If the Democratic presidential primary were held today in your state, whom would you support? Cast your vote in the Nation Poll.

This is a pivotal, dangerous time for our nation. We are in dire need of principled, courageous leadership. In seeking that leadership, we have an obligation to be principled ourselves in setting criteria as to whom we are willing to support for President. Will we support candidates who voted to give Bush a blank check to engage in an illegal war of aggression? Or candidates who supported continued funding for the occupation? What about candidates who refuse to pledge withdrawal of US troops from Iraq?

Do we have a moral line beyond which we will not support a presidential candidate, or will we support a “leading” Democrat, regardless of our own principles?

If ending the tragic, self-destructive occupation of Iraq is indeed a line-in-the-sand issue, only Bill Richardson stands out among the leading candidates as the choice for President.

While Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards refuse to pledge an end to the occupation, even by 2013, Bill Richardson commits clearly to pulling out all US troops. He recognizes that the occupation is widely despised, aiding in the recruitment of terrorists beyond Osama bin Laden’s wildest dreams. With Clinton, Obama or Edwards, we will get more of the same: many billions of dollars spent on ruinous military efforts, with more hatred toward the United States, more terrorism, and more death and destruction. If you can’t support that result, let it be the line beyond which you will not step in supporting any candidate who is on the wrong side.

It is not a question of victory or defeat in Iraq. It is a matter of finally ending the tragedy, waste and disgrace of digging deeper and deeper into the neocon abyss. This is an abyss made possible by the reckless war-resolution votes of senators like Clinton and Edwards, neither of whom bothered to read the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate before voting. Had they read the NIE, they would have learned of the vast disagreement within the intelligence community regarding Bush’s fabricated justifications for war. (Governor Richardson’s record of diplomatic successes, his commitment to US treaty obligations and his service as US ambassador to the UN reasonably lead one to believe that, had he been in Congress and read the NIE, he would have insisted on closer collaboration with longtime US allies and, at the least, voted to require a second UN resolution before any military action was commenced.)

Clinton and Edwards must expect that they forfeited the support of those who oppose wars of aggression by their irresponsible votes supporting the blank-check war resolution, in wretched abrogation of Congress’s constitutional responsibility to decide whether to go to war. Clinton won’t even apologize, while Edwards must understand that his apology is nice but wholly insufficient to answer for the unnecessary and immense resulting tragedy–the death of hundreds of thousands, the displacement of and severe injuries to many more, the destruction and chaos suffered by the Iraqi people, and the undermining of our nation’s security caused by the predictable hatred stemming from the invasion and occupation of a Muslim country.

If ever there has been a time to draw a vivid line, this is it.

The positive choice is Bill Richardson, the candidate who has the greatest depth of experience, as a member of Congress, UN ambassador, Energy Secretary and governor of New Mexico. Richardson has for years been an inspiring leader in the fight against global warming. He recently signed into law a bill that requires New Mexico utilities to quadruple their use of renewable energy. Armed with the most aggressive plan to gain energy independence and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, Richardson would provide the crucial environmental leadership sorely lacking in the United States.

Bill Richardson is smart, likable and dedicated to the best of progressive principles. He would allow working families and small businesses to purchase healthcare coverage through the same plan enjoyed by members of Congress. He is the only candidate who has declared that acceptance of Roe v. Wade as established law will be a necessary condition for his Supreme Court nominees. While in Congress, he voted against, and continues to oppose, the military’s disrespectful and discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He proudly stands for equal legal rights for all families, including same-sex couples.

The kidnapping, disappearing and torture of people around the world, a trademark of the human-rights-abusing Bush Administration, will stand as one of our nation’s most immense moral disgraces. As President, Bill Richardson will put an end to these abhorrent practices and help restore our moral standing among nations.

Bill Richardson, a proven consensus-builder, has scored significant diplomatic successes. He has the broadest experience and a genuine commitment to fundamental Democratic values. He is, indeed, on our side of the line, and he will be a President who will make us proud.

Other Essays in This Series

John Nichols for Joseph Biden
Ellen Chesler for Hillary Clinton
Katherine S. Newman for John Edwards
Bruce Shapiro for Christopher Dodd
Richard Kim for Mike Gravel
Gore Vidal for Dennis Kucinich
Michael Eric Dyson for Barack Obama