IN RECALL CHAOS, WHO'S WORSE: THE JUDGES, OR THE PRESS?
by Jill Stewart
American Reporter Correspondent
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 18, 2003 -- If the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals delays the recall, pity the voters who will be subjected to months of Gray Davis faking he likes church (as when he loudly pronounced Psalms as "Palm" while praying with Bill Clinton) and faking he's a good man.
But pity voters even more for having to rely on the California media, a bunch whose political coverage is, with some exceptions, best categorized as journalistic malpractice.
A wise man said democracy is guaranteed only by a vigilant press. The collapse of leadership in the statehouse, which led to the greatest state budget deficit in U.S. history and to the recall against Davis, is the direct result of an extended lack of journalistic vigilance.
Had Davis believed the public was alert and questioning the overspending he willingly approved beginning years ago, the cowardly Davis might have feared the people more than the lobbyists. He might have vetoed mounting overspending.
Instead, the media handled the emerging crisis as a boring budget story, inadvertently protecting Davis and kissing off the public's need to know.
I watched in awe as the legislature, approaching a Sept. 12 legal deadline, passed last-minute laws never debated in public and changed laws from one meaning to an entirely new meaning after inept discussion. Of some 400 mostly needless bills approved, nearly all were by Democrats. That's because the powerful Dems prevented Republican bills from even from leaving committee.
Editors have sent up a howl for copy on what motivates the 9th Circuit, the single most overturned federal appeals court. But when it comes to the broken cogs in Sacramento that fuel the recall, the media rarely explain the story behind the story.
Maybe the public ought to do something about this. Watch for coverage of awful laws just approved. Does the journalist tell you who ghost wrote it (like a big union), how the law was dramatically altered, and who gives money to legislators who pushed it? If not, it's not even Journalism 201.
Here's my latest watch list of turkeys sitting on Davis' desk:
A few stupid ideas were defeated. Steinberg's idea to heavily fine hospitals unless they lower nurse-to-patient ratios got killed when Assemblyman Keith Richman, a liberal/moderate Republican and the only doctor in the Assembly, told legislators that hospitals would make their ratios by closing beds and units. "No nurses are out there, and you will end up denying care to the sick," Richman pleaded.
It was one of the very few arguments that stopped more than a week of pell-mell nonsense by legislators, egged on by the increasingly panicky Davis.
Also barely defeated was Senate president John Burton's nutty bill to give California Indian tribes tremendous new sway over any development anywhere near an Indian burial or sacred site - even if it was miles away.
That clearly unconstitutional law would have allowed many of the decisions about development to be made in secret - barring the public and the media - and would have spawned a huge new state bureaucracy run by the obscure Native American Heritage Commission.
I could list another 100 idiotic bills. Davis, openly pandering to groups for whom they were written, is expected to sign many of them.
So fire your taxman, call up for food stamps, suspiciously eye any new school, and have a lawyer design your employee bulletin board.
And be secure in knowing the California political media is on the job.