Editorial for Saturday — August 09, 2003

• California recall

California recall

Perhaps the defining moment of the current California gubernatorial circus took place not Wednesday night, when Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy, but Thursday morning, when Arnold Drummond announced his.

Gary Coleman, the 4-foot, 8-inch security guard and former child actor who played Arnold Drummond on the 1980s sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes,” filed as an independent on the replacement side of the two-part Oct. 7 gubernatorial ballot. Part 1 asks voters if they want to recall Democratic incumbent Gray Davis. If they say yes, they mark a name on Part 2 – and what a lot of names they’ll have to choose from.

In addition to the two Arnolds, there will be a Michael Jackson (not The Michael Jackson); porn purveyor Larry Flynt; one-named billboard pinup star Angelyne; conservative-turned-liberal commentator Arianna Huffington and a raft of more traditional politicians. One person they won’t have to choose from is the man who started it all, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa. The car alarm salesman-turned-politician tearfully took himself out of the running.

To Mr. Davis’ chagrin, there will be Democrats on the ballot, as well as Republicans and independents. Mr. Davis had hoped to unite Democrats behind his own efforts to stay in the governor’s mansion, but the party broke ranks Thursday when Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi both announced plans to run.

The best-known, and perhaps most electable Democrat in the state, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, decided not to run, saying the recall effort looked more like a carnival every day. This is an insult to carnivals. As politics has become more like show business, and serious issues buried under an avalanche of celebrity-driven fluff, this race is its logical manifestation. “This is a society melting down into deliberate self-parody,” the state librarian, Kevin Starr, told the Los Angeles Times.

Mr. Schwarzenegger set the tone by choosing to announce his candidacy from the set of NBC’s “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” with the host at his side. It was his toughest decision, he joked, since deciding to get a bikini wax in 1978.

Welcome to politics as a Fox Network reality show would have scripted it.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch


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