The press conference was packed with cameras and 30 or 40 reporters. They were not giving The Gov an easy time—at least, three of them weren't. Everyone else was silent. There was time for one more question, and Mark Z. Barabak from the Los Angeles Times wanted to ask it. "I don't want to give three questions to the Times," Gray Davis, that beacon of fairness, said. So then the fedoraed hepcat from the San Jose Mercury News wanted to ask one. "But then you'd have three!" Davis explained. "Does anybody else have a question?"
Oh, I had a question. It went like this: "Governor Davis, I just spoke to Christie Johnson from Families to Amend California's Three Strikes, and she told me that during your initial campaign, you put your arms around a Three Strikes wife and promised that as soon as you were governor, Three Strikes would be amended. But she also says you've vetoed every piece of legislation they've managed to get to your desk." Of course, that's more a statement than a question, but I could have added something like, "So, uh, any comment?"
Instead, I stayed silent. The rest of us stayed silent. And then a woman from CNN asked some snorer about the 2004 presidential race, probably because she figured not having any question at all would make her look as stupid as the rest of us.
I didn't ask my question for the worst of all possible reasons: since everyone else wanted to know about Enron and the economy and Davis' Republican challengers, I was afraid asking a fringey question about Three Strikes would make me look . . . irrelevant. I kept flashing on the dogged reporter in the brilliant Bob Roberts—a radical journalist to whom no one pays any attention whatsoever until he's framed for the attempted assassination of the folk-singing right-wing candidate. I didn't want the other reporters to laugh me away from their reindeer games. I apologize humbly to you, my beloved readers, for being a puss.
Puss-ness is Gray Davis' problem, too. Oh, he had fighting words a-plenty at the state Democratic Convention this weekend at LA's Westin Bonaventure hotel. And he was so good at those fighting words that I actually felt a little . . . tingly. Like when he said to his Republican challengers, "I'm Gray Davis. Iam the governor! And whichever one of you emerges from the primary, you are in for the fight of your life!"—well, it was bizarrely sexy, and when you think Gray Davis is sexy, you know you have a problem.
No, he doesn't back down from political campaigns; he just amasses and amasses and amasses his war chest until the other side goes home, crying like a little girl who didn't get a pony. It's his friends from whom he runs away because he's a big, fat vagina. It's the Three Strikes ladies. It's the teachers. It's organized labor who put him in office with a heroic and unprecedented get-out-the-vote effort. Those are the people he shies away from because they make him look bad in Fresno.
But at the convention, if people were holding grudges, they were doing so quietly. An introductory video reminded us of the Department of Managed Health Care, which Davis created in '99 to help families screwed by their HMOs. It reminded us over and over again that there are those who would take away your rights based on "who you love." (A nice catchphrase, though I would push for the proper "whom.") It reminded us a million times about "choice." And the people cheered. And when Davis entered the ballroom to U2's "Beautiful Day," the people cheered louder. He raised his hands in the air and bounced them there. "Oh, my God! He's 'raising the roof'!" I told a reporter behind me, who wasn't looking. "I know! He is!" she replied. "No, he's actually raising the roof!" I clarified. I don't think she knew what I meant.
In used-car parlance, I am a "grape," a sucker who will buy any car you put in front of me, for a couple grand morethan sticker price. It also means that even though I know how many times Gray Davis has disappointed his faithful, all he has to do is remind me that all three of his challengers want to fully deregulate the electricity market (getting rid of those pesky price ceilings on what SCE can charge consumers, for instance). "They think we should trust the energy companies," is all he has to say, and I am right back in his pocket. And so he said it. And so I'm in—even though he left the stage to Van Halen's "Jump."
Wandering the gorgeous hotel (green fountains and little pondlets abounded) were every kind of person, old and fat and young and skinny and beautiful; there were roughly twice as many attendees as at the Republican Conventionin San Jose last weekend. Some of our favorites included former OC Democratic chairwoman Jeanne Costales and her sidekick, Marti Schrank. Old and smoky Jack Roberts (who tried his best to be a roadblock in the path of Dick "May I Call You Dick?" Ackerman's re-election) was there too. The Three Senators—Daschle, Kerryand Edwards—made lovely speeches as they performed the intricate dance of edging toward the '04 election without seeming overeager, though Edwards isn't as charming and vivacious in a huge ballroom as he is in a small room of adorers. (A woman sitting behind Commie Mom fawned, "Oooh, he's so handsome!" "Too slick!" Commie Mom replied. She hates slick, but she'd probably put a poster of John Kerry over her bed like he's Leif Garrett and kiss it before she went to sleep at night.) Former Secretary of State (and running once again) March Fong Eu was in attendance, looking lovely even though she's eleventy.
But it was Congresswoman Maxine Waters—of whom Dick Riordan said with a fair bit of humor two weeks ago that he'd regret giving her a political contribution until the day he died—who thundered everything the Democrats wanted (and didn't want) to hear. She was, simply, glorious.
"Ladies and gentlemen," she shouted in a low-rumbling Voice of God, "we have got to get back to being Democrats again! If people tell you they're running for president or anything else as a centrist, I say you just take your centrist self and go someplace else!" She continued, at length, "Stop running away from labels such as 'progressive' and 'liberal.' You think you gonna get elected acting like a Republican, you crazy! Republicans know a real one when they see it!"
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It was her refusal to spin, though, that brought her deafening love. "Enron has corrupted both Republicans and Democrats," she yelled. "If somebody is taking money from corporations that are working against the working people, you need to get rid of 'em no matter who they are!" We think she might have been talking about Davis, but we could be wrong.
But what are our options? Bill Simon pretty much wants more privatized toll roads—even though all that accomplishes is letting the counties and Caltrans pay to build and maintain them while the private companies bag the profits. Dick Riordan changes what he wants depending on which group he's addressing. And Bill Jones? As far as I can tell, he's termed out as secretary of state and just wants a job. Green Party? I'm tired of feeling irrelevant.
Anyway, according to Davis and the boys from U2, it's a Beautiful Day. And throwing the rascals out is about as likely as the reporters asking real questions—or, in my case, any questions at all.
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