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Los Angeles | Patt Morrison

Recall Is an Election That Cries for a Certain Statesman's Help

August 05, 2003|Patt Morrison

Until now, I've put up a brave front, an unruffled facade. Tough. Cool. Confident.

I've done my share of laughing at the jokes, and at the joke candidates. I've even found myself sticking up for the recall as capital-d Democracy in all its messy, glorious incoherence.

Now I'm beginning to panic.

About 300 people have in their hands all the paperwork they need to run for governor. Anybody else out there want to hop aboard the Ride to Recall? Offer expires at 5 p.m. Saturday; some restrictions apply. A few more of you, and we'll have more candidates in this election than we had voters in the last one.

The governor, Gray Davis, went to court Monday, arguing to put off the recall until March. Instead of a two-month-long campaign, we'd have a seven-month-long campaign, and if Davis thinks people are ticked off at him now, wait until they've had to sit through seven months of the same sort of campaign ads that he aired last year, the ones the attorney general, Bill Lockyer, characterized as "puke," which I believe is a legal term for something we can't print.

As Davis' supporters were leaving court Monday, Larry Claxton Flynt was rolling into his news conference in his gold-plated wheelchair to inform us that he too is running for governor. I thought of a good bumper sticker for him -- "Triple-X Davis" -- but he already has one: "Vote for the smut-peddler with a heart." Maybe this is Flynt's way of making up to us for the fact that he didn't vote in either of last year's statewide elections.

Imagine the next eight weeks. Three hundred candidates multiplied by a hundred meet-and-greet kaffeeklatches each -- millions of politicians and voters hyped on caffeine, running amok in the street. What can be done?

I did what 23 troubled nations of the world have already done. I extended a desperate invitation to a man of sterling repute, a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize, a man the Secret Service code-named "Deacon" for his rectitude.

I begged Jimmy Carter to monitor the California recall elections.

Here's my e-mail:

"Dear President Carter:

"We had the pleasure -- well, at least I certainly did -- of meeting last year when I interviewed you on my PBS book show about your wonderful boyhood memoir.

"Today I'm writing you in my capacity as a Los Angeles Times political columnist, covering this Pandora's Box of a gubernatorial recall election. Bluntly, I am asking you what it would take to get you to drop in on California to monitor our October 7 voting.

"As a 'first-ever' such election, there are no precedents to go by, and who knows what sort of mischief might be brewing? California voters are more than a little rattled by this, I assure you.

"Please, let me know your terms and conditions -- contributions to Habitat for Humanity, lunch with Renee Zellweger or a hunger strike with Martin Sheen, you name it -- and I'll make it happen.

"I hope you can see your way clear to helping California see its way clear through these troubled times.

"Thank you for your consideration.

"Sincerely,

Patt Morrison, Columnist, Los Angeles Times, and Concerned California Patriot "

*

After I hit the "send" button, I prepared my arguments to lay before the former president, to persuade him that we need him as much as Haiti or Indonesia ever did.

Not only do we wear Banana Republic, we are beginning to act like one.

Consider:

Our next governor could be a guy who got rich perfecting the car alarm.

Or an ex-cop who wants to legalize pet ferrets. One of five multimillionaires. A multimillionaire actor. One of a pair of ex-es, the Huffingtons: She'd be California's first woman governor, he'd be California's first gay governor. Don't ask.

Or, our next governor could be our current governor.

Not enough evidence? The law is more tangled than a soba noodle salad. Lawyers have worn a gully in front of the courthouse over the recall.

Monday, some anti-recallers -- among them two members of Congress, a West Covina council member and the unfortunately ubiquitous Danny Bakewell -- made the case that the election should be postponed. Otherwise, voters will be stiffed because there won't be as many polling places as in an ordinary election, because new voting devices aren't ready (so it's back to chads), and because counties can't get ready for an election this fast. Please, they asked the courts, stop us before we turn into Florida. You remember Florida, Mr. Carter.

The best bit to come out of a briefcase Monday was Davis' attorneys arguing that his name should appear among the other 300 candidates'. As it stands, about the only Californian who can't run for governor is ... the governor. Without his name among the candidates, the lawyers declared, his supporters will be disenfranchised as surely as those erroneously stricken from the rolls in Florida.

(Oh, be a sport, I say. Let the man on the ballot. A hint to the Grayster: Run undercover, with your real name, Joseph Graham Davis. Better yet, Joey Davis. Sounds good, doesn't it? Joey Davis, Man of da People.)

Please, Mr. Carter. Save us from ourselves.

*

Presently, the Carter people answered my e-mail. They were very polite and very firm.

They must, they said, decline requests to observe elections in which the Democratic former president might be perceived as partisan.

All right, I struck out. But I haven't given up. I'm drafting an e-mail to Rosalynn. She's in charge of the Carter Center's Mental Health Task Force. That will be a slam-dunk.

*

Patt Morrison's columns appear Mondays and Tuesdays. Her e-mail address is patt. morrison@latimes.com.

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