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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist

Carol Platt Liebau is a senior member of the editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. [go to Liebau index]


Interesting Diagnosis, Wrong Prescription
Garry South’s “Words of Wisdom” to the California GOP

[Carol Platt Liebau] 2/9/04   

Fresh from a stint as an advisor to the presidential campaign of Joseph Lieberman, Democratic strategist Garry South – best known as Gray Davis’ hatchet man – has re-emerged. Writing in The Sacramento Bee yesterday, he purports to advise a California GOP desperately trying to win the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Barbara Boxer.

Given his character, it’s not surprising that South’s counsel comes in the form of an attack – on Arnold Schwarzenegger, for having endorsed for the Senate seat former Secretary of State Bill Jones, a white male, over Rosario Marin, a “pro-choice Latina, [who] looks heaven-sent for a party in trouble with Latinos and women.” South’s pithy one-liner: “Mars rover to California Republicans: You have a white male problem.”

Of course, any Republican willing to take Garry South’s advice at face value needs to have his head examined. After years of slash-and-burn campaigning on behalf of Democrats, even Barbara Boxer could figure out that he doesn’t have the best interests of the state’s GOP at heart. His column is a thinly-veiled effort to assail Republicans for being “an Ol’ Boys’ Network.” Even so, there is reason for paying attention to South’s critique.

The California Republican Party does, indeed, have a “white male problem.” The issue isn’t that white males dominate the party – or even that they run the party hierarchy. As always, the most qualified individuals should be the ones making the big decisions – whatever their skin colors. And it’s insulting and deeply demeaning to the “Latinos and women” to suggest, as South does, that they would decide whom to support based on nothing more than skin color and gender. Seeing individuals and defining their “interests” as nothing more than the sum of their physical attributes is the pathology of the modern Democratic Party – a disease that Republicans would do well to avoid.

Setting aside South’s ritual liberal genuflection to the gender/ethnic gods, however, there is indeed something troubling about today’s California Republican Party: For the most part, no one in charge seems even remotely interested in attracting and recruiting qualified women who share the party’s principles, and who are willing to work in and outside the government on the Party’s behalf. Too often, one has the sense that the “powers that be” find it easier just to continue to do things as they’ve always been done – not at all through malice, bigotry or deliberate intent (as liberals like South would have us believe), but instead through sheer bureaucratic inertia. And while a lackadaisical approach may be good enough for the Post Office, the California Republican Party, full of talented and committed idealists, can do much better.

There are strong arguments to be made about why Republican policies and principles are the best guarantors for a prosperous, thriving and harmonious California. And there are Republican women throughout this state who would welcome the opportunity to have a platform upon which to advocate for Republican policies – without asking anything in return except the chance to make a case for the convictions that they cherish. I know – I am one of them. And despite repeated efforts to reach out to the party, I am still waiting for the party to reach out to me (notwithstanding a very gracious note from Duf Sundheim, Republican Party chairman). I am a committed Republican, and I will remain one. But my experience with the California Republican Party isn’t as aberrational as it should be.

Yet whatever the state Party’s shortcomings, seeking the wrong remedy for them would only compound the problem. The worst mistake would be for Republicans to begin embracing weak and unqualified candidates just because they are women. Politics is a competition – and it’s each party’s obligation to put forward the strongest standard bearer, whether he or she comes from the liberal or conservative wing of the party. And today, offering an unambiguous bear hug to Rosario Marin would be a mistake – because, quite simply, she is not the Republicans’ strongest candidate.

As Garry South notes, Ms. Marin’s personal biography is a compelling one, and she is by all accounts a very lovely person. But her knowledge of the issues seems tenuous, her speaking skills need improvement, and she appears to have significant difficulty following through either with potential supporters or potential donors. Most damaging of all, she exhibits a tendency to whine about alleged unfairness. Her campaign’s petulant complaints that the Jones campaign was offered extra time to file a statement for a state web site and her insinuation that Arnold Schwarzenegger lacks insufficient interest in “inclusion” because he endorsed Jones are just two examples. Whining about perceived unfairness is a serious deficiency in any political candidate, especially a woman – particularly when that woman is trying to argue that she’s tough enough to take on Barbara Boxer, who’s legendary for her ugly smear campaigns.

Given all this, no doubt Garry South would love to see Rosario Marin as the Republican nominee, just as his article suggests. But support for a Latina nominee based on nothing more than her ethnicity and gender isn’t the best way to address the state Republican Party’s failure actively to develop female leaders and seek the help and support of Republican women.

That being said, and setting aside his flawed prescription, Garry South may inadvertently have stumbled upon a helpful diagnosis of a Republican shortcoming – one that Party leaders ignore at their peril.

CRO columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA.

copyright 2004


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