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The fun of just watching

By Jackson Murphy
web posted August 18, 2003

We are now knee deep in the California Recall Battle, and how could you not love this? The race has dwarfed the Democratic Primary and its nine hapless candidates, and by dwarfed it is like a supernova compared to that dim bulb snoozer. The latter race has about as much energy as the North East did during the worst blackout in history.

Speaking of blackouts wasn't it great fun to watch New York's mayor blame Canada, Canada's prime minister blame lightening, and then when it turned out to be a problem in Ohio, the Democrats blamed Republicans, and the Republicans blamed Democrats?

"These events illustrate how shortsighted the Bush administration and Republican-controlled Congress were in 2001 when they rejected modernization of our nation's power grid," said presidential candidate Rep. Richard Gephardt.

And not to pick sides but Vice President Dick Cheney had been stressing these very things for many years and the Democrats dismissed them as good old boy oil buddy payoffs. We've been seeing the Democratic field on display for a couple of months and they weren't very concerned with the power grid until now. What a difference a blackout makes. This underscores why people are having a ball recalling Gray Davis and enjoying the thrill of a bunch of non-politician candidates for a change.

As Mark Steyn points out, "A crisis is never a good time to remind electors how third-rate you are. Mayor Bloomberg is a weirdly tone-deaf, old woman of a mayor at odds with the spirit of the city, and he would have been a demoralising presence on September 11." And that goes for most of the bums on either side of the border during this fiasco too.

John Kerry makes a mess out of a Philly cheese steak sandwich during a campaign stop in South Philadelphia on August 11
John Kerry makes a mess out of a Philly cheese steak sandwich during a campaign stop in South Philadelphia on August 11

Instead the big news on the Democratic road to the 2004 election are real important issues. Like why John Kerry's attempt to eat an original Philly cheese steak sandwich made him look like he was having tea with the Queen? Or that the red hot Dean campaign's thrilling coup of having both Newsweek and Time Magazine covers in the same week lasted about as long ‘Gigli' did in the theatres. Arnold Schwarzenegger did likewise the very next week begging some to ask Dean who?

By this time The Terminator has yet to make a single policy speech and the media's main story response has ready made Arnold free fall. Policy speech? Come on people, he announced on Leno, tapped the second richest man in the world, Warren Buffet, to be his senior economic advisor, and then nabbed George Shultz to be his Economic Co-Chair. Does anyone really think this about ‘policy'.

By Friday news organizations were abuzz reporting that Arnie had also tapped Rob Lowe as some sort of celebrity-for-Schwarzenegger organizer. Other than his stint on "The West Wing", Lowe's last major contribution to politics was at the 1988 Democratic convention in support of the charismatic Michael Dukakis which later dissolved in a sex and video scandal.

The left and right are up in arms over Arnie's candidacy. The right dismisses him as some liberal sheep in GOP clothing and the left can't decide whether they should attack him for being some sort of fascist or simply a stooge of President George W. Bush.

Arnold Schwarzenegger"Hasta la von Mises, baby! Gone are the hopes that Arnold Schwarzenegger would bring his own brand of free-market Austrian economics to California's troubled economy. The would-be tax terminator has chosen as his chief economics adviser a tax perpetuator -- Warren Buffett," wrote Donald Luskin in The Wall Street Journal, sounding his disappointment in that when Arnie picked Buffet he revealed the sad truth that he isn't a devoted libertarian.

What most critics don't get is that hiring Buffet was like signing a good supporting actor to a big action film - think Gene Hackman in Superman or Sean Connery in the Last Crusade. It's less about credibility and more about putting together the next blockbuster's cast. A blockbuster that looks like it should be titled, "Run in the middle, govern to the right."

And isn't this the best part of watching Arnold? His ability to maneuver politically without paying much mind to any of the 134 candidates or the countless pundits and writers in the media, yet dominate all of them simultaneously. Besides, his foe is Gray Davis, and only Gray Davis. Okay fine, I'll give you the Davis mini-me Cruz Bustamante but the rest of them would be lucky to be rejected from reality television. When the other ‘major' Republican in the race announces that Arnold doesn't have name recognition you know this movie is going to open huge.

And that goes doubly for the most annoying media crazed crank in the race. No, I'm not talking about Larry Flynt. Only one candidate has thrown herself at the media's doorstep. Arianna Huffington is equally delusional as a sitting politician, spends way too much time talking about hybrid cars, and it makes you wonder how she has the money to run for governor.

Okay fine, nearly half of California finds the whole sideshow "silly." Silly? Come on, this is the best thing to happen to politics since the presidential cliff hanger of 2000.

This recall isn't silly, this is silly. Is there anything more malodorous than a co-star of "Everybody Loves Raymond" complaining because $166,000 per episode ($4 million/year) just isn't enough? The agent of Brad Garrett, who won an Emmy last year playing Raymond's brother, claims that they will walk away from the show if they don't get more money.

Hey, CBS, just for fun let him walk away. It's not like he can get into the governor's race now. He'd probably be more suited to doing wakeup calls and birthday greetings along with Todd Bridges and Lorenzo Lamas. Raymond is about as funny as Al Franken.

Not to be outdone by all of these was The Fox News Channel. Fox decided they were mad as hell and weren't going to take letting unfunny man Al Franken profit from their trademarked motto: "fair and balanced." So they sued Franken. Taking a page out of Arianna's playbook the two sides got plenty of press.

This brings us back to the main point. There is a reason why Dallas Maverick's owner Mark Cuban touted the Kobe Bryant case as being "good for the NBA." We really do like to watch.

Jackson Murphy is a commentator from Vancouver, Canada. He a senior writer at Enter Stage Right and the editor of "Dispatches" a website that serves up political commentary 24-7. You can contact him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

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