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Kausfiles Doesn't Get It

L.A. Latino Pol Goes Too Far:
Salon Gets Classy!


Posted Wednesday, August 18, 1999

        Gwen Ifill as host of PBS's Washington Week in Review? Sorry, I don't get it. Ifill is savvy, cynical and buoyant. She's excellent covering live events. But as an analyst she rarely adds anything new or different. During Clinton's impeachment, Ifill, as NBC's Capitol Hill correspondent, was usually first up on the "Nightly News." I instinctively flipped the channel to one of the other networks -- there was at least a chance that Linda Douglass or Bob Schieffer might tell you something you didn't already know. Ifill almost always just filled everyone in on the conventional wisdom. ... Other viewers may have felt the same way, because this was the same period NBC's ratings mysteriously tanked. Certainly there are those at the network who share the Ifill-causationist theory. ... The best that can be said is that as Washington Week host Ifill isn't supposed to be a pundit herself. She's just supposed to keep the conversation rolling. ... The worst that can be said is that the management of WETA, which produces the show, has gone bonkers. Ken Bode, the former moderator, was finally hitting a good groove as host when they dumped him. ...

        Warren Beatty as presidential candidate? This one does make sense, in a Ventura-esque way -- if Beatty understands that his idol, Bobby Kennedy, excited voters because he mixed both liberal and conservative instincts. Bobby's aide, Peter Edelman (the same Peter Edelman who resigned his Clinton administration post to protest welfare reform) was always trying to get Kennedy to endorse a "guaranteed income" plan for the poor. Kennedy never did. The idea of a cash dole available to people who didn't work "never sat right with the moralistic Kennedy," according to Nicholas Lemann, who recounts the whole episode on pages 194-195 of his epic The Promised Land. ... There's also the passage where Bobby calls liberals "sons of bitches" (page 193). ... (For a good piece on Beatty, click here. For an analysis of Jesse Ventura's apparently serious flirtation with him, see Jacob Weisberg's "Ballot Box".)

        Irredentist's Appointment Postponed? One of the great underreported stories is the impending takeover of Los Angeles politics, at some point, by Latino voters. The biggest potential worry, of course, is that Southern California might become a sort of super-Quebec (imagine that restless Canadian province, except with France right next door). Even my rightish L.A. friends assure me such fears are completely unjustified -- Southern California's Latino immigrants, like other immigrants, want to be integrated into the U.S., they're becoming more conservative, only a tiny fringe exhibits irredentist sympathies, etc.

        Maybe my friends are right. Two weeks ago, Antonio Villaraigosa, Speaker of the California Assembly and a leading candidate to be L.A.'s first modern Latino mayor, publicly thanked Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo for having "great impact in defeating Proposition 187" (the anti-illegal-immigration measure that passed in 1994 with almost 60 percent of the vote but has since been killed in the courts). The Los Angeles Times's story quoted Mexico's Deputy Foreign Minister, Juan Rebolledo, to the effect that Villaraigosa "gave [Zedillo] thanks on behalf of Mexican Americans." The Times then waxed enthusiastic about how Villaraigosa's comments heralded the "rise of a new phenomenon: cross-border politics," and what one expert called the "silent integration" of California and Mexico.

        But there were at least four things conspicuously wrong with what Villaraigosa said: 1) It wasn't true; Zedillo didn't have a "great impact." Prop. 187 was struck down by a federal judge and then abandoned by the newly-elected Democratic Governor, Gray Davis -- a 187 opponent -- who "settled" the lawsuit by basically letting the judge's ruling stand; 2) Zedillo is head of a foreign power -- do we want American politicians encouraging him to meddle in California's affairs, especially to overturn the will of California voters? 3) Why thank Zedillo "on behalf of Mexican Americans?" Villaraigosa is Speaker of the state assembly -- doesn't he represent all Californians (many of whom were non-Mexican-Americans who opposed 187)? Villaraigosa's bald appeal to cross-border ethnic solidarity would be troubling even if it hadn't had a triumphalist "we beat the gringos" undertone. Mexican diplomat Robelledo said "I was surprised he was so explicit;" and 4) Zedillo's government is not exactly a model deserving of fawning flattery.

        It turns out that many in Los Angeles did not share in the enthusiasim for "cross-border politics" either. Villaraigosa's comments stirred a mini-firestorm. He attempted damage control with a rote op-ed piece blaming pro-187 zealots. But Times columnist Frank del Olmo then weighed in with an uncharacteristically blunt, powerful piece making all the above anti-Villaraigosa points. "You can scratch the name of [Villaraigosa] off your list of potential mayoral candidates," del Olmo wrote. Now comes today's Times with the news that Villaraigosa's allies, "including politically powerful Latinos," are urging him to abandon his mayoral run, and maybe seek a City Council seat instead.

        Only someone paranoid about the divisive potential of identity politics in Southern California would suggest that for at least some of Villaraigosa's critics, the main objection may not have been so much to what he said, but rather to his stupidity in saying it so crudely in public at a time when Latinos are still only a fifth of L.A. voters .....

        What Sort of Man Reads Salon?:


-- home page headline for current Salon article by Steven Burgess.

        Suggested subhed: "It all started recently when I discovered this great online magazine ..."
 -- drug-free for the past 25 days! Make that 26 days and about six hours! That is our final statement on this matter. Meanwhile, our archives have recentlly acquired these items:

        Liberals Go Back in Time: The Snipe-O-Meter Returns!

        Will Tina Fire Lucinda?

Copyright 1999 Mickey Kaus.

Gore's Secret Weapon

posted 08.03.99