Arnold Schwarzenegger won, and Gray Davis lost, as did Cruz Bustamante, as did Arianna Huffington. But no one was more rejected in this 61 percent Republican tidal wave in an overwhelming Democratic state than the liberal press. Consider the media recalled.
From the first signatures on recall petitions, the press was huffing and puffing with hysteria. Newsweek said the state "was in thrall to an earnest crank ... in the grip of what can only be described as a civic crackup." The New York Times called it a "throbbing political hangover." Peter Jennings warned, "The recall is on the verge of unleashing a political tempest. Some in California would say political madness."
When it was over, the press was still howling "Foul!" Remember how, after the GOP landslide in 1994, Jennings compared the public to 2-year-olds and complained "the voters had a temper tantrum last week"? There must be something in the drinking water at ABC. On the morning of the Schwarzenegger victory, there was his colleague Linda Douglass claiming (with no evidence provided) that "Schwarzenegger acknowledged that the recall campaign was the result of a statewide temper tantrum."
Of course, voters were upset, but national reporters didn’t dare tread near what might be causing this troublesome discontent: skyrocketing spending, tripled car taxes, slipping bond ratings, overpaid public-employee unions. Once the movie star entered the race, all the spotlights -- and all the nit-picking scrutiny -- were directed at him.
It didn’t matter that the people felt very obviously that Gov. Gray Davis was an incompetent in need of sudden retirement. It didn’t matter that the lieutenant governor who aspired to replace him had ties to a bizarre group believing several southwestern states should be sawed off America and handed back to the Mexicans. It didn’t matter than Gov. Davis tried to save himself by signing a bill to award illegal aliens state-sanctioned driver’s licenses, making it easier for homeland-security threats to move right into the mainstream of California -- and perhaps other states as well.
What mattered were mangled statements Arnold supposedly made in 1975 during the filming of his breakthrough documentary "Pumping Iron." What mattered were wild claims about group sex at the gym that Arnold made in the pornographic magazine Oui in 1977. What mattered was an anonymous female, "a former pro beach volleyball player," who claimed that Arnold touched her breast on a Santa Monica street in 1980. No longer were we being admonished by the press to "move on." Now, they were instructing the voters to back up.
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