Jewish World Review July 18, 2003 / 18 Tamuz, 5763
Debra J. Saunders
The man who isn't there
SACRAMENTO -- A caravan of big-rigs drove by the
state Capitol Tuesday morning, the drivers leaning on
their very loud horns in protest of a proposed
diesel-fuel rule. When when I interviewed Gov. Gray
Davis later that day, he tells me he never heard them.
Apparently, Davis doesn't hear at lot of things. He
doesn't hear the anger of voters clamoring to recall
him from office. He doesn't hear the whispers in the
Capitol that he is irrelevant in budget negotiations. He
doesn't hear a little voice inside his head that should
be yelling: "You've got to start kicking butt and taking
prisoners, you lump."
As we sit at the gubernatorial conference-room table,
I mention the recall, and ask the governor why he is
in this position.
"In what position?" he asks.
(Facing a probable recall, Gov. Denial.)
"I think you see from today's newspaper, the public is
in a sour mood about all of its elected officials," Davis
answered, citing The Chronicle's Tuesday story on
the Field Poll, which showed a mere 19 percent of
voters approve of the Legislature's performance, even
worse than the governor's 23 percent approval rating.
When I asked if there was any animus toward Davis
in particular, he replied,
"But it's clear it's across the board. If I were the only
problem in California, their attitudes toward the
Legislature would be different."
As the saying goes, misery loves company.
There's a lawsuit by Davis allies that could slow down
the certification process and stall a recall election
until March. So I ask: If the recall is so bad for
California because it breeds uncertainty, isn't it in the
state's best interest for a recall to occur sooner
rather than later?
Again, Davis points elsewhere. Referring to the
independent campaign behind the lawsuit, the
governor answered, "You'll have to talk to the people
who put together the lawsuit." Although he did add
that it's "perfectly appropriate" for others to sue.
Does Davis think it's wise to run such a nasty
campaign against recall financier Darrell Issa?
(Consider Democratic prankster Bob Mulholland's
efforts to find a 1972 Maserati -- to remind people
that Issa once was charged with car theft, even
though Issa never was convicted.)
Now Davis is engaged. He winks at me: "Beauty is in
the eye of the beholder. "
Besides, he added, the examination of Issa's life is
"fair game," considering that the recall will cost
taxpayers "$35 million to $60 million." (The Secretary
of State estimates $30 million to $35 million.)
Then when it comes to the state budget, the governor
doesn't take responsibility. On Tuesday, Davis
blamed the national recession for the $38 billion
shortfall. But as former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson,
later reached by telephone, noted, "People knew that
the budget that was enacted last year was a sham,
and the other shoe would fall this year." Since a
governor can use his line-item veto power and can
refuse to sign a bad budget, Davis is to blame.
When will there be a budget? Again, Davis is no
"My proposal's been on the table since May 15.
Everybody has had their day in court to present their
budget so there should be no more excuses. I said
this afternoon, 'You should drop everything else, put
all business aside except the budget.' "
Then to show how hard he was working, Davis
mentioned that Wednesday he would attend his 27th
"Big Five" meeting. (The Big Five consists of the
governor and Democratic and Republican leaders of
Meeting is good: Give the man five points. But
meeting is not producing results. As former Wilson
aide Bill Whalen observed, "I just don't know how
many legislators take him seriously. They just don't
No lie. Expecting legislators to pass a budget
because he said so is equivalent to parents
expecting their babies to diaper themselves.
"He ought to make his case to the public for what
he's doing," Wilson noted,
"just as I did when we wanted to cut the car tax."
Instead, Davis continues to govern at an arm's length.
There should be a little voice in his head telling him
to break eggs and make the omelet. But he's
listening to the voice that says: Smear your
opponent. It worked before.
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate