July 31, 2003
Harrop on Recall

Froma Harrop's op-ed in today's Seattle Times, California Scheming, on California's recall effort against Gray Davis, contains a few statements to which I must comment.

The story changes little. Republicans tied up the United States government for months as they exploited embarrassing revelations about President Clinton's sex life. For their trouble, voters sent more Democrats to Congress in the next election. (Clinton's own job-approval ratings soared.) When Democrats play the game, the results are similar. All serious opposition to Clarence Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court collapsed after Democrats flogged him with fishy allegations of sexual harassment.

She's only half-right on this. While it is true that the Republicans suffered at the polls after the Bill and Monica Show (I won't debate the validity of the impeachment, thankyouverymuch), she is totally wrong about Clarence Thomas. In fact, since the Democrats had not yet decided that a conservative political viewpoint disqualifed one from sitting on a court anywhere, anytime, it is likely that Thomas would have sailed through his confirmation hearings without a hitch had the sexual harassment allegations not come up. In today's politicized atmosphere, Thomas would not even get a floor vote; the simple fact that he is a conservative (and a minority at that) is enough for the Democrats to filibuster him. Back then, PFAW and its liberal shock troops had not learned the easy way to kill nominations.

While history is not encouraging, for many California Republicans, the play's the thing. Political theater offers high entertainment value. Governing is a drag. And so the GOP faithful are in party mode as they receive spiritual guidance from conservative radio talk-show hosts.

Ah yes, that's right; conservatives are easily-led sheep who listen to Rush and Roger and the other eeevil talk radio hosts without a peep. I thought Harrop was from Providence, not Manhattan; she'd fit right in with the Upper West-Side elite who read The Nation and refer to the largest cable news channel as "Faux News".

The recall's money man has been U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a millionaire from San Diego. Issa has had several brushes with the law, including a felony auto-theft charge when he was 27, well past the age of puberty.

Harrop leaves out the minor fact that all charges against Issa were DROPPED, due to lack of evidence. He was never even convicted of a misdeanor, let alone a felony. It is also iimportant to note that the other party in the auto-theft case was his brother, who is a CONVICTED auto thief. Both of these facts are extremely relevant to the charge, but the recall opponents always forget to mention them when they call Issa a felon. This cached article from the San Diego Union-Tribune (The original is no longer available) mentions these points; Ms. Harrop needs to read some of the more balanced California papers, rather than just the LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.

A drop in popularity is not cause to replace an elected official in the middle of a term. The only ground for doing so is malfeasance official misconduct in public affairs. Davis has broken no law.

Davis has woefully mismanaged the state's spending priorities. The state faced a DEFICIT that was larger than the TOTAL BUDGET of 42 states. He sucked up to special interest groups and rewarded them handsomely, without paying mind to the consequences on the state's finances. He spent $10 million interfering in the GOP primary, and then spent the general campaign lying about the true nature of the state's finances. Against a competent opponent, one who actually used numbers to dissect Davis's flam-flam budget antics, Davis would have been incinerated. Since Simon's campaign was pathetic, Davis managed to pull off a victory.

All this political swordplay is not doing much for California's debt rating, now approaching the junk-bond level. The lower the bond rating, the more interest California must pay to borrow money.

Davis inherited a booming economy and a recovering bond rating (It was A+ when he took office, and rose to AA- within a few months). It is now BBB and dropping fast. The most recent plunge (an unprecedented three notches) is due more to the state's bollixed finances than to the recall, although the recall didn't help matters any. This story in the Sacramento Bee gives a fairly detailed account of the Standard and Poors action.

Other than some instant political gratification, there is little upside here for California Republicans. If they succeed in hijacking the governorship, they will be stuck with solving the state's economic mess.

On the contrary, the GOP is so weak in California that they have little to lose. The state assembly and senate are still firmly controlled by the Democratic Party; any resistance to spending cuts can (and should be) laid squarely upon their shoulders. California is taking on aspects of a one-party state; every statewide office is controlled by the Democrats, and they have over 60% of the state assembly and senate seats. A strong leadership performance by a new Republican governor could very well translate into an improved showing at the polls next year. The state can scarcely do worse than they have under Davis; any improvement is good for the state and good for the GOP.

posted on July 31, 2003 09:10 PM


Whoever gets stuck with this mess is probably going to be political toast at the end of their term. If a Republican gets elected, they will most certainly face a constant barrage of smear from the Democrats, and very little assistance in getting anything done about the mess.

Better to let a Democrat take it, and re-vitalize the Republican assault during the regularly scheduled election cycle. It will be an ugly, ugly blame fest, no matter how it turns out.

California is, unfortunately, turning into a classic example of the Democrat's agenda, mixed with various semi-far left 'feel good'programs are actually put into action. The result is the mess that we see - which is to the point that it is beginning to affect the national economy.

The more unfortunate point to the whole thing is that the recall only includes the Governor...it should include the entire state house as well.

posted by Wind Rider on August 2, 2003 04:38 PM

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