Political Hay

Gray Coup On

If California Republicans have any sense (always a long shot), they'll rally around Tom McClintock.

By 7.25.03

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Standing in the playground of a preschool, Gray Davis assured reporters this week that he would fight the now-certified recall effort like a "Bengal tiger." The preschool background befit the whimpering depths to which his political career has fallen.

The likelihood of a Davis recall is a welcome sign for a state suffocating under a $38 billion deficit. It is no mere lark but a life preserver thrown out to rescue a state sinking under Davis's corruption and mismanagement. The seriousness of the crisis is perhaps best seen in companies fleeing Davis's quasi-socialist policies.

Countrywide Financial Corp., one of the top employers in the state with some 30,000 employees, recently announced that it would seek its expansion outside of California. "I am sad to say that California, where Countrywide has been headquartered for more than 30 years, does not provide a business climate that is conducive to cost control or business productivity," its CEO plainly explained. The press has also reported that Fidelity National Financial plans to relocate to Florida. California's business climate is too "oppressive," said its CEO, citing the state's loose, job-killing workers' compensation system.

Trial lawyers, union hacks, and various species of governmental parasites love California. But those not at the Davis trough are finding it more and more inhospitable. Businessmen rank the state as the worst business environment in the country, according to the Wall Street Journal. The state's credit rating ranks at the bottom, its sales and income taxes rank at the top, and Davis is itching to increase them even more.

The recall law was written to clean up messes like this one. The Republicans, for the good of the state, must run a serious candidate to replace Davis. If they dribble the ball off their knee again, Californians will find it hard to forgive them.

One promising development is Tom McClintock's announcement to San Francisco broadcasters Lee Rodgers and Melanie Morgan that he will run in the recall election. He is the most credible and principled of the Republicans considered for the race. Known as a budget hawk -- precisely what the state needs at the moment -- state senator McClintock was the one bright spot in the Republicans' dismal showing last year. Though badly outspent by his multimillionaire opponent, McClintock came within a hair of becoming the state's controller.

What good would the recall do if it merely meant the replacement of a liberal Democrat with a liberal Republican, or one frivolous pol for another? McClintock's hardheadedness is the pledge of seriousness the Republicans need in order to show that the recall is not sour grapes, power politics, or an exercise in vanity. The recall is above all about a self-inflicted budget crisis, and McClintock is an authentic budget cutter. Many California Republicans are just tax-and-spend Democrats in slow motion. McClintock is not one of them. Long before it was fashionable to decry Davis's budget-busting, McClintock drew attention to the 37% spike in state spending. He was a champion of the discarded Gann amendment that restricted increases in state spending to increases in population and inflation. Had Davis heeded his calls, the state would be awash in surpluses not deficits. Having resisted tax-and-spend Democrat budgets of the past -- while many of his Republican colleagues caved to them -- McClintock has authority when he says that he would use his executive powers to reverse the car tax Davis has tripled and slash the mounds of fat in Sacramento.

The unions are rushing to Davis's side for good reason. He has drained the budget as their Sacramento sugar daddy, bloating it up with outrageous expenditures like the Institute for Labor and Employment, a union "think-tank" at the University of California he earmarked millions to establish.

The Bengal tiger is devouring the state. The Republicans will need more than a kindergarten cop to stop him.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.