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Jan. 4, 2009 at 6:28 PM   |   Comments

Richardson will not be commerce secretary

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his name from consideration as U.S. commerce secretary Sunday because of an ongoing federal investigation.

While the governor denied any wrongdoing, he said his confirmation might have been delayed. Instead, he will stay on as governor.

"Given the gravity of the economic situation the nation is facing, I could not in good conscience ask the president-elect and his administration to delay for one day the important work that needs to be done," he said in a statement.

President-elect Barack Obama said in a statement he accepted Richardson's decision with regret. He described Richardson, who also sought the Democratic presidential nomination, as a man who would have brought great experience to the Cabinet.

"It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the Cabinet in order to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this critical time. Although we must move quickly to fill the void left by Governor Richardson's decision," Obama said.

Richardson served as a congressman and as U.N. ambassador and energy secretary in the Clinton administration.

A federal grand-jury is investigating an alleged "pay to play" scheme in New Mexico, The Wall Street Journal reported. It's looking into how CDR Financial Products of Beverly Hills, Calif., won more than $1.5 million in work advising the state after making contributions to Richardson's political action committees. CDR has denied any wrongdoing.


Reid: Democrats won't seat Burris

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday Democrats will not seat Roland Burris, the man named by Illinois' embattled governor to Barack Obama's seat.

Reid, D-Nev., appearing on the NBC news show "Meet the Press," said the problem is Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has been charged, but not yet convicted, by federal authorities who allege he tried to profit from his office.

"Blagojevich obviously is a corrupt individual. I think that's pretty clear," Reid said. "And the reason that he's done what he's done is to divert attention from the arrest that was just made of him and the indictment which will be coming in a few days, according to the U.S. attorney in Illinois. That's why President-elect Obama agreed with us that Mr. Burris is tainted."

Reid cited Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., who turned down the seat. David said his constituents simply would not accept anyone appointed by Blagojevich.

The majority leader also said he agrees with President George Bush on Gaza and the Israeli air strikes and ground invasion.

"If this were going on in the United States from Vancouver, Canada, into Seattle, would we react? Course we do." Reid said. "We would have to. I think what the Israelis are doing is very important. I think this terrorist organization, Hamas, has got to be put away."


Peres: Hamas getting a lesson in Gaza

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The Israeli ground invasion of Gaza is giving Hamas "a real and serious lesson," President Shimon Peres said Sunday on U.S. television.

In an interview on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," Peres was asked whether Israel's goal is a negotiated peace or the removal of Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

"We don't intend either to occupy Gaza nor to crush Hamas, but to crush terror," Peres said. "And Hamas needs a real and serious lesson. They are now getting it. We were careful. We were restrained. We waited. We gave them many chances."

Peres said Hamas had taken over power in Gaza illegitimately after Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority with 62 percent of the vote.

"Anyway, we are not going to mix into their politics, but we have decided not to permit to shoot against us," he added.

When asked Peres about Hamas's victory in parliamentary elections, which triggered a U.S. and Israeli boycott, the president said Hamas is allowing its people to be used by another country, Iran.


George H.W. Bush: No advice for Obama

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush said Sunday he would like to see another of his sons, Jeb, become president.

Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida, is contemplating a run for U.S. Senate, but the elder Bush said during an interview from his Texas home aired on Fox News Sunday he'd like to see a third Bush in the White House, even as another son, George W., is about to leave the presidency with record-low approval ratings.

"I'd like to see him run," Bush said of Jeb. "I'd like to see him be president some day.

"I mean, right now is probably a bad time because we've had enough Bushes in there."

The former president said he has no plans to offer President-elect Barack Obama advice when he meets him this week. Bush said he will let Obama know he can always give him a call if he wants to talk. President George W. Bush, is to be host at a lunch for Obama and the three former presidents, his father, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Asked about Obama's popularity, Bush said the honeymoon will not last. His own popularity soared in 1991 after the Gulf War, a year before the voters denied him a second term.

"He's facing such enormous problems that I don't know how long it'll last," Bush said. "But I think he's a good, strong guy and I think he can take it."

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