Is California sane?

Is California sane?
Evans, Goldwater, Reagan: The Week magazine [disclosure: I’m running their ad but I don’t know whether I’ve sold a single subscription and, yes, that’s a hint and, yes, that’s conflict of interest] held another of its entertaining debates at Grand Central today. The topic: Is California crazy? The panel, led by Harry Evans: Ron Reagan; Barry Goldwater, Jr.; Tom Hayden; and Ed Klein. As those named marched into the room, it looked as if Sherman and Peabody — no, make that Wesley Clark — had run the Wayback Machine.

: Porn star and California gubernatorial candidate Mary Carey (aka Mary Cook) showed up, far away from her constituency. The Women’s Wear Daily reporters at my table immediately and excitedly agreed that they had to go over and find out what she was wearing. In her line of work, that’s rarely a question she’s been asked.

She said she’s not a politician and then — delightfully — sounded exactly like a politician. See, it’s easy:

“I should be governor because I’ve got lots of new ideas,” she said. “Radical problems need radical solutions.” Yup, except for the dress and what’s inside it, she could be any politician. If Hillary had her hair…

Harry Evans, making reference to Arianna Huffington’s departure from the race, said to her, “You didn’t pull out.” He gulped visibly when he said it. So did Tina Brown at the next table.

Then Mary outlined her platform: Legalize gay marriage to envigorate a California gay honeymoon industry… Put a live webcam in the governer’s mansion (“Imagine if we’d done that for Bill Clinton, it would have been very exciting”)… Lower the tax on cars… Put a tax on plastic surgery and breast implants. “I’m very serious!”

The room exploded in delight. Bill Simon, failed Californa gubernatorial candidate, who called in from the Schwarzenegger campaign, blurted out, “I want to switch my endorsement!”

As the laughter died down, Hayden looks around the room and says, “Well, New Yorkers, you’re all Californians now.”

: The pleasant surprise of the event is that I like Reagan: sensible, well-spoken, liberal (but not Hayden).

Toward the end, former Rep. John Brademas asked him why he shouldn’t start a recall campaign to oust Schwarzenegger as soon as he’s elected and then run as a Democrat to take the job himself.

“I’m not a Democrat,” said Independent Reagan.

“You sure sound like one,” said Brademas.

Reagan said that he has, in fact, heard Democrats talk about starting a recall effort once Schwarzenegger’s in. ‘Cause this one’s so much fun, eh?

: Tom Hayden argued that, yes, it’s all Gray Davis’ fault — but because Davis listened to the damned Democratic centrists and took money from big guys and shifted to the center, pissing off the liberals.

“He abandoned the grass roots,” Hayden said. “He took them for granted.”

Well, but it’s not the liberals who are getting rid of him.

: Barry Goldwater, Jr., is a cartoon character: crusty cowboy Barry with the Arizona leather complexion and the penchant for shouting dumb things at a high volume with pride.

On the role of government: “They’re there to … inspire inspiration!”

To Reagan: “You and I moved out of California because of too much government.” (Reagan says hold on, feller: “I got tired of the smog, the attitude, the expense.”

On the difference between New York and California: “New York’s just as crazy. When you order a chocolate milkshake, they give you chocolate ice cream. It should be vanilla ice cream.” (Reagan looked at first embarrassed by him and then charmed.)

On the recall: “The recall is a classic case of socialism’s failure.” (He keeps hitting that gong until Hayden explodes: “Socialism?! Where is the socialism?!” He’s a guy who’d know socialism when he sees it.)

: Much fun with ancestry.

Harry says to Simon, “You’re surrounded by famous names.”

Simon says, “I’m a junior myself.”

Ron corrects him: “I’m not actually a junor.”

At another moment, Hayden complains about Scharzenegger’s school program and how it won’t get funded unless the entire budget is ballanced and he calls this a case of “shall we say, Reaganomics… Ron.” Ron nods, “Thanks, Tom.”

When it seemed that Reagan had made a swipe at the idea of an actor being governor — he hadn’t — someone in the audience asked him about this and Ron said, “You’re referring, of course, to my father. My father certainly was an actor — I like to think a better actor than Arnold Schwarzenegger…”

: The most illuminating moment to me came when everyone agreed, to my surprise, that immigration — particularly illegal immigration — is the undercurrent that goes through the recall and the California attitude. Somebody asked whether that’s a bigger issue than economics. They didn’t disagree. They talked about people resenting illegal immigrants getting free medical care — because we’re humane — while too many working citizens are without health insurance. They talked about immigration and jobs.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is a California issue, not an American issue. I don’t see that here.

