George Will

Bustamante is telling Californians to brace themselves for ``tough love.'' By that he means he will solve their problems by making taxation of the rich even heavier--in 2000, almost 38 percent of California income taxation was paid by one-third of 1 percent of taxpayers. And by piling more taxes on those businesses that have not yet fled the state. And, oh yes, there will be cheaper gasoline prices when Gov. Bustamante, displaying insouciant disregard for the U.S. Constitution -- it makes the regulation of interstate commerce a federal prerogative -- imposes state regulation on the petroleum industry.

Can the tone of the recall campaign get worse? Just wait. Ken Khachigian, a veteran Republican strategist, warns that Schwarzenegger should brace himself for what has become the Democrats' trademark tactic. In football it is penalized as a ``late hit,'' but in politics it is often rewarded with success.

George W. Bush received such a hit in the final weekend of the 2000 campaign -- the revelation of his drunk driving arrest 24 years earlier. That probably contributed to an unusual development: Late-deciding voters, who usually break against the incumbent party, broke for Vice President Gore in 2000.

California Republicans have experienced late hits three times in the last 11 years. In 1992, Bruce Herschensohn narrowly lost a Senate race against Barbara Boxer when it was revealed on the Friday before the election that he and his girlfriend and another couple had visited a strip club. In 1994, Michael Huffington narrowly lost a Senate race against Feinstein when, a few days before the election, it was revealed that he had hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny. In 1998, Darrell Issa -- he is now a congressmen; his $1.6 million funding of the recall petition drive produced this recall election -- lost a Senate primary when it was revealed that he had embellished his military record.

A late hit by the Davis campaign against Schwarzenegger cannot come so late that there is no time for another such hit, one against Davis' other problem, Bustamante. This could get even uglier.


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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