Bill Richardson just can't seem to catch a break. For more than a year he
was pilloried for not reacting quickly enough to the Los Alamos National
Laboratory security scandal -- a supposed lapse that probably did more
than anything to knock him out of the running as a potential V.P. pick for
Al Gore. Now, with Wen Ho Lee's release, it seems his real mistake was
overreacting to over-heated press reports in the first place -- and setting
in motion the train of events which led to the government's embarrassing
climb down on Wednesday when Lee was allowed to plea to a single felony,
and walk out of prison with time served.
But some of the heated abuse Richardson has been receiving on Capitol Hill
may not be as clear-cut or as deserved as it appears. As conservative
columnist Robert Novak reported, much of the tongue-lashing that Richardson has been subjected to by Senate Arms Services Committee worthies like Democrat Robert Byrd and Republican Richard Shelby didn't actually stem from Richardson's shortcomings safeguarding the nation's nuclear secrets. Instead, it came because he's been particularly vigorous in rooting out congressional pork from the Energy Department budget -- something Byrd and Shelby in particular don't like.
As the Lee case showed, there are plenty of good reasons to knock Bill Richardson. But not necessarily the ones you might think.
The latest national and state poll numbers from the presidential campaign
point to Al Gore solidifying a narrow, but discernible lead -- in the
neighborhood of five points. The more telling numbers however come from
the state polls. Gore is now leading by a substantial margin in swing
states like Illinois. And he has moved to within the margin of error in
what would seem to be bedrock Bush states like Florida and even Colorado.
Though there will be a recount, it appears that Michael Forbes, the
Republican-turned-Democrat from New York's 1st congressional district,
went down to a stunning defeat in the Democratic primary last Tuesday.
Forbes made big news last year when he switched parties and Hill
Democrats made protecting Forbes a major priority, hoping, in part, to
encourage other wavering Republicans to make a similar switch.
Forbes' race against Felix Grucci, his would-be Republican opponent, would
have been an extremely hard-fought race pulling in lots of talent and even
more dollars from both parties. But Forbes's defeat is more than an
embarrassment for him and the congressional Democrats who pulled out all
the stops to support him. It also deals a serious reverse to House
Democrats' chances to taking back the House next year.