The rot behind the recall

Gov. Gray Davis is a hard man to defend.

His stewardship of California has seen a good-sized surplus turn into a nasty deficit, two summers of rolling blackouts, a slew of vetoes and a Legislature that has become more gridlocked than the roads lawmakers refuse to improve.

Aside from that, Davis comes off as stiff and unlikable, has too many special-interest connections and can’t seem to take a stand on anything even vaguely controversial. He has also been rightly faulted for micromanaging California’s affairs, especially during the worst part of the Enron-engineered energy crisis, when he was too easily manipulated into locking in much higher rates for electricity than we really had to pay.

Yes, there are lots of reasons to dislike Davis. Even though much of the current mess we are now in was not completely his fault, he has never shown the leadership qualities necessary for getting us back on track. So it’s obvious why, after Davis barely beat out shady businessman Bill Simon last November, someone decided to float a recall petition.

But the reasons behind the current recall drive have nothing to do with Davis’ mismanagement of California and everything to do with dirty politics. In fact, the “Dump Davis” effort was basically in the toilet until millionaire Republican Congressman Darrell Issa sank about $800,000 into it. Then, last week, Issa announced his intention to take Davis’ place.

The whole thing not only smacks of sore losers—the Republicans couldn’t find a candidate good enough to beat Davis last year so they found someone with enough money to buy the governorship out from under him—but has also thrown the already fractious Legislature into complete chaos and stands to cost taxpayers $30 million for a special election. It’s hard to imagine how that helps the average Californian.

The citizens of this state have every right to petition for Davis’ recall, but they shouldn’t be rooked into participating in a right-wing coup attempt on the emotional assumption that "anybody would be better." The sad fact is that we could end up with worse.