: And that was pretty much that. Bernie Goetz, subway shooter, sat next to Elizabeth Spiers, media it person, at the head table. I sat near Eric Alterman, who kept editing a manuscript through the entire thing; busy, that Eric. Next to him was Tina Brown and we didn’t get to meet because she had to leave early.

  • … amusing piece on Mary C.: The Prep School Years

  • Jeff, I was excited to read about The Week here at BuzzMachine, and immediately signed up for a free trial. After thoroughly devouring three issues, I decided to cancel my trial and not continue reading the magazine.
    As much as I desperately wanted a new printed news source to replace the formerly readable Newsweek, I decided against subscribing because ultimately, I discovered that for all three weeks, I had read literally almost every single item that appeared in magazine at some point in the prior week; in some cases I had even read the same source in question.
    Intersting, though, considering I get 100% of my media diet from the Web- either blogs or traditional media Web sites. I like the concept of the magazine mightlily, but in the 1 1/2 years since I abandonded print media, I’ve just now realized I’m completely comfortable and enjoying getting my news via the Web.

  • I was there too Jeff (I spotted ya but didn;t get a chance to introduce myself), and when Evans asked Mrs. Cook to “show us why you should be Govoner” I don’;t think he really meant for her to start talking…

  • bigbrother

    If Hillary had her hair, what?
    Bill wouldn’t have needed Monica?

  • button

    The photo – was that taken on a mobile phone?
    It has a kinda Rembrandt look to it.

  • I was just going to say, what a great photo. Wonderful expressions.
    As for whether or not immigration is an American issue…well. The influx of immigrants to California has made it so that winning the immigrant vote is important. All of the candidates want and need to win over — at the very least — a substantial chunk of the immigrant vote, and/or the mainstream Latino vote associated with immigration.
    In Britain, mass immigration means that in many elections — most recently, the Brent East by-election in North London — the immigrant vote is one that candidates have to fight hard for in order to win. In the case of the UK, you’re talking a lot of Muslim immigrants, with the concerns commonly associated with Muslim voters. (Which is why some social scientists and commentators believe that it is not that far-fetched to imagine a Britain ruled by Sharia law sometime in the next hundred years.) As a result, the Iraq war became an issue in Brent East, and the candidate from the anti-war party won.
    If a country is going to open itself up to mass immigration, it has to do so with open eyes and the realisation that — unless you can convince them to sit at home and not vote, like many natives do — immigrants can and do vote. I don’t think New York should have its eyes shut to that, or pretend it doesn’t concern it as a state or as a part of the United States.

  • rastajenk

    Too bad you didn’t get to meet Tina again.

  • Bernie Goetz????!!!!!

  • Jeff

    Is immigration a “California” problem? In a sense yes, from the standpoint of the number of legal and illegal immigrants chosing to reside here. But much of the frustration in California stems from the fact that, by definition, immigration is a U.S. problem which California is legally powerless to address in any meaningful way. Your question is a classic example of why many Californian’s feel such frustration.

  • tim

    Unrestrained illegal immigration is everyone’s issue. California schools are overloaded and churning out thousands of ill-educated future voters with a big interest in entitlements; the strained health systems are barely able to keep up with accident injuries, much less with with diseases like TB. And if the feds couldn’t be bothered to assist us here in California, and as the US continues to be “the place” to come, why do you foolishly think Des Moines will escape the the eventual consequences? You think this will stay local to California? Hah. 20 years ago, that’s what Sacramento said about the problem in San Diego. They can’t be ignored; they can’t be excluded; they have to be educated and treated; its the humane thing to do; its the sensible thing since they aren’t leaving; but the strain is fraying the baseline protections and education. You too will see this.

  • Eric Pobirs

    I find it pretty hard to take this thing seriously if they brought in a Maoist bozo like Tom Hayden. This is a person who has been instrumental in bringing California to its current low. This person should never have been allowed back into the US after his visit to North Vietnam, never mind elected to anything.