NYT profiles Bill Richardson's diplomatic career

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In 1998, Bill Richardson, then the United States ambassador to the United Nations, flew to Japan in search of backing for potential military strikes in Iraq.

Landing in Tokyo, he asked how a previous session, conducted by his boss, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, had gone. Not well, Mr. Richardson learned. Dr. Albright’s Japanese counterpart requested permission to smoke, she lectured him on the dangers of tobacco, and things never improved from there.

So Mr. Richardson began his meeting with a question.

“Mind if I smoke?” he asked, pulling out the cigar he had tucked into his jacket a moment before. He left Japan with the assurances for which he had come.

Now Mr. Richardson, 60, is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, running not only on his years as an elected official — he was a congressman from New Mexico and is now governor — but also on his parallel career, as a self-appointed and official diplomat.

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