Jewish World Review July 30, 2003 / 1 Menachem-Av, 5763
Gray skies just got darker
That stands for: Anything But Gray Davis.
"The governor's advisers say they intend to shift the focus away from Mr. Davis's personality and his record to what they characterize as the 'right wing' agenda of the recall proponents," reported the New York Times. The ABGD fight is being led by by DNC attack dog Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who told the Times: "This is about more than Gray Davis. It's about an attempt to undo an election, like Florida." (When all else fails, go back to the recount!) One senior campaign aide of Davis candidly remarked, "If it's Davis versus Davis, he loses."
This anonymous Davis staffer revealed more than he should have about his boss: "He has spent millions trashing other people and has never spent any time, effort or money telling people why he was a decent guy. How can you rehabilitate the guy at this point? You have to move him off the scene and make this about something bigger."
The nauseating truth about Gray Skies is that he represents the absolute worst in American politics today: the politician's love affair with power over the what's best for the people. Davis's contemptuous reaction to the recall--a procedure first authorized in 1911 and included in state election law in the 1970s--once again demonstrates just how self-centered and negative he is. He defeated White House pick Richard Riordan in the last gubernatorial primary by savaging him as captive to the far-right. Ditto in his defeat of his general election opponent Bill Simon (who also ran a horrid campaign). It is no exaggeration to say that if Gray Skies spent as much time during his first term as governor atttending to the state's looming budget disaster and the energy mess, as he did in raising the $78 million for his 2002 reelection, there probably would never have been a recall.
It's wishful thinking here, but the only way for Davis to rehabilitate his own reputation is to resign, which would turn the reigns of power over Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, and make the recall effort moot. Each day that Gray Skies has failed to lead the California legislature toward a budget agreement has cost the state $20 million. (The recall election itself will cost the state an estimated $30 million.) By allowing an October special election to go forward, Davis risks not only losing the governorship to Republicans, but also risks killing any chance the Democrats have to recapture the White House in 2004. If a recall is successful, a Republican is installed as Governor, and the state shows ANY sign of fiscal improvement, California could suddenly become Republican-friendly again. If Bush wins California, he wins reelection. But none of this matters to Gray Skies, whose popularity hovers in the mid-20s.
Davis is instead reverting to the slash and burn style of campaigning that has won him election to state-wide office five times. But this time he's calling for reinforcements, including Bill and Hill. Bill Clinton, after all, was the darling of Tinseltown and Silicon Valley during the irrationally exhuberant 90s. Democrats hope they can get some of that magic once again--that the "Comeback Kid" can make Davis comeback from the political graveyard.
Don't stop thinking about tomorrow.
As Davis and his aides claw to remain in power, painting the recall organizers as "a band of right wing nuts," things in the state keep deterioriating. Although a tentative budget deal could prevent bankruptcy, just last week the bond rating agency of Standard & Poor's, dropped the state's credit rating by three notches--we're talking almost junk bonds at this point. Bring back Michael Milken!
What the political elites of both parties fail to understand is that you can only abuse power for so long. Eventually, the people will rise up and demand that their voices be heard. Regardless of whether this recall effort is successful, 1.3 million people who signed the California recall petition spoke up and demanded accountability.
Back in February, my Democrat friends were laughing at me when I told them that the recall movement was serious. They're not laughing anymore. They now realize that far more is at stake here than one state's discontent. John Kerry, who hopes to be his party's nominee in 2004, recently waded into the recall issue saying: "I would hate to see California be rash here and do something that is silly."
That is precisely the sort of arrogance that may just be the Republicans' secret bullet in California. As the Davis campaign strategists are talking about ABGD, voters might start thinking ABGD, too.
Anyone But Gray Davis.
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07/23/03: Sticking it to the Children