RIORDAN SHOULD RUN
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief
BRADENTON, Fla., July 30, 2003 -- There is nothing inherently wise or beneficial in taking the governorship away from one money-hoarding politician and giving it to a well-off millionaire. But there is a benefit for all Californians in taking away the governor's mansion from Gray Davis and putting it in the hands of Richard Riordan.
Davis is by virtue of his vast indebtedness to the state's special interests inherently unable to act in a decisive way; he has too many friends and contributors to consider on every side of any issue that affects state government. Riordan, too, has many friends - among them the notorious billionaire Eli Broad - who would also demand that he respond first to them; the difference is that Riordan is rich enough to resist (and in the case of Broad, on a different page with respect to the recall).
Riordan is also one of the few moderate-to-liberal Republicans in America who is a national figure, and his election might well re-vivify the corpse of the party's Ripon wing - the liberals in the tradition of U.S. Senators Charles Percy (R-Ill.) and Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.Y) who wrote some of this nation's most progressive legislation, such as Javits' seminal War Powers Act. Simply to send a signal to the rest of the American people that there are some moderate to liberal Republicans still out there would be one of the healthiest signs our terribly ailing democracy could get right now.
It would also not hurt if the rest of the country and the world did not come to believe that action figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and cowboy star Ronald Reagan are America's best hope for leadership in a crisis. Schwarzenegger probably is a more able person than Gov. Davis, and certainly less conflicted, and Reagan did achieve some substantial goals in the White House - but in a media culture such as ours it is profoundly dangerous to democracy that those who gain fame as actors merely because producers bought ads for them should come to be thought of as future political leaders. The jailed ex-president and former movie heartthrob of the Philippines, Joseph Estrada, elected in a landslide and jailed in heartbeat, is an excellent example of why. So was the Iran-Contra Affair, which went on undetected under President Reagan's handsome nose.
On a personal level, Mr. Riordan, the former two-term Mayor of Los Angeles, lacks neither the social graces nor the real world-based education Governor Davis is missing; he may be a Republican, but he is not an ideologue as Bill Simon and Rep. Darrell Issa, his likely competitors, are. Ideologues are not good for American politics, as they introduce a wildness and unpredictability that frequently spells disaster for some of us. And ideologues, once in the spotlight, become demagogues.
No demagogue of Left or Right ought ever to lead a vast, rich and important state like California. Where tens of millions of people are affected by every decision a governor makes, the people's choice must be a level-headed one. Richard Riordan has a temper - thank God - and he has a piquant personal history - all public now - but he is a straightforward, honest, level-headed man who does care deeply about the state, its people, and their collective future.
California awaits a great disaster, and it will not be the result of the recall election. There is too much that needs fixing in the state, from the foster care system to the insurance business to the returning smog and other environmental issues, and it is too big and too broke for something not to go terribly, terribly wrong.
But what may be coming can often be avoided by intelligent people who are working together for common aims, just as a small town that bands together to build a levee before the river crests can save its homes and future. California needs someone who knows the state's economy and its political levers well enough to comprehensively effect change; it needs someone who is likeable enough to be followed, and courageous enough to lead in dark times. That man is Richard J. Riordan.