Black Wednesday

“Let there be jihad and our swords run with blood. We shall all eat lamb in paradise!” 

That’s pretty much Item One on next Wednesday morning’s agenda if, as widely predicted, the term limits initiative crashes and burns, smothering the political lives of the Assembly Speaker and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. 

Unfortunately, it won’t be Sean Connery, the only Berber with a brogue, calling for jihad. If Sean drew sword that would be swashbuckling and highly entertaining. 

Only the most mordant can muster enthusiasm for the bloody, internecine – and no doubt clumsy – conflagration that is set to visit itself on the lower house and maybe the Senate assuming Proposition 93’s demise. 

Puzzling why smart, hard-working lawmakers would flay themselves for the opportunity to be blamed for everything that goes awry in the Legislature. 

Ross Johnson famously described the job of Assembly GOP leader as “herding cats through a minefield while juggling hand grenades.” The Speaker shoulders the same gig with a blindfold and a hobble. The head of the Senate is luckier: He does it without the hobble. 

One doleful lobbyist feared a leadership fight would be the death knell feared a leadership fight would be the death knell for accomplishing anything in 2008. She forgot that every day the Legislature does nothing is a great day for all Californians. 

The half-full-glass-of-scotch crowd use words like “transition” and insist any change in legislative leadership will be as smooth as a Brady-Faulk hand-off. 

Smart, savvy journalists – an unfamiliar job classification – are already handicapping contenders: Conventional wisdom: Darrell the Stein in the upper house. (A lousy 5 to 6 in Reno – check it out) Karen Bass, Ponce De Leon, Player-to-be-Named-Later in the Assembly. 

It’s been said before: Politics is a brutal contact sport played in nice threads. 

Except leadership fights send Samurai south of Quaker. The violence isn’t always overt but the viciousness is forever rabid. 

Poison and vitriol from the cat fight bleed into everything – quadrupling the angst of processing legislation. 

Whose side is the author on? Whose side is the chair on? Committee members break which way? Whose side is backed by the bill’s backers? Opponents?  Hell, just kill it and send those loser scumbuckets a message. 

Deeply, seriously, Mariana Trench ugly. 

Some movie said that Harry Truman said the “only thing you don’t know is the history you haven’t read.” (John Cusack was the lead. Al Pacino as mayor?) 

So let’s join Sherman and Mr. Peabody in the Way-Back Machine. (HD) 

Willie Brown lost his first bid for the speakership when his roommate double-crossed him. 

Willie Brown kept his speakership in 1995 when he cajoled, perhaps even wheedled, a GOP lawmaker into breaking with his party – even though Republicans stood at 41 votes and would have taken over the Assembly for the first time in a quarter century. 

What could be a more mellow, non-confrontational “transition” – particularly for the Republicans who got hosed down six ways from Sunday. The Reps also were huge fans of the Doris Allen/Brian Sentencich months in 1995, lavishing praise on their leadership whilst bustling to successfully recall Allen. 

Old timers will remember how the fight between Democrats Leo McCarthy and Howard Berman in 1979 ripped the Assembly apart. 

McCarthy wanted to run for U.S. Senate. Berman, one of McCarthy’s top dogs, saw blood in the water and decided his benefactor should become yesterday’s news. 

For nearly a year, there were nights after nights of long knives, pawns sacrificed, chits cashed in and then cashed out. The viciousness was so intense, the divisions so stark, neither man could win. 

McCarthy finally threw his votes to Brown who, with GOP support, bested Berman.  

Snickering, the half-full-glass-of-scotch crowd counters that if one were to yank one’s head out of the Paleozoic Era, one would witness, in the last decade, graceful baton-passing worthy of Olympic medal. 

The Cruzinator anoints Alcalde Antonio, Antonio blesses Bob Hugsberg who, in turn, begats Herb Wesson who inaugurates the current occupant. 

Every two-year switch a seamless, acclamation-only ascension. 

Doesn’t feel like that this go round. 

 Paleozoic Era wisdom says the first-outta-the-block candidates get blown past at the last turn. Maybe that’s all changed. There is evidence to the contrary in this millennium. 

What sure hasn’t changed is the power lust. Many sure call themselves but few are smart enough not to return the phone call. 

Going to the Sean Connery well again: 

“They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital; you send one of theirs to the morgue.” 

That’s how you get to be a leader. That’s how you get the J-O-B done. 

So who’s prepared to do that? 




Filed under: Venting


  1. I love this blog. Keep em’ coming.

    – Jimmy Evans, office of Sen. Darrell the Stein

    Comment by Jim Evans — 1.30.2008 @ 11:55 am

  2. Great article Greg. There are many in the third house hoping that miracle passage of Prop 93 might render the discussion moot for a few more years. The Cusack/Pacino movie was “City Hall.”

    Comment by Toast — 1.31.2008 @ 10:39 am

  3. Greg – Black Wednesday is a masterpiece! The only problem I have reading your new blogs is I have to look up the meaning of several words you use in the dictionary. You’ve obvoiusly switched to a higher level reader since you left the Chronicle. This is quite embarassing because I thought I was better educated. You must be a product of John Mocker’s schools.

    I knew you would be great. Keep it up.

    Comment by Old Powerful Special Interest Lobbying Bab — 2.01.2008 @ 4:18 pm

  4. Anne — I was accused by one reader of channeling Quentin Kopp. You as always were far more genteeland mellifluous. xoxox

    Comment by admin — 2.01.2008 @ 4:44 pm

  5. Greg – It’s obvoius I flunked John’s schools – I can’t even spell his name correctly!

    Comment by Old Powerful Special Interest Lobbying Bab — 2.01.2008 @ 5:27 pm

  6. They all like that ‘Power”. It can be additive.

    Comment by Al Gates — 2.27.2008 @ 2:31 pm

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