The Condor: California Recall
Pigs Do Fly
Never assume. Never assume. Never assume. Yours truly did, and I am very embarrassed.
I assumed the Peter King
column on the Gray Davis
site was legitimately posted by the Davis campaign. It was not. The Davis campaign has now removed it from its site.
As it turns out, King's column is being done for the Los Angeles Times
. The Davis campaign apparently lifted it from the Times site and presented the article as work done for the campaign. There was no indication on the Davis site that King's work had originated elsewhere.
The matter was called to my attention by Kevin Roderick
, who operates the LAObserved
web log. Here is what he had to say on his site Friday Aug. 29:
"The official No on Recall website -- the one with Sharon Davis' diary -- has picked up the latest Peter King column from the L.A. Times op-ed page without labeling it as from the paper. Campaign sites link to favorable press coverage all the time, but this time it's misleading. It appears on the same page of links as Gray Davis' UCLA speech, so someone who doesn't know that King is a Times staffer could mistake the unlabeled column for a campaign product. It's compounded by the credit line: "Peter H. King's twice-weekly column will run through the recall election." Anti-Davis blogger Prestopundit appears to have been taken in. Former Bee staffer Dave Jensen (The Condor) too. Also, isn't there a copyright issue with a campaign grabbing an entire column, not just excerpts and a link?
"Update 2:20 p.m.: Answer--yes there is. Times legal counsel Karlene Goller has told the Davis site to take it down. See first comment on this post."
Thanks again, Kevin, for pointing this out. My original item follows immediately.
One Day Pigs Will Fly
An odd thing happened the other day on Gray Davis'
campaign web site. It mounted an in-house columnist.
Peter H. King
, former prize-winning writer and columnist for the Los Angeles Times
and The Sacramento Bee
, began a twice weekly column, which will apparently appear only on the Davis website.
Here are the last two paragraphs of his first column
on Wednesday Aug. 27, entitled "One Day Pigs Will Fly:
"Take Davis out of the picture and Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento would get along so well that budgets would pass like clockwork. Taxes would be cut, but never programs. Benefits would be raised, but never taxes.
"With Davis gone, lobbyists at once would realize the folly of government by special interest. They'd devote their days to repairing poor children's bicycles and rescuing beached whales. It'd be just like the good old days we've heard so much about. You bet."
It's the Leadership Thing
Speaking of pigs flying, it almost seemed like that, according to political columnist George Skelton
of the Los Angeles Times
On Thursday Aug. 28, Skelton wrote
about Davis' performance during a town hall-style appearance in San Francisco that was televised locally Wednesday evening on channel 5
"He actually looked tolerable. No, better than that: pleasant. Even interesting. And, once or twice, entertaining," Skelton said.
"It's what Californians should have heard repeatedly during his 2002 race, especially in TV ads. His job approval rating would not have tanked so badly, setting himself up for a recall. Davis felt voters wouldn't believe him because his credibility was shot.
"Now it may be too late, but making himself more presentable to the public — Democrats particularly — is a must if he's to have any hope," said Skelton.
Skelton's observations were right on point. Davis does seem to be following a strategy in which he is presented as a leader and a governor doing good for the people of California. He has more town hall appearances scheduled and uses every opportunity to sign legislation in public.
During the San Francisco TV appearance, he repeatedly talked about leadership, and refused to be drawn into lengthy confessions of guilt for all that is wrong with California.
Davis said it is impossible to lead without offering a positive vision. He is right about that, but he needs to find a way to deflect with ease and humor the constant questions about what went wrong.
If he can do it with a smile and self-deprecation, he can move on to the vision thing and avoid appearing defensive.
Davis might look to the example of the late Republican Nelson Rockefeller. Some years ago, Rockefeller was running for re-election as governor of New York state. The budget was a mess. Money was sorely needed to keep things going, but re-election pressures led Rockefeller to promise that he would not raise taxes.
Shortly after being re-elected, he proposed a healthy tax increase, which was ultimately approved. Reporters asked him about how he could justify proposing higher taxes after he had promised not to do so.
"That was the biggest mistake of my life," he replied.
Persistent and Cunning
But Not Good Enough to be Governor
The conservative bible, the National Review
magazine, says Arnold
in the Sept. 1 issue "alleges" that Arnold "appears to be simply a liberal Republican."
Here is the key paragraph:
"Schwarzenegger's Tonight Show campaign announcement brought the recall to a boil, but Schwarzenegger, it seems clear, does not merit conservative support. In his multiple careers he has shown himself to be persistent and cunning. He surely believes in his Austrian-immigrant rags-to-riches story, and this seems to have prompted in him at least a curiosity about libertarian economics (he has attended functions sponsored by Reason magazine, and hobnobbed with Milton Friedman). But Schwarzenegger is pro-abortion, pro-gay rights, and pro-gun control. If he has any thoughts on illegal immigration, or the crushing rates of legal immigration from Mexico and points south, he has not revealed them. His campaign utterances so far have been bromides about California's children. (When politicians speak of children, count the spoons.) Rudy Giuliani was a liberal Republican who was a hard-core conservative on one salient issue — crime. Schwarzenegger appears to be simply a liberal Republican. If he is to win a measure of conservative sympathy, he must endorse a firm no-tax pledge and a serious plan to retrench the Sacramento spending and regulatory regime."
Does this mean that Arnold is not going to have a guest spot on Rush's
daily flogging of the great unwashed?
First Scared, Now Rattled
, the guiding light for Cruz Bustamante
, must think he has the Terminator by the tail.
Earlier this week, Ross taunted Arnold
for being a "scaredy cat" for not agreeing to debate. In an article
Wednesday by Mark Simon
in the San Francisco Chronicle
, Ross continued in that vein.
Of the candidate whose screen persona is never at a loss, Ross said, "They got a million big shots giving him advice. He doesn't know who to listen to, hasn't done this, and he's rattled."
Richie also said Team Arnold is surprised by the LA Times
poll showing its candidate trailing Bustamante. "They've been knocked off their axis," Ross said. "He's used to having his rear end kissed, not kicked."
Ross is a man who knows the value of his words. The question is whether the use of the term axis was only a play on the cruder word or also a veiled reference to the Axis powers of World War II, calculated to trigger a negative reaction from persons who recall the Nazi membership of Arnold's father. That said, such conjecture may be reading too much into Ross's remarks.
More on the Polls
From Jerry Ingle
of Encinitas in California:
RE. YOUR AUG. 26TH COMMENTS: GREAT ANALYSIS! ONLY THREE THINGS CAN HAPPEN IF ARNOLD CHOOSES TO "DEBATE" AND ONLY ONE OF THOSE THINGS IS GOOD.
I'M AMUSED WITH THE FACT THAT THE POLLSTERS CANNOT AGREE UPON WHO IS AHEAD. NONE OF THEM SEEM TO KNOW WHO IS "LIKELY TO VOTE" IN OCT., THUSLY, THEIR FIGURES BECOME UNRELIABLE.
ANOTHER AMUSING IDEA THAT THE GOP AND THE MEDIA HAVEN'T CONSIDERED: WHY DOESN'T $ARNOLD$ DROP OUT AND ENDORSE MC CLINTOCK? A BUSTAMANTE/MC CLINTOCK RACE WOULD REALLY BE FUN. COULDN'T EVER HAPPEN, THOUGH. THE GOP WOULD SELL ITS SOUL TO HAVE AN (R) AFTER THE NAME OF THE CA GOVERNOR RIGHT NOW.
Arnold Should Debate
From Ron Feiertag
You wrote that it is in Arnold Schwarzenegger's
best interest to refuse to debate. I could vote for him if he debated and did well. I would not vote for him if he refused to debate or if he debated and showed that he would not be a competent governor. If he refused to debate, I would believe that it was because he knew that he would be exposed as incompetent in a debate, and that would be enough for him to lose my vote. I am certain that there are millions of other voters in California who feel the same way that I do about this. There are several candidates for governor who would be competent governors, including Cruz Bustamante
and Peter Ueberroth
. Because Arnold has no background in government, he has to prove his competence before many voters would be willing to elect him. The best and maybe the only place for him to prove his competence to govern before the election is in one or more debates. Based on what I wrote, you may want to rethink your position about his need to debate.
Thanks, Ron, for your comments. I have rethought my position, and I still think it is correct. Very few "debates" have changed voter opinion in any significant way. They also demonstrate little about the ability to govern. They do show whether a candidate can "perform" on TV. They also provide some sort of a sense about the nature of the person, although less so in someone who is well-versed in the thespian arts.
