by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
October 6, 2003
VOTE 'NO' ON CALIFORNIA RECALL
Voters and elected officials in California owe a debt of gratitude to Rep. Darrell Issa, the former car thief and failed gubernatorial candidate whose multimillion-dollar alarm business helped him fund the California recall election that will be decided tomorrow.
It's pretty hard to smack the state's Democratic establishment upside the head, as they say; it's hard to wake them up to the depth and degree of frustration voters feel with politicians who pursue narrow special-interest agendas at the expense of the broad but diminishing middle class.
It's nearly impossible to carry that message to Sacramento when Democratic Party support in so many counties of the state guarantees election, and election is in turn a virtual guarantee of taxpayer-paid salary checks, health benefits and pensions for life.
Indeed, democracy itself owes a big nod of appreciation to Issa for sending a wake-up call to those who are close to presiding over its inert corpse. In California, all statewide officeholders are Democrats, and the party controls both houses of the Legislature. In cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, revolving doors keep elected officials in power whether or not they win election by assuring them of prominent jobs at lobbying firms or at companies that lobby the government on their own.
As Gov. Gray Davis now admits, he had long ago lost touch with California voters, who have been assiduously filtered by his staff before they get anywhere near him. He failed to hear their raw anger, their real and desperate voices, as the state piled tax upon regulation upon law on their backs heedless of the cumulative burden. California's beauty has been sold to its developers, its prisons sold to its guards, its tax base to gamblers, its power sources to energy speculators and its future to the highest bidder.
At some point, someone had to say, "Stop!"
We're grateful that Darrell Issa did so, despite the tremendous cost and the terrible rejection he must have felt when his long-ago police record became an insurmountable issue for him among Republican voters.
Frankly, had circumstances been only slightly different, we might be supporting the recall of Gov. Davis. Had former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, a liberal Republican, been the leading candidate, we would not be urging voters to vote "No" on the recall tomorrow. Had the Los Angeles Times not published a series of articles revealing a lifelong pattern of sexual harssment of women by Arnold Schwarzenegger, we might well be endorsing him.
In any case, we are not endorsing the treacherous Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who has now re-embraced the 'No on Recall" part of his "former "No on Recall/Yes on Bustamante" - after officially dropping it while on the ascendancy before the ill-fated Sept. 4 debate, in which he stumbled so badly that for him, recovery became almost impossible.
Only when he plunged in the polls did Bustamante try to edge back into the relative good graces of Gov. Davis, whose solitary struggle against the turbulent waves of change has been conducted with a measure of grace that elevated him above the field.
Appearing last night on Larry King Live, the most striking thing about the governor and his wife Sharon was how painfully ordinary they are, and how impossible it must have seemed to them to compete with the million-candlepower celebrity of "Terminator" star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yet aren't real Californians themselves just as ordinary? And isn't that connection more significant at the end of the day than any other when someone tries to lead a great state out of very, very difficult times?
When we asked Gov. Davis two questions after his gubernatorial debate with GOP businessman Bill Simon last year, the governor waffled, denied saying what he had just said, and refused to confront the hypocrisy inherent in his approach to the immigrant driver's license law he had just vetoed. We heard him tell the truth about both issues last night, admitting the state was bilked out of $21 billion on his watch - while he delayed to see if things might change - and that national security could be actually enhanced by the addition of the state's vast number of illegal immigrant drivers - with photos and fingerprints - to its database.
Frankly, the governor would be well-served by a little less self-discipline; he needs to learn how to gamble on his honest emotions, and trust himself to be a decent human being even if he is not a perfect one. The recall process has been more than healthy for him, and it will help reorient all the state's top Democrats - and elected officials everywhere - to the immediate and pressing needs of voters across this nation.
We are sorry that Arnold Schwarzenegger's immigrant dreams will not be realized tomorrow. He is far more than some heavy-handed groper, far more than a movie star with a million-dollar bank account. His marriage to Maria Schriver is a testament to his inherent decency, because she would never have married him after eight years of courtship if the actor did not demonstrate it. Yet we do believe that he was far too forward with far too many women over his long career, and that he should have learned long ago - certainly since his marriage and the rise of male consciousness about the inviolablity of female identity - that he must keep his hands to himself even if opportunity beckons. We condemn those who have raised charges of anti-Semitism against him, and any effort to paint him as anything but a friend of Israel and the Jewish people. Those lies are beneath contempt.
We have come to develop a strong dislike for the hard-edged women's groups who have let themselves be used by Democratic Party power brokers in this race, and our respect for the Times has dropped a significant notch for its failure to explore and publish charges that have been credibly leveled against Gray Davis by AR Correspondent Jill Stewart and others. Since those charges involved violence, not sex, they are potentially far more serious. Unfortunately, the persons making them lacked the courage to come forward with them publicly, and they must now fade into the background noise of California's tumultuous political history. We feel the same disdain for Arianna Huffington, who became a shill for Davis, and for Peter Camejo, whose sterling performance in the debate has not been remotely matched by anything he's done on the campaign trail.
State Sen. Tom McClintock's stature as a future of California has been enhanced by his performance in the debate and his appearances on a number of talk shows in the past two weeks. We do not like his single-minded gaze, the absolute certainty of his right wing ideology, or much of anything about him; nonetheless, he has not lied, stumbled or rationalized his beliefs, and that is an admirable trait in a successful politician.
Whomever wins tomorrow, Californians will be the victors. Gov. Davis has signed a host of new laws that respond to their basic needs for health insurance, education, identity and work. But those benefits of the recall pale beside the power and magnificence of the public's expression of its profound distaste for one-party politics, for the presumptiveness of power, and for the very sorry state of public policy in their state. We must be infused by hope that America's political establishment can respond, can change, and can move ever closer tomorrow towards the real triumph of democracy.