The Blog

Miller Time?

Now that they've got the Governator, are Californians ready for Sen. Dennis Miller?

11:00 PM, Oct 27, 2003 • By BILL WHALEN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

DURING RECALL, Arnold Schwarzenegger embodied optimism, as did Ronald Reagan in his runs for governor and president. The late congressman Sonny Bono sang, but he also played the role of straight man/likable schmo--whether he was standing next to Cher or cruising on "The Love Boat." Miller's, on the other hand, is both terribly erudite (while on post-debate spin patrol for Arnold, Miller compared Cruz Bustamante to Sancho Panza) and decidedly yuppie (the comedian endorses DirecTV and Amstel Light, not his namesake brew). Not to mention a little too edgy for some Republicans. In June, the comedian did a stand-up routine at a presidential fund-raiser in Los Angeles. When he said the West Virginia senator Robert Byrd "must be burning the cross at both ends," some in the audience booed. "Well, he was in the Klan. Boo me, but he was in the Klan," Miller responded.

Such is the challenge of a Miller candidacy--he'd be an HBO politician trying to play to a TGI Friday electorate. (He's not even the first HBO star to toy with a political run--"Sex & the City"'s Sarah Jessica Parker has told reporters that she can see herself as a U.S. Senator from New York.) In Miller's case, it's hard to imagine a candidate quicker on the draw or more withering in a debate. But, given the daily opportunity to go off on rants, he could bring to life Mort Sahl's catch-all phrase: "Is there any group I haven't offended?"

Such is a quandary for California Republicans in an age redefined by Arnold: to decide if a Dennis Miller candidacy tastes great, or is politically less filling.

Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he follows California and national politics.