Some Nasty Words Here
From "d." in San Mateo California:
I liked your piece on name-calling between the camps. I am sure they're only warming up... it's bound to get better. Perhaps we will get to hear Cruz
a dasypygal Teuton and Arnie can retort that Cruz is nothing more than ventripotent fellow with mangy bigotes. And for Gray
, the whole recall affair is a facinorous farce. BTW, the two ads on top of your blog this morning are quite apropos: Gary Coleman
for Governor T-Shirts, bumper stickers, thongs for Gary Coleman in California. Stop the CA Recall Help Stop the Ridiculous Recall Bumper Stickers, T-Shirts, etc. Thongs for Gary Coleman! The mind boggles.
Tough Luck Senor Bustamante!
From Joe Armendariz
of Santa Barbara
It insults the intelligence of taxpayers to be told that they need "tough love" and that this inevitably means paying higher taxes. And yet, that is exactly what Cruz Bustamante
, Lt. Governor turned sadistic political schizophrenic seems to believe. The man is sadistic because he truly subscribes to this bizarre notion called tough love. And the man is a political schizophrenic if he can actually say with a straight face: vote No on recall, but vote Yes on Bustamante.
Taxpayers don't need, nor do they want Bustamante's love. Moreover, tough love isn't an economic policy, it is something a father shows his rascal teen-ager who refuses to obey his rules. In the case of Bustamante and the state bureaucracy he has devoted his political life too, it is they who need some tough love. A tough brand of fiscal love imposed by state taxpayers who are sick and tired and simply refuse to take it anymore.
And by the way, if the size, cost and general excess of governmental systems is any indication, the taxpayers of this once great state have already received their fair share of this so-called "tough love". Exactly how much love have we been given? Let us count the ways.
With respect to transportation:
50,000 lane miles of neglected highways. 11 million square feet of underperforming Department of Transportation offices and shops. 209 dysfunctional Department of Motor Vehicle offices and 138 California Highway Patrol offices which is at least 80 more than we require to patrol California's highways.
With respect to higher education:
10,000 buildings totaling 138 million square feet of facilities for thousands of left-wing professors to bash America and all that she stands for.
With respect to natural resources:
1.4 million acres of undervalued and over used state parks with 3,000 miles of littered trails.
With respect to general state office space:
8.5 million square feel of state-owned office space and 16.6 million of leased office space undoubtedly in the most expensive parts of town.
All of this state-owned infrastructure is costing California taxpayers more than tens of billions of dollars annually. And, according to the State Legislative Analyst, it is estimated that over the next five years, the state will require an additional $54 billion be spent on new infrastructure needs just to keep pace with the current rate of growth in our state's population.
But the question never asked is why does the state need to own these assets in the first place? After all, state government should be one of the largest tenants in California, not the largest landowner. Perhaps if the paradigm were flipped, taxpayers would be less bitter and less cynical about any new love gestures.
Because of this beast of burden, Californian's tax collection rate is 24 percent higher then the national average. We rank 49th among the 50 states when using a State Business Tax Climate Index. Our tax burden, per $1,000 of income, ranks us 8 out of 50. Our tax burden, on a per capita basis, ranks us 7 out of 50. Our state AND local tax burden, as a percent of personal income, ranks us 8 out of 50 and our per capita state AND local tax burden ranks us 6 out of 50. Finally, when compared to the other high tax states, California ranks third behind New York and Hawaii.
There is no question but that government in California, under the leadership of Davis
and Bustamante, is pretty tough to love. And at a cost of $130 billion dollars per year, or $357 million dollars per day, taxpayers are more than justified to be all out of love. So, is it tough luck for Senor Bustamante? Perhaps, but then again, as the old saying goes; better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.
It is great to have comments from readers. But a couple of suggestions. Don't use all capital letters. They are very hard to read. And please keep your comments as brief as possible. Readers generally are pressed for time and need it quick and fast. If Ronald Reagan could make his presidential decisions based on a one-page decision memo, so can our readers. That is about 250 words. Keep the good stuff coming.
Should Arnold Debate?
It comes down to a matter of winning elections or, perhaps, pandering to the media's need for a "debate."
That's the basic choice that Arnold
has to make concerning participation in these so-called debates. So-called because they are usually nothing more than question-and-answer sessions that do not allow the candidates to use their wits directly on each other.
Quite frankly, at this point in the campaign, it is not in Arnold's best interest to engage in a debate. If he does, most of the results would be negative for him, even if he comes off as doing well. It would take an extraordinary performance for Arnold to get a boost in voter approval. Perhaps something like giving CPR to an overcome candidate, who keels over under the heat and stress of the TV lights during the debate. A slight exaggeration, yes, but something along those lines.
Let's take a look at the reasoning. First, we will put aside the LA Times
poll that shows Cruz Bustamante
ahead. It flies in the face of other polls and may be an aberration. For this discussion, let's assume Arnold is the front-runner albeit by a narrow margin. Arnold also has star power that goes far beyond any of the other candidates. Let's assume he would do moderately well in the debate.
Does he gain any significant numbers of voters? No, because he is fulfilling their expectations.
Can he be adequately briefed and prepared in time for the debate? No, given the plethora of issues that can be fired at him.
Does he risk making a booboo that will dog him throughout the campaign? Yes.
Does he risk coming off like a haughty Austrian prince, antagonizing voters? Perhaps. There is a bit of arrogance in his public persona, which sometimes flippantly dismisses questions. That may not play well to a live audience.
Does he risk bringing more attention to his opponents? Yes.
Does he risk splintering the vote even further, making it harder for him to win? Yes.
Are there better ways of using his campaign time? Yes.
Can he get away with not engaging in a debate? Yes. This is not important stuff for voters, just as figures are not.
All that said, if Arnold falls significantly behind Cruz, he will need to do something to come up in the polls. Given that the main issue for the voters is leadership, in a debate with Cruz Arnold could come off looking more like a man-in-charge. Of course, then there is a question of a two-man debate, Gray vs. Arnold. That is a tougher question, plus I don't think there are any sponsors for that.
Some would argue that a gubernatorial debate is the responsible and civic-minded thing to. Maybe so. But if getting elected and solving the problems of the state is the most responsible and civic-minded that you can do, endangering a victory by debating may not seem wise.
Sissy, Pukes and Bigotes
Whoa!!! The language is really getting mean in the recall campaign. First the state's top law enforcement officer, Bill Lockyer,
using the full dignity of his office, all but labeled the governor of the largest state in the union a "trashy puke." Next Arnold
, whose career is largely based on caricatures, said that all that separated the lieutenant governor fom the governor was little more a moustache and receding hairline. He probably did not mean it in a biblical sense.
Now comes the guiding light for the lieutenant governor, Richie Ross
. He ripped off this zinger about Arnold, "He is a sissy." And to make sure everybody on the playground understood his message, Richie repeated, "He's a scaredy cat."
Well, boys, you have heard and answered the media cry for substance and policy positions. We are waiting eagerly for the next installment in this particular chapter of the campaign. (It is sort of funny, though.)
of the Contra Costa Times
got the "sissy" quote which you can read here
. And fyi, bigotes is Spanish for moustaches.
State Not Suffering More Than Rest of Nation
From Dan Walters
, political columnist for The Sacramento Bee
, on the item Aug. 22 on charges that California is losing jobs.
"Actually, the data indicate Cal got hit a bit less than the rest of the nation. But my main point: You're correct about marginal, at most, influence of governors on state economy but by same token, they invite bearing responsibility for downturn because they are so willing to claim responsibility for upturns - a la Davis
' constant claims in 2002 re-election about presiding over job growth.
