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Jewish World Review May 22, 2001 / 29 Iyar, 5761

John H. Fund

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Consumer Reports

Davis' answer to California's energy crisis? Hire a couple of Clinton-Gore hatchet men -- GOV. Gray Davis once said he was approaching California's energy crisis the same way he plays golf--"one hole at a time." This style of nonleadership clearly hasn't worked. Portions of the state face up to 300 hours of life-threatening blackouts this summer, the state's budget surplus was spent in a fruitless effort to buy power so consumers wouldn't pay higher prices, and the state's credit rating is now embarrassingly low. Facing plummeting approval ratings, Gov. Davis is switching his approach to that of a political attack dog who will blame anyone but himself and Californians for the energy mess.

Democrats "plan to begin using energy as their primary weapon against President Bush," the Washington Post reported yesterday, and they fired the first shells from their big cannons last week. Now Gov. Davis--who has more than $30 million in his campaign war chest--plans to spend $30,000 a month of taxpayer money to hire two veteran political spinners to advise him on energy. Mark Fabiani, Al Gore's deputy campaign manager, and Chris Lehane, Mr. Gore's press secretary, aren't experts in energy but they do know smash-mouth politics. Both men were aggressive White House aides who defended President Clinton during the many scandals, including those that led to his impeachment. Their firm is informally known as the Masters of Disaster.

On Thursday Mr. Davis showed he's become a good pupil of the Masters. He accused President Bush of "allowing the price-gouging energy companies, many of whom reside in Texas to get away with murder." Mr. Lehane explained that "we are literally in a war with these out-of-state generators." Literally?

Bob Mulholland, a former Democratic National Committee member from California, is thrilled at Mr. Davis's decision to hire Messrs. Fabiani and Lehane and ratchet up the political rhetoric. "This is a fight between Texas and California," he says. "We're going to win. But it may take burning a Texas flag or two."

So much for changing the tone or approach of the Clinton years, during which all policy decisions were subordinated to political considerations and the White House's only response to political criticism was to demonize the opposition.

Republicans aren't the only ones outraged by Mr. Davis's hiring of these political operatives. "He hasn't done anything that is consistent with the democratic process," Harry Snyder of Consumers Union says of California's governor. " It is the worst abuse of power that I have seen in 25 years of lobbying." Mr. Snyder notes that both Messrs. Fabiani and Lehane spent the past two months working for Southern California Edison, at a time when Mr. Davis was trying to persuade the Legislature to accept his plan that would save that utility from bankruptcy.

Such criticism is unlikely to deter Gov. Davis, let alone Mr. Fabiani or Mr. Lehane. They showed they have strong stomachs for trench warfare during last year's election dispute, when both worked for the Gore campaign. Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, revealed that Mr. Gore ordered his two aides to discredit Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, when it became apparent she was going to certify a Bush victory in Florida after an official recount.

Mr. Kurtz reported in December that in Mr. Fabiani's view, his job was "to wield the hatchet so Gore could remain above the fray." Mr. Kurtz reported in December. Bill Sammon, a reporter with the Washington Times, observes that "Team Gore went after Harris with chilling efficiency."

Mr. Fabiani said Ms. Harris was part of "an outrageous attempt by Bush to steal the election." Mr. Lehane dismissed her as a "lackey" whose behavior was akin to that of a "Soviet commissar." Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law professor who defended O.J. Simpson, declared her "a crook" and "corrupt" on CNN. When I debated Mr. Dershowitz on Court TV, I asked him what laws she had violated. He answered with an incoherent sputter.

The lights may be going out all over California this summer, but with the arrival of Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane as Gov. Davis's energy SWAT team, you can be sure the bonfires of incendiary political rhetoric will burn brightly. Will it help Mr. Davis? It certainly won't do Californians any good as they watch the food in their freezers rot or sit in traffic jams when the stoplights go out.

Comment on JWR contributor John H. Fund's column by clicking here.


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04/23/01: How to fix the electoral process --- REALLY!
04/11/01: A conservative hero may mount a California comeback
03/30/01: Can the GOP capture the nation's most closely balanced district?
03/09/01: Terminated
03/06/01: Leave well enough alone
02/22/01: Forgetting our heroes
02/15/01: In 1978 Clinton got a close look at the dangers of selling forgiveness
02/12/01: Clinton owes the country an explanation --- and an appology
02/06/01: How Ronald Reagan changed America
01/16/01: Why block Ashcroft? To demoralize the GOP's most loyal voters
01/15/01: Remembering John Schmitz, a cheerful extremist
12/29/00: Why are all Dems libs pickin' on me?
Dubya's 48% mandate is different than Ford's
12/13/00: Gore would have lost any recount that passed constitutional muster
11/13/00: The People Have Spoken: Will Gore listen?
10/25/00: She's really a Dodger
09/28/00: Locking up domestic oil?
09/25/00: Hillary gives new meaning to a "woman with a past"
09/21/00: Ignore the Polls. The Campaign Isn't Over Yet

©2001, John H. Fund