Politics and Poker: Transition Team -- Why Richardson Rocks
Some say (though I hate that as an opening line), that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson losing the Secretary of State post to "Billary" is a huge personal blow and being offered Commerce Secretary is the consolation prize for being a good foot soldier. I say it is a masterstroke and look for Richardson to weigh in with Barney Frank and Ron Paul on Internet gaming.
Obama needs top-line revenue to pay for his infrastructure programs and keep the spiralling debt under control. This is a good potential tax-revenue source. Too, government has traditionally used so-called sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco products to hit their short-term marker shortfalls. Now, with those taxes already at stratospheric levels, hurting both businesses on Main Street and Joe Sixpack, a solution looks like gaming taxes.
Obama also needs a salesman focused on the economic top-line, that being generating and bringing in revenues. Having seen firsthand the seamlessness of the previous Democratic winning trade team (Ron Brown and Mickey Kantor) in the '90s, it's back to the future! Internet gaming will likely win approval sooner than expected, but, like elsewhere, expect there to be heavier taxation and tougher operating rules.
Why? Because Bill Richardson is used to heading up suicide missions.
He sold the President, followed by Secretary of State Albright and the political cesspool known as the UN, on intervention in Bosnia to stop Serbian ethnic cleansing. That remains the only truly successful UN peace-keeping mission around the globe. Back in March, Obama had just won South Carolina and ran up an 11-in-a-row primary win streak. Meanwhile, Hillary was on the ropes because she only planned her campaign through Super Tuesday.
The Bill Brothers, Clinton and Richardson, shared Super Bowl Sunday together in New Mexico and as Clinton's former UN Ambassador he was a lock (or so Bill Clinton thought) to endorse and campaign for Hillary. Indeed, Clinton has not spoken to the Governor (who would love to be President #45 or #46) since Richardson declared for Obama on March 21, after Clinton begged, then threatened Richardson not to so do.
And then came the Rust Belt. Richardson had to be sweating profusely when the race tightened in May with Pennsylvania and Ohio going to Hillary. Then the super delegates began to wonder if Obama could beat McCain in November if he could not beat Hillary in Pennsylvania. It was a very tense time for the party.
Richardson, viewing the prospect of a long New Mexico summer on the outside looking in — when the margin became a razor-thin 100 delegates — did what he does best… he worked the front line and the back room. He was on every news and talk show as Obama's chief talking head. His efforts even convinced critical superdelegates that Obama would carry the southwest in the general election, and indeed Obama won without needing Ohio or Florida!
Now, by picking Richardson as the presumptive Commerce Secretary, Obama shows he understands and is looking at the entire economic picture. Yes, the banks, auto and other industries need saving and Obama has been looking beyond the horizon for two years. His transition team did not form on November 5th; he's had them on issues for three months now.
Lobbying may be blood sport in Washington, but Obama owes them nothing and he will change their stripes. McCain talked about earmarks, "making lawmakers famous and you will know their names," and the sausage-making legislative process — you don't want to see how either is made. There is a sea change coming in the rules of how one can influence the process.
The so-called media pundits are like a herd of yapping terriers with a new chew toy. Every name sends them off in a tizzy, yapping at the next rumour. Yesterday I heard progressives whining about the decidedly Reichian look to the economic team (referring to Robert Reich, economist and former Clinton Labor Secretary) so according to the murmurs, there were likely to be no renegotiations of free-trade agreements, doom and gloom, etc.…
I prefer to take the longer view and look back at his economic team to understand Obama's broader approach as a leader and CEO. Every business has a top line and a bottom line and gets in trouble when the focus is on only one of the two. The government is no different.
Rather than operating in panic mode, which paralyses, Obama showed yesterday with his OMB picks, the Treasury team of the previous day and the upcoming announcement of Richardson that he is focused on the complete picture. He even said in his news conference that his entire economic team will not be in place until the Health and Human Services, Commerce, Education and Labor teams are in place, a startling announcement that shows a level of desired interconnectedness not seen since President Lyndon Johnson.
The team itself is also quite interesting, blending youthful new ideas and solid experience together in the same room. Tim Geithner, at 47, will bring a fresh new approach to Treasury, and Larry Summers, as head of the NEC, is ideally poised to take advantage of his past experience as Treasury Secretary.
But the key gaming man in the next Administration is likely to be Richardson, who will work closely with Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to resolve a lot of issues and clear out the bad actors.
So I feel more optimistic about action sooner than later, on pure economic stimulus grounds. Expect there to be a higher cost of admission and tighter rules and know that Bill Richardson is used to taking unpopular decisions and successfully selling them.
Editors' note: Contributing columnist Denis Campbell brings an independent and experienced eye to poker's political scene. Campbell has worked closely in the past with former Cabinet Secretaries in the Carter and Clinton administrations, Ambassadors and members of Congress. He offers commentary on US and UK politics for the BBC and Huffington Post. Here, Denis offers his insights on matters affecting poker. Denis' views do not necessarily reflect those of PokerNews.