Gray Davis, Jimmy Carter and Martin Van Buren
Appearance of Powerlessness is Death
From Tom Hall
of Berkeley, a retired history professor, who agreed that leadership is THE issue in the recall. I asked him to look for some lessons about selecting good leaders from his perspective as a professional historian:
Three preliminaries: professional historians don't like the notion that history offers "lessons". It makes them edgy. But comparisons of different men at different times is another matter. So, I'll stick to doing that. Secondly, since there is no recall provision in the federal constitution, and since most states don't have it either, one has to look at situations in which voters decided at some point in the politicians tenure that he was no good and refused to return him to office. Finally,at the risk of appearing cynical I think it is useful to observe that "leadership" is not always grounded in real accomplishments. FDR
is a good case in point. He never solved the Great Depression. Most of his programs were temporary palliatives. In fact, his actions in l937 brought about a recession causing the stock market to lose 50 per cent of its value. Unemployment remained above 10% until l941. Nevertheless, he is considered one of the great presidents. As a way of seeing what Gray Davis
lacks one could ask how Americans elected FDR president three times between l932 and l940 despite his many failures. Interesting question, but one I won't address here because one of the craft's rules is that the historical comparisons should involve like things, not different ones. So if we are going to understand something of Gray Davis' predicament let's look at political failures -- Jimmy Carter
, and Martin Van Buren
Carter and Davis have some things in common. Both possess the technician's mentality. They are committed to self-discipline and efficiency. When necessary both men can create different images of themselves that appeal to different constituencies. Carter liked to pose as the homespun peanut farmer, the fiscal conservative small businessman, the nuclear engineer and the born again Christian. He barely got elected in l976 despite the fact that his opponent, Gerald Ford
, was among the century's most lackluster candidates. Carter would have been better off if he had lost because in office he suffered from two handicaps. He had no experience in dealing with Congress and never tried to acquire any. As a consequence he seldom succeeded in leading Congress. He was a centrist which meant that he never satisfied the conservatives or the liberals. By l978 his star was definitely fading. His policies of deregulating the airlines, trucking, natural gas and oil industries contributed to a sense that the country was out of control. The emergence of "stagflation" and his apparent inability to deal with it lost him support. Failures abroad -- the end of detente, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iranian hostage crisis -- created the public image of Carter as man lacking diplomatic judgment and a flawed administrative style. In short, Carter became the symbol for a country drifting, one whose power abroad was in decline. He was easy pickings for Ronald Reagan
Earlier, Martin Van Buren suffered a similar fate. The "Little Fox of Kinderhook" was the country's first real professional politician. Unlike Washington or Jefferson, and even Jackson, Van Buren had no other profession than politics. He owned no property except his office. And until his presidency he was remarkably successful because he was a master at electoral manipulation. Indeed, it was Van Buren, along with his nemesis, Thurlow Weed, who created the modern two party system, complete with nominating conventions, slogans, party newspapers, and dirty tricks. He did so for the best of all political reasons: only by controlling the federal government could he control New York politics. To control the central government meant he had to control the presidency. And to do that he created the Democratic party, elected Jackson, and made sure that all federal patronage in New York rested in his hands. In l836 he took office in his own right. Like Carter and Davis after him, "the Little Magician" was a man of the center. He bent his efforts toward party unity, which meant seeking ways of satisfying both the Northern, and Southern wings of the Democratic party. To satisfy the South, he refused to make slavery a federal issue. To mollify the North, he refused to support Texas annexation. The result was that he satisfied no one.
By 1837 he was under attack for being a political manipulator who was unable to govern. He then became the chief victim of the Panic of l837, which turned into the Depression of l838-40. Local politicians and debtor relief parties clamored for programs of public relief and currency inflation. Van Buren opposed them all. Instead he sought to protect federal deposits from speculative state banks by proposing an independent treasury bill, which Congress refused to pass until l840 and then promptly abolished. By l838 Van Buren was widely ridiculed as "Martin Van Ruin". In l840 the voters repudiated him by electing William Henry Harrison,the first president from Weed's Whig party.
So, what do the failures of Carter and Van Buren point to? The politician who wants to appear a strong leader can't ignore Congress (or in the case of governors, a state legislature). It's nice if he can exercise real control over the legislative branch. But failing that appearances will do. Don't occupy the middle. Only the most charismatic leaders can come close to satisfying everyone. FDR is a good case. But most politicians are not FDRs. More to the point, the middle ground seems to create images of drift and ineffectiveness. Similarly avoid diplomatic indecisiveness, and that rule includes "foreign" power companies. Take to the bully pulpit and beat the hell out of it with a big stick. The appearance of powerlessness is death to a politician. The political leader risks much if he has the misfortune to confront an economic crisis. He risks even more if he rejects popular solutions, even if some of them are nostrums. He is dead if he covers up an economic crisis.
Americans can abide prophets; they can't abide unpleasant surprises. Doing nothing is equally deadly. No matter how adept the politician may be at manipulating the politician system, elections included, he should avoid at all costs the appearance of a manipulator. Americans like success, but they don't like to be its victims. They like to think that they are choosing a leader because of his virtues, not because of his skills as a campaigner.
Thank you, Dr. Hall. The last couple of paragraphs have a slight ring reminiscent of something from Machiavelli or perhaps Gracian's Manual.
The Racism Issue
From farther afield, Colombia, come this comment from an expatriate, Mike Germonprez
"It will be interesting to see what the actual turn-out is for Bustamante in Jewish and Black neighborhoods. I think that many people in those areas will not vote for him. I lived in West L.A. for 56 years, before moving to South America. Jewish voters would be willing to vote for a former Assembly member from that part of town, Mr. Davis
, but not so willing to vote for a Latino from the San Joaquin Valley. There is a little smugness there. It is fine to vote for a Stanford grad but not for somebody who went to Fresno State.
Regarding the Black vote, Mr. Bustamante
sure didn´t help himself with that racial "mispronunciation" a few years ago. Since "Negro" and "Negra" are Spanish words, how could he mispronounce them? Latinos are more racist than anything I saw in Dixie, 40 years ago, when I was stationed there in the Marine Corps. Blacks, in California, are well aware of that discrimination from Latinos. If Blacks and Jewish voters, who are overwhelmingly Democrat, don´t vote in normal numbers, it could make a difference on election day. Mr Bustamante can get the Latino vote but it may not be enough to put him over the top.
P.S. Down here, in Colombia, permanent resident aliens, like myself, are allowed to vote in local elections. Eat your heart out, Mr. Bustamante. California hasn´t gone that far over the edge, yet !
Hasta La Vista Bustamante!
And finally from Joe Armendariz
, executive director of the Santa Barbara Industrial Association
and the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association
The Iron Triangle's designated candidate, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante
, is proposing the imposition of more taxes on California taxpayers should he be elected to replace Gray Davis
on October 7.
Memo to Bustamante: since 1991, California's average annual growth rate in taxes, compared to the average annual growth rate in personal income, was more than double. In fact, from 1991 to 2001, California's annual growth rate in taxes increased by 6.3% while income growth was only 3.1%. Today, for every $1,000 of income, California is ranked 8 out of 50 with respect to state tax collections.
This doesn't bode well for the businesses of this state and their ability to compete in a competitive marketplace. A marketplace that is not just competitive on the domestic front, but on the global front as well. Incredible as it may seem, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce
(one side of the Iron Triangle) supports raising the state sales tax. In fact, the President of the Chamber actually suggested there was a "need" to raise the state's sales tax. But do we really "need" to raise the state sales tax? At the current rate of 7.25%, California already has the highest sales tax in the nation.
In fact, the sales tax in Oregon, Alaska, Delaware, Montana and New Hampshire is zero. In Arizona it's 5.6% and in Nevada it is 6.5% however, Nevada has no individual income tax. Bustamante obviously doesn't understand the urgency of attracting new businesses to this state in light of the fact that so many have been leaving in droves in recent years. In a recent Chamber of Commerce poll, 93 percent of companies doing business in California, including small businesses which employ 82 percent of all California's working people, believe the state is moving in the wrong direction, and 90 percent believe business conditions are worse today than they were two years ago.
From the sales tax, to the income tax and almost every tax in between, California ranks at the top, which is to say we are winning the race to the bottom, in terms of our ability to compete for business and create new jobs. By endorsing another tax hike, Bustamante, his cronies at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and his economic soulmate Warren Buffet, will simply provide the pathological tax and spenders in Sacramento the political cover they need in order to continue hiding behind their phony rhetoric about seeking fiscally responsible solutions to our state's budget crisis.
The bottom line is California didn't end up with a $38 billion dollar deficit because hard working families aren't paying enough taxes. We got into this mess because the velocity of the state government's gravy train is out-of-control and gaining more momentum with each passing day. Raising taxes again, out of some bizarre vision to impose "tough love", will only provides the runaway train with the fuel it needs to destroy everything in its path, including the state's already fragile economy.
Any candidate running for Governor of California with the audacity to propose raising taxes, should be immediately disqualified by the voters. Therefore, the message voters should send to Cruz is this; Hasta La Vista Bustamante!
Oracles, Entrails and Polls
Political junkies like nothing more than a new poll with startling results. They squeeze it, play with it, dissect it and sift through its entrails, attempting to divine its hidden meaning.
And so it is with the Los Angeles Times
poll which showed Bustamante
well ahead of the Arnold
and only 50 percent of voters favoring the recall of Gray Davis
. Both results surprised many of the state's conventional and not-so conventional political thinkers.
So here is another attempt to find more meaning in the poll findings. And the answer is Prop. 54
. Yes, Prop. 54.
The results of the poll will push Prop. 54, the race identification measure, to the fore. That's because the proposal is one fundamental key to driving voters to the polls who will favor Bustamante and reject the recall, as well.
Here is the reasoning. Democrats need a big turnout of the faithful. That will improve chances of overturning the recall and, if that fails, electing Bustamante. How do you drive voter turnout and interest? Create a fear that Prop. 54 is a move to strip away hard-won protection of minorities from discrimination and leave the state in the hands of minority-hating ogres.
Will such an effort generate a reverse effect among conservative Republican voters?. There is that chance, but less of a one if the campaign against Prop. 54 is conducted in Spanish and on targeted electronic media outlets. Few conservative Republicans, for example, listen to AM radio stations aimed at minority audiences; they are tied up reinforcing their rigidity with Rush
Plus Prop. 54 is not going to have the visceral impact with conservatives that it will have with minorities who believe they may be harmed.
