after it was passed in 1991. Given that hundreds of thousands of US military were on his doorstep, Saddam had little choice. At first, inspections seemed to go according to plan. By Aug. 1991, Iraq was throwing up roadblocks. It failed to make full disclosure of its proscribed weapons & programs, which was a requirement of 687. It blocked the use of helicopters by inspectors. New resolutions were passed, their demands either ignored or compromised by Saddam.

Our resolution represented the will of the international community, but frankly, it did not matter much if we were not prepared to back it up.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.212-215 Nov 3, 2005

On War & Peace: Negotiated with Taliban in 1998 to extradite Osama bin Laden

No cabinet-rank American had visited Afghanistan since 1974, and I was itching to give it my best shot.

Another part of the mission was not on anyone's radar. We wanted to persuade the Taliban to expel Osama bin Laden or extradite him to the US, where he was under indictment for complicity in the 1991 World Trade Center bombing.

My message was that there was a chance of US aid to help rebuild Afghanistan & gain broader international recognition, but not unless they made peace with their opposition. The Taliban agreed to talks.

On bin Laden, I struck out. His expulsion would do wonders for [Afghanistan]'s standing in the international community. I requested an audience with Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader and the key to bin Laden. That would give me the opportunity to convey President Clinton's deep concern about Bin Laden's terrorist activities and his use of Taliban territory as a base. Later, on the evening news, NBC reported that bin Laden had threatened to kill me.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.225-229 Nov 3, 2005

On Energy & Oil: Oversaw Dept. of Energy during nuclear lab security breach

My time at the Energy Department always will be stigmatized by its association with nuclear-security problems at the national laboratories, particularly at Los Alamos. I did make mistakes, but in the main, the raps against me were unfair, because security concerns at the nuclear-weapons labs were growing long before I got there. A big one exploded on my watch, however, and it wasn't wrong that I took the heat for it.

The People's Republic of China was especially interested in W-88, a miniature nuclear warhead. In March 1999, the New York Times published a report entitled "Breach at Los Alamos," describing the theft of nuclear secrets by Wen Ho Lee. Two days later, I fired Lee, and ordered that DOE begin a series of polygraph examinations (lie-detector tests) of lab employees. Scientists at the labs went nuts.

The rest of 1999 was a nightmare of reports and revelations about sloppy security. We were moving fast to address these shortcomings even as the Cox Committee recommended changes

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.248-253 Nov 3, 2005

On Energy & Oil: Tapped Strategic Oil Reserve to pierce bubble in oil prices

After the Arab oil embargo in 1973 and the subsequent quadrupling of oil prices, policymakers in Washington realized just how vulnerable the US was to a major supply disruption. In Dec. 1975, President Ford created the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The conventional understanding is that the SPR could be tapped only in the event of an emergency or a sever supply disruption. In fact, the president can order its use under other circumstances.

An energy secretary can also order test sales of up to 5 million barrels any time he or she wants.

I had originally argued for the release of up to 60 million barrels, but Clinton did not want to go that far. We released 30 million barrels and SPR eventually got 33 million barrels from refiners.

There had been a bubble in the oil market, and our policy had pierced it. But we still get most of our crude oil from abroad, which means that we lack the leverage to do much about prices.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.270-274 Nov 3, 2005

On Homeland Security: 9/11 shifted world focus from nukes to terrorism

Our world turned upside down. Every premise I had cultivated about the international system was now at issue. That we could resolve disputes at the UN and in other international institutions. That diplomacy could serve as a counter-force to terror. That our intelligence was so strong we could prevent such acts from happening here. I previously thought the biggest challenge in the post-Cold War world was nuclear proliferation, ,but we had a new enemy; international terrorism, and its practitioners were using what military types call asymmetrical warfare. That means all sorts of unconventional arms, from suicide bombs and airplanes as guided missiles to potentially much worse--chemical, biological, even nuclear weapons.

The tragedy convinced me it was time for me to return to public service. I could get back in the arena, run for governor, do my best for NM, and try and offer leadership. In the post-9/11 world, governors were bound to assume a greater role in homeland security.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.285-286 Nov 3, 2005

On Civil Rights: New Mexico is first "majority minority" state

New Mexico is the nation's first majority minority state, where Hispanics and Native Americans make up 52% of the total population. New Mexico's regions often seem like separate mini-states, with sharply differing characteristics. North-central New Mexic for example, is heavily Hispanic. Northwestern New Mexico is oil-and-gas country, with large Mormon and Indian populations. Southern New Mexico is the fastest-growing part of the state, with a significant military component.
Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.290-291 Nov 3, 2005

On Principles & Values: In Guinness Book of World Records for most handshakes

In a political race, I am almost reflexively paranoid. It does not matter what the polls show. You have to work every minute of every day as hard as you can and leave nothing to chance. We raised $7.5 million, and my finance chair said he we took in as much from Republicans as he did from Democrats. Over the course of the campaign, I probably shook a hand for every one of those dollars. In fact, I shattered Theodore Roosevelt's long-standing record for handshaking and made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. On New Year's Day, 1908, Roosevelt squeezed 8.513 hands; on September 16, 2002, I touched 13,392 in eight hours.
Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.296 Nov 3, 2005

On Tax Reform: Cut NM capital gains tax & income tax from 8.2% to 4.9%

I was convinced that tax cuts would improve the prospects for keeping talented people and businesses, attracting new enterprises, and kick-starting the entire state economy. Our state personal income tax before I got elected was more than 8 percent. Taking on the tax issue would reinforce the idea that I was a different kind of Democrat.

