By Kennedy Maize

Washington, D.C., May 8, 2011 — Anyone who has followed energy politics in the U.S. for the past 15 years or so knows that Bill Richardson is a buffoon. Back in August 2003, following the mammoth Northeast blackout, Richardson famously said, “We are a major superpower with a third-world electrical grid.”

Richardson was the last of Bill Clinton’s three energy secretaries, each less memorable than the immediate predecessor; he should have known that a key characteristic of third-world countries is that they generally don’t have a grid. Indeed, Richardson has had life experience with third-world countries that don’t have a grid, having been Kim Jong Il’s wing man from time to time.

Richardson’s latest bit of buffoonery is his comment, reported recently in Politico, linking the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden to his wished-for revival of global warming legislation in Washington by Barak Obama. Politico reported: “‘My hope is that from this success in the foreign policy arena two days ago, that he will be emboldened to take once again to the Congress legislation — not just to increase a renewable energy standard — but climate change legislation that this country and the world need,’ Richardson said Tuesday at a Climate Leadership Gala hosted by the Earth Day Network in Washington.”

This head-scratching statement prompted the blog to award the former New Mexico governor, where he was serving during the 2003 blackout, a spot “at the top of the list for the Non Sequitur of the Year award, if there is one.” (Richardson has also won the John Belushi Look-Alike contest more times than John Belushi.)

About the only thing Osama and cap-and-trade have in common is that both are indisputably dead, although the corpse of the legislation is more visible, having never been buried at sea. Its stinking remains are palpable in the halls of the U.S. Senate. That Richardson was somehow able to contrive a linkage between the two cadavers boggles this mind.

Fortunately for us all, given this penchant for nonsense, Richardson has never held a job of consequence where he could do any significant damage to the nation: mediocre college-level baseball pitcher, member of Congress, U.N. ambassador, energy secretary, New Mexico governor, failed Commerce secretary nominee in the Obama administration.

For my New Mexico readers – and there may be one – the proof that the job of governor is of little significance is that Richardson’s predecessor was Gary Johnson, now campaigning for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination on a platform of legalizing pot. If Gary Johnson walked into a room wearing a name tag that says, “Hi, I’m Gary Johnson,” no one in the room, stoned or sober, would recognize him. If Richardson walked into the room, the reaction would be, “My God, I thought John Belushi was dead.”

Richardson’s career as energy secretary is (barely) memorable for his    less-than-deft handling of the bogus espionage case of Wen Ho Lee. Richardson, who should have known better, publicly fingered Lee, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist born in Taiwan, as a spy for China. The charge was accompanied by an absence of convincing evidence.

Lee was indicted, jailed in solitary confinement for nine months, and ultimately released on time served with an apology from the court after admitting guilt on a single charge of mishandling classified information. Lee sued the government and won a $1.6 million settlement from the government and five media companies (which used anonymous sources – most likely including Richardson – to attack Lee). He also got an apology from Bill Clinton. Lee’s treatment by Richardson and the Clinton administration also drew a rebuke from U.S. District Court Judge James A. Parker, who originally ordered Lee jailed pending trial. A contrite Parker said the administration “caused embarrassment by the way this case began and was handled.” He added that the officials “have embarrassed our entire nation and each of us who is a citizen of it.” Nice work, Mr. Secretary.