YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Animated Man would be a virtual winner

August 04, 2003|AL MARTINEZ

I overheard two elderly women at Denny's the other day discussing the current Republican coup underway to oust Gray Davis from the California governorship. One was adamantly in favor of throwing him out, but the other wasn't so sure. She expressed her doubt by saying, "He seems like such a nice boy."

That's true. If there were a movie made about Davis, his part could be played by Rick Moranis, the sweet-natured guy next door who, despite good intentions, manages to mess up whatever he undertakes. A sort of "Honey, I Shrunk Our Surplus." Unfortunately, the right-wingers orchestrating his political demise have never seen Davis as a nice boy, even though he sent out potholders with his name on them when he ran for the Assembly in 1982. That was a nice-boy gesture if there ever was one. Republicans see him, as one recall-signer said to me, as "Governor Lite," lacking a clear idea of what his job entails.

Outsiders are having a good laugh over California's predicament and are not a bit surprised at the kinds of candidates who at one point or another have indicated they were interested in seeking the governorship. They include, among others, action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger, born-again liberal Arianna Huffington and comedy writer Steve Young, who once tried to rent out his wife and children on EBay for $5 million.

None of the candidates appeals to me, even the serious ones. And whoever wins is not going to be liked by everyone anyhow. He or she will be too liberal, too conservative, too smart, too dumb, too tall, too short or simply too too, if you know what I mean. So I have an idea. Since we're considered to be the nut capital of the world, in addition to being the cartoon capital of the world, why not appoint an ad hoc committee to create a computer-generated candidate?

The idea springs from a number of realities, not the least of which is our fascination with animated television creatures such as Homer Simpson, our enthusiasm for robotic screen personalities such as Schwarzenegger, and that Al Pacino movie "Simone," in which a movie star is digitally created with secret software. For years, I thought Jerry Brown was digitally created, although very lifelike, until I met him in person and discovered, to my surprise, that he was real. Well, more or less real.

An animated candidate for governor could be infused with all the traits necessary to win over the hearts and minds of the electorate. Mostly the hearts and not so much the minds, considering past choices made by the electorate. His or her or its characteristics could include good looks, wisdom, vulnerability, greed, lust and the ability to win elections. While that may sound a little too much like Bill Clinton, it's still better than the real people who are interested in leading California.

Taking "Simone" one step further, a computer-generated candidate could be projected in holographic form when its presence is required on stage or behind a podium. Otherwise its visage could be confined to televised "appearances." Since, with few exceptions, those who vote base their selection on charisma and not necessarily on real qualifications, California could be the first state in the union to elect an image for governor. A make-believe leader in a make-believe state.

What has brought Moranis, I mean Davis, to this point, I think, is the Henny-Penny syndrome. Instead of shouting that the sky was falling, however, power companies created a panic by shouting, "Blackouts! Blackouts!," leading Davis to believe that if California didn't come up with millions of dollars, the companies would be forced to cut back or shut down, leaving the state stumbling about in the dark.

It was a matter of greed taking advantage of vulnerability, which finally gave the right wing just what it needed to jump at Davis like a herd of pit bulls, grab him by the behind and not let go. What we've all overlooked, I think, is that the CEOs of the power companies are probably Republicans, since most rich people are, and may have generated an artificial power crisis just to revive a dormant recall movement.

A digitally created governor, who could be programmed with all the traits of good and evil, would not be easily victimized by any extremist group, whether liberal or conservative, because he'd be one or the other as the situation required.

It's too bad that we've come to the point of even thinking about a pixelated candidate, but given a list of those who want to replace Gray Davis, it may be the only way out.

I have a feeling that if a guy like Darrell Issa wins, we may be shaking our heads and remembering that for all of his faults, Davis actually was such a nice boy.

Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He's at

Los Angeles Times Articles