The LA Times poll also had some other interesting results:
--Forty-four percent of those polled had an unfavorable opinion of Arnold.
--Forty-two percent of Latinos said they are less likely to vote for a candidate who endorsed Prop. 187. Two-thirds of that group would also vote against the recall. Arnold is the most notable candidate who voted for Prop. 187.
--Six out of 10 voters believe it will be politics in Sacramento as usual regardless of who is elected.
But fundamentally, Susan Pinkus
, director of the poll, said, "This recall hinges on the voters who decide to vote."
Try your own hand at the entrails by reading Pinkus' analysis on this link
and let me know what you think (email is firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also check on Daniel Weintraub's analysis
at The Sacramento Bee's
Embarrassed to be a Republican
The San Jose Mercury News
carried a lengthy profile on Arnold
on Sunday Aug. 24, despite the fact that he would not talk to them for the piece. While the article could not be called the definitive work on the former weight lifter, several points caught my eye.
One of the reasons that Arnold took up weight lifting was that he "hated" sharing the limelight with others.
He served seven days in jail after he went AWOL from the Austrian army in order to compete in a bodybuilding contest.
He was not an impoverished immigrant when he came to the US. He already owned a gym in Europe and a had job waiting for him in the US when he arrived.
A black bodybuilder, Rick Wayne
, who said he is still friends with the gubernatorial candidate, said Arnold once defended the apartheid system in South Africa. Wayne says he does not think Arnold is a racist today because the two are friends.
Arnold said he was "embarrassed" to be a Republican during the impeachment of President Clinton
was written by Dion Nissenbaum
Davis for US Senate?
The Merc also had another piece
on the recall of the North Dakota governor in 1921, the only case in which a governor has been recalled.
wrote about "eerie parallels" with the recall move in California today, ranging from a bad economy to misuse of the recall process. The ultimate outcome, however, would be a conservative Republican's worst nightmare.
The recalled governor was elected to the US Senate shortly after being ousted from the statehouse. The ex-governor spent much of his career backing a measure to outlaw war. He was joined in the Senate by the man who gave California its recall law, US Sen. Hiram Johnson
Dare we ask the Gov. Davis whether he is thinking about running for Senate?
Time for economic spoon-feeding?
There has been a lot of hoo-ha in the campaign about businesses fleeing California, with the implication that Gray Davis
is responsible for the alleged departures.
Yes, businesses do leave the state regularly. They fail regularly. And they do come into the state regularly. But are more leaving now because of government regulation or laws? Nobody really knows.
The wailing about California's poor business climate is heard constantly from some corners. The volume escalates during recessions. I can recall virtually the same verbiage during the recession of the early 1980s. And again in what was really a depression in California during the early 1990s, during Pete Wilson's
watch. (Was he responsible for the loss of business then?)
There is no doubt that California has a bunch of laws and regulations that make life difficult for businesses, sometimes stupidly so. It only takes talking to a few business types to find truly egregious behavior on the part of government bureaucrats. On the other hand, some of the rules involve such things as smog, which still rises to levels that can endanger the health of the elderly and children.
But are hundreds or thousands of business pulling up stakes from the Golden State? If there were, we would expect well-informed business associations, such as the California Chamber of Commerce
, to bring them to our attention. But the best figures it can cite are manufacturing jobs lost -- 293,000 --- since January 2001. The chamber cites no current figures on businesses leaving the state, only anecdotal evidence and business leader sentiment.
During my 10 year tenure as business editor at a major California newspaper, we tried, from time to time, to gather such business loss figures. They also weren't to be had at the time, at least on any kind of current basis.
As for the jobs lost, more than two million jobs have been lost nationally since that January 2001 date, when President Bush
came into office. An old rule of the thumb is that California accounts for 10 percent of things nationally. Given that the recession has hit California harder than the rest of the country, the job loss figures look roughly correct for what should be no more than California's share of the national economic misery.
Can the governor do anything significant about the state's economy? Yes and no. The governor is no Greenspan. The governor can't change interest rates. His comments almost never affect economic markets. On the other hand, the governor can set a tone and affect regulation. But law changes take action by at least a majority of 120 cranky legislators in addition to the governor's signature. Even former President Reagan
complained that he couldn't balance the federal budget because of the intransigence of another legislative body, Congress.
What about California's economic future? The chamber's most recent economic report says that there are signs the state's economy has hit bottom. UCLA's
respected economic forecast says the recession should be ending in California this quarter.
Whether it is Davis or Arianna
, the governor is going to benefit from that economic bounce, undoubtedly crowing a year from now that his or her policies saved the state. That assumes that all these economists are right.
But for the time being, I like the comments from Edward Leamer
, director of the UCLA forecast and one of Arnold's economic advisers. During its most recent economic review, Leamer suggested that what is needed is to "spoon feed some risk tolerance tonic into the tightly closed mouths of business leaders. Without some encouragement, there is no telling how long they are going to lie on the mat, flat on their backs."
He was speaking to national economic issues, but that is good advice for California as well.
Recall newsletter via email
, the web site of The Sacramento Bee
, has started a free, recall newsletter that you can receive automatically five days a week. The newsletter is sent out every weekday afternoon, sweeping up the latest news from The Bee and The Associated Press, bits from Dan Weintraub's California Insider blog, sound bites and offbeat recall items (when such exist). If you are interested in subscribing, click on this link
. If you know of other such newsletters, please send a note about them to email@example.com.
The Persian Perspective
An Iranian-American site, www.payvand.com
, has checked in with information on the recall election. Farzad Khalili
writes that the recall should be rejected on the grounds that is costly and likely to put an inexperienced governor in office, one who is elected by a small minority. You can also get a nifty program called Khayam on the site that will convert your regular calendar to a Persian calendar, not to mention a Persian word proessor and html. You can read Khalili's piece here
Checking green cards at the door
Call it a bit of a tin ear. That may be the kindest construction. But Team Arnold
is making it abundantly clear on its web site that it does not want campaign contributions from "foreign nationals."
If you visit Arnold's website and click on the red "contribute now" button, you find yourself on a page
with the following language:
"Foreign nationals are prohibited from making contributions to this committee, unless they have permanent residency status in the United States of America (a Green Card)."
That certainly seems to in compliance with the law. But other candidate's web sites are somewhat more circumspect. McClintock's site
has no green card warning. Ueberroth's has a box
that must be checked to show whether the donor is a US citizen or a US corporation. Simon's has language
saying that US citizens, permanent residents and US corporations may contribute.
On the Democratic side, Bustamante has no language
on donations from foreigners nor does the Davis committee
, Californians Against the Costly recall.
This foot-in-mouth matter on Arnold's site is not earth shaking. But it indicates a lack of sensitivity, certain to be exploited by Arnold's Latino foes. And there are more artful ways to convey the caveat, as both the Simon and Ueberroth sites showed.
Recall: The Fundamental Issue
The recall election is not about the budget fiasco. It is not about taxes. It is not about Prop. 187
. It is not about Arnold's
pecadillos or his dazzling wealth. It is not about political fundraising by Gray Davis.
It is about leadership. More accurately, it is about what voters perceive as leadership. On Oct. 7, they are going to decide whether Gray Davis remains in office based on their assessment of his leadership. And they will vote for a new governor based on their belief that he or she can lead the state successfully.
Sure, some persons have identified issues that will lead them to vote for one candidate or the other. But for the most part, voters are looking for a person with a confident vision that will provide hope that solutions can be found to the problems affecting their lives and California.
It is the same imperative that Ronald Reagan
tapped into so successfully. Reagan gave people a vision of hope. They had confidence in him. And when he promised a balanced budget and instead generated the greatest deficits of that era, the voters did not really care. In the end, they believed Reagan would do right by them.
Leadership is a tough matter for the media. What is it? How do you measure it? What do voters think it is? Journalists tend to fall back on the relatively safe ground of policy. How about those prisons? What about pesticides? How will you improve the economy? It is true that positions taken on policies can be a part of the leadership equation. However, a governor can be great on policy but a lousy leader.
, former city editor of the San Jose Mercury News
and now director of the John S. Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists at Stanford University
, touched on the question of leadership in a piece
in the Merc Sunday Aug. 17. How might a successor to Davis govern, he asked rhetorically.
"Don't look for that story," Bettinger wrote, "even though the scenario it describes is one that ought to concern you. It would by definition have to be speculative, assertive, unbalanced and risky. And were I still city editor at the Mercury News, I wouldn't have the foggiest idea how to frame it."
