Jewish World Review May 1, 2002 / 19 Iyar, 5762
come ... sort of"
So the ballroom of Los Angeles's Century Plaza Hotel was buzzing Monday night. Even Rosie O'Donnell showed up at the VIP reception before the dinner. Fifteen hundred of the state's high-rollers had kicked in an impressive $2.75 million for Simon and the GOP, with the President as the star attraction. And when the lights went up, the CEOs and real estate developers sitting around me, jumped to their feet. A feeling of "We're back!" was palpable.
The President started off strong. On a day which marked the anniversary of the L.A. riots, he went where too few Republicans go--the inner city--where he met with minority leaders to talk about redevelopment progress since the devastating violence and looting that followed the verdicts in the Rodney King case. But of his 30-minute pre-dinner speech, he devoted only about seven minutes to Bill Simon and the specific challenges facing California.
And that seven minutes, it was just generic stuff. We learned that Simon is a "good man" with a "great family" and an "entrepreneur with a generous heart." There was a passing plug for educational accountability, and the need for leadership in energy (an implicit swipe at Gray Skies). But then the President quickly jumped to more comfortable terrain--his "we're-hunting-down-the-evil-doers-speech." By the end of the address, California's governor's race seemed like a footnote. Bush could have been speaking in Pennsylvania.
This is all wrong. To send California's GOP activists the message that the state is still in play, the White House needs to dig deep, which means confronting the reasons for the party's losses over the past ten years. Bill Simon can beat Gray Skies, but he will needs the support of a popular President who takes the time to understand the issues particular to this cultural melting pot--not a one who just makes a cameo appearance.
WORD OF THE WEEK
"I will not countenance incompetence on my staff," she bellowed.
04/27/02: The good news about conservatives versus Bush