The legislature took up my tax package, which included the four-year cut in the personal income tax from 8.2% to 4.9 percent and a 50% cut in the capital gains tax, and the package passed the House without a single dissenting vote and the Senate by a margin of 39 to 2. I signed it into law on Valentine's Day, 2003.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.304-306 Nov 3, 2005

On Technology: Pushed R&D tax credit--3 year tax holiday for high tech

In 2003, we were eager to attract high-tech business. The state had suffered one classic missed opportunity. In 1975, a couple of guys named Gates and Allen developed a language for the first personal computer, which happened to have been invented by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems of Albuquerque. By 1978, Albuquerque-based Microsoft had 13 employees and sales of more than $1 million. Then it was gone. Whatever the reason, Microsoft decamped and became the catalytic agent that helped transform the entire Seattle area. I wanted to do everything I could to make sure that a future big fish did not slip through our nets.

That is why I pushed for and got through the legislature in 2005 a research-and-development tax credit. It is a three-year tax holiday for new technology companies. They are laying capital on the line, and we want to invest in their success. If they qualify, they can also take advantage of the tax credit we instituted for companies that provide high-wage jobs.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.306-307 Nov 3, 2005

On Crime: Pushed "Marissa's Law"--tougher penalties for sex predators

I called a special session of the legislature [after a referendum vote]. A 16-year old girl, Marissa Mathy-Zvaifler, had been killed at a concert in Albuquerque. The man charged with the crime had previously raped a 4-year-old girl, & upon conviction, wa given probation instead of prison. There would be no serious disagreement here, given the public outrage, & there was not. Marissa's Law, as I insisted it be called, which included much tougher penalties for sexual predators, was passed overwhelmingly.
Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.320-321 Nov 3, 2005

On Drugs: Pushed "War on DWI"--you drink, you drive, you lose

When I took office, drunken driving in NM had reached epidemic proportions. Our rate of DWI arrests was running 50% above the national average. DWI was the leading cause of death & injury among New Mexicans 44-years old & younger, and the estimated cost in medical bills, higher insurance rates, and other expenses topped $1 billion per year.

We now have one of the best programs in the country. We started with stiffer laws for repeat offenders--an additional four years added to a drunk driver's sentence for each prior conviction. Before, jail time was not mandatory for DWI offenders who violated the terms of their probation; it is now. We also cracked down on repeat offenders in other ways, lowering the DWI blood alcohol limit from .8 to .6 and making participation in a treatment program mandatory. We set up a hotline to report suspicious driving and created a radio/TV advertising campaign that featured me hammering home the anti-DWI point in six words: "You drink, you drive, you lose." No exceptions.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.323-325 Nov 3, 2005

On Health Care: Shift Medicaid costs back from states to federal

We governors depend heavily on our states' relationship with Washington. The relationship with Washington ought to be a partnership based on consultation and a shared interest in the common good.

Washington views the states cynically as a safety valve for its own chronic inability to manage our affairs. It's the worst of all possible worlds: Washington sets the terms of what must be done in certain public programs, then shifts the financial burden to the states.

The worst case in point is Medicaid. Costs are rising , yet the federal government keeps reducing its share of the funding for the program. In my new NM budget, despite federal cuts, we increased Medicaid spending by 16%. Faced with rising costs, we remained committed to providing health care to our most vulnerable citizens. We implemented cost containment measures, and these are a viable solution in the short term, but they won't work in the long term if the feds continue to increase the states' share of the costs.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.345-346 Nov 3, 2005

On Social Security: Focus budget reform like Soc. Sec., avoiding future burden

Spending now and passing the bill on to our children is simply immoral. To be a legislator, to be a governor, to be a president, is to make choices, difficult choices, not to saddle future generations with debts that we ourselves lack the will to pay.

We need to address this profligacy in a bipartisan manner. There is no shortage of strategies--hard spending caps in Congress; an end to certain tax cuts enacted when the fiscal outlook was brighter; a larger overhaul of the federal tax code to build simplicity and equity into the system. I would advocate some combination of these three approaches. But I doubt that Washington can get from here to there without some political cover. This was the job done by Alan Greenspan's Social Security Reform Commission in 1983. I'd set up a commission on taxes and spending. We simply cannot continue to avert our eyes from this gathering crisis.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.347 Nov 3, 2005

On Principles & Values: New Progressivism: combine opportunity with accountability

Our ideas for serving the needs of the people of New Mexico today are coalescing around what we call "New Progressivism." It has its roots in the core values of the Democratic Party that have always stressed opportunity. Opportunity has always been a cornerstone of any progressive movement; what is new is the accountability that we build into our programs.

What we are proving is that we are pro-people and pro-business and pro-environment at the same time, something that progressives, and Democrats, have traditionally found it difficult to do.

The objective of New Progressivism is to promote opportunity in health care and education and jobs in a fiscally responsible and efficient way to create a stronger community and quality of life. The key points are:

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.358-359 Nov 3, 2005

On Foreign Policy: When negotiating, focus on goals, not locale or format

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.363-4 Nov 3, 2005

On Principles & Values: Richardson's Rules for negotiating

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.363-5 Nov 3, 2005

The above quotations are from Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life, by Bill Richardson, with Michael Ruby.
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