For some reason, the national media never tires of writing about L.A.'s own “rising star,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
There were a bunch of stories in that vein when Villaraigosa chaired the Democratic National Convention. And even though he turned in an unsteady, deer-in-the-headlights performance during a contentious floor vote, that hasn't stopped his star from rising in the eyes of the D.C. press.
The latest example is this story in Politico, which is full of the usual speculation about the mayor being appointed to the Obama cabinet.
In the story, Villaraigosa — who, at 59, is a bit old to be a “rising star” — is forced to do the usual humble thing about “finishing the job” as mayor.
“It's always nice to be talked about, but my only focus right now is finishing my job. And I want to finish it strong,” he told Politico. “The best way to ensure a bright future is to make sure you're doing your job that you have now.”
Yeah, about that. Where was Villaraigosa in the days leading up to the election, when Measure J — his countywide transit tax extension — hung in the balance? Florida.
And where was he on election night, when Measure J supporters gathered at Dodger Stadium to watch the tax go down to a narrow defeat? Chicago.
And where was he yesterday, while Richard Riordan runs around warning of imminent bankruptcy? Washington. (By the way, shouldn't Villaraigosa be challenging Riordan to a pension debate, instead of leaving it to the L.A. Police Protective League?)
Bottom line: While his mouth says one thing, his frequent flier miles say another.
Second, perhaps this remains an interesting story for the national media because Villaraigosa seems like a charismatic, exciting figure when you first encounter him. We remember his 2001 campaign — the hope, the change, the threads of L.A. weaving together into an uplifting poly-ethnic tapestry.
But trust us, Politico, that stuff wears off fast. Pretty soon, you wind up with a thin-skinned opportunist who can barely remember his bromide-and-jargon-laden talking points whenever he's forced to give an extemporaneous talk.
None of that, of course, disqualifies him from serving as Secretary of Transportation. He might do an OK job, assuming he's got some staff who can tend to the details. (Governor is another matter, but Jerry Brown seems not to be going anywhere.) But forgive us if we can't get on board with the idea of Villaraigosa as the fresh face of a new America.
Been there, done that, ready for something else.