The Rip Post




(Aug. 20, 2003)

      "Handicapping" is a most apt verb for describing the recall election. This thing is crippled. It has one short leg and 135 heads. (Well, 134 1/2, when you count Schwarzenegger.) It is not a circus, as the media customarily says---it is the stuff left behind after the circus leaves. Somewhere near the pachyderm pen (and if you read Republican conspiracy into that sentence, go right ahead.)
        This whole elephantine mess started, after all, when a bunch of energy company crooks in Texas, who are friends of the energy company crooks running the administration in Washington D.C., set out to ruin Gray Davis with a fake energy crisis. They artificially jacked up rates, created fake "brown-outs," and gouged the state. When Davis appealed to Bush for help, well, Christ would have had an easier time asking Pilate for a pardon.
        Not that Davis exactly helps himself. This is a lifer bureaucrat with no particular leadership ability---you know, like most people in government. An ex-Marine and reputedly a bright, decent man, the Guv has all the charisma of a junior high school principal. As has been observed too many times, Gray is aptly named. At the certainty of dating myself here, the poor fellow is frighteningly evocative of Pat Paulsen.  Pat would have brought the house down with Davis's hilarious "I'm going to fight like a Bengal tiger" line.
        And so we are left with---okay, I give up---this circus. Now, I don't generally have a problem with circuses, except for cruelty to animals and the clowns. Clowns really scare me. Which brings us to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
       The idea that this man has high polls numbers---though now trailing Lt. Gov Cruz Bustamente in this Latino-heavy state---is a challenging one to grasp. Take a giant step back, folks, and say it out loud: Arnold Schwarzenegger could become California governor. Substitute "Daffy Duck" in that sentence, and it is only slightly more believable. Daffy, after all, is a much greater star.
        But let's take him seriously, just for fun. What prepares Schwarzenegger to run in this recall election? As near as I can tell, it is the fact that he starred in a movie called "Total Recall." But here are the main qualifications that the candidate himself cited in remarks to reporters:
        He has helped to run the President's Council on Physical Fitness, and the Special Olympics.
        I'm not kidding. He hasn't said much else, but he said this.
       All quips about how working for the Special Olympics prepares one to deal with politics aside, this is the extent of the man's naivete. He really believes that strolling about, signing autographs, smiling, encouraging young people to be physically fit, qualifies him to run California.
        Well, somebody seems to have set Schwarzenegger straight, because after the Special Olympics comment, he promptly shut up, disappeared, and hired a bunch of super-rich, arch-right Republicans to tell him what to do: Gov. Pete "187" Wilson, billionare Warren "Raise Property Taxes" Buffet, and Reagan Administration dinosaur George "Sphinx" Schulz. (Psst---hey, Arnie, I understand the former admiral John Poindexter needs a job, since his failed attempt to turn terrorism into a kind of investment market bloodsport.)
       Yes, the obvious rap about Schwarzenegger is that he is an actor, not a politician, but I say that the real rap about him is that he is a weightlifter, not an actor. Calling this man an actor is like calling Bill Clinton a husband. Everything you need to know about Schwarzenegger may be learned from watching the documentary of his rise to muscularity: "Pumping Iron." It reveals a thoroughly arrogant, crude, pot-smoking egomaniac who takes great pleasure in belittling rival Lou Ferrigno. (Ferrigno, incidentally, is a very nice fellow with a generous spririt---let's start a write-in campaign!)
        Okay, enough Schwarzeniggling. On to clown # 2, Arianna Huffington. Now, Arianna has made quite a reputation for herself in recent years as a born-again populist  knocking the "fat cats" and the "Pigs at the Trough," to quote the title of her fine book, in her excellent syndicated column. But she has done several things since declaring candidacy that have put her square in the center ring, steering a miniature train pulled by a team of chihuahuas.
       First were her taxes, or lack of same. The woman who has heroically, doggedly exposed the hideous corruption that passes for government turns out to have. . .paid almost no taxes for the past two years, while living in a $7 million Beverly Hills mansion. Okay, so maybe she got the house from ex-hubbie trough-pig Repugnican Michael Huffington. . .And I can tell you that trying to make a living as a freelance writer is a lot like writing for free---but. . .deducting $10,000 for cosmetics? Hey, Arianna, just get some clown-white---it's cheaper.
        Well, it pains me to criticize her, given that her columns so courageously and correctly expose the hijacking of public interest by corporate lobbyists. I was even ready to forgive her on the tax and cosmetics thing. I mean, who doesn't want to save money and face at the same time? But then I read that her campaign manager, Dean Barkley, is a (gasp, cough, sputter) lobbyist for the tobacco industry! Seems that Ms. Huffington didn't know about Mr. Puffington; his blowing smoke on behalf of coffin nails was a surprise to her. What's more, she said that had she known, she would never have hired the guy!
        Toot toot! All aboaarrddd the Chihuahua Train. Now leaving, center ring.
        On the other hand, Barkley's bite is mitigated, says Arianna, by his support for public financing of campaigns---which she plans to push if elected. And she does want to bump property taxes up---for corporations--- (hooray), repeal the car tax increase (hooray again.) Then there is the billion-buck pay raise for prison guards that she wants to cancel, and instead give the dough to schools ("books, not bars," is her slogan.) Finally, to be fair, the lady did dole out a ton of payroll tax. . .

        So hold that train for the moment, and consider a few other bozos:
        Peter "1984 Olympic Surplus" Ueberroth seems to merit his reputation as a sound and sensible financial manager. Me, I'm not interested in having a sound and sensible finance manager as a leader.
        Lieutenant Gov. Bustamente proclaims that he wants to "exempt the first $20,000 of every automobile's value from the increase in the car tax," and raise taxes on cigarettes and booze. I'll drink and drive to that.
        Bill Simon? A simpleton. He should get a job baking pies. And why has no one written an article about this man's private collection of um, automatic weapons---of which is he reportedly very proud?
        Gallagher, the comedian, is not funny enough to be governor. Come to think of it, he's not funny enough to be a comedian.
        Part of me would like to recommend voting for some of the chance-less. I think Badi Badiozamani deserves a vote just on the basis of his name. Howard Allen Gershater? Hey, who doesn't hate gers? And I must say that Gary Coleman is without a doubt the most impressive speaker in the whole pack. If he had some brains, plans and ideas to back up his no-bull persona, he'd actually have a shot. Voting for Angelyne's plasticene breasts, collagen-lumpy face, scalpel reconfigured anatomy, spacey eyeballs and pink Corvette is a lot like voting. . .for California itself.
        But come hell or Darrell Issa---the man who bankrolled out-of-state gypsy petition-gatherers to artificially create this recall in the first place---I've firmly, resolutely, and without the slightest reservation decided to get out there and vote. . .

        Against Schwarzenegger.

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