Why Gray Davis wants to sue me

Posted: Oct 30, 2002 12:00 AM
Oct. 16, 2002, was like any other day on the campaign trail for Gray Davis. His schedule included a live interview with Lou Dobbs' "Moneyline," broadcast from UCLA's Anderson School of Management. Students were invited to question Gov. Davis during the 10-minute segment that centered on the governor's business ethics. According to the UCLA student newspaper, the students were generally disappointed by the governor's roundabout and evasive answers. But when the cameras stopped rolling, a different Gov. Davis emerged for his college hosts, as UCLA student Jonathan Young told me. Davis was surrounded by several inquisitive students and was talking with one of the professors, Ely Dahan. Professor Dahan asked Davis about an article in The Wall Street Journal submitted by Nobel Economics laureate Vernon Smith, in which Smith blamed California's leadership for the state's storied energy crisis. "The people at The Wall Street Journal are a bunch of f---ing a--holes," Davis angrily responded. "They don't see the world realistically." Longtime followers of the short-tempered governor might not have been shocked by Davis' caustic remark, but undergraduate and business school students surely were. "I don't think Gov. Davis likes The Wall Street Journal in particular," Professor Dahan understatedly commented. This latest blow-up is no surprise from the California governor, known throughout Sacramento for his fiery temper. The outwardly ice-cold Davis doesn't work well under pressure and has a history of such outbursts. As early as Jan. 16, 1995, the Los Angeles Times noted that the then-prospective gubernatorial candidate had a "short temper." New Times Los Angeles columnist Jill Stewart penned an expose about Davis in November 1997 in which she described him as an "office batterer." "Long protected by the news media, the baby-faced Davis has been allowed to move higher and higher in public office despite his history of physical violence, unhinged hysteria, and gross profanity," Stewart wrote. "Davis' hurling of phones and ashtrays at quaking government employees and his incidents of personally shoving and shaking horrified workers 'usually while screaming the f-word with more venom than Nixon,' as one former staffer reminds me, bespeak a man who cannot be trusted with power." (Jill Stewart, "Closet Wacko vs. Mega-fibber," New Times Los Angeles, Nov. 27, 1997) On April 18, 2001, the Sacramento Bee reported that Davis launched into an obscenity-laced tirade before California Senate Republicans, frustrated at his inability to convince them to buy Southern California Edison's transmission lines. Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Simi Valley) told reporters that Davis "completely lost control of himself." "The f-word was prominent and repeated," stated Sen. Robert Morrow (R-Oceanside). (Emily Bazar and Kevin Yamamura, "Grid Deal Session Spurs Davis Tirade," Sacramento Bee, April 18, 2001) Davis has become especially testy of late. Perhaps his recent frustration is tied to the fact that despite challenger Bill Simon's political blunders, Davis has not been able to pull away in the race. In March, Davis went into meltdown during an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I saved this friggin' paper," he ranted. "I kept the lights on in this state. Do you understand that? I kept the lights on! I should at least get a round of applause (but) I don't get squat! People just roundly criticize me. This was worse than being in Vietnam. This was an all-out war against me." (Newsmax.com, "Gray Davis in Newspaper Temper Tantrum," March 21, 2002) On Sept. 19, Sacramento Bee reporters asked Davis if they could see his appointment schedule. "Why don't you go to bed with me?" Davis snarled. "Why don't you move in with me? You're not going to get it. Forget it." (Dan Smith and Ed Fletcher, "Davis: 'No Apologies' for Fund-raising Style," Sacramento Bee, Sept. 20, 2002) Before the Oct. 7 debate between Davis and Simon, Davis threw a fit when it was suggested by Simon that Green Party candidate Peter Camejo be included. Davis threatened to cancel the debate unless Camejo was barred from even sitting in the audience. (John Wildermuth, Suzanne Herel, "Simon's Guest List Imperils Debate," San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 7, 2002) After Davis' implosion at the Anderson School of Management, I called his campaign spokesman, Gabriel Sanchez, for comment. Sanchez's initial response was confusion. "I'm kind of at a loss here," he said. "It sounds to me that this was a private conversation." Photographs show several students were standing there, listening to the discussion. After struggling for an answer, Sanchez asked if he could call me back with a more complete response. Five minutes later, he called back. "To be honest," Sanchez said, "I'd be very careful not to use unverified info. That could be slanderous. You weren't there, I wasn't there, you didn't hear it." The implicit threat to sue was obvious. This is politics at its dirtiest. I'm an 18-year-old college student. My savings account contains approximately $8,000, most of it Bar Mitzvah money. My baseball card collection might bring in $200 more. And here is the governor of the state of California, threatening to sue me for telling the truth. But, really, after looking at Davis' personal history, should I be surprised?