California dreamin’


I dreamed last night I was covering the recall election as a reporter for, Gasp! Fox News. It was just a week before the election and the horde of comic relief candidates had pretty much dropped out. I was to interview the top Democratic candidate before and after the last debate and to give a “fair and balanced” account of his shortcomings and show how the Republican candidate nailed him on every point.

I’d been ignoring the recall riot, so I didn’t even know who the current Democratic frontrunner was. Had Cruz overcome the charisma factor, or had Huffington captured the environmentalists with her Toyota Prius and bashing SUVs and oil companies and corporate polluters? But wait a minute. They’re not on my assignment sheet. So who the heck am I following here?

I was given the address of the hotel in Sacramento where the debate was to be held and the room number of the candidate, Brown. Surely I would have heard this name if he had risen to the top of the 135 on the ballot. I couldn’t remember a single TV ad or quote from anyone named Brown. Schwarzenegger had intimidated most of the Republicans so I figured he would be my other interview. I was not looking forward to this. Would I need an interpreter? A bulletproof vest?

There was a bit of a time lapse, as there always is in dreams, and the next scene was a hotel room, not very posh. I was sitting on a threadbare chair and the candidate was relaxing on the bed wearing jeans and a T-shirt and loafers without socks. Omigod. It was Jerry Brown. The one-time guy who was so fiscally responsible he refused to live in the governor’s mansion or use the state’s chauffeur driven limousine.

A debate between the Terminator and Moonbeam? Wow! Things were looking up, at least copy wise.

I was taking notes as Brown mumbled about how bad the economy is and how high unemployment is-especially in the seedy Oakland neighborhood where he lives-and how that drives up crime rates. And why isn’t anyone talking about this instead of complaining about taxes being too high? People who don’t have jobs don’t worry about taxes, he said.

Another time lapse and I’m following Brown into an auditorium. There’s a huge commotion on the other side of the room. Lights, cameras, microphones all pointed at the Star, who has deigned to participate in just this one debate. He seems to think this will be a slam-dunk, or its cinematic equivalent, being taller, tanner, buffer and toothier than all competitors. Good Lord, he never stops smiling. I watch Brown step up on the stage and realize he’s aged some as mayor of Oakland. His forehead a bit higher, his girth a bit wider, but still the same unassuming demeanor as in his Linda Rondstadt days. No spotlight hog.

Another lapse and the debate is in full, if somewhat lopsided, swing. Moonbeam is underplaying his considerable experience in state government while politely tossing unanswerable questions at Ahnold.

Moonbeam: If you won’t raise taxes, how will you solve the state’s fiscal crisis?

Terminator: First day, I call for an audit to get rid of deficits.

MB: How will you pay for the audit?

T: Doesn’t the state pay for that?

MB: Taxpayers would be stuck with it as they are with this election.

The Terminator smile is fading.

MB: Isn’t it true that your initiative for after-school programs hasn’t been funded?

T: I won’t cut any programs for children. They are the most important.

MB: Did you consider Warren Buffett’s suggestion that Proposition 13 was an obstacle to fiscal sanity?

T: My other advisors told me that was a sacred cow and never to mention it again.

An audible gasp from T’s handlers.

MB: Well if you won’t raise taxes, will you be able to work with legislators on budget cuts?

T: They are supposed to implement my vision.

More gasps.

MB: The last guy who said that is facing a recall.

T: I will terminate anyone who stands in my way.

He smiles through clenched but sparkling teeth.

T: Why are you doing this debate anyhow? You haven’t paid for any TV ads or taken money from corporate donors like real politicians.

MB: My daddy was beaten by an actor in 1966. I just wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.

Fade out as Terminator begins to morph into Ronald Reagan in a scene from “Bedtime for Bonzo.” All cameras turn on Moonbeam.

“Hasta la vista, Ahnold.”

Coverage of this debate was not carried on Fox News as it was deemed neither fair nor balanced.