Hugh Hewitt - Principal Contributor
is senior member of the CaliforniaRepublic.org editorial board.
Recall Crackup ...
rise of the blogs...
The California papers
are full of horse-race stories, Bustamante profiles, MEChA-mongering,
and unsolicited advice for AS (AS
= Arnold Schwarzenegger). The blogs continue to outperform print
and electronic media, with Kausfiles and Dan
set a standard of relevance and timeliness that the dinosaurs
can't begin to hope to match. Incredibly, the Los Angeles
Times still doesn't have a blog on the recall --perhaps because they
have no reporter capable of running such an effort? PrestoPundit,
Observed, Priorities & Frivolities, The
California Republic, CalBlog and SoCalLawBlog provide everything the interested
reader needs to know, and do so hours if not days before AM catches
up. (AM = Ancient Media.)
The blogging of the recall is a preview
of the effect of the new media on the presidential race, and
smart papers will be
watching the Weintraub/Kausfiles success for a model on how to
proceed. Short answer: Arm your three best correspondents with
blogs and turn them loose to post. Weintraub, like Kaus, is the
rare journalist about whom it can be said that fairness permeates
their work. This might be the precondition of a successful campaign
coverage blog, but not necessarily. If a lefty reporter gets
a blog and runs it to the advantage of one candidate, that could
hurt a paper's credibility, but only if the reporter's bias was
undisclosed or unbalanced by a righty getting his or her own
But now the criticism: The underlying story of the recall
remains largely unexplored by all media, new and old. That story
on these questions: Is the California legislature churning out
a large number of new and very radical statutes, judging by the
standards at work in the other 49 states? Does the California
legislature appear to have even a minimal grasp on economics,
or does it seem to act as though there is no such thing as a
business climate? Do special interests dominate Sacramento to
an extent unparalleled in other state legislatures, with the
result that enormously unbalanced legislation is arriving on
Gray's desk (and has been for five years) without the ordinary
moderations enforced by two-party rule? These and similar questions
should be the foundation upon which all recall reporting is done,
but no serious look at them has occurred in any of the state's
I think any serious
look at the legislative actions in Sacramento over the past
five years, up to and including the
moving rapidly towards Gray's desk because of his desperate need
for allies, are far and away the most radical set of legislative
actions of any state in the last two generations, and perhaps
since Reconstruction. The decisions to vastly expand leave provisions
for employees, to confer domestic partnership upon same sex couples,
to vest land use authority over "sacred sites" in California's
Tribes and to expand and legitimize casino gambling throughout
the state, to reorder the power distribution system in response
to shortages that were foreseeable due to a lack of plant capacity,
etc, etc while refusing to act to control the costs of worker's
comp and while allowing taxes to spike even as high-earning professionals
and business-owners become frustrated with a collapsing education
system, sky-high house prices, and ever expanding worker entitlements
--does this pattern of governance seem even remotely responsible
to anyone? Does the award of a huge hike in pay to the prison
guard union or the gift of the colossally ill-advised Oracle
contract reflect isolated misjudgments and a rare political pay-off,
or a pervasive Sacramento culture of get-in-and-get-yours while
no one is looking?
The national news media that is parachuting
in to cover the rumpus has no idea of this background, and there
is a huge incentive
for the California media to ignore it: To suddenly discover ignorance,
indifference, and corruption in Sacramento will position the
California media, and especially the Los Angeles Times, in much
the same pose as Captain Louis Renault when he discovers gambling
in Rick's Place.
So the Golden
State's scribblers are focusing on everything but the Sacramento
mess that is fueling the outrage.
car tax --an illegal, and deeply resented move by a governor
and legislature that literally lacks the brainpower to do anything
other than keep spending-- ignited the explosion in popular disgust.
The response of the Sacramento gang is to try and trick the voters
into replacing Gray with Cruz, as though dividing by zero is
possible in politics though not in math. AS considers the downside
of a race --he knows everything that can and will be said about
him-- and decides to run the gauntlet of wreckers that pass for
political consultants in California, and he campaigns on cleaning
up Sacramento. The stage is thus set for a very significant campaign
about the future of the state.
the chattering class responds with focus on the Oui interview
and on AS's positions on abortion.
knows what is required of him.
example of this refusal to focus on the Sacramento disease
is in Sunday morning's Los
Angeles Times op-ed by Peter
King. Understand that Peter King is the best the Times' has --their
top shelf brand, a first-rank writer in love with the state and
blessed with the ability to push noun against verb that matches
up well with anyone in the column writing business.
turns in today is the most conventional rewrite of the week's
news going, and it ends this way:
"Schwarzenegger did give a terrific, albeit brief, speech in Fresno
Thursday, exhorting an enthusiastic crowd to rise up against
the "system," to announce to Sacramento that "we
aren't going to take it anymore." In short, he either was
the perfect image of a populist leader -- or an actor delivering
the perfect image of the populist leader. We have five weeks
to figure out which."
Just like almost every other mainstream
media writer, King dodges the central questions listed above.
It is like writing about
an anti-Tammany candidate without mentioning Tammany, and it
is lousy journalism.
Mickey Kaus has repeatedly assured me and
his blog audience that the Los Angeles Times is changing for
the better. I wonder
Mickey is reconsidering given the coverage of the past month.
The Times --and the Chron and the Bee and the Union-Tribune and the Register and
the Mercury-News, etc-- have all helped create
the collapse in Sacramento by refusing every step of the
way to write about it with extended vigor. To do so might have
helped those rascals the Republicans somehow take away abortion
or enforce the Pledge of Allegiance or some such atrocity.
The result is that the left has run amok up north, and hard-working,
productive people got stuck with sharply higher taxes, schools
that don't work, and a shrinking job base as employers move
Now they are sick and tired of listening to John Burton and
Herb Wesson plan a barrel ride over the fiscal falls as Gray
for dollars, and a recall is underway. And the very best
writer in the state uses his space to wonder if AS is for
The failure of journalism in California is one of the most
interesting aspects of the state's current crisis. Just
don't expect any
paper or television station to cover it.
Principal Contributor Hugh Hewitt is an author, television commentator
and syndicated talk-show host of the Salem Radio Network's Hugh
Hewitt Show, heard in over 40 markets around the country. His
opinions on national issues can be found at HughHewitt.com
and he writes a weekly column (Wednesdays) for WorldNetDaily.com.
But Not Of
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