George Will

The crisis may make it possible to get the 1.2 million signatures considered necessary to be sure there are the 897,156 valid ones (12 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election) necessary to have a recall vote. When the recall petitions are certified, the campaign--currently there are several parallel efforts--will have 160 days to get the requisite signatures, this time employing petitions downloaded from the Internet. Then the state would have a 60- to 80-day window in which to hold the vote, which could come when the budget debate reaches a rolling boil this autumn and the public may be especially cranky.

Davis, in a remarkably limp self-defense, says a recall election would be too expensive, costing the state $25 million. Critics note that California's deficit is increasing at least $30 million a day.

Republicans, who lost every statewide race last November, might pay a steep price for the fun of dumping Davis. President Bush's chances of carrying California in November 2004, and Republican chances of defeating the hyperliberal Sen. Barbara Boxer, might be better if Californians nurture their anti-Davis grievances for two full years.

Also, replacement candidates for governor would appear on the recall ballot. It would be, to say no more, awkward for a Democrat to put his name there. And a welter of Republican and other candidates could result in a new governor thrust into the budget crisis with, say, 20 percent of the vote.

Winning re-election by just 47 percent to 42 percent over an opponent running his first campaign and running it badly, Davis got 1.4 million fewer votes than in 1998. His job approval rating has plummeted to 27 percent. But although he has governed both unsuccessfully and irresponsibly, the fact that he richly deserves disapproval, and that in some sense he may deserve to be recalled, does not mean that voters deserve to be able to recall him.

California is not a Circuit City store. A democracy with periodic elections should not have, regarding elected officials, a liberal exchange policy--any time, for any reason--for voters experiencing ``buyer's remorse.'' Californians deserve to live with the choice they made when they rehired him for four more years just four months ago.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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