As expected, on Wednesday morning, President-elect Barack Obama announced that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is his choice to become commerce secretary.
The press conference at which the announcement was made featured several rather unsubtle reminders of one reason Richardson is politically valuable: namely, he’s Hispanic, and Obama owes a great deal to Hispanic voters. As he said goodbye to the state he leads, Richardson made an extended digression in Spanish. And one of the three questions Obama took from the press was from a Hispanic reporter, Telemundo’s Vicente Serrano, who had a question about whether Richardson’s nomination was a consolation prize for Hispanics who wanted to see him become secretary of state.
On a wholly different note, one reporter asked Richardson why he’d shaved off his beard, which he began sporting after he dropped out of the presidential race earlier this year. Obama fielded the question for him, saying, “I think it was a mistake for him to get rid of it. I thought that whole rugged look was really working for him … We’re deeply disappointed with the loss of the beard.”
I feel I can safely speak on behalf of the New York bureau of Salon — which has previously declared Richardson’s beard the best beard ever — and say that kind of honesty and support for great beards, well, that’s change we can believe in.