California Governor Gray Davis is in a political freefall, the victim of a lethal combination of incompetence, arrogance and a wearying childishness that surfaces in his finger-pointing at everyone but himself for the collapse of the state’s electricity system. Davis is now accompanied wherever he goes by the four horsemen of an individual’s political apocalypse: pity and
contempt, silence and ridicule.

The pity comes from the state’s formerly-significant newspaper, the Los Angeles Times (or Lost Angeles Times, or Left Angeles Times). All pretense of objectivity has been dropped at the paper over the past six months as it transformed itself into the Defend-the-Governor Daily. This past Sunday the paper went about its task efficiently — carrying an upbeat assessment of the
governor’s re-election hopes on the front page of its new “California” section, while burying the real line on Davis on the jump page in the 13th paragraph. There, deep in the story, you could read Republican State Sen. Tom McClintock’s assessment of Davis’ political future: “The joke making the rounds in Republican circles is ‘What is the difference between Gray Davis
and the Titanic? When the Titanic went down, the lights were still on.'”

While the “reporters” cover for Davis, the sympathy flows on the editorial pages. On a nearly daily basis, the economically illiterate editorial pages find a way to prop up the governor. The paper’s voice even went so far as to blame the Republicans in the state’s legislature for this week’s rolling blackouts because they failed to vote for a massive bond issue. Even pity has its limits, however, and the editors tentatively suggested that the governor “needs to take command of his listing ship and make a bold sea change.” (Yeah, the writing’s that bad.)

The contempt comes from Democrats not on the governor’s payroll. Two Democrats holding statewide office — Treasurer Phillip Angelides and Controller Kathleen Connell — are seen as positioning themselves for a primary challenge to the floundering chief executive. That talk of a challenge has surfaced even as Davis has amassed a nearly $30 million dollar war chest suggests that the governor is grievously wounded politically.

The depth of his political troubles is also indicated in the silence of even his allies. The governor’s defenders are all paid by the governor. He sends out political consultants and party operatives to counter the drumbeat of criticism, and his party’s leaders in the legislature stay silent. The most instructive detail? Davis cannot find one — not one — Democrat to carry his legislation to buy ailing Southern California Edison’s transmission lines. The plan doesn’t even deserve the description “dead-on-arrival” as Davis cannot find even one messenger to introduce the plan.

But the real measure of Davis’ trouble is in the only consensus to be found in the state: The governor is in way over his head, and he lacks the basic skills to deal with a problem this complex. His incompetence is now the central issue. The ridicule of Republicans, Democrats, Independents and nearly all of the media when speaking candidly (except for the Times’ staff
which appears to genuinely believe the governor is a victim here) is uniform, pointed and very, very harsh.

Politicians can survive many things, but ridicule is nearly always fatal. Some have taken to calling him Gov. Gray Doofus. Others call him Gov. Low-Beam or “Lights-Out” Gray Davis after his demand to criminalize business lighting after closing hours. But the real measure is that ordinary voters have come to grasp that the Gov. is the Peter Principle personified.

I ran a little contest on my radio show last week. I asked e-mailers to complete the sentence “If Gray Davis were. … ” My hard-working server at almost collapsed under the load. Hundreds of entries flooded in during the three-hour broadcast and have continued to this day. Here is a sampling — just a sampling — from across the state (and many from out of state, which suggests that Davis’ once-promising presidential hopes have gone the way of uninterrupted energy in the Golden State):

“If Gray Davis were software, he’d be a virus.”

“If Gray Davis were Renee Descartes, he would not exist.”

“If Gray Davis were a religious leader, he would be Jim Jones.”

“If Gray Davis were a houseguest, he’d be Kato Kaetlin.”

“If Gray Davis were in a movie, he’d play Wilson in ‘Castaway.'”

“If Gray Davis were a suburb, he’d be Love Canal.”

“If Gray Davis were a quarterback, he’d be Ryan Leaf.”

“If Gray Davis were a batting average, he’d be the Mendoza Line.”

“If Gray Davis were a fighter pilot, he’d be Wong Wei.”

“If Gray Davis were a ball gown, he’d be a bikini.”

“If Gray Davis were an angle, he’d be obtuse.”

“If Gray Davis were a bridge, he’d be the Tacoma Narrows.”

“If Gray Davis were a woman, he’d be Renee Richards.”

