Matt Labash has a pretty funny Boy on the Bus report from the final days of the Schwarzenegger campaign at the Weekly Standard site. He mingles with the crowds and talks about the campaign's skillful press manipulation, never more evident than the Thursday that the L.A. Times groping stories came out.
In a strange way, the new allegations are a good break for the campaign. It allows them to perfect their elegantly simple defense strategy: Whatever happens, blame Gray Davis or the Los Angeles Times...
[snipped to cut to chase]
The campaign does everything, in fact, but blame Gray Davis for reading the Los Angeles Times. And this, it turns out, is a devastatingly effective strategy for two reasons: (a) Voters hate the media, and (b) if there's anything Californians hate more than the media, it's Gray Davis.
The next day, at the L.A. Arboretum, Rob Stutzman tells us that their campaign has actually jumped a point or two in the polls, despite the allegations. It's insane, but apparently true. The way some of us figure, if Arnold can get on the trail and goose some Jewish women, they might not even need to have the election: Davis will be forced to concede.
As Matt Welch has noted, Labash describes some of the reporter herd on board Sexual Predator 2 and delights in the visage of Charlie LeDuff of the New York Times L.A. bureau.
I can't tell if the sinewy, leathered scribe with bandito facial hair is a former outlaw biker or a former pirate, since he looks like the bastard spawn of Sonny Barger and Jean Lafitte. I settle on the former. "What motorcycle magazine does he write for?" I ask one colleague. "The New York Times," they reply, "that's Charlie LeDuff."
Part Native-American, part Cajun, LeDuff won a Pulitzer after spending a month in a North Carolina slaughterhouse. Before becoming a journalist at around the age of 30, he did stints as a teacher, a tannery worker, and a bartender. But he seems to have taken to the sport. Like most good reporters, he inspires sources to perform for him because they like him, but also because he keeps them off balance. Throughout the bus tour, Charlie keeps people honest. Once, at a Sacramento bar, he shakes up all the media/staffer chumminess by breaking an empty wine glass on his forehead. ("It's a trick," he tells me later, "the glass is thin up at the top.")
His antics are not only a news-gathering method, but a performance-commentary on the whole preposterous kabuki dance.
Labash is a senior writer at the Weekly Standard.