Bill Richardson

Why is the Google chairman bothering with Kim Jong-un? Don't look for a profit motive.

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Free Johnson

There are certain shibboleths in presidential politics that even the most forthright candidates feel obliged to repeat, certain topics they feel compelled to avoid. Yet talk to former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the unorthodox 2012 GOP hopeful, and those rules go out the window. Ask about church, and he says he doesn’t go. “Do you believe in Jesus?” I ask. “I believe he lived,” he replies with a smile. Ask about shifts in position, and he owns up to one. “I changed my mind on the death penalty,” he tells me.

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President Obama hasn't indicated publicly that he will reorganize the White House staff. But sources are telling Marc Ambinder and Glenn Thrush, among others, that Obama is thinking about it. I presume that is a good thing. I don't know enough about the internal dynamics of the administration to understand how much responsibility, if any, advisers and staff bear for Tuesday's drubbing at the polls.

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Politico says immigration reform is a bad issue for both parties: [T]he polarizing issue is fraught with peril for both parties — so much so that, when asked about the politics of it all, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie paraphrases the words of Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson: “When immigration is an issue, nobody wins.” Of course this is almost literally impossible.

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The Sheriff

For the better part of an hour, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been kicked back in the front cabin of Coast Guard One, the small but handsomely appointed plane on which she travels, chatting easily about the challenges of running the third-largest Cabinet department. En route back to Washington after three days of nonstop meetings in Mexico City--a whirlwind visit made more challenging by the fact that Napolitano broke her right ankle playing tennis last month and is still hobbling around on crutches--the secretary is in wind-down mode.

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Barack Obama convened his first official summit before he was even elected president. In October 2008, then-candidate Obama gathered a gaggle of business and political heavyweights--Paul Volcker, Eric Schmidt, Jennifer Granholm, Bill Richardson, etc.--in a Florida community college gymnasium for what his campaign billed as the “Growing American Jobs Summit.” “No cheerleading,” Obama admonished the 1,700 people who packed into the sweltering gym expecting a campaign rally.

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'Ambassador Feelgood'

If you need to talk to a rogue nation and traditional diplomats just won't do, then Bill Richardson is your man. Yesterday, he met with the President of Cuba's parliament to discuss trade issues. Shortly before that, he met with North Korean diplomats after the release of Laura Line and Euna Lee, acting as a representative of the Obama administration. His history schmoozing with global pariahs, in fact, goes on and on, as this 1997 TNR piece by Jacob Heilbrunn proves. It's worth reading the whole thing (along with Ryan Lizza's classic Richardson profile).

I see from Jonathan Martin that Xavier Becerra--rumored to be under consideration as Bill Richardson's replacement as Commerce Secretary--says he isn't interested in the job. Which is good, I think, because this notion that Obama has to replace Richardson with a Latino seems to me to be very problematic--and pretty much anathema to the whole way he's gone about filling his cabinet. Unlike Bill Clinton and even George W. Bush, Obama has avoided the sort of racial and ethnic bean-counting that's typified--not to mention harmed (Janet Reno, anyone?)--the last two administrations.

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Was Richardson Pushed?

In the wake of Bill Richardson's dreams of being the next Malcolm Baldridge going up in smoke, Marc Ambinder writes: You'd never know it, but the Obama team did not expect Richardson to take the Commerce job in the first place; they saw it as a demotion. But Richardson surprised them by saying yes. It did strike me as odd that after being passed over for State, Richardson would take a second-tier cabinet post like Commerce (especially when you consider he'd already been Energy Secretary and U.N. Ambassador under Clinton). But I guess he was desperate to get out of Albuquerque.

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Drama Club

The morning after the presidential election, a group of top Obama staffers and consultants gathered for brunch at a restaurant a few blocks from their Chicago headquarters. The mood was understandably emotional, and, before long, chief strategist David Axelrod rose to offer a valedictory. According to one person in the room, Axelrod lavished praise on his operatives for their discretion, for their collegiality, and for their resistance to all manner of Washington-think. But, even as Axelrod spoke, a burst of Washington-style drama was making a mockery of these virtues.

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