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Everybody Wins!

With one tiny exception, of course: The citizens of California.

12:00 AM, Oct 1, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
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FIRST OF ALL, I could be wrong on this.

By the way, have you noticed how rarely most people ever admit they were wrong? What's the big deal? Why don't more folks enjoy saying, "Well, I guess I was all wet on that one." I love being wrong. Seriously. I like getting ideas and pitching them, and if they ultimately (or even immediately) don't hold water, I try to learn something from my mistake and pitch another one. Most people never reassess their opinions on anything: movie reviewers, political pundits, wives . . . No critic ever says, "Gee, millions of folks seem to like this thing, and perhaps they're right, but I just can't stand it," or "This piece of art offends everyone except me and my nine friends, but maybe the others have a point."

Science and math are probably the only fields on this side of the Great Beyond where facts are indisputable: A square has four right angles, the Earth is not flat, Pi equals 3.14, that sort of thing. No one gets angry at this either, since, as we all know, everybody likes Pi.

I'm sorry, that just came out. I had to do it. Well, I didn't have to, but it happened, it's done, I can't take it back. Let's all just move on.

So. Since the start of the California gubernatorial recall process (which I feel will be forever known in history as The California Gubernatorial Recall Process), I have believed and still believe that every single one of the 135 candidates is going to win. How? Here's how:

To begin with, the recall will be defeated, and Gray Davis will still be governor. The polls say I'm wrong, extravagantly wrong, but I think he'll prevail for four reasons. One, as I've said before, he's a street fighter. Two, he never seems to lose anything, even though no one ever likes him. Three, I think the largest block of voters showing up on October 7 will be people Davis has given patronage jobs to, and if you laid all of them end-to-end it would stretch to (PICK YOUR OWN ASIAN CAPITOL).

But there's a fourth reason, and it's a big one, a blockbuster: Two or three days before the election, an impish scamp (or a scampish imp) in Davis' camp is going to "accidentally" come up with a photograph of Schwarzenegger making out with Bustamante. (Not literally, but I've always wanted to use both those names in the same sentence. They're corkers, aren't they?)

The point is, unless I've misjudged my man, Davis already has something juicier than a burger on Arnold, and he's going to drop it like the proverbial you-know-what in the punch bowl. And whatever it is, true or not, there won't be enough time to undo the damage, and it's going to shake things up just enough for the governor to squeak by and be able to return to hypnotically moving things around on his very clean desk.

BUT WAIT, Arnold wins, too. Why? Because now that he's been blooded in a campaign, he can run for anything he wants and have the patina of experience. Senator, congressman, city council, there won't be any more Oui articles or slams on him, and people will be more than ready to give him a chance.

But wait again. Cruz Bustamante wins, too. Before Darrell Issa struck up the band on this waltz, it was harder to find Cruz Bustamante than Jimmy Hoffa, and now he walks away from the fray as a future big guy. But Davis will never speak to him again, you say? So what? He never spoke to him before. He never asked him to meetings, he never called, he looked right through him (which takes some doing). Hell, he even took his parking space. (True, that.) In addition, Cruz now has tons of national exposure and 5 million silver dollars to play at the V.I.P slots at the Mingo Room of every Indian casino in the state. Not bad for a few months' work.

But wait, yet again. Tom McClintock wins, too. He's now known to every authentic conservative as, well, an authentic conservative. And the next time a seat opens up for a big-time, elective office, he can do a grand jeté over all the statewide Republican muckety-mucks who, by the way, never liked him in the first place.

But wait, still again. Arianna Huffington wins, too. Before the recall, she was every bit as brilliant at reinventing and selling herself as the Hollywood action star she keeps biting like a Yorkie, and she's succeeded in appearing in every debate and photo-op. Oh, she's polling somewhere around two or three--that's total number of votes, by the way, not a percentage--but she'll make a big show of throwing that to Davis. The cherry on top is that her performance in the debates has terrified every male who saw them, which, on some level, is probably what she wanted in the first place. Any guy who ever finds himself up against her on "Crossfire" would do very well to tip his hat, smile, and get right back in the cab.

But wait one more time. Peter Camejo wins, too. He's the Green party candidate, and he wins because, really, what the hell did he have to lose? He's gotten a lot more exposure than ever before, he hit the themes he and his friends support, and he'll probably never have to pay for another soy-martini for the rest of his life.

And you know what? The rest of the 135-odd (just a figure of speech) candidates win, too, because they wanted to run for office, and they did. They filed, they made speeches, and in the best tradition of democracy and the state of California, they were part of the system and of history.

CALIFORNIA HAS ALWAYS been a little crazy, you know, really. It was in Twain's day, and it is with or without Hollywood. Frank Lloyd Wright once called Route 66 "a chute down which everything loose in this country is sliding into Southern California." I carpet-bagged out here, myself, and I'm as certifiable as anyone else. Proud of it, too. Hell, we're all a little loopy out here, I guess. Americans will always dream about moving to California and then, in the same breath, say, "Of course, they're crazy, you know." They're right on both counts.

For the rest of the candidates, the dreamers, the climbers, whatever they are or were, the one thing none of them is, is a cynic. And I love them for that. They got to do what they wanted, and they put their money where their mouths are, and I love them for that, too, I really do. I hope they never stop doing crazy things.

So, you see? Everybody wins.

With just one tiny exception. The actual State of California. That loses. The state and everyone in it loses. Businesses, schools, the DMV, every institution and service, every man, woman, and child. A deep and far-reaching loss.

Ah, well. You can't have everything.

Besides. Maybe I'm wrong?

Larry Miller is a contributing humorist to The Daily Standard and a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles.