Joe Conason's Journal

Should California Demos try to recall Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Published October 8, 2003 7:33PM (EDT)

Total Recall II meets Predator III
If politics is warfare by other means, then the California Democrats will now be tempted to respond in kind to the stomping they suffered yesterday. This has nothing to do with whether Gray Davis deserved his ignominious fate, and everything to do with whether Republican aggression is answered with timidity or strength.

According to the state Constitution, Arnold Schwarzenegger will be vulnerable to a new recall petition within 90 days -- which means, as Kos pointed out this morning, that the filing could take place just in time for the March 2004 presidential primary. Such a scenario would be considerably less expensive than this election, since the March election is already scheduled, and would attract considerably more Democrats since their party has a contested primary and the Republicans don't.

Is this a good idea? Perhaps not, considering the turnout and margins that ousted Davis and installed Arnold. Annexing the presidential primary to run a second recall may only help Bush by turning off independent voters (and deranging the process in the biggest Democratic state). And voters across the spectrum may regard an immediate recall as unfair, since Schwarzenegger will only have had four months between his certification as governor and the March primary. The best potential Democratic opponents are likely to bide their time until the next scheduled election.

Yet printing up and circulating Recall Arnold petitions is still worth considering, for two reasons. As a general rule, Democrats should not hesitate to deploy any technique or technicality used by Republicans, including badly drawn constitutional procedures like the California recall. More specifically, a million ready-to-file recall petition signatures could provide some useful discipline to the gang of Wilson retreads surrounding Schwarzenegger, not to mention the governor-elect himself. Who knows what these people have in mind? Aside from abolishing the car tax, they didn't reveal much about their plans.

The petitions don't have to be filed if that seems unwise at the time. But why not have them handy, just in case they're needed? The prospect of a Democratic-dominated recall election might discourage Schwarzenegger from assaulting the state Legislature in his Hummer.

More fun with wussy Bill
Don't miss today's broadcast of "Fresh Air," the NPR program hosted by Terry Gross. I am reliably informed that her guest, Bill O'Reilly, fled the studios in a fit of anger -- and that the show will be played in its entirety, including his undignified exit. What did the tiny, soft-spoken Terry ask that drove big, blustering Bill from her Philadelphia studio? Hearing the Fox blowhard explode again may brighten an otherwise grim day.
[12:30 p.m. PDT, Oct. 8, 2003]

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