“If Grey Davis were Washington, we’d be bowing to the queen.”

“If Gray Davis were a jockey, he’d be Minnesota Fats.”

“If Gray Davis were a video game, he’d be pong.”

“If Gray Davis were the devil, hell would cool off.”

“If Gray Davis were a dumbwaiter, he’d be overemployed.”

“If Gray Davis were a gift, he’d be a fruitcake.”

“If Gray Davis were a gift, he’d be returned.”

“If Gray Davis were a check, he’d bounce.”

“If Gray Davis were a general, he’d be Custer.”

“If Gray Davis were a doctor, he’d be Kevorkian.”

“If Gray Davis were a blimp, he’d be the Hindenburg.”

“If Gray Davis were a hunter, he’d be Elmer Fudd.”

“If Gray Davis were cloned, he’d be Laurel and Hardy.”

“If Gray Davis were a country, he’d be France.”

“If Gray Davis were a power plant, he’d be Chernobyl.”

“If Gray Davis were a currency, he’d be the ruble.”

“If Gray Davis were a movie, he’d be ‘Dumb and Dumber.'”

“If Gray Davis were a football team, he’d be the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs.”

“If Gray Davis owned a basketball team, he’d be Donald Sterling.”

“If Gray Davis were a seaman, he’d be Gilligan.”

“If Gray Davis were an international organization, he’d be The League of Nations.”

“If Gray Davis were a geographic location, he’d be the Bermuda Triangle.”

“If Gray Davis were an airplane, he’d be the Spruce Goose.”

“If Gray Davis were a street, he’d be a dead-end.”

“If Gray Davis were an intellectual, he’d be Jethro Bodine.”

“If Gray Davis were Thomas Edison, we’d would never have had this problem.”

“If Gray Davis were a deadly disease, he’d be an ingrown toenail.”

“If Gray Davis were a pill, he’d be a placebo.”

“If Gray Davis were a repairman, he’d be Ernest.”

“If Gray Davis were a secret agent, he’d be 86.”

“If Gray Davis were an ocean, he’d be Walden Pond.”

“If Gray Davis were a soft drink, he’d be the New Coke.”

“If Gray Davis were a fish, he’d drown.”

“If Gray Davis were a number, he’d be 0.”

“If Gray Davis were a knight, he’d be Sir Robbin.”

“If Gray Davis were a debutante, he’d be Janet Reno.”

“If Gray Davis were a military strategy, he’d be the Maginot Line.”

“If Gray Davis were younger, he’d be blonde.”

“If Gray Davis were a comic strip, he’d be ‘Nancy.'”

“If Gray Davis were foreplay, he’d be a kiss on the cheek.”

“If Gray Davis were a comet, he’d be Kahoutek.”

“If Gray Davis were an overnight camp, he’d be Waco.”

“If Gray Davis were a Catholic priest, he’d be Bill Clinton.”

“If Gray Davis were a website, he’d be www.”

“If Gray Davis were a cartoon, he’d be ‘Mr. Magoo.'”

“If Gray Davis were a thought, he’d be forgotten.”

“If Gray Davis were a deputy sheriff, he’d be Barney Fife.”

“If Gray Davis were a wizard, he’d be Gilderoy Lockhart.”

“If Gray Davis were a gas, he’d be inert.”

“If Gray Davis were Abraham Lincoln, I’d be picking cotton.”

“If Gray Davis were a tree, he’d be petrified.”

“If Gray Davis were a pet, he’d be Cujo.”

“If Gray Davis were a day of the week, he’d be Monday.”

“If Gray Davis were a historic period, he’d be the Dark Ages.”

“If Gray Davis were a flower, he’d be a dandelion.”

“If Gray Davis were a state, he’d be Washington, D.C.”

“If Gray Davis were a golf shot, he’d be a Mulligan.”

“If Gray Davis were a sailboat, we’d be rowing.”

“If Gray Davis were a tense, he’d be past.”

“If Gray Davis were a minor French Socialist politician, there’d be no difference.”

“If Gray Davis were Jimmy Carter, at least we’d have a sweater.”

“If Gray Davis were a racehorse, he’d be Mr. Ed.”

The last four entries were finalists, but the award went to the Mr. Ed author. There are hundreds more, many not fit for a family show or column.

So you tell me, is this a politician in trouble, or what?

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