Bill Simon Jr. really is a sorry excuse for a politician. I was reminded of this while sitting in as guest panelist last week on Bill Rosendahl’s always-wonderful Week in Review cable-TV talk show on Adelphia. Simon, the multimillionaire Clark Kent look-alike, also was on the show, less than a year after waging what was unquestionably the most painfully inept campaign for governor I’ve ever seen. After that debacle, I wrongly predicted — here in this very publication — that we’d thankfully never hear from him again.

I apologize.

Time to get out your wooden stakes, friends. Simple Simon’s back and, pretty much as I can tell, about ready to run for governor again in the inevitable Gray Davis recall election.

But my, what a boob. When I asked him what he would do as governor to climb out of our state’s $38 billion–deficit black hole, he mumbled his old boilerplate nostrums about “cutting out the waste.” You know what he means by waste: public schools, hospitals, clinics, roads — all that crap that we ordinary folks actually have to use now and then.

Certainly, I asked Simon, you can’t be suggesting that there are absolutely no taxes that could be levied somewhere to help things out? Like a rise in business property taxes — now set at giveaway levels? Or maybe more taxing of the Indian gaming industry (which our current excuse for governor didn’t think of when he approved the sweetheart casino compacts)?

Nah, countered Simon. “You have to stop relying so much on government.”

And feed them some cake, too, he might have added.

Simon’s boneheaded non-responses to the problems of the state didn’t just tick me off. Gloria Allred seethed at him. Longtime political analyst Dick Rosengarten got so frustrated by Simon’s platitudes, he plain gave up trying to question him and just folded his arms and shook his head in disbelief. It was Brentwood populist Arianna Huffington who relentlessly sliced and diced Simon. He could give no answers to her on how to cover the state’s uninsured, or on what he could do about the cream-puff raises Gray Davis has served up to the $100,000-a-year prison guards.

No surprise that members of a group claiming to be former Simon campaign volunteers have released an open letter pleading with him, “PLEASE, BILL, DON’T RUN.” The letter says many Republicans are “mortified at the prospect” of Simon running the sort of “stumbling, clumsy” campaign he uncorked last time.

Great advice, Bill. Do yourself a favor and follow it.


But where is a similar Democratic move to distance from Davis? I see none. For sure, the recall was born as a cynical Republican ploy to exploit the state’s budget and energy crises — for which the GOP, by the way, bears as much responsibility as the governor. But that’s hardly reason to stoop so low, as some labor and church leaders have, as to actually form a committee to defend Davis against recall. Have these people lost their minds — as well as their backbones? Is there no limit whatsoever to this slippery logic of the lesser of two evils? Democrats are supposed to go out in the heat of the summer and knock on doors to save Gray Davis’ ass?


Conducting that mission, you’d need to do a lot more than hold your nose — as that little cartoon character does every time the L.A. Weekly endorses one or another truly tainted and undeserving Dem. Forget the nose clip — you’d have to don a full-blown haz-mat suit outfitted with oxygen tanks to complete the “Save Gray” mission.

The enticing aspect of the coming recall election is that nearly anyone can run; all you need is the small filing fee and a few score signatures to qualify.

Of course, the hand wringers are twisted up at the spectacle of such real democracy. Good heavens, they lament, virtually anybody could be elected, and with so many candidates running, the election could be settled with only a 20 percent or 25 percent plurality. What an unfair disadvantage to the professional pols and their $78 million war chests — and to their dirty campaign strategies. (Davis has already ginned up a smear campaign against conservative recall backer Darell Issa, outrageously linking him to Nazis, no less!)

I say, bring on the recall. It offers a unique opportunity not only for Democrats, liberals and progressives, but also for all decent, fed-up Californians to find and support a candidate who will break with the all-powerful special-interest lobbies that helped get us into this fiscal jam in the first place. This is no time to be blackmailed for the nth time, cowed by demagogic Democrats direly warning of Republican wolves ready to devour California. What could they possibly do to us that the Davis administration has not already wrought? Let’s have the courage to imagine some choice beyond the Simple Simon Republicans, the Terminator twit and the stench of Gray Davis.

But who will step forward as the populist candidate?

Arianna, what are you doing the rest of the summer?

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