By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Their evaluations of the alliance they struck are a study in contrasts. ”Proposition 227 went remarkably well,“ Unz recalls. ”I worked out a plan, and the plan almost completely ended up working.“ Unz, the former historian, juts his chin out and makes a sweeping claim: ”Future historians will have a chapter called ’Proposition 187 and Its Aftermath.‘ Proposition 227 will take up a big part of that chapter.“
But for Callaghan, it’s precisely that kind of hubris which puts her teeth on edge: ”That notion that he nurtures, of doing the whole campaign himself with a fax machine and so on, is false.“ From the beginning, Callaghan explains one afternoon in the spare Skid Row after-school center on Seventh Street, the boycott was not just an effort to eliminate bilingual programs -- but rather to replace them with structured English-immersion teaching. ”We haven‘t changed the situation much,“ Callaghan says. ”I had a fifth-grader in here yesterday who is reading at the first-grade level. This kid was born here!“ Callaghan says her relationship with Unz soured during the campaign, and she’s grown increasingly troubled by his portrayal of a political battle won, after all, by an enormous grassroots effort. ”He‘s very smart, but he’s also enormously shallow,“ Callaghan says, punctuating her remark with an upraised finger. ”Because he has no deep beliefs on issues, he can‘t understand people who won’t just move to the middle.“
At his Sacramento press conference to announce that he‘s running to unseat Dianne Feinstein, Unz does his best to look like a real candidate. But in a white mock turtleneck and a tweed sports coat, he looks a little like a doctoral student ready to present for orals. He stands behind the podium diffidently, as if preparing to give a lecture, calling Feinstein the ”800-pound gorilla of California politics.“ But he says it evenly, almost apologetically, and then compliments her on her history of support for campaign-finance-reform measures. In a press release (which he’s copied himself at Kinko‘s), he calls himself a ”maverick“ whose ”campaign will go where politicians fear to tread.“
Around the room sits the first caucus Unz has to impress before he meets his potential voters -- the press caucus. George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times, Dan Walters and Stephen Green of the Sacramento Bee, Doug Willis of the Associated Press, all look a little dubious, but then, that’s their job. When Unz runs on overlong in an answer about bilingual education, one reporter snaps, ”You‘re not running for the state Senate, you’re running for U.S. Senate. Can you give us some positions on issues appropriate for that?“
That question releases a logjam. And so it goes through a series of tussles in which Unz begins nearly each answer by saying, ”Now, that‘s a good point . . .“ even if he doesn’t think so, and sketches out his diagonal agenda. Unz makes it hard to draw a bead during the ritual dance of Q and A. Does he think abortion should be outlawed except in cases of rape and incest? Yes, that‘s his personal view. But his more complicated policy analysis is that the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, which found a constitutional basis for choice, should be overturned; the net effect would be to leave abortion policy up to the states -- which means, if you catch this curve, that abortion would undoubtedly remain legal in the state of California. Is he in favor of the assault-weapons ban, one of Feinstein‘s trademark legislative successes? No, because they’re not effective.
When the questioning turns acidly personal, Unz just juts his chin out a little farther. Is it true, as a laudatory New Republic profile reported, that he ”eschewed girls“ in school? ”Well, I tend to be a very focused person,“ Unz replies. Finally comes this cutting question: Isn‘t his own history, as a child born out of wedlock to a mother who was on welfare most of her adult life, at odds with his conservative position on welfare reform? No, because his mother, he explains evenly, had made ”only one a mistake“ and most women on welfare make many ”more than one mistake.“ Nobody seems startled by Unz’s reference to himself, even in this context, as a ”mistake,“ but then, the circuitous answers are getting denser and the reporters are understandably looking for leads.
Unz simply hunkers in, talking policy, policy, policy until Dan Walters -- the Sacramento Bee columnist and Dean of the Bad Boys among Capitol reporters -- holds up his file folder and says, ”Thank you all for coming,“ effectively ending the press conference for a candidate the reporters think has overstayed his welcome. The performance was, as one of the reporters says, ”not ready for prime time.“
Over lunch on the patio downstairs, Unz sighs and settles into a cast-iron chair. He‘s buzzed, overamped, eager to get on the phone and do some more interviews, inexplicably thrilled at what has just happened. How did he think it all went? ”Good, really good!“ he exclaims, looking for support to his chief political adviser, Sheri Annis, who only smiles and glances down at her menu. ”Well,“ Unz says. ”It’s a start.“