SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Triumph was a word on no one's lips as
Gray Davis was sworn in Monday as governor of the state of California for
the second time. Everybody here knows how easily Davis could have lost, and
how rough the coming years will be.
Four years ago, Democrats were jubilant. They had won back the
state's top spot after 16 years of GOP governors. This year, Sacto Dems are
wary, instead. They see four more years of getting legislative scraps, but
this time from the home team.
GOP veterans of past budget wars gulped as they contemplated the
rancor that the state's record $35 billion shortfall is likely to produce
among interested parties. Republicans understand that Davis will try to
blame any inaction on them -- as if Davis and the Dems are set to deliver a
solid, on-time budget.
Davis is the rare man who, as victor, is not smothered by the
embraces of friends, old and new. In the fourth row of the inaugural
seating, where you'd expect to see big city pols and major lobbyists, sat a
casually dressed couple who had moved to California just two years ago. Pam
tells me they're "friends. " Friends of friends, she and her husband answer
cryptically when I ask if they are friends of Davis. They said they didn't
give money to the Davis Inaugural Committee.
"You don't have to be somebody to be somebody," Pam says, to
explain how she and her husband rated A-list seats.
You don't have to give money or have powerful connections? I
briefly consider grabbing Pam by the arms and shaking her, as I ask: What
have you done with the real Gray Davis?
Except I know that this is the real Davis. Once again, Davis is
blaming President Bush for the bad things that happened to California under
his watch -- - first the energy crisis and now the $35 billion budget
In his inaugural address, Davis argued that California's red ink
represents "a national problem." Davis then called "on Washington to act."
Before Davis was sworn in, state Sen. Chuck Poochigian,
R-Fresno, noted: "We have a national problem, yes. Would we have a problem
even if we didn't have a state government that is hostile to enterprise, to
"But would it be this severe? Absolutely not."
Indeed, if California's shortfall were simply a function of "a
national problem," Poochigian noted, California's shortfall would not be
larger than the shortfalls for all other U.S. states combined. (California
represents but 12 percent of the U.S. population.)
So how is Davis going to work with wary Dems and suspicious
Repubs to close a shortfall so big that, absent service cuts, it would take
$1,000 from every man, woman and child in California to close it?
Even Davis campaign guru Garry South couldn't say.
"I just think that the combination of term limits, which we
seemingly can't get rid of or even expand, a closed primary and
redistricting as it was done in 2001 have rendered the Legislature
dysfunctional." And: "I don't know. I wouldn't have any idea of what to tell
him on how to get a budget out of the Legislature."
The coming weeks will get nasty, with Team Davis publicly
calling lawmakers dysfunctional and lawmakers privately calling Davis worse.
The real problem, to paraphrase Pam: You don't have to be nobody
to do nothing.