Recall is a circus of lessons


In the thick of important events, it is difficult for most of us to

stop for a moment and realize that we are witnessing history. Today,

for example, it is easy to ignore that we are in the thick of the

recall and that it is something we should be discussing with our

children on an almost daily basis.

The recall is not a circus, despite Joe Bell’s claim on Sept. 11

and Sen. Diane Feinstein’s on Sept. 15. From what I can read and

hear, Bell and Feinstein are about the only two people left who are

still clinging to a description closer to hysterical than historical.

Most of the media realized weeks ago that even with 135 candidates on

the original ballot, there are only four people worth covering. The

rest of them are there for show. Even the New York Times downgraded

our recall to a mere “frenzy” in its Sept. 16 edition.

The fast shakeout has left us with three political lifers and one

actor as the only serious candidates for governor. In other words,

it’s business as usual in California politics.

The short campaign gives the kids of 2003 an opportunity to

witness history in a way that appeals to them. In the same way that

TV makes sure that no image is on the screen for more than seven

seconds, lest we lose interest, this campaign is a fast-forward

version of the usual drawn out battles that last too long, waste too

much time and cause otherwise decent people to beg for months for

money from interest groups expecting favors in return. Now, the

begging is down to just a few weeks.

The recall is revealing that everything that needs to be said and

done by any candidate in any race can be said and done in two months.

After all, it took only about a week for the major candidates to

present their positions on major issues. It took only a little longer

for Arnold’s dirt to surface, which was followed by Cruz’s dirt. Gov.

Gray Davis, of course, has been wearing his dirt for several months


This new, two-month campaign model is making history, but unless

we point this out to our children, it will not register. Each day, we

have many “teachable moments” that can lead to lively discussions

with our kids, and in the process, parents may find out a thing or

two about their children and their beliefs, as I did one recent


As a teenager, politics was the chief topic of discussion at the

family dinner table, with my parents assuming that I had read enough

of the newspaper that morning to form an opinion on a specific topic

that night. The discussions were often lively, which is a polite way

of saying that I did not always agree with my parents. That may have

been bad for my digestion, but it was good for my brain.

I’m guessing that these days, a discussion of the current

political scene, if it happens at all, takes place less at the dinner

table and more often in the minivan, a development to which I plead

guilty. Too many miles in the car running around, even while

discussing important subjects, is neither quality nor quantity time.

I’m still of the opinion that kids should learn the good, the bad

and the ugly of this recall. They should know that the good part is

that our state is supporting the concept that anyone can become

governor. And even if you don’t believe it, there are still 130

lesser-known candidates who do.

The bad part is that old news is once again making its way to the

front pages of the newspapers and lead stories on the news shows.

Once again, I don’t care what Arnold said or did 26 years ago or what

wacky group Cruz Bustamante belonged to in college when they were

both young and stupid. Comparing those activities with the words and

actions of a mature adult is absurd.

The ugly is the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has once again

denied the will of the people of California to do what they please

with the governance of their state. If there is any circus atmosphere

to the recall, it is only in San Francisco, where the clowns of the

court issued their ruling, determining, among other things, that

black and Latino voters were too stupid to figure out the punch-card

voting system they’ve been using for 35 years and which they used to

elect the governor we now want to recall. That’s their opinion, not


On second thought, maybe the circus angle is just what we need to

engage kids and get them interested in political affairs. Then the

only challenge would be to figure out how to discuss it in fewer than

seven seconds.

* STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and freelance writer.

Readers may leave a message for him on the Daily Pilot hotline at

(949) 642-6086.