The media are skating by the leadership issue as skillfully as a candidate might dodge a tough question. Instead, reporters and editorial writers are in high dudgeon this week about the lack of substance in the campaign. Where does Arnold stand on financial privacy? What is Davis' plan to salvage workers' comp? Let's see some l0-point proposals, they ask, to solve the air pollution problem created by chicken flatulence in Stanislaus County.
All very interesting for policy wonks, and maybe even to the reporters themselves. But many newsies prefer to cover a political horse race rather than dig into complex policy issues. A case in point was the failure of the major California newspapers to expose the real significance of the California electricity deregulation bill before it was signed into law by then Gov. Pete Wilson
. Since measure was supported by virtually every state legislator, how could anything be wrong? Yes, there were articles, but none that I recall that exposed the genuine nature of the Enron-backed legislation.
Team Arnold has already shown signs that they understand that leadership is the essence of the election, declaring that the campaign is not about what journalists call issues. But Arnold's boys and girls also know they have to throw a few empty calories of policy nuggets to the press, as occurred Wednesday at Arnold's economic show-and-tell. Gray Davis, perhaps taking tips from former President Clinton
, also has demonstrated he has at least a partial grip on the leadership question. Witness his forays throughout the state, looking gubernatorial, signing legislation, providing solutions. Davis' problem is to make disenchanted voters forget their dislike for his past leadership. He is attempting to do that by demonizing the opposition as political thieves whose true aim is to destroy all that is good in government.
During the next few weeks, a few writers may tackle the question of leadership -- perceived or otherwise. But that is very tough sledding at most newspapers, whose cranky editors want they think are facts, not psychological ambiguities. They prefer policy --the risk-free reporting -- to leadership.
Nonetheless, it is the vision of leadership, as perceived by the voters, that will decide who is governor of California after Oct. 7.
Last year, one precinct in Santa Ana gave Gray Davis
77 percent of its vote, one of the highest for Davis in Orange County. The precinct today is 94 percent Hispanic and heavily Democratic.
A sure thing this year for Gray, right? Wrong.
The Orange County Register
took a long look at the district, and the outlook is decidedly mixed. Longtime Davis supporters are reconsidering their positions. Others think Arnold is nothing more than an actor. Read the Aug. 17 piece by Peter Larsen here
Univision Anchor Rails at Arnold
, the political news web log, thinks that the Prop. 187/Arnold story
has very long legs. As evidence, Suni
, one of the co-hosts of the blog, cites a piece Aug. 20 on the Univision
web site by Jorge Ramos
. Suni says Ramos is possibly the best-known TV anchor on Spanish language television. Suni described the Ramos article as "stunning in its rage and reach" and provided an English language version on JUSIPER. Among other things, Ramos says, "One of the saddest experiences it has been given to me to witness in the United States is how legal immigrants like Arnold criticize and attack those who are undocumented and make their lives impossible."
Chapter 2 of Latino Media Studies
Or Things Look Different in Different Neighborhoods
California's English-language newspapers don't seem to get it. The way they work is not the way every newspaper works.
The case in point is the coverage of the recall campaign. As pointed out in this web log last week, the Spanish language media in California are covering it differently than the Anglo press. And that is likely to mean something in terms of voter behavior.
On Wednesday Aug. 19, the Los Angeles Times
did a more thorough-going account of what is going on in Spanish media. The piece by Daniel Hernandez
was headlined, "Spanish-language media's focus differs markedly from that of general outlets." As far as I can tell, he is the only reporter to write about the subject for a major California paper, as it relates to the recall election.
Hernandez quoted Pilar Marrero
, the political editor of La Opinion
of Los Angeles, as saying, "'The coverage has been negative so far on Schwarzenegger
' because the candidate, shying from the political press, has given Spanish media little else to report, Marrero said. 'It's troublesome to Latino readers that these topics are coming up again, particularly an image like that of Pete Wilson
, who still is a very strong catalyst in our community.'"
And then Hernandez' story pointed out that Gray Davis
gave the Spanish language media a one-day exclusive on his decision to allow illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. That is the kind of move that will help ingratiate him with the Latino media on future stories -- just as exclusives ingratiate the providers with the recipients in the Anglo press.
Studies show that Latinos get most of their news from the English media, but who will they turn to in questions of heart and pride -- the Orange County Register
or La Opinion?
Davis attacks thieving Republicans
It was no Checkers speech -- the TV talk that saved Nixon's
career in the 1950s. But for Gray Davis
, it was a strong effort. He sounded two themes which are certainly to be repeatedly endlessly during the campaign: The recall is a "right wing power grab," another effort by Republicans to steal elections they cannot win. And Prop. 54
is a Republican effort to divide California by race. If Davis can make Prop. 54 a litmus test, it will boost Democratic and liberal voter turnout that is likely to support him.
Gray also made a good defense of his record during the speech Wednesday, particularly on education. He pointed out that California had slumped to 43rd in the nation in public school support when he took office. (Incidentally, that was behind Mississippi, as I recall). Today he said California support for schools had climbed to 26th. He took advantage of the blackout back east to point out that California has not suffered like that for two years. And he linked the Bush administration with the energy villains who are on their way to jail after ripping off California, among others.
Davis began the talk with strong intensity but fell off his stride after he was diverted by a comment from the audience that could not be heard by TV viewers. After that, he began to sound like a man who had rehearsed a speech a few too many times, although the intensity came up at the end. He certainly did not look like the man whom the media portray as a political zombie. If he is, he made it clear he will be a zombie who intends to haunt California voters relentlessly until Oct. 7.
Complete with a smattering of catty comments, the Los Angeles Times
Wednesday took on the fashion positions of the leading candidates. Predictably, Gray
was criticized for, well, being gray. This quote caught my eye: "I'm obsessed with Schwarzenegger's
jewelry," said Simon Doonan, fashion director of Barneys New York. "He's been wearing this massive blue ring, which is OK for a window dresser but a little bit too Liberace
for running for governor." The article
was written by Booth Moore
Would You Buy a Business Plan From This Man?
Venture Capitalist Offers Himself Up Publicly
"The most aggressive Internet campaign of all time" is promised by one recall candidate who might be actually be able to fulfill such a vow.
At least he has a grasp of the full wonders of the Web. The candidate is Garrett Gruener
, co-founder and chairman of the Internet search engine Ask Jeeves
of Emeryville. Gruener is also co-founder of the San Francisco venture capital firm, Alta Partners
Gruener was in a "quiet period" following his decision to run, which came coincidentally during a jog with his wife the morning of Saturday Aug. 9. Gruener's "initial public offering" occurred Monday Aug. 18.
First was a story
in the Oakland Tribune
by Josh Richman
, quoting Gruener's campaign manager as saying that Gruener would run the aggressive Internet campaign and that the businessman had ponied up $250,000 as a "minor down payment" on the campaign. Then Gruener conducted a "fairly easy" interview with KNTV, a radio interview on KGO and spent "some time" with Sacramento Bee
columnist Dan Weintraub
, according to the candidate's blog
"Dan's my favorite blogger of all, I read California Insider
every day," Gruener blogged.
The Trib quoted campaign manager Wade Randlett
as saying that in a few weeks, "Net surfers will hardly be able to search for recall election information without seeing Gruener's name." Randlett is co-founder of TechNet
, a Palo Alto-based, bipartisan network of more than 150 CEOs that lobbies for tech-friendly state and federal laws, according to the Trib.
A news search on the name Garrett Gruener on Google
Monday took 0.02 seconds and turned up three items and a paid link to Gruener's site
that said, "Fresh face. Big ideas. Trust him…."
A search on Ask Jeeves, Gruener's firm, brought up a sponsored link at the top of the page leading to his campaign home page. Ten non-sponsored links were returned on the first page of the search results. The first item was from a UC Berkeley
conference in 2000 during which Gruener advocated taxes on sales on the Internet, an anathema to many Web business types. The last item was from the chamber of commerce in Grapevine, Texas
. It contained a list of Grapevine moguls, such as Sandee Garrett and John Gruener. None of the non-sponsored items on the first past made any reference to Gruener's candidacy.
Gruener's blog, which began Aug. 12, carries some interesting musings on the business of being a candidate, including how Team Garrett sampled voter sentiment in a San Francisco bar on Saturday (this is not as smarmy as it sounds). He also indicates he is leaning towards mandatory universal major medical insurance in California, something businesses have fought ferociously in the Legislature. Although the word "major" in there may mean something very different than what is going on in the Legislature. The web log does not offer a way to contact Gruener directly or provide an RSS feed, something of an oversight for a techie. But it is definitely worth a look. It reveals a thoughtful man engaged in an odd effort.
Fire the butler?
is an Internet search engine that plays to the idea of having an omniscient butler who can find out all the things you need to know. It is also a business co-founded by gubernatorial candidate Garrett Gruener
, a man who says he has the answers for California.
The Condor on Monday posed the following search question to Jeeves: How to vote for governor in California.
