In June, GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., explained that he was bankrolling the effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis because anyone would be a better governor than Davis.
Yet Monday, after donating a breathtaking $1.6 million to the recall effort, Issa announced that if two Republicans -- Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Sen. Tom McClintock -- remain on the replacement ballot, and if it looks as if Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante will win the race, Californians should vote "no" on the recall.
There goes the pretense, uttered more in faux sorrow than anger by recall-istas, that their civic-minded goal was to replace Davis with someone better, and it didn't matter from which party.
At least the recall election will be held on Oct. 7. ACLU attorneys Mark Rosenbaum and Laurence Tribe failed to convince the Ninth Circuit Court that the same punch-cards used to elect Davis governor twice couldn't be used in an election to consider whether to recall him.
Thank you, Ninth Circuit, for having the good sense not to discard more than 600,000 absentee ballots already submitted by voters because it was conceivable that 40,000 uncast votes might not be counted.
Whatever the outcome, California wants to get this over with. Even the Pale Ghost -- my new nickname for Davis -- seems eager for an end to the torment of lefty legislators demanding favors, lest they withdraw their support.
Of course, much of His Grayness' situation is of his own making. When Davis signed a bill to allow illegal immigrants to obtain drivers' licenses -- without background checks or other safeguards -- he erased his image as a cautious pragmatist. By the time the recall is over, Davis will be almost invisible. Just like in the movies, voters will be able to see right through him.
On the other hand, Davis always has been lucky in his opposition.
On Sunday, Ahnold held a press event to hype his proposal for a California "hydrogen highway" -- a network of "clean hydrogen fueling stations" for hydrogen-fueled cars every 20 miles.
Note to The Terminator: Forget that the technology is many years away, if it's doable at all. When you own five Hummers, you don't host events that give the media an excuse to write that you're an enviro-fraud because you own five Hummers.
If you want to look like a tree hugger, talk plants and insects. Say, for example, that while you were making the alien-movie "Predator," you felt one with the rainforest. Talk reverently about ecosystems, species and tree bark that can cure cancer.
Park the hydrogen highway at home. It's a backfire.
And the worst of it is, the Hummer buzz, the ACLU's failed recall assassination and the Issa flip rob attention from the Cruzinator.
Also on Monday, a Superior Court judge told Team Bustamante that it's a violation of the state's $21,200 campaign contribution limits to funnel six-figure contributions into old campaign war chests (grandfathered from the Proposition 34 limits), then transfer the money to present campaign coffers. Who knew it was wrong for Team Bustamante to accept $1.5 million from the casino-rich Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and move the money to another campaign promoting Bustamante? (The answer: anyone who could read a newspaper. Anyone not employed by the Flagrant Political Practices Commission.)
The judge told Bustamante to return the unused money. But, rats. The money's already spent. Break California election law, and you'll have to confront the short arm of the law.
"The decision was the total vindication of Cruz Bustamante," said Cruz Bustamante himself.
He's not even governor, and already he's talking like the old Gray Davis.
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