Jewish World Review Feb. 21, 2005/ 12 Adar I, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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Passionate pallor struggles in L.A.

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | LOS ANGELES — Ask anybody in Los Angeles who their mayor is and you'll get an answer. It's usually something like "ah, umm, I'm not sure. Richard Riordan?"


Richard Riordan was then, of course, and this is now. It's always now in Los Angeles, and in the place where celebrity was refined into vulgarity, if not necessarily invented, James K. (for Kenneth, which is important) Hahn is usually nowhere.


Not many people say Jimmy Hahn is a bad mayor, just so gray that he blends into whatever gray spots there may be on the Los Angeles landscape. One critic, struggling to be unkind, says "he's too boring to be corrupt." The last gray politician here was a governor named Gray, and he was terminated, with something close to extreme prejudice, in the most famous gubernatorial recall that anyone can remember.


He's locked in a tough race for re-election to a two-year term on March 8, and the worst of several things they're saying about him is that he's, well, sort of invisible. New York has Mike Bloomberg, who is recognizable if not exactly heart-stopping, but before that there was Rudy Giuliani, the real deal. Chicago has another Richard Daley, and even San Francisco has Gavin Newsom, who may not ring any bells or blow any whistles east of Yuma but he's a semi-glittery here. So why can't Los Angeles have someone who twinkles, at least occasionally?


The Los Angeles Times, whose soul and spirit are as heavy as the monstrous five-pounders dropped on Southern California doorsteps to go mostly unread every morning, has lately been stung by Internet blogger Mickey Kaus' assertion that L.A.'s mayoral politics is so dull because the Los Angeles Times is so dull, or at least too serious about local politics. If the newspaper dished a little, maybe someone would take notice of the race for mayor of the nation's second city.


"Could it be," asks a Times editorial in a burst of unaccustomed lightness of being, "that West Coast politicians just can't match the personal peccadillos of their East Coast counterparts? After all, [Mickey] Kaus' prime example was that the Times had only mentioned in passing Hahn's separation from his second wife. Compare that with how the New York City tabloids covered Mayor Rudy Giuliani's marital woes.


"Back East, a mayor gets tossed out of Gracie Mansion and sleeps on a gay couple's couch before finally marrying the Other Woman. Here, the mayor keeps the house and the kids and despite his sister's best efforts, can't get a date. Imagine the headlines: 'Hahn Home for Dinner " Again,' and 'Mayor Spotted at Hardware Store on Weekend.'


"Sure, voters have a right to decide if they want a self-professed ordinary guy who keeps regular hours for mayor. Or not. They also deserve to know the juiciest tidbits unearthed in Times profiles of the candidates. Three of the five major candidates are divorced or separated, two of them multiple times, and that's not even counting their fallouts with each other. Former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa's second wife hauled him to court over the size of his child-support payments should he actually win the office and have to make do on $200,000 a year. The ex-wife of state Sen. Richard Alarcon endorsed Hahn."


There would have been some moderately good stuff here for Ear, had she not packed it in years ago. One candidate once sued his daddy, who was his former law partner, and another candidate, a former chief of police, has been married to the same woman for 35 years. So far he has not come up with an answer for that, or at least an answer that could satisfy gossips where a marriage usually has the shelf life of a shrimp.


The explanation for the mayor's success so far, says L.A. Weekly, the hip countercultural weekly, is that the mayor was obviously cut out for Los Angeles, the city of backyard barbecue grills, traffic advisories and mini-malls, and not for L.A., the city of excess that lives mostly in the celluloid fantasies dreamed up (if not always produced) here.


The mayor is the son of a popular longtime county supervisor, Kenneth Hahn. Voters who populate those Los Angeles back yards know who their county supervisor is, because he's more important than a mere mayor. The son of religious parents (the fundamentalist Church of Christ), His Honor earned his law degree at Pepperdine, a church school. There's a lot of church folks in Los Angeles, too, (though rarely any in L.A.). Next month he'll see whether there's still a market for a mayor who's passionate about the politics of pallor.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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