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ON CALIFORNIA

If It Weren't for Annabella and Marisela . . .

November 06, 1994|PETER H. KING

So the immigration status of Dianne Feinstein's long-ago housekeeper Annabella has come into play, following close behind the big stir over Mike Huffington's nanny Marisela.

Does this mean Feinstein now will retract her strange proposal to charge every border crosser a buck? Probably not, as the Huff--despite the presence of Marisela-- has yet to renounce his equally curious support of Proposition 187.

Instead they'll devote the last 48 hours of the campaign to calling each other hypocrites, and let the voters sort out the mess. That a U.S. Senate seat is to be decided by a bout of tag-team nannymania seems only fitting. The political discourse that has bounded across California this election has made clear there is no greater threat to the state today than illegal domestics.

They dominate the debate, up and down the ticket. As candidates once were asked where they stood on Reds, this crop is confronted with the nanny question.

"Have you ever hired an illegal nanny, Governor?"

"No, gulp, at least not knowingly."

Clearly the steam generated by this issue underscores its importance, no? In fact, some of the more rabid immigrant-bashing candidates have gone so far as to imply that the Annabellas and Mariselas of California are to blame. For everything.

*

Well, sure. I buy it. If it weren't for all those illegal nannies, after all, the everyday carnage that haunts the neighborhoods of South-Central Los Angeles would be eliminated. And if it weren't for illegal nannies, our astute political leaders might have foreseen that the end of the Cold War would dent the California defense juggernaut. They might even have lashed together some sort of plan for conversion to other industries.

If it weren't for illegal nannies, balancing the state budget would be a snap. That has been Gov. Pete Wilson's main point. Without the nannies, $112 billion would be enough to service the government. As it is, those darn nannies hog it all.

If it weren't for illegal nannies, there'd be enough water to go around for everybody in California, north and south, farmer and city folk. There'd be no quakes, no fires, no riots, no recession. The skies over Southern California would be as blue as the sea.

If it weren't for illegal nannies, California might have developed--or at least debated--a plan for managed growth. Instead, houses and strip malls keep spreading out willy-nilly, gobbling up good farmland. And when the whole state is one big subdivision, we'll know who to blame. Doggone nannies.

If it weren't for illegal nannies, the state Legislature would be a model of efficiency. The family would be strong. Hollywood wouldn't crank out mind-rotting movies. Weapons of mass destruction would not be available to just any nut. The aerospace giants would quit shipping jobs wholesale to Texas. Our once proud public schools would not be a bad joke. Nobody would sleep on the streets in a cardboard box.

No, if it weren't for illegal nannies, the governor might have found time to share with us voters what he plans to do in his next term, if reelected. And the advocates of "three strikes" might have explained how the state will pay for all those new prisons the law will require. Kathleen Brown's plan to rebuild California might have received a bit of serious study in the media. And Huffington and Feinstein might have kicked around an idea or two for dealing with the national debt, say, or taking California into the next century and a changing world. Something like that.

*

Instead, this campaign has become a game of nanny, nanny, who hired the nanny?

I suppose it's important stuff, although there was a time I supposed otherwise. I once argued that the hysteria over illegal immigration was overblown. Only an estimated 1 in 30 residents--and this figure most likely is a whopping exaggeration--is in California without proper paperwork. Mostly these are people who take hard jobs that 29 out of 30 Californians wouldn't touch with a long stick. So what, I reasoned, is the problem?

Well, now I see. If two humble domestics can seize control of a Senate campaign--and they have--and if such a tiny fraction of the populace can turn Californians passionately against one another--and this, too, has happened--who am I to question the importance of these people? They are a powerful force, capable of making the greatest state in the union go crazy, bananas, cuckoo, nuts.

Nanny. Nanny. Nanny. The nannies are in charge, and the question now before Californians is who to vote for?

Annabella or Marisela?

Myself, I've got a write-in candidate.

Mary Poppins.

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