Vol. 12, No. 3,009 - The American Reporter - October 19, 2006

Get Well Soon, Joyce!

California Recall

by Joe shea
American Reporter Correspondent
Bradenton, Fla.

Printable version of this story

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Here's my take on the debate watched by millions of Californians and even more other Americans tonight: It was a disaster for Gray Davis (who should have been included in it), a wash for Republicans Sen. Tom McClintock and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a total loss for independent Ariana Huffington and Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, and a strong victory for Green Party candidate Peter Camejo. Disclosure: I left California for Florida in June.

Frankly, although the debate was a lot more of a free-for-all than others, the entertainment value of the format was muted by the fact that a lot of the exchanges could not be heard clearly because candidates were talking over one another. The candidate most guilty of that, Araina Huffington, a conservative Republican turned progressive independent, is not surprisingly also the candidate with the highest negatives of any person in the race.

More than ever, she seemed like a plant - but whose? She attacked Arnold Schwarzenegger like a stand-in for the absent governor, and also turned some venom in the direction of Bustamante, whose unctious and patronizing comments in response to several attacks came off sounding like a mortuary director in a funeral home owned by Gray Davis. But Huffington is probably a vegetable of her own making, a sort of spicy celery with a limited market in upscale groceries.

I was impressed by Sen. Tom McClintock, a Republican whose ads in the last gubernatorial campaign attracted a lot of attention from voters who were nonetheless hell-bent on electing Gray Davis. One of the great tragedies of our winner-take-all politics is that good men like McClintock get marginalized while robots like Davis and shoe salesmen like Bustamante advance to high office on a torrent of money produced by the corporations whose interests they will serve.

McClintock reminds me a little of some of the old-fashioned Republicans like Maine's Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and Vermont's Sen. George Aiken in the flinty independence he projects, but there is little evidence in any of his positions or pronouncements that he is in fact any more independent than any other Republican in the State Senate. If his imagination extended to the formulation of policy, he might be able to convince us otherwise.

I was appalled by the performance of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who has the most compelling personal story of the major candidates and the most experience in California politics, having served both as Lt. Gov. under Davis and Speaker of the State Assembly. But his counterfeit protestations of loyalty to Davis - culminating in his dropping the "No On Recall" part of his original "No on Recall/Yes on Bustamante" two or three weeks into the race - and his greedy acceptance of millions from California gaming interests have undermined whatever image he had.

Bustamante betrayed Davis, betrayed the voters, and now hopes to betray California by pandering to Latino voters who are likely to support him. For some reason, Latinos are more sensitive to the possibility they are beign discrimiated against than other races, or so it seems. They believe that four million illegal immigrants in California - many of whom are under the age of 10 - should have all the rights and benefits of native-born or naturalized citizens. Unfortunately, no political career today can prosper by contradicting that belief, and all the candidates are pusillanimous in that respect.

But if he is elected Bustamante will owe his election to those of a similar mind, and that cannot advance California's battle with budget deficits, terrible schools and substandard housing, outrageous auto insurance rates, understaffed and dilapidated hospitals, high unemployment, prison overcrowding and street violence and drug trafficking - in all of which illegal immigration, mostly from Mexico and Central America, plays a very substantial role.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the person I believe will be the next governor of California, and that is not necessarily the best possible outcome of this race. There could well be far better candidates we simply never hear of because they have no money, or not enough to compete. But Schwarzenegger does stand out when he talks about his immigrant experience and his debt to California, and for me, there was never any doubt that he was a lot more capable than some Democrats want to portray him to be - Bustamante, for instance, who took advantage of the actor's saying "I don't understand" to shoot back, "There's a lot of things you don't understand."

Schwarzenegger, who has a degree in business and economics from the University of Wisconsin, graduated college a long time before Bustamante, who finished just four months ago. He made a strong point when he noted that the lieutenant governor has never had to sign "the front of the check." Schwarzenegger has built up several major businesses while becoming a major action star and is anything but dumb. He does not speak the King's English, though, and that - however elitist it may seem to say so - is a drawback in a state where millions of people are struggling to learn the English language.

It may come to grate on white native-born Californians that their future governor has a heavy Austrian accent, but they can probably live with that. He's likely to be a fair success in the job, but don't expect him to get any credit for his achievements; Democrats will be on his back from Day One, and probably start their own recall petition. Their is no fairness or honeymoon in this process, and only Schwarzenegger's broad national standing will keep his head above water. He probably will stand no chance of getting re-elected, as Bustamante would.

While many saw the winner tonight as McClintock, whose details and self-restraint were impressive, I was most impressed with both the resume and the performance of Peter Camejo. He is a Green, which is his own implementation of socialism (Camejo was a Socialist candidate for President), and his passions and his programs have the ring of authenticity. It is probably the greatest tragedy of the Democratic Party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that Camejo's populist platform embracing universal health care, higher taxes for the wealthy and truly responsive government and representation cannot take hold there.

Camejo is the best-spoken, most intelligent, most honest, best-educated and most progressive - with a small "p" - candidate in the race. He is likely to finish with something less than three percent of the vote. However, I hasten to add that his term of governor - in the absence of the kind of groundswell that Upton Sinclair once generated, back in the '20s - would be an unmitigated disaster for the state. A Socialist will never get my vote, not because some of the things such as universal health care that socialists around the world have brought about are not great for people, but because it comes with a philosophy that is oppressive and overbearing and dead wrong.

The unspoken name tonight was Gary Davis, who went unmentioned until the middle of the 90-minute contest. I have had a strong impression since the early days of the recall that he might emerge as the eventual winner. He is the ultimate survivor, after all, and he has the money to run. His dietary habits are disgusting, I think, and reflect his personality, but he does know how to govern. He is not dishonest even if his administration's policies have been hopelessly corrupted by the special interest money he took to get elected.

Californians are very savvy voters, and not nearly as emotional as people elsewhere might think. They will consider the alternatives long and hard before they toss him out, because for many of them, their bread is buttered on his plate. He supplies the money and the influence that makes the teachers and the trial lawyers and the prison guards and the bureaucrats so powerful here, and he also sets the tone for a state government that is generally very professional, very competent and very well-entrenched.

None of the powerful friends Davis has made over the years in labor unions, churches, banks, utility companies, schools and prisons are going to pay the least attention to the blandishments of McClintock, Schwarzenegger et al. They are Davis people and will be as long he pays their price. For the oppositition, from Bustamante to Schwarzenegger, the only hope is to catalyze a new wave of voters Davis has not relied on in the past. They are doing that. They did it very well tonight, collectively. But don't ever, ever count Gray Davis out.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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