Mickey Kaus versus The Box

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In the last week, as the airwaves are saturated by the two gazillionaires questing after the Republican gubernatorial nomination, it’s been hard to get a word in edgewise. That’s why the 30-second spots for Mickey Kaus, the Venice blogger who is running a don’t-call-it-symbolic campaign against Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer jumped out at us.
Adjectives he prefers to describe his quest? “Long-shot, bare-bones, grassroots, maverick, seat-of-the pants or independent,” said Kaus, who is probably best known for his Kausfiles blog on Slate. “Not symbolic. Or quixotic.”
The spot, with the catchy phrase “Democrats can’t say that!” focuses on two Kaus positions that are at odds with Democratic orthodoxy: “Rein in government employee unions that are bankrupting this state” and “Secure the border, then talk about amnesty.” Go here to listen.
Earlier this week, while Boxer was raising some serious cash with President Obama at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, Kaus invited her to debate him down the street at a Holiday Inn on Van Ness Avenue. “All she had to do was show up and have at it,” Kaus said. She did not. So someone stuck an empty cardboard box on a lectern as her stand-in. “The box was on the defensive the entire debate,” Kaus wrote on his campaign blog.
“At one point, I called her ma’am,” Kaus told us. Then he played the now-famous audio clip of Boxer objecting to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brigadier general addressing her as “ma’am” last year. (“You know, do me a favor,” a prickly Boxer interjected. “Could you say ‘senator’ instead of ma’am?”)
(Carly Fiorina, one of the trio of Republican candidates vying to face Boxer in November, gets lots of mileage from that incident of apparent tone-deafness on Boxer’s part.)
But Kaus played it strictly for laughs. “I don’t have any personal objection to Boxer,” he said. “She reminds me of all the women I’ve tried to date -- sharp, smart, short and a little insecure.”
Kaus said he’s raised about $33,000 from supporters, and chipped in another $7,000 of his own cash into his campaign. (To put the sum in perspective: Democrats paid $35,200 per couple to dine with Boxer and Obama at the home of Ann and Gordon Getty. Boxer’s take for the evening was $600,000.)
Next week, Kaus said, his 30-second spots will continue to play on KNX-AM (1070) and KFWB-AM (980), and also will run on KGO-AM (810), the big Bay Area talk station. So far, the spots’ only measurable impact is on a certain candidate’s mother in Beverly Hills.
“People are phoning my mom and saying ‘I heard your son on the radio,’ ” Kaus said. “Name recognition is my main challenge. A lot of people are sick of Boxer, but they don’t even know that I’m respectable.”
--Robin Abcarian