The top responses were sponsored/paid links, the first of which was a link to Total Recall 2003, which peddles Arnold
campaign gear. The first unpaid response was a link to a Las Vegas Sun
editorial endorsing Kenny Guinn
for governor of Nevada. None of the responses on the first page linked to information about what it takes to become a registered voter and participate in the California recall election.
Looks to me like Jeeves has been hitting the Madeira in the spirits closet and needs some advice himself.
Follow the Greed
A reader has suggested that there is much to be learned about the blackouts
on the East Coast and their relation to California. The source pointed out that the energy crisis in California was one of the problems that created the disenchantment with Gray
, although the governor has contended there were powerful business forces arrayed that made it extremely difficult to deal with the issue. The source suggested that interested newies might want to take a look at the power sales logs of the companies involved. They are likely to find that power was being sold at high rates up to the very last minute, despite the risk to the system, according to the source, which describes itself as "lint in the belly button of the beast."
Does this story have legs?
And how long are they?
vote for Prop. 187
was a top story in the recall election for a brief period last week. But now it has slipped below the horizon.
Which may have been the intention of Team Arnold
all along. If you have a skeptical bent, you might think that Team Arnold knew the liability that the vote posed. The last thing you would want is to have the vote surface in the last days of the campaign, where it would come as a shock. At that point, it would also seem to be something that Arnold was trying to conceal from his Latino supporters.
So why not get the story about the vote out early, take the hits and leave plenty of time to assess the damage and take corrective action.
Better yet, dump the news on a day when the running dogs of the press are preoccupied with the razzle-dazzle figures of how much it takes to live like a big Hollywood star. Then the story sort of oozes out without making a huge impact on one day. It becomes secondary for some papers that realize they are behind on the story and thus don't want to make to much of it. And later in the campaign, reporters tire of the issue and the whole matter slips out of their stories.
Would Team Arnold engage in such manipulation? Would the press know that it is being manipulated? I would like to hear your answers?
At this point, it appears that the Arnold/Prop. 187 story has short legs, and it hasn't run very far. Whether it becomes a more of an issue depends on whether Bustamante/Davis
can keep it in front of the public -- but more particularly in front of the Latino community.
That said, Team Arnold seems to have scored at least temporary points on the issue.
Don't Feed the Pander Bears
This comes in from Joe Armendariz
, executive director of the Santa Barbara Industrial Association
and Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association
, who even writes his own headlines (see above):
is coming under fire by the Democratic Party's top Latino racebaiter, Art Torres
, for his support of Proposition 187
. For those who don't remember the 1994 proposition known as the "Save our State" initiative, Prop 187 aimed to deny welfare benefits to illegal immigrants and a free education to their children. California voters, including a huge percentage of Latinos, supported Prop. 187 and the measure passed overwhelmingly, only to be thrown out later by a liberal court.
"As always, and right on cue, Torres is out there reminding Latinos that Gray Davis
opposed 187 as did Cruz Bustamante
. Ok, fine. I also opposed Prop. 187 for reasons having less to do with the merits of the measure and more to do with the politics of the issue. I had a deep concern that the GOP would win the political battle, but lose the PR war. I believe I was right in that prediction. But, that was then and this is now.
"Today, illegal immigration is out-of-control and the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to California taxpayers to protect our state's border. Add to this the tragedy of September 11 and you would have to be out of your tree to not acknowledge the fact that the status quo, with respect to our country's immigration policy, is in desperate need of reform. I don't believe one need be a nativist to understand or believe this.
"But, here is where Bustamante, Torres, Davis and the rest of the Democrats are blissful in their unadulterated ignorance. At the end of the day, Latinos need economic empowerment, not welfare benefits. And the parents of Latino children need a genuine choice in where their children are educated, not an open door to a closed academic opportunity, which is what most of the inner city public schools provide.
"And finally, consider the bizarre dichotomy embraced by this trio; they support welfare benefits for illegal immigrants while opposing the creation of new oil and gas jobs for legal residents, including Latinos. They would support keeping it legal to redistribute the nation's wealth to those who break our laws, but with respect to our domestic oil and gas industry, they believe it should be designated as an illegal, non-conforming enterprise.
"Come to America illegally, get a check and a free, albeit, terrible education for your kids. However, try getting a job on an oil platform and sending your children to a school that actually teaches them? Fuggetaboutit. And we wonder why California, under the control of an intellectually bankrupt party, is winning the race to the bottom."
Arnold: An East Coast Perspective
has added more recall news from Univision
, the Spanish language TV network, to its site. Sini
, one of JUSIPER's chief bloggers, also sent along the following: "I am beginning to think (Michael) Tomasky
could be right about this one (see article
). If Arnold
doesn't cut the Wilson
connection, he could be in serious trouble. And if the vast middle doesn't find itself radicalized by Arnold, but Chicanos do, it could be a political earthquake. Every day there are a few more posts on that Univision message board, and every day they just seem angrier and angrier."
Michael Tomasky is the political columnist for the New York Times Sunday magazine. His piece Wednesday Aug. 13 on American Prospect predicted a loss for Arnold based on "politics in which voters make decisions more on the basis of their cultural affinities than in response to a candidate's charisma or fame."
Here Are Arnold's Positions
ace staff -- dubbed Team Arnold -- can stop trying to conjure up position papers for their candidate.
Reporter Doug Smith
and researcher Robin Mayper
of the Los Angeles Times
have reviewed 10 years of interviews with Arnold. Their report Tuesday Aug. 12 on his views covers everything from sex to his personal drug use, including smoking cigars. Smith wrote, "The review also finds that some of the stands the media has long attributed to him are not as clear as they seem." However, they did not find the quote, if it exists, that the Davis
campaign would like to find -- the one in which Arnold would be saying, "What's wrong with these Latinos. I made it, why can't they?"
(Link to the story to come later. The LA times site was down as his item was filed.)
A Minority Affair
Or How You Can Lose by Voting
Let's assume that Gray Davis
is recalled and voters have a chance to choose his replacement. Will the winner reflect the will of the people?
The answer: No.
Whether the ultimate winner of the replacement race is Arnold
, his or her victory will be a minority affair. "Picking a winner means accepting someone a majority of voters don't want," said a science column in the Wall St. Journal
March 14. The piece by Sharon Begley
explained that the paradox is the result of the plurality voting system in the US -- "vote for one, the top vote getter wins."
"It works fine when there are two candidates, but with three or more, plurality voting can come up short" in terms of capturing majority sentiment," she wrote. Begley quoted Donald Saari
of the University of California, Irvine
, as saying, "It's surprisingly difficult to identify a voting system that accurately captures the will of the people."
, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy
, and Steven Hill
, senior analyst for the center, writing for American Prospect
online, shared the concern about election-by-minority.
"We should no longer accept a system where credible candidates are dismissed as mere spoilers, and where voting for your favorite presidential or gubernatorial candidate can contribute directly to the election of your least favorite -- particularly if that candidate is opposed by a majority. Even as California showcases the bizarre realities of plurality voting, sensible alternatives exist," they wrote on Tuesday Aug. 12.
Their answer is the instant runoff system in which voters indicate their first three choices. Here's their explanation of how it would work: "With the instant runoff, voters select their favorite candidate and, at the same time, can indicate their runoff choices by ranking them as one, two and three. If a candidate receives a majority of first choices, the election is over. If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and a runoff round of counting occurs. In this runoff round, your ballot counts for your top-ranked candidate still in the race. Runoff rounds continue until there is a majority winner."
How Kennerly Did It
Photographer David Kennerly
gained super access to Arnold
last week, resulting in a fine set of photos that accompanied Newsweek's
cover story. He appears to have been the only newsie to have such access.
"How did you do it?" the Condor asked the Pulitzer Prize winner, promising to share the information with his fans and readers of this web log. Here is a slightly edited version of his response:
"I had to do it the old fashioned way. When everyone was saying that Arnold was out (of the race), I convinced Newsweek that at the end of the day he's an actor -- translation, unpredictable -- and might change his mind at the last second. So I showed up on the set of the Tonight
show, was as shocked as everyone at the announcement, but wildly happy at a great story unfolding before my eyes.
"Because Arnold put himself in the hunt, I scored some time with him the next day--as a Newsweek photog--(I've done photos of him over the years, the last time in China in 2000 during his promotion of Special Olympics there). Managed a few good snaps in his office after the announcement in lucky light, and there you are--another Kennerly moment.
"It's why I'm still in the game. There's magic there. I am relentless in pursuit of a good story, and that's what keeps me fresh. Why bother otherwise?"
Thanks for sharing. Kennerly's web site is www.kennerly.com
Latino media whacking Arnold
It's not pretty. Terms like xenophobic, anti-immigrant and unimaginable stupidity are being bandied about.
