Dan Walters: Gray Davis a reluctant governor

gwhunter69

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Dan Walters: Gray Davis a reluctant governor; would Bill Simon be any better?
By Dan Walters -- Bee Columnist
Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Tuesday, July 23, 2002
The rap on Gray Davis' governorship is that he is chronically reluctant to actually govern, to take hold of problems and issues as they arise and deal with them. His risk-averse tendency has been to allow otherwise manageable problems to develop into crises.

The irony, of course, is that after problems blossom into full-blown crises, they become even more difficult to resolve and the political fallout is worse. That, essentially, is why Davis' popularity with voters languishes in the 40 percent-to-45 percent range. He has confronted two severe crises -- electric energy and the state budget -- which could have been minimized by decisive early action. And, of course, he has squandered countless hours trying to rewrite history and "prove" that he's accountable for neither.

"On his watch, California has careened from crisis to crisis," Davis' Republican challenger, Bill Simon, said Monday, quite accurately. But, irony upon irony, Simon said it while demonstrating the same tendency himself.

Simon announced that after many weeks of saying he wouldn't reveal his personal income tax returns, he had changed his mind. His campaign office allowed reporters to examine, but not copy, 11 years of federal and state returns. They indicated that he had received more than $36 million in income between 1990 and 2000 and paid more than $11 million in federal and state income taxes.

Simon said he had decided to release his tax information to put to bed "all sorts of wild accusations" from Davis. Simon had maintained for weeks that he was just trying to protect his privacy, but the Davis campaign had insinuated that the Republican candidate had something to hide. It developed into a full-fledged political firestorm after the Internal Revenue Service listed Simon as one of the clients of KPMG, a major accounting firm that had set up some offshore tax shelter schemes the IRS contends are illegal. Given the current preoccupation of the media with corporate accounting scandals, the revelation fueled natural suspicions that Simon was trying to hide something embarrassing.

"I changed my mind, because I think this issue has become a distraction in the campaign," Simon said. No kidding. Any freshman political science student could have told Simon months ago that if he didn't release his tax returns -- however much he disliked doing so -- it would give Davis some potent ammunition. And releasing them only under fire does not help Simon very much; it makes his refusal look even less like a stand on principle.

A quick reading of the returns shows nothing obviously amiss, but because they cover income from, as Simon says, "literally hundreds of investments," it would take a forensic accountant to say for certain.

Simon could have saved himself a lot of grief, and kept the focus on Davis, had he understood that when he ran for governor, he implicitly evolved from a private citizen into a public figure, accountable not only for his positions but for his demeanor.

Simon should have known that coming from a wealthy family with myriad investments, he would face intense financial scrutiny and questions -- especially when he would be claiming business experience as his major qualification to govern. You can't ask Californians, in effect, to elect you as governor because you know how to run things, and then claim that details on your business and financial life are private. It just doesn't wash any cleaner than Davis signing billions of dollars in power supply contracts and then refusing to release details, or insisting that the tens of millions of dollars he has raised from special interest groups have no effect on his policies.

Were the tax return debacle the only instance of Simon's procrastination, one might be inclined to cut him some slack -- perhaps accepting his explanation that he was just trying to protect the privacy of his familial co-investors. But on many other occasions, Simon has waffled when pressed by reporters on particular issues, often insisting that he would "get back" at some later, undefined point.

California does need more decisive political leadership. We have many germinal problems ready to sprout into crises. But so far Simon is acting more like a Gray Davis clone than a ready-for-prime-time governor.
 

grizz

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 I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see Simon beating Davis.  We all know he (Davis) is a pice of s#!+.  But if Simon dosen't convince a big bunch of the states demos, how bad Davis is screwing all californans, in many ways, then he's done.   I think Simon's got to many problems of he's own to get that to happen though!  Or at least the Demos are doing a good job at makeing it look that way.
I voted for Jones, Simon didn't seem california enough to me.  I don't think Jones has as much to hide as Simon does.  Because he's already had to be elected before.
Like I said hope I'm wrong   :frown-blue:
 

gwhunter69

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grizz: This election is far from over, but you are right.  This election is Davis' to lose, unless another corruption scandal breaks.  Right now, Simon has not given the voters a reason to throw Davis out and put him into the office.  Davis has even higher "negatives" with the voters than Wilson did in 1994, when he was 23 points behind Kathleen Brown.  We all know there was never a Governor Kathleen Brown.  The bad news is Davis still leads in the polls slightly, which does not mean anything.  Simon could still turn this thing around, but he has to start talking about substance and defining himself.  It would not take much for the voters to turn on Davis, Simon just has to push their buttons.
 

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