"No-Drama" Obama's Cabinet Soap Opera | NBC New York

"No-Drama" Obama's Cabinet Soap Opera

Bill Richardson's stunning fall from grace



    Given how far Richardson's star fell over the last year, it's fair to ask whether Obama may have had his doubts about the former Cabinet appointee early on.

    For a guy who earned the nickname "no-drama Obama," the president-elect's transition has become something of a soap opera. First, there was the Illinois Gov. Blagojevich mess and now New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardsonis out as Commerce Secretary.

    Officially, Richardson "withdrew" his name Sunday, citing a federal investigation into a California company that signed municipal bond contracts with New Mexico -- after contributing to Richardson causes (a charge that sounds suspiciously like what Blagojevich is accused of doing).

    In a statement, the governor denied any wrongdoing -- as if he's going to say anything else:

    "Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact. But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process."

    Yet, given how far Richardson's star fell over the last year, it's fair to ask whether Obama may have had doubts early on.

    Consider: With his resume -- former congressman, US ambassador to the United Nations, energy secretary, special envoy to North Korea, Richardson was once considered an obvious vice-presidential short-list candidate -- even when he was running for president. After he dropped out of the campaign, he made the rather bold step of breaking with his political patrons, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and endorsed Obama. People then thought that, if not VP, he'd be a great Secretary of State. But Obama didn't reward Richardson that way. 

    Instead, Biden got veep and Hillary got SOS. Richardson ended up with Commerce -- usually considered a second-tier position after State, Treasury, and Defense. And now this. Which means, he'll serve out his gubernatorial term and that's it. Of course, depending on how problematic that this federal investigation turns out to be, Richardson may well end up serving a different sort of "term" on the taxpayer dime.  Regardless, his governorship looks like the end of his public career.

    Barack Obama is not what one would call a "loyalty" guy. After initially standing by Jeremiah Wright, he finally threw him under the bus when his former spiritual mentor became too hot to handle. Meanwhile, John Kerry -- who thrust Obama into the limelight in 2004 by selecting him to keynote the Democratic convention -- made no secret of his desire to be secretary of state. He didn't get that. 

    So, Obama's going with Hillary Clinton instead of Richardson for State is in keeping with his not-rewarding-patrons.  However, that non-loyalty now suddenly looks rather smart given this apparent scandal. So, one wonders if red flags were raised during the Richardson VP (and/or secretary of state) vetting process.  If the Obama team rolls out with a quick replacement for Richardson this week, take that to be a sign that they were already prepared for some trouble.

    Still, this is still more not-so-good news for Obama, less than three weeks away from his inauguration: The governor of his home state is under federal indictment for trying to "sell" his recently vacated Senate seat -- and now another governor of his own party, who he was about to have in his Cabinet is also under federal investigation! Not a great way to begin an adminstration based on "change."  

    Meanwhile, one can only imagine the gales of laughter emanating from the Clinton camp -- especially from James Carville, who famously called Richardson a "Judas" for his Easter weekend endorsement of Obama

    Robert A. George is a New York Post editorial writer.  A one-time aide to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, he also blogs at Ragged Thots and occasionally dabbles in stand-up comedy.