It's a little of what is going on in the Spanish language media about Arnold's
vote for Prop. 187
and his links to former Gov. Pete Wilson
, who was the chief sponsor of the now overturned initiative.
in Los Angeles is the largest Spanish language newspaper in the nation with 472,000 daily readers. An article
Tuesday by its political editor, Pilar Marrero
, quoted Antonio González
, head of the the Southwest Voters Registration Project
, as saying "to have Pete Wilson as your spokesman is unimaginable stupidity if you want to project an image as a friend of immigrants."
, a Spanish language television network, carried a story
from the Notimex
news service that said Prop. 187 "is considered one of the most retrograde and anti-immigrant measures" ever put in place in California.
Notice the difference in language from the English media. Most of the press in California says Prop. 187 was aimed at illegal immigrants. The word illegal doesn't pop up in these early Spanish language reports. The Notimex story doesn't qualify or put sources on its "retrograde" description. That represents a considerable difference in the way the Arnold vote is perceived in the Latino community compared to the Anglo population.
These reports are only from print or online publications. Imagine what is being said on Spanish radio and television.
The stories can be viewed in Spanish online at the original sites or you can find English translations on JUSIPER
, where the Condor first found mention of them.
Running in front
, a Republican pollster writing on the National Review's web site
, has a fascinating analysis of the recall election. His bottom line is that Bustamante
wins if the major Republican candidates run strong campaigns. Dan Walters
, political columnist for The Sacramento Bee
, pointed out today that Arnold
is running what Hollywood would call a high-concept campaign. That seems to another description for a frontrunner or Rose Garden campaign. Go through the motions of a campaign, but keep the candidate from doing or saying anything significant. Doing anything major would have unintended consequences. It is similar to the late Woody Hayes'
opinion about the forward pass in football: Three things can happen -- two of them bad. On the other hand, Jerry Brown
ran a frontrunner campaign in 1974 gubernatorial campaign. His big lead over Republican Houston Flournoy
eroded slowly; Brown nearly lost. However, we all know Arnold is no Jerry Brown. He is certainly no Houston Flournoy.
Can you believe it?
There is a lemming-like tendency among the public and also among the media to believe something when it is expressed in the form of a number. The information takes on a reality and certainty that flies in the face of the caveats that should be associated with it. Such as the continued reliance on the Dow Jones Industrial Average as a surrogate for the entire stock market, which actually involves many, many more and different kinds of stocks. There are similar problems with such stats as the GNP, inflation, etc. Political polling has its own set of problems. In the case of the recall election, Republican pollster Arnold Steinberg
points out some of them out in two excellent pieces Aug. 11
and Aug. 12
on the National Review's
website. And thanks to Dan Weintraub
of The Sacramento Bee
for pointing out the Steinberg articles on his web log, California Insider
Secrets of a top photog
, the photojournalist who shot the fine pictures (see Condor item Aug. 10) with Newsweek's cover story on Arnold
, responded, "I owe you two rolls for that one! Great site, really enjoyed it, even though you disclosed one of my best trade secrets. I passed your piece on to several dozen of my friends, and the feedback has been funny, particularly from former Unipresser Bob Sullivan in NYC who complained that I never gave him any film."
From the Belly of the Beast
column on Arnold's
high-concept campaign came this comment, "In Hollywood, they use 'storyboards' to sketch out the script. It's like a comic book...perhaps that's the most sophisticated thing voters can handle these days, too." This Condor reader prefers to be identified as "Skeptic Inside the Belly of the Beast"
Why is Prop. 187 a problem?
Regarding the items on the impact of Arnold's
statement that he voted for Prop. 187, Larry Stirling
wrote, "Why should it hurt a candidate to be on the side of the majority of Californians and a significant percentage of legal aliens that happen to be Hispanic.You cannot get such benefits in Mexico if you are an illegal alien, why should you favor such benefits in California?"
Thanks for your comment Larry. I am not talking about the merits of the measure, albeit an illegal one, but the polarizing effect on voters. As the Los Angeles Times noted in a story by Greg Krikorian
Tuesday, "A Los Angeles Times Poll in 1999 asked Californians their position on Proposition 187, and the results illustrate why political consultants believe there could be positive and negative repercussions from Schwarzenegger's position. Non-Latino whites backed the measure, 65% to 28%. The split among Latinos was the opposite, with 26% backing it and 70% against it." Arnold loses among Hispanics if he gets identified closely with Prop. 187.
More Condor flaws
of Encinitas wrote that the Aug. 7 "Readers Write" item was a mite difficult to understand. "I suggest that the above referenced portion needs to be cleaned up a a bit in order to be properly understood? Part of it appears to be in one of the Romance Languages, but not Spanish. Portuguese, possibly? "
Thanks for the heads up. That kind of mistake is called by insurance companies an "act of God" as they deny compensation. It has been repaired. I would also like to thank a couple of readers who pointed out some quirky stuff with the display of quotation marks. That too has been fixed. It's great to have attentive readers.
San Jose Merc Got It Right
The lead story on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News
(newstand edition) carried a whopping headline Monday morning telling its readers that the immigration issue is now in play.
While many of the other papers around the state seemed to bury Arnold's
admission that he voted for Prop. 187
, the Merc's story
by Laura Kurtzman
had the right focus. It noted that Prop. 187 is one of those issues that touches the Latino community deeply.
Kurtzman's story cited "the harsh television commercials promoting the initiative. Referring to illegal immigrants, a narrator intoned grimly, 'They keep coming.'''
, who now works for Arnold, created the commercials supporting the initiative. He is one of a team of top advisers to Arnold that also worked for former Gov. Pete Wilson
. Kurtzman's story noted that Wilson used Prop. 187 in his re-election campaign and has been "reviled by Latino activists ever since."
The Sacramento Bee as well had a solid story
by Margaret Talev
and Dale Kasler
on the subject, but it lacked the gritty quote from the TV commercial.
Arnold's admission is likely to benefit Lt. Gov. Bustamante
who was quick to point out that Wilson/Arnold's advisers tried to blame immigrants for California's economic problems. Arnold's opponents would have been hard-pressed to hang him with the past deeds of Wilson's people, but Arnold's admission that he voted for the measure puts the controversy in a different arena. Gray's
people will make it resonate every day in this campaign.
Whoops. Big-time Arnold fumble
Prop. 187 from 1994 is still remembered in the Hispanic community as an expression of distaste and perhaps hatred of Latinos. The measure is widely attributed to be the basis for a significant shift among California Latinos to Democratic candidates. Former Gov. Pete Wilson
and Republicans were its ardent backers. On Sunday, an Associated Press story
by Sandra Marquez
reported that Arnold
said he voted for the measure so detested by many Latinos. George Gorton
, Arnold's campaign manager and former top aide to Wilson, confirmed the vote. Ultimately the proposition was ruled unconstitutional, but it would have denied health care and public education to illegal immigrants.
While this is extremely early in the campaign, such an admission is a very serious blow to Arnold. Previous polls had shown him running very strong among Hispanics. This disclosure is certain to degrade that performance. Keeping in mind that Arnold's top aides are from the Pete Wilson camp, the Terminator's admission also plays right into a strategy of hanging Arnold with all the baggage of the evil Republican cabal that tried to illegally screw Latinos and generally make their lives miserable. The Davis
campaign -- not to mention Bustamante's
-- has to be chortling over this.
Miserable, miserable journalism
Sunday's story that gubernatorial candidate Arnold
voted for Prop. 187
, the measure widely regarded by Latinos as anti-Hispanic, was invisible to five of the major online news outlets in California.
It was a truly miserable journalistic performance on what is likely to be the biggest story of the week in the campaign, if not well beyond.
The Associated Press story
was filed by Sandra Marquez
at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, in plenty of time for online or print editors to move on it. A brief on it was posted by Rough & Tumble
, the online political tip service, at 6:05 p.m.
At about 11:20 p.m., Condor checked the sites of the Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury New, Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register
and the San Francisco Chronicle
. None of the sites, either on their home pages or recall/political pages, carried any headline reference to the AP story.
Oddly, The Chron site, which had the story, showed no headline to it. In fact, I could not find the story itself by going through multiple pages directly on the site, leading me to question whether it was there. But R&T link continued to bring it up. That may be because of some function of the automatic feed that AP supplies to its online customers or pecularities of SFGate, the Chron site.
What does this mean? Fundamentally it is poor journalism and sloppy work on the part of the online sites. It means that they don't understand that political campaigns are war; they go on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The implications: If a site doesn't stay on top of what is happening, the sites become increasingly irrelevant to persons interested in the recall. And that ripples down to the parent publications, which suffer from the same related loss of relevancy and credibility from readers.
Then there is the chicken and egg effect. If a site/newspaper isn't important or is declining in importance to the political dialogue, phone calls from its reporters don't get returned and interviews with the top candidates become increasingly distant or vanish. That means the stories are not as well reported.
