Joe Conason's Journal

While Arnold avoids interviews, Arianna roars. Plus, a preview of her attack on Arnold's pals in the White House.

By Salon Staff

Published August 13, 2003 6:16PM (EDT)

Arianna attacking Arnold
Arianna Huffington called this morning to say that -- inspired by Monday's item in this space -- she will hold a press conference tomorrow outside the Beverly Hills Hotel. She'll be talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger's secret meeting at the hotel with Kenneth Lay in May 2001 during the California "energy crisis." (Instant disclosure: Arianna kindly blurbed my new book). She went on to say that Schwarzenegger's entire group of advisors is "a special interest team" -- a point amplified in today's L.A. Times, which reports on the energy lobbyists and other well-heeled creeps swarming around Arnold.

She also forwarded a draft of her attack on Arnold's pals in the Bush administration for "declaring war" on California. Although it is still in draft form, I doubt she'll mind if I preview a few grafs:

"Let's start with the energy crisis: the White House repeatedly rejected the state's pleas for help during the crisis, preferring to side with their big buck backers in the energy industry -- especially Enron's 'Kenny Boy' Lay. Dick Cheney even went so far as to blame California for causing its own problems -- when, as we now know, it was actually crooked energy companies that were manufacturing the crisis and costing us billions ... .

"There can be no doubt that it is President Bush who should bear the blame for California's budget crisis -- not Gray Davis.

"Gray Davis didn't mismanage the national economy, causing a catastrophic drop in tax revenues in nearly every state in the union -- the Bush administration did.

"And it wasn't Gray Davis who held secret meetings with Enron executives. Or who appointed energy company-friendly members to the FERC -- members who looked the other way while Enron and the other energy swindlers fleeced California, who refused to impose wholesale energy price caps that would have saved California taxpayers from picking up the tab for the thievery, and who forced California to honor $12 billion in long-term energy contracts -- even after it was proven that the corporate energy crooks had scammed the system. No, that wasn't Davis -- it was Dick Cheney and George Bush."

Unlike the mush-mouthing actor, Arianna roars. I asked about the report that she is involved in some kind of deal with the Green Party's recall candidate.

That would be Peter Camejo, the whiner who blamed Democrats when Ralph Nader got pied yesterday. (He certainly has no reason to think a Republican would do anything like that. The San Francisco Examiner reports that Nader "hurled the pie back, striking a bystander," which serves as a perfect metaphor for Naderite politics). But according to Arianna, her only deal with Camejo is that he has promised to get out of the race if she appears to have a chance to win. With her numbers at 4 percent, that seems like a hollow promise right now, but in California who knows?

Still I pressed: Hadn't she said that she didn't want to "divide the vote" if Dianne Feinstein decided to enter the race? Why would she hook up with the GOP-friendly Greens? She replied with a few remarks about Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the Democratic candidate, none of them complimentary. Expect her to go after him, too, although she said she would have stepped aside for Feinstein.

Arianna will provide substance as well as style to the recall campaign. We've disagreed about many things, and probably will again. But I must say that the Democrats would be fortunate if she finally gave up her secondary (political) virginity, and joined the party of Jefferson, Jackson, FDR and JFK. And if Bustamante were really smart, he'd be trying to figure out a way to bring her in.
[11:30 a.m. PST, August 13, 2003]

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