Mall developer -- and mayoral candidate? -- Rick Caruso. (Los Angeles Times )
If anybody was wondering whether mall developer Rick Caruso has the chops to be mayor, doubt no more: On Monday night, he demonstrated that he can pander like a pro.
Speculation about whether Caruso intends to enter the mayor's race has been running hot for months, met largely with silence from the mall magnate himself. That has forced political reporters to read the tea leaves for clues, such as Caruso's decision to withdraw a bid for the Dodgers (it would be tough to manage a baseball team and the city at the same time) and his recent move to switch his voter registration from Republican to "decline to state" (possibly an effort to appeal to voters in heavily Democratic Los Angeles). Now comes Monday's tweet.
"Boxer Manny Pacquiao is not welcome at @TheGroveLA. @TheGroveLA is a gathering place for all Angelenos, not a place for intolerance." In Twitterspeak, what this means is that Pacquiao is banned from Caruso's popular shopping mall the Grove in the Fairfax District, where Pacquiao had been scheduled to be interviewed for the TV show "Extra" on Wednesday night.
Pacquiao stepped on a mine in America's culture war when he gave an interview to the National Conservative Examiner expressing his views on gay marriage, which are about what you'd expect from a guy who gets hit in the head for a living. Pacquiao criticized President Obama for saying same-sex marriage should be legal, using the usual religious right rhetoric: "God's words first ... obey God's laws first before considering the laws of man," he said. Pacquiao is a congressman in the Philippines, where some lawmakers are apparently just as unclear on the concept of church-state separation as many are here.
Much of the fury that Pacquiao's remarks touched off has now died down; an online petition urging Nike to end its sponsorship of Pacquiao, for example, has been closed, after the boxer denied saying that gays should be "put to death" -- the magazine quoted a rather nasty and selective passage from Leviticus to this effect, in such a way as to make it seem, falsely, as if the passage were endorsed by Pacquiao. Leviticus is a mind-numbing chapter of the Old Testament that's mostly a recipe book for animal sacrifice, and Pacquiao says he's never read it.
But that's all beside the point. Caruso has the backing of L.A.'s business community sewn up since his key competitor for the center-right vote, businessman Austin Beutner, exited the race. But if he wants to beat the crowd of candidates lining up to his left, he's going to have to increase his appeal to L.A.'s liberals. Banning Pacquiao from the Grove is an opportunistic and cheap way of tossing them some red meat -- well, some gray tofu, anyway.
This may all add up to nothing but Wednesday blog fodder, but if I were laying bets, I'd put down money that the Grove's Twitter comment amounted to an unofficial announcement of Caruso's candidacy for mayor.
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