Recall more a spectacle than an exercise in democracy

    Thereís been a lot of talk about the Total Recall, and Iíll be the first to admit that I enjoy talking about it. It was the hot topic in our nationís capital while I was there this summer and, as stifling as it is, Californians are actually turning on the nightly news to learn about the recall and not the usual high-speed car chase.

    The politically-constipated electorate of this state has been washing down ex-lax with 3 a.m. carne asada fries these past few months as the Total Recall has developed. And while the preceding analogy may be a bit graphic, the result is even more disgusting.

    It took a congressmanís millions, the banter of the A.M. radio waves and the glitz of the Kindergarten Cop himself, but we have our Total Recall. And as soon as we could count out and certify those signatures, the best and worst the Golden State has to offer became gubernatorial candidates, as child stars, B-list comics, washed-up punk singers, smut peddlers and smut models, and even our very own GUARDIAN opinion editor joined the ranks.

    And while I admire the populist effort to correct the malfeasance of Sacramento in the wake of an overwhelming deficit that has raised my tuition while cutting the services offered to me at UCSD, it stinks like most of the other direct democracy initiatives in our state. Here, Big Money can afford to publicize and promote in some of the nationís most expensive media markets while not a single California news channel has a camera crew following the Sacramento action thatís not from Sacramento. State politics is seen on commercials and rarely in an objective light by most Californians.

    I could go on raviní about the Total Recall in a detailed fashion all day, but space restrictions limit me to just a newspaper column and not a Harry Potter installment. That being the case, I will be ripping off ESPN columnist Bill Simmonsí gimmick of the running diary by keeping an account of the Sept. 25 debate, the first one including Republican frontrunner Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    6 p.m.: Moderator Stan Statham has informed us that tonightís debate features questions that have already been dispensed to the candidates. Could this be why Arnold was absent in the two preceding debates? The fact is that he has been spewing the same taglines about Californiaís fiscal crisis while hiring on experts across the spectrum (Tycoon Warren Buffet, a democrat, and the former state secretary under President Reagan, George Schulz) to not alienate anybody right away. Arnold is as a marketable name in the political arena as he is in the box office, after his tight affiliation with the Republicans for years and his introduction of Proposition 49 in 2002. Heís an empty canvas that Republicans think they can ram down Californiansí throats before pawning their policies onto him and eventually us if heís elected.

    6:01 p.m.: Arnold is the first candidate to speak and says he “”thanks god everyday”” for Hiram Johnson establishing the Total Recall clause in the constitution. Itís already one minute into the debate and we can see why he hasnít included himself in the first two debates. Itís not like he was going to be out-shone on the charisma scale by then-candidate Peter Ueberroth (possibly the most boring man alive), but all he had to do was not be an idiot. Too late.

    6:02 p.m.: State senator Tom McClintock also answers why Total Recall is a great thing for California. Heís known as a major policy wonk in Sactown and he exhibits that Reaganesque, So-Cal conservatism that you find in U.S. Reps David Drier or Chris Cox. This is the guy most Republicans really want to run the state, but hey, heís no muscle-bound movie star who has a documented history of drug use and group sex. Instead, this guy is completely uptight. He looks like heís dizzy from staring at too many Magic Eye posters.

    6:13 p.m.: Statham interrupts Arnoldís diatribe against workerís compensation laws and immediately slips into the role of Will Ferrell playing Alex Trebek in the “”Celebrity Jeopardy”” skit from “”Saturday Night Live.”” The rolling eyes, the condescending tone ó itís all there. Statham will prove hilarious throughout the debate when trying to remind the shouting candidates that this debate is for the governorship of California and not Paradise Hotel. Or is there even a difference?

    6:20 p.m.: Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante is spelling out a “”tough love”” plan that would make Ike Turner cringe. All these new taxes on Californians and thereís still a $2 billion of “”unspecified”” cuts or revenue. Two-to-one odds it means more hikes at UC, anyone? Heís swinging for the fences like the rest of the quick-fix candidates.

    6:22 p.m.: It looks like Arianna Huffingtonís only agenda in this debate is to slam Arnold and everyone else at this point about their shortcomings. Come on Arianna, that job belongs to the raviní. Anyway, she shies away from nothing and rips Arnold for mistreating women and making violent movies, and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante for receiving contributions from the prison guards unions and Indian casinos. Her persistence to link the stateís economic woes with Bushís economic policy is scoffed at by Arnold, but should really be taken a little more seriously seeing as how diminishing economic resources and soaring unemployment rates at U.S. and state levels are quite comparable. Any shots at Bustmante are well warranted, as he just annoys me.

    6:31 p.m.: Iím thumbing through the Official Voter Information Guide and notice Arnold does not have a written statement. Again, the worst thing Arnold can do is open his mouth or scribble out any words that would reveal any stance on policy he doesnít have until the Hawks cut into him if heís elected. People are voting for his image and not any real ideas.

    6:34 p.m.: A few Californians who also should have run in this election, if only for the outlandish interviews alone: Rickey Henderson, Snoop Dogg, Jack Black and Terrell Owens.

    6:37 p.m.: Bustamante says, “”The one thing you donít want to do is take it out on the kids.”” Where was my buddy Cruz when I crashed my dadís car during high school?

    6:47 p.m.: Statham accidentally calls Arnold, “”Governor Schwarzenegger.”” A few laughs are scattered throughout the audience, but Iím shuddering and envisioning what itíd be like to live in Oregon for a few years.

    6:49 p.m.: Arianna and Arnold are at each otherís throats for the 87th time tonight. Theyíre bickering worse than Frank and Estelle Costanza.When the din calms, Arianna says that theyíre squabbles resembles a who-can-shout-louder-in-a-foreign-accent contest, which immediately spawns some ideas for contestants for such a game in my head. I come up with John Malkovich from “”Rounders,”” Al Pacino in “”Scarface,”” Bumblebee Guy in “”The Simpsons”” and baseball slugger Sammy Sosa in addition to Arnold. I am not against seeing this as a TV special somewhere down the line.

    My mind wandered after I started discussing this foreign accent contest with a friend. I chalked up the rest of this debate as it proved to be more about mud slinging and the entertainment of the audience than the policy it takes to get us back on our feet ó much like the Total Recall itself. This chapter in our stateís history has already become a joke in the eyes of the rest of the nation, but after this debate, many Californians are jumping on the same idea.

    Iíve never been a fan of the Total Recall, but I have to agree with Green candidate Peter Miguel Camejo when he says that this coming election offers us an opportunity never really seen before ó exposure of more than two or three candidates and a sense of urgency and seriousness that should accompany any election but almost always fails to do so. I donít think Gray Davis, Gary Coleman or The Terminator is going to solve this problem overnight, so Iím voting ënoí on an initiative I find wasteful and more corrupt than the problem itís trying to ameliorate. However, I only wish the experience our state has undergone in the past few months will wake up the sleeping Golden Bear electorate to be more active in monitoring our stateís leaders.

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