Every presidential election I stake my bet on some darkhorse candidate, hoping that he (sorry, no women have made the cut yet) will emerge as the nation's great hope. Usually the candidate turns out to be a disappointment, or his campaign goes nowhere, but I keep trying because the major party choices always seem so uniformly dismal.
It's pretty much the same strategy I use on our almost annual visits to the horse races at MetraPark. I like to pick a horse somewhere in the 8-to-1 to 12-to-1 odds range, and I always bet $2 to win, never to place or show. It has worked pretty well at the races -- the last two times we have gone, I won enough on my first bet to cover the cost of the day -- but it has never worked out for president. Horse races are more honest, and horses are generally of higher character.
But I keep betting. This year my money is on Bill Richardson, the Democratic governor from New Mexico. I don't know enough about him yet to say that I would even vote for him, but I like what I've seen and heard: He has cut taxes, he sounds reasonable (and willing to fight) on immigration, he presumably understands Western concerns, and he mostly makes sense on the war.
Two things this week increased my hope that he will turn out to be a good bet. One was his support for medical marijuana legislation. Putting human suffering and freedom above the White House's holy war: what a concept. The other was a speech I saw on C-SPAN that Richardson gave to some college students. It wasn't what he said that impressed me -- it was fairly standard political boilerplate -- nor the way he presented himeself -- slightly rumpled, a bit less articulate than I have seen him in TV interviews, and given to a lot of arm waving.
What I liked was what he did when a student asked him a question he couldn't answer. With C-SPAN's mikes, I couldn't make out exactly what the question was, but it had something to do with some action by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Richardson said he hadn't heard anything about it. He asked an aide if he knew anything about it. He said something like, "You'd think we'd know since that's our neighboring state." He then turned back to the student and asked, "What do you think about it?"
On rare occasions, I've heard candidates admit to not knowing something. On even rarer ones, I've seen candidates promise to have somebody on the staff look into a question. But I have never seen a candidate turn back to the questioner and ask for advice. Richardson didn't treat the questioner like a student to be patronized, a voter to be wooed or, worse yet, a meaningless obstacle blocking the view of the national C-SPAN audience. He treated the student like a citizen who might be able to advise the governor on something he should know.
That's a quality I wouldn't mind seeing in the White House.