Richardson relies on inspiration

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New Mexico governor and democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson talks with North Berwick resident Erin Placey, holding her cousin Cole, about nuclear non-proliferation after the candidate discussed his energy policies at Seacoast Media Group in Portsmouth on Thursday.
Scott Yates photo / File / 2007
Bill Richardson
Governor, NM
Born: 11/15/1947
Birthplace: Pasedena, CA
Home: Santa Fe, NM
Religion: Catholic
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PORTSMOUTH — During his appearance at a forum in Portsmouth Thursday, the challenge for Democratic presidential contender Bill Richardson was to keep the focus on energy policy and global warming — no small topics on a day when oil topped $98 a barrel and the Arctic ice packs continue to melt at an alarming rate.

He mostly kept the focus but his appearance at the candidate's forum hosted by Seacoast Media Group, the parent company of the Herald, raises a major question for both candidates and voters to ponder — what's deserves more consideration, inspiration or policy specifics? Or better yet, what good is one without the other?

Richardson, the New Mexico governor with the impressive resume, opts for the inspirational — he says as much in his new campaign book on energy, "Leading by Example." He knows all the candidates on the Democratic side have detailed proposals and goals and cost-benefit formulas. He knows the voters know the details are out there.

He's clearly a charismatic leader not given to testing audiences with reams of statistics and policy details — he has goals, big goals, he told the audience of more than 100, but what's needed is a big collective boot in the country's backside to make things happen.

He has a self-deprecating style that allows him to alternate the serious issues at hand with the sometimes very funny business of politicians at play — especially when it comes to fumbling the energy policy ball for more than three decades, there's plenty to laugh and cry about.

Richardson talks as a chief executive, senior government administrator, congressman and diplomat who knows it's all speculation until you have the political will and votes to make it happen. Candidates can talk about a 50 percent cut in oil dependence by 2020 as Richardson does, but it's meaningless without political movement.

He called for a "citizen's mandate" and promises to use his bully pulpit to deal with a "national crisis" he plans to attack on day two of his presidency. He's not a fan of nuclear power and said he wouldn't hesitate to use the federal government to nurture and promote green industries through tax break incentives.

One voter said she didn't know exactly the specifics of his plans but she liked "his energy and his desire" to make energy a top priority and was impressed he would create a cabinet-level position in the White House to show he was serious.

Kurt Ehrenberg of the N.H. Sierra Club said that Richardson and all the candidates were reacting to headline realities and "grass roots" pressure to forge real long-term energy policies.

With his book and his energy presentations, Richardson may sense that pressure and understands they have heard enough details. He's pushing leadership and his resume as the engine for an ambitious "Apollo" rocket to the moon program. It's a good analogy — one also made by rival Sen. Hillary Clinton — for the massive political, social, economic and environmental journey transformation awaiting the country.

"I could do more," he said in response to a question about his personal 'green' habits. "We could all do more."

It was a specific truth he believes will appeal to New Hampshire primary voters.