The L.A. Times has decided to throw more heft at the recall campaign, tapping the paper's former California columnist and city editor Peter H. King to write two columns a week. His first "On the Recall" today adheres to my bias that the recall is a lot closer to politics as usual than it is to New New Thing, so I like it:
Listen closely and it's almost possible to hear the state's legion of political operatives slapping their foreheads in unison: Why oh why didn't we think of this before? We could have recalled Moonbeam, moan the Jerry Brown detractors. We could have recalled Pee Wee, weep the Pete Wilson haters. Maybe we wouldn't have taken them out, but we certainly could have roughed them up, tied down their money, shortened their leashes.
For a quarter of a century it has been canon in California politics that anybody with $1 million or so to invest can put anything before the voters in the form of an initiative. The recall simply has taken this truth and applied it to another of Hiram Johnson's hallowed experiments in direct democracy.
I'm glad to see the Times is putting King's pieces on the op-ed page. In the past, the paper would have run them alongside the news stories -- see Jim Ricci's writerly observations on the secession campaign last year. That effort ran out of creative gas before election day, but King should enjoy more freedom to be opinionated. I just hope he doesn't run out of ideas and keep writing anyway, as sometimes happens when the Times appoints these kinds of ad-hoc columns around a news story.
Of the staff on hand, I think King was a good choice -- he knows the state, knows politics and probably wants to speak to and for the great center that isn't sure what to think of this new phenomenon yet. It could turn into a waste of space, though, if he just keeps repeating the same cynic's line. Even I'm willing to be excited by high turnout, new ideas and other evidence it's more than a new partisan twist. That leaves one inside baseball question: how will King's columns really be that much different from what Steve Lopez does on the cover of California?