APRIL 1, 2008
What if Bill Richardson gave a speech, but instead of coming out in his own voice, it was channeled through the voice of a robot imitating Bela Lugosi?
That's pretty much what happened this afternoon at the Organization of American States, where Richardson continued his heated campaign for the vice presidency by addressing the body on what he would do to deepen U.S.-Latin American ties. The text of his speech didn't live up to the clownish image I've had of Richardson since reading Ryan Lizza's sendup -- it was rather conventional, straightforward and charmless. ("An educated workforce is what America needs to compete in the new economy," etc.)
But sadly, even when Richardson tries to keep the lid on his inner buffoon, fate intervenes. The English translator he was provided for the significant portions he delivered in Spanish rendered his words in this bizarrely overwrought, parodic, half-muppet-half-evil-dictator voice. Listening to him on the interpreter earphones was a truly weird experience: "(low, angry voice) The other trade agreements that have come up in Congress (voice shoots three octaves higher) have STROOOONGER measures!" It's hard to render in print, but it sounded exactly like this:
I don't know if using this wacky diction helped the translator maintain focus, or if she just had it in for the Governor, or what, but it actually served as a useful reminder, although it was by no means Richardson's fault.
In recent days friends have floated Richardson as an Obama veep pick. He was a governor, he has a great resume, he has national security chops, he could deliver New Mexico -- perfect!
But, as we've kind of forgotten since he isn't at debates anymore, there's something about him that cannot be taken seriously; reread Ryan's piece if you need a reminder. There's a lot to be said for a bland veep pick, and sadly, Richardson, despite his good intentions and his public service, is a gaffe on legs.