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California | Steve Lopez / POINTS WEST

Arnold vs. the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

October 05, 2003|Steve Lopez

To all of you who e-mailed or called to say you're canceling The Times because of my transparent shilling and relentless bias against Arnold and for Gray Davis, there's only one thing I can say.

Guilty.

That's right, you got me.

I roughed up the Gropinator because I'm on the Davis payroll. I work for the Left Angeles Times. I never met a Democrat I didn't like.

Do me a favor, though. Call Gray and tell him. I've been trying to get in to see the governor and I'm striking out.

Why?

I can't figure it out. Either Davis hasn't heard I'm supposedly on his side, or he saw one of the columns in which I laid him out for his spineless pandering.

"You haven't been nice to him," his flack told me.

So how can I be in the tank both for and against Davis?

Let me tell you what's going on here.

Take lead paint, trash politics, five decades of idiot television, and the rise of talk show chimps as modern-day philosopher kings and what happens? Clear-headed thinking doesn't have a chance, which is why it has gone the way of the dodo.

Many of the folks who shoot poison arrows at me aren't talking about my biases; they're talking about their own. That's fine. I can handle the ambush, even though it gets a little tedious to have one lemming after another regurgitate the same blather they just heard on the airwaves.

Am I on the left? Not always. But this dummy culture makes no accounting for differences that don't neatly fit cheap labels.

If I'm such a pinko, why have people called me a reactionary kook for some of the things I've written about immigration? If I'm such a pinko, why do I feel like Dan Quayle at the thought of raising my baby daughter in this polluted culture?

The only candidate who interested me in this campaign, by the way, was Peter Ueberroth, a Republican. Unfortunately, he tanked.

For the edification of the Davis staff and everyone else, my job isn't to be nice to him. It's to put his feet to the fire and hold him accountable. The same goes for Schwarzenegger.

But this kind of equal-opportunity flogging has become foreign to a society that's more polarized than ever. There's no discussion, only accusation. There's no edification, only simplification.

A sizable chunk of those who inhabit the right flank of the political spectrum are whacked out of their minds. The asylum on the left is slightly smaller, maybe because the left has fewer talk-show charlatans.

On any given day, it seems, you could take all of this country's independent thinkers and stuff them into a phone booth.

All right, I exaggerate. There's more common ground than that. But all the heat is at the fringes, and the media (me included, at times) are partly responsible. So are the politicians, who lower the bar at every turn.

With two days to go before the election, we've managed to conduct an entire recall campaign without an honest chat about how to fix California's problems.

Davis dismisses the recall as a right-wing conspiracy while handing out driver's licenses to illegals, and Schwarzenegger does nothing but repeat the conservative tax-and-spend mantra like the cyborg he is.

When did we sink to a point where each and every campaign is some Neanderthal scrum over taxes?

Yes, Davis is a tax-and-spend liberal, but we got better schools and a few other benefits in the deal. Yes, he helped dig the hole, and he's been a disaster as governor in more ways than one.

But that doesn't mean Arnold Schwarzenegger or anyone else gets a free pass from me, or the newspaper. The guy hasn't laid out a plan, he's ducked real reporters, and broken his own campaign vows, and he's driving around a polluted city in a Hummer. And yet legions of followers practically wet themselves as he recites lines from bad movies and claims all the state does is tax, tax, tax.

To repeat, California is 19th in the country in state and local taxation. How much Kool-Aid do you have to drink to believe Schwarzenegger won't have to raise taxes and make cuts he hasn't admitted to, at least until the economy picks up? Does anyone remember that, when times were tough, Ronald Reagan ordered up a gigantic tax increase?

I've been harder on Schwarzenegger than Davis lately because the challenger hasn't made the case for why he deserves the job, and I offer no apologies.

I offer no apologies for this newspaper, either, for publishing stories in which a growing parade of women claim to have been bullied, pawed and humiliated by him.

The purpose wasn't to derail his campaign. The purpose was to tell readers what was learned in a two-month investigation about the character of a man who wants to serve as both governor and role model.

You don't have to believe that, and you don't have to buy the newspaper.

But read something, will you? The quality of this country's conversation is sinking faster than Davis's numbers, and I don't think the problem is too much reading.

*

Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

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