“Is California Crazy?” was how The Week magazine billed its political discussion yesterday. Journalists (and gossip columnists, politicos, NYC fixtures and one of California’s 135 gubernatorial candidates–porn star Mary Carey) filled Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse in Grand Central Station for an afternoon panel on the California recall.
Harold Evans moderated a spirited, serious, chaotic, sometimes comical debate between the scions of two political families (Barry Goldwater, Jr and Ron Reagan, now a fighting independent liberal sort), longtime California state legislator and activist Tom Hayden and profiler of the Kennedy family Ed Klein.
I still don’t know if California is crazy, but there were moments when California’s carnivalesque politics seemed to fill the room, and it was certainly a lively and fairly enlightening discussion among an eclectic group of panelists.
Ron Reagan (RR): The recall is a terrible, infantile idea. The California public is like a two year old–last year they wanted Mommy to buy them a Gray figure, and this year it’s the Arnold doll.
Barry Goldwater (BG): It’s democracy, it’s revenge, it’s a good expression of the peoples’ will.
Tom Hayden (TH): We don’t need this recall. It’s been hijacked by money and celebrity. I’ve known Gray Davis for thirty years. I’ve fought with him on many issues. This recall has national implications in that Davis took the advice of the centrists in the Democratic Party–scouring money from corporations–and moving the party to the right–that is, to the center. He abused the grassroots and wound up in the middle of the road, alienating his base. New York should listen; there’s a lesson here for the rest of the country, for the Democratic Party. We’re looking at the results of the failed strategy of the so-called centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Davis went to the limits with deregulation, with fundraising, and alienated his core base. I still want Gray to win because of what Arnold stands for. I know Arnold and he’s a decent guy, but look at his after-school program. It required balancing the budget before it starts up. It’s like Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation and that’s what we’ll have if Arnold’s course is followed in California.