Obama Makes Richardson Pick Official

Posted December 3, 2008 at 11:27am

As widely expected, President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday announced that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) is his pick for secretary of Commerce, making him the first Hispanic to be named to Obama’s Cabinet.

Richardson was Obama’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. He also is a former Clinton administration secretary of Energy who broke dramatically with the Clintons to back Obama’s candidacy after dropping out of the primaries earlier this year.

At a news conference in Chicago, Obama promised that Richardson would play a key role in his administration, saying he will be “central to everything we do.” Richardson also spoke, offering some of his remarks in Spanish.

Though Obama has named only one Latino to a Cabinet-level position so far, the president-elect said that when his selection of senior White House and agency chiefs is finished, “people will say this is one of the most diverse” group of presidential advisers on record.

With Richardson joining two others in the administration whom Obama vanquished during the primary — Hillary Rodham Clinton for secretary of State and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden — Obama can lay claim to have established a “team of rivals” on the model of President Abraham Lincoln, who also brought former adversaries into his ranks.

In a lighter moment, Obama expressed regret at Richardson’s decision to shave off a beard he had recently been sporting since abandoning his White House bid. “We’re deeply disappointed by the loss of the beard,” Obama deadpanned. “The Western, rugged look was really working for him,” added Obama, who suggested the whiskers may have been making Richardson’s wife’s face a little too itchy.