A showdown is looming in New Mexico between Billy the Kid and Bill the Grownup.
The Grownup, outgoing Gov. Bill Richardson, has until today to extend a posthumous pardon to The Kid (aka Willam H. Bonney).
Why the 2008 presidential hopeful is even deliberating the matter is mind-boggling. That he views postponing a decision until the final moment as a publicity coup is equally astounding.
"Just think of all the good publicity New Mexico is receiving around the world on this," the governor told media outlets.
Yes, in an era when terrorists are being hailed as heroes in some parts of the world, Richardson thinks a homicidal Wild West outlaw is good for his state's image.
Historians say The Kid murdered up to two dozen people before being shot to death in 1881 at about age 21. Richardson believes The Kid was violent because of the times in which he lived.
What message would the governor send to young people by pardoning a serial teen killer?
What message would he send to the more than 15,000 Americans who lost a loved one to murder last year -- not to mention any descendants of The Kid's victims?
And, for goodness sakes, why waste taxpayer money on glorifying bad guys?
Doesn't this matter call into question the judgment of a man once considered a contender to lead the nation's Homeland Security efforts? Seriously.
Richardson says the pardon won't change the fact that The Kid was a serial murderer. "We're not offering a blanket pardon for everything he did," the governor told CNN.
But it will set right a promised pardon made to The Kid in exchange for testimony, he said. That promise, allegedly made by Gov. Lew Wallace, was never kept.
The Kid's fans want Richardson to make things right -- as a matter of honor. But some New Mexico residents say Richardson will bring dishonor to the state and the governor's office if he issues the pardon.
In this showdown, apparently, The Kid has the upper hand. Richardson doesn't seem poised to issue a grownup's decision on the matter.
Update: Seeing yet another publicity opportunity, Richardson went on ABC's "Good Morning America" today to announced that he will not pardon The Kid.
Susan Hogan is a Star Tribune digital producer/editorial writer.
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