Running Like Bushes
The mayor of Los Angeles has his four-letter political dynasties mixed up. Hes not running like a Hahn at least, not like his father, the legendary Kenny, elected 10 times as a county supervisor. Instead, hes running like a Bush. Coming off his first debate with Antonio Villaraigosa, Jim Hahn accused his opponent of bobbing and weaving. Four years ago, Hahn alleged, Villaraigosa had sounded dubious about keeping Bernie Parks on as chief when he was speaking in the Valley, and enthused about keeping Parks on when he was speaking in South-Central. To a certain degree, Hahns charge was rendered moot by Parks endorsement this Tuesday of Villaraigosa. The former Assembly speaker had indeed altered the text a bit when talking about Parks four years ago, but if that doesnt bother Parks, why should it trouble anybody else? The problem for Hahn is, it has to bother somebody else, otherwise Hahn loses a major line of attack. Trailing in private polling by roughly 20 points, Hahn is seeking to make an issue of Villaraigosas character. And hes going about it the way that George W. Bush and Karl Rove went after John Kerry by looking at discrepancies, real and imagined, in Villaraigosas record and accusing him of flip-flopping. But the real model for Hahn and his campaign consultants, Bill Carrick and Kam Kuwata, isnt Bush 2004. Its Bush 1988. The campaign that Poppy Bush and Lee Atwater (who was to Bush 41 what Rove is to Bush 43) waged against Michael Dukakis seems to be the template for Hahns campaigns four years ago and today against Villaraigosa. Four years ago, the ad featuring a sinister-looking Villaraigosa and some drug paraphernalia making a mountain out of the molehill that was the letter Villaraigosa sent to President Clinton asking that he consider a pardon for a son of a political associate was a latter-day knockoff of the Bush campaigns notorious Willie Horton ad. Now, the Hahn campaign has resurrected Old Man Bushs attack on Dukakis affiliation with the ACLU. To do that, Hahn was required to propose a citywide gang injunction last week an utterly unworkable and probably unconstitutional idea that did enable him, however, to go after Villaraigosas role in the Southern California ACLU. Back in 1992, when Villaraigosa was vice president of the local chapters board, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against one such injunction that Hahn had leveled as city attorney. In the 2001 mayors race, Hahn attacked Villaraigosa for his stance on gang injunctions, calling his opponent more likely to be sympathetic to the criminal than to the victim. Villaraigosa responded that he supported gang injunctions, along with other preventive measures. But Hahns numbers in the current election look sickly, so hes come up with a proposal that yet again enables him to out-law-and-order Antonio. By extending the scope of such injunctions from several-dozen-block areas to the entire city, and to all the citys 39,565 identified gang members, Hahn has put forth a policy that cannot possibly be followed unless the police force currently at 9,131 officers is expanded by a factor of 10. But Hizzoner has raised an issue that allows him to look tougher than Villaraigosa, and to raise again his opponents history in the ACLU. In fact, Villaraigosa is a civil libertarian, though his support for manageable gang injunctions makes clear that he understands that police need an array of tools in combating gang violence. We havent reached the Willie Horton moment in this campaign; perhaps Carrick and Kuwata will forgo it this time around. But their man is lagging, there are still six weeks to go, and they have plainly mastered the Bush family playbook. Of late, much of Kuwatas time has been taken up by discounting the effect of onetime clients (his) and allies (Hahns) who have endorsed Villaraigosa this time around. When Jane Harman, the member of Congress for whom Kuwata labored in her 1998 gubernatorial campaign, endorsed Villaraigosa last week, Kuwata noted that she doesnt spend much time in Los Angeles. At the rate at which Villaraigosa is picking up endorsements, Kuwata will have disparaged the entire political class of Los Angeles by the time the campaign is through. Villaraigosas crucial endorsements, of course, are the ones hes picking up in the Valley and in the African-American community Hahns two bastions of support four years ago. In 2001, Congresswoman Maxine Waters not only backed Hahn; she attacked any blacks supporting Villaraigosa as traitors to the community. This time around, she, Bernie Parks and Yvonne Burke head a long list of black leaders for Villaraigosa. For his part, Hahn was reduced last week to touting an endorsement from Nate Holden a clear sign, if one were needed, of a campaign in trouble. (Maybe the late Gil Lindsay, whose spirit Holden seemed to be channeling in his later years on the City Council, will endorse Hahn, too.) Even among Republicans, Hahn can seem to do no better than the B-team. In recent days, hes been endorsed by county supe Mike Antonovich, whose district barely touches the city, and GOP mayoral candidate Walter Moore, who pulled down a mighty 1 percent of the vote in the primary. Villaraigosa countered with an endorsement from Richard Riordan, not to mention a slew of Valley homeowner-group honchos. As the Hahn machine continues its attack, Villaraigosas support among Valley centrists is likely to wane somewhat. Whats hard to see is how Villaraigosa loses his sizable current lead among African-American voters. Hahn has to win that community if hes to be re-elected, and theres no easily apparent way he can do that. Thats a subject on which the Bush playbook is notably mute.
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