Joe Conason's Journal

Arianna's in. And nobody should be surprised.

Published August 5, 2003 10:59PM (EDT)

Arianna is in
If there was anyone who always seemed most likely to run in the crazy California recall, that woman was Arianna Huffington, whose impulse to defy whatever party line is the hallmark of her personality and her politics. Hearing commands from the AFL-CIO or the DNC, which declare that every Democratic politician in the state must stand down to save Gray Davis, Arianna no doubt felt an overpowering urge to commence her campaign. According to a spammed message that I received from her this afternoon, that's exactly what she plans to do Wednesday:

"As you may have noticed, I've taken two weeks off from writing my column. I have spent this time meeting with community leaders and the activists who started and doing a lot of thinking -- and tossing and turning -- about whether I should run for Governor of California in the upcoming recall election.

"During this time, I've received many wonderful e-mails from so many of you urging me to run. Well, tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m. at A Place Called Home in South Central Los Angeles (a center for at-risk children I'm on the board of; directions below), I'll be announcing my decision. You've been reading every week my outrage at the state of our politics, and I would love it if you could be there to join me as I make the leap from analysis to action -- from columnist to candidate."

Two years ago, when I reviewed her book "How to Overthrow the Government," I predicted that Arianna would inevitably seek elected office. Although that review expressed doubt about her politics, I think she has demonstrated her commitment to progressive values since then. (I should also disclose that recently she was kind enough to blurb my new book, despite my previous criticisms.) Arianna has sharply attacked the Bush administration, corporate corruption and government's failure to improve education and healthcare. At the same time, however, she has kept her distance from the Democrats. The peculiar nature of the recall election offers her a perfect opportunity to run without committing to a party.

My own view -- regardless of the undeniable shortcomings of Davis -- is that California and the country will be better off if voters there reject the recall. The methods used to depose a governor who was just reelected last year are repugnant to democracy; and the domination of Republican big money in this effort ought to repel everyone -- including Arianna, who has argued so powerfully against political domination by the piggy rich. She knows very well that the campaign to blame Davis for the state's energy problems is the most blatant political frame-up since the "murder" of Vince Foster. In fact, she acknowledged the basic illegitimacy of the recall a month ago in this column.

Yet nobody should be surprised that Arianna is taking this daring plunge. Her candidacy for something, somewhere, has been coming for a long time -- probably ever since her former husband's awful Senate campaign.

More importantly, her intuition that frustrated voters are going to make themselves heard is undeniable. How Democrats deal with that anger may well determine things to come in Washington as well as Sacramento.
[3:52 a.m. PST, August 5, 2003]

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By Salon Staff

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