All that said, one must understand the staffing of newspapers on Sunday, which is usually the most lightly staffed day of the week. Often, the staffing does not include top editors or top reporters. Stories by the paper's political reporters have already been filed. They are likely to be home taking a rest, particularly after a week such as the last one. There is usually pressure to put the paper to bed as quickly as possible. All that conspires to create a situation where a good story can get overlooked, particularly one like the AP's. It did not have a really good, hard lead and needed additional reporting. But that may have meant overtime, which AP may not have wanted to pay, especially on a week that probably had tremendous overtime costs.
As for the online sites themselves, they too certainly had minimum staffing on Sunday night, if any. Some sites can run totally automatically for significant periods. If there was an actual person on duty at an online site, it was probably not somebody who could make a good news judgment about the nature of the AP story.
Conclusion: Political junkies, particularly those attached to campaigns, need to stay alert on the weekends for developments that need an extra push to make headlines. In other words, they need to serve as sort of surrogate political editors to newspapers. (Oh oh, I think I just committed a journalistic faux pax, to suggest that somebody outside the sanctified news business might have that kind of influence.)
Time whomps Newsweek
on their covers this week, along with nicely done stories and sidebars about the campaign. But between these two ferocious competitors, Time is clearly the winner this week. Its story
by Karen Tumulty
and Terry McCarthy
was zippier, focusing quickly on the startlingly nature of Arnold’s disclosure. By contrast, the first name mentioned in the Newsweek story
by Jonathan Alter
and Karen Breslau
was Hiram Johnson
, the long dead California governor who cursed/blessed us with the recall provision. It took more than 200 words -- nearly one double-spaced, typewritten page -- before Newsweek mentioned Arnold
. Time also had a poll ready on Arnold, the first current,“non-mystery” recall poll to be published. It shows that the recall would be successful, and Arnold would be elected, if an election where held at the same time the poll was taken. Why do I call it a non-mystery poll? Because the media have been filled with plenty of mystery polls, which are sort of like mystery meat. You don’t know where they came from or how they were prepared or whether it is healthy to have faith in them. But we do know they are generally self-serving -- nobody is forcing you to gobble up the mystery stuff.
Nonetheless, Newsweek kicks photo butt
From a gander at the online editions of Newsweek
, it seems clear that Newsweek’s photo coverage with its story on the recall was vastly superior to Time’s. It also seems likely that photojournalist David Kennerly
was the only newsie in the world to have access to Arnold
and his deliberations just prior to Arnold’s announcement. The results were excellent, especially a photo of Arnold and aides, examining bar charts, and looking very much in command. It is not evident from the online site how Kennerly gained access, but he is known for gaining access to normally closed circles, including the US Supreme court. Kennerly was also White House photographer for Jerry Ford
and a 1972 Pulitzer winner. In interests of disclosure, Kennerly and I passed some parallel time at Los Angeles UPI back in the late 1960s. But he was at the photo bureau and I was at the news bureau. Both were notoriously non communicative with each other. However, crafty photog that he was, he visited the news bureau, attempting to become acquainted with reporters. He once offered me free film for passing along tips on stories. I admired his “networking” and told him no problem. Shortly thereafter we went off to widely different pursuits.
What happens if Gray resigns?
Let’s say that Gray Davis
is impossibly behind in the polls come three days before the election. He decides that the best thing to do is resign, making Lt. Gov. Bustamante
governor. Does that make the election moot, since the person being recalled is no longer in office? Does all the money spent by Arnold
go down the tube and Bustamente continue in office? Dan Weintraub, Sacramento Bee
columnist, touches on the subject with an item in his California Insider
web log. The subject is also discussed on Rick Hasen’s election law blog
. Bottom line seems to be that there are no firm answers.
First the WSJ, now Izvestia
, the Russian newspaper that used to be a mouthpiece for the Soviet state, has weighed in on the subject of Arnold. And like the Wall St. Journal
, the paper finds him appealing. According to the Los Angeles Times
article by Sebastian Rotella
, Izvestia wrote:. "People long for a 'strong hand' — in the U.S., in Russia and all over the world. Arnie has got a very strong hand. In fact, he has got two strong hands. Arnold Schwarzenegger is running at the right time. The contemporary world is ruled by terminators who have mixed reality with blockbuster aesthetics. Politics will again be in demand for heroes who make daring moves. Wisdom, prescience and sagacity are not highly valued today It is a play of muscles, not a play of intellect." Just the endorsement Arnold needs in his search for conventional political legitimacy, especially among Republican stalwarts.
Goofy encounter of the weekend
The Los Angeles Times
had this account
of tete a tete between a newsie and the flack for Arnold’s campaign:
“A television reporter asked Schwarzenegger spokesman Sean Walsh
Saturday what the campaign would do about pictures on the Drudge Report
Web site showing Arnold as a young man between two unclothed breasts.
“Walsh responded: ‘Well, the truth of the matter is, I think the public really, really likes Arnold Schwarzenegger because they identify with him. They see California is a state of immigrants, more so than any other state in the country....‘
“The reporter interrupted: 'But most people don't have their heads between two breasts.’"
Is the Terminator a good investment?
Can Republicans take Arnold
to the bank like Ronald Reagan
? Even if he is elected as governor, his career is likely to be terminated before he reaches higher office. There is no chance he could run for president. The US Constitution requires candidates for the presidency to be "natural born citizens." Arnold, who is a naturalized citizen, was born in Europe and presumably would be barred from succeeding George Bush
, if Bush wins a another term.
Terminator Targets Free Air Time
California television stations traditionally have covered turtle races over budget battles and fender benders over campaigns for governor. But now that there is a genuine Tinseltown hero running for office, that could change. Peter Nicholas
and Megan Garvey
wrote about the issue in the Los Angeles Times
on Friday. They quoted Sean Walsh
, an aide to Arnold
, as saying that the campaign will be decided by free ink and airtime -- not political advertising. That may signal part of Arnold’s strategy or just mean that the film star is parsimonius. But there seems no doubt that Arnold will have a much easier time in getting on television than does Gray Davis
or Cruz Bustamante.
(The Times also listed 41 reporters as being involved on recall coverage.)
Counting Political Junkies
The Rough & Tumble
web site hit a record high on Thursday as a result of all the attention on Arnold
. The site, which has briefs linking to political stories in California newspapers, chalked up 34,354 page views
. That compares to its August daily average of 20,859. The number of “unique visitors” totaled 6,100, a figure that somewhat undercounts the actual number of visitors, according to a Web monkey I know. But it gives a pretty good idea of the size of the hard core political audience. While the number may seem small, it is a tight and influential cohort, always hungry for more and fast information. R&T owner Jack Kavanaugh
has been feeding that appetite since 1997.
The arch-conservative editorial page of the Wall St. Journal
tiptoed close to an endorsement of Arnold
in Friday’s paper. Their editorial said that “maybe” he is just the man to rescue California from becoming like “stagnant, socialist Europe.“ But the bottom line for the WSJ was: “Whether a Democrat or Republican replaces him, Mr. Davis's
recall would be an act of political hygiene.”
Arnie is big with Latinos
It will take a a few days before we hear about the private polls involving the replacement candidates. But the most recent Field Poll
in late July showed Arnold
running very strong in a small field of candidates -- No. 2 to Riordan
. More significantly, Arnold was the strongest candidate among Latinos in the No. 1 Hispanic state in the nation, which has more than 31 percent of its population in that group, according to the 2000 census.
More on coverage of Arnie
, whose Rough and Tumble
political web site surveys the major California online news outlets each day, commented on the Wednesday afternoon coverage of the Arnold's
announcement: Â?One thing I noticed was that the NY Times
had a link to the story across the top of the front page -- rather unusual -- as soon as The AP story broke. Also papers without the story initially ran a little banner at the top with something like Arnold is running -- story to follow. The LA Times and the SJ Merc both used this technique as an alert without using the word bulletin. Of course, I'm old enough to remember when a bulletin was three bells on the wire machine. There are no more wire machines any more.”
, manager for New Media at sacbee.com
, wrote: “I enjoyed the blog very much and will think well of it for as long as it says good things about sacbee.”
Thanks, Ralph, but every day is a new test. I should disclose that Frattura and I were colleagues years ago.
Nothing new about Capitol clowns
Tom Hall, a retired history professor, wrote: “I got a lot of laughs out of your blog page. I'll be checking it often. Our state certainly has had its share of political clowns. I think my favorite is Lt. Governor John McDougal. As one of his friends once said, ‘Well, when you say he was a drunkard, you pretty much state the whole case: there is not much in him outside the whiskey.’ One of his close friends, Thomas Jefferson Green, who was chairman of the finance committee, got bored easily and was given to declare, ‘Well, boys, let's go and take a thousand drinks.‘ McDougal would always adjourn the legislature. As a result that 1850 legislature was known as the ‘legislature of a thousand drinks.’”