BOSTON – Drawing on his experience as a former United Nations ambassador,New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Wednesday bashed the Bush administration’s handling of foreign policy and said Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry would do a better job.
“I have come to one unshakable conclusion about our nation’s foreign policy and national security,” said Richardson. “Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican,at the end of the day,our nation is strongest and better served when our president is respected and admired in the world.”
Until Wednesday evening,Richardson,as chairman of the Democratic National Convention,had been limited to calling it to order and introducing speakers.
Following a flag-waving performance by pop icon John Mellencap,Richardson brought a delegate-packed FleetCenter back on its feet as he often finished his sentences with the phrase: “It’s time for John Kerry.”
Richardson portrayed Bush as a leader who has eroded the country’s relationship with the world and made America unsafe and vulnerable to al Qaeda attacks by wrongly sending troops to Iraq.
“Today,because of this administration’s go-at-it-alone foreign policy,we are,not surprisingly,on our own in a dangerous world,” Richardson said,repeating,”It’s time for John Kerry.”
New Mexico delegates strongly approved the speech of a governor whose face they can see stamped on salsa jars brought here as advertisement.
“Our governor stated it well,” said Sheryl Stapleton,45,of Albuquerque. “If it’s not broken,it doesn’t need to be fixed,” she said about Bush’s decision to go to war.
Stapleton,an Albuquerque Public School administrator who has been to every Democratic convention since 1988,said this time speeches have been “more agressive.”
“It’s very exciting. We can feel the opportunity of winning,” said Stapleton,who was surrounded in a sea of delegates from the swing states seated directly in front of the podium.
The Democratic candidate has carried New Mexico in the last three presidential elections,but the gap between the two parties has shrunk each time. One-third of the state’s voters are Hispanic.
Two other New Mexico politicians spoke earlier Wednesday,highlighting different topics.
Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuart Paisano focused on the 21 Native American Indian villages scattered across New Mexico that are plagued with alcoholism and environmental destruction — problems he said were aggravated under Bush’s leadership.
“Our environment should not be compromised to benefit special interests,” he said,igniting pockets of applause. “Beautiful or unique places must be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
“There’s tremendous,overwhelming support for the Kerry-Edwards ticket” in those communities,Paisano added.
Paisano,in an interview after his speech,admitted he was nervous as he addressed the sparse crowd just after the convention convened at 4 p.m. but said a last-minute backstage chat with Richardson lowered the pressure a bit.
“We spoke very cordially,and it kind of got my mind off of it,” he said.
But at least one delegate,52-year-old Emma Johnson of Las Cruces,didn't have a chance to judge Paisano’s performance.
“I didn’t hear the speech because I was being interviewed” by ABC anchor Peter Jennings,lamented Jonhson,who is executive director for the Housing Authority,region seven,and said missing Paisano’s speech won’t spoil her fun as a first-time delegate.
“It has been wonderful going to meetings and different caucuses,” she said. “I’ve never seen the Democratic Party so excited.”
New Mexico delegate J. Paul Taylor,84,a retired public school teacher and a state representative for Dana Ana County,said Paisano hit the target in listing all areas in need of funding.
“I was impressed,” he said. “He identified the various problems of Native Americans. It is an ongoing concern for us at the legislature.”
New Mexico Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia singled out Kerry’s position on education in her speech to the convention.
“I support Kerry and Edwards because they demonstrated that they value education,” she said.