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Loyalty to My Country

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By Bill Richardson
Tuesday, April 1, 2008; 10:29 AM

My recent endorsement of Barack Obama for president has been the subject of much discussion and consternation -- particularly among supporters of Hillary Clinton.

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Led by political commentator James Carville, who makes a living by being confrontational and provocative, Clinton supporters have speculated about events surrounding this endorsement and engaged in personal attacks and insults.

While I certainly will not stoop to the low level of Mr. Carville, I feel compelled to defend myself against character assassination and baseless allegations.

Carville has made it very clear that this is a personal attack -- driven by his own sense of what constitutes loyalty. It is this kind of political venom that I anticipated from certain Clinton supporters and I campaigned against in my own run for president.

I repeatedly urged Democrats to stop attacking each other personally and even offered a DNC resolution calling for a positive campaign based on the issues. I was evenhanded in my efforts. In fact, my intervention in a debate during a particularly heated exchange was seen by numerous commentators as an attempt to defend Sen. Clinton against the barbs of Sens. Obama and John Edwards.

As I have pointed out many times, and most pointedly when I endorsed Sen. Obama, the campaign has been too negative, and we Democrats need to calm the rhetoric and personal attacks so we can come together as a party to defeat the Republicans.

More than anything, to repair the damage done at home and abroad, we must unite as a country. I endorsed Sen. Obama because I believe he has the judgment, temperament and background to bridge our divisions as a nation and make America strong at home and respected in the world again.

This was a difficult, even painful, decision. My affection and respect for the Clintons run deep. I do indeed owe President Clinton for the extraordinary opportunities he gave me to serve him and this country. And nobody worked harder for him or served him more loyally, during some very difficult times, than I did.

Carville and others say that I owe President Clinton's wife my endorsement because he gave me two jobs. Would someone who worked for Carville then owe his wife, Mary Matalin, similar loyalty in her professional pursuits? Do the people now attacking me recall that I ran for president, albeit unsuccessfully, against Sen. Clinton? Was that also an act of disloyalty?

And while I was truly torn for weeks about this decision, and seriously contemplated endorsing Sen. Clinton, I never told anyone, including President Clinton, that I would do so. Those who say I did are misinformed or worse.

As for Mr. Carville's assertions that I did not return President Clinton's calls: I was on vacation in Antigua with my wife for a week and did not receive notice of any calls from the president. I, of course, called Sen. Clinton prior to my endorsement of Sen. Obama. It was a difficult and heated discussion, the details of which I will not share here.

I do not believe that the truth will keep Carville and others from attacking me. I can only say that we need to move on from the politics of personal insult and attacks. That era, personified by Carville and his ilk, has passed and I believe we must end the rancor and partisanship that has mired Washington in gridlock. In my view, Sen. Obama represents our best hope of replacing division with unity. That is why, out of loyalty to my country, I endorse him for president.

The writer is governor of New Mexico and a former Democratic candidate for president.


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