The awkward bed that Mayor Eric Garcetti has made with former right-wing anger talk host Kevin James continues to be one of the weirdest pairings in City Hall. It feels more forced and unprincipled than most of the deals that get made in local politics, no matter how much Garcetti and James says it isn't. The basic facts are that coming out of the mayoral primary, when James finished a surprising third, the most liberal candidate in the race (Garcetti) wooed and won over his rival with the most conservative record (James.) We don't know what if anything Garcetti promised James, but the former radio righty became a key part of Garcetti's pitches to Republican voters. And last week there was James being confirmed to one of the best jobs Garcetti has to offer, on the Board of Public Works — then being elected its president, though James would seem to have nothing in common with the other board members and no background in public works. (He's not alone on that latter trait. The board isn't exactly made up of experts in city services.)
Before he was confirmed, James assured the City Council that he no longer believed a lot of the anti-City Hall, anti-intellectual hate-baiting he used to spout on KABC and KRLA — and never truly believed some of the scapegoating he did of illegal immigrants, which was kind of his speciality. He suggested some of it was just show business, which confirms the belief of those of us who think radio anger talk is mostly a creation to manipulate the emotions and wallets of angry white men. The problem, of course, is that the listeners believed James was one of them. So did his fellow hosts. One of those ex-colleagues, KABC's Doug McIntyre, used his Daily News column today to express his disappointment in James' new story line. "It was painful to watch, painful to hear, and it's painful to write about," says McIntyre.
I'm sure more than a few James voters and former listeners were shocked to learn that Kevin was not always telling us what he really believed rather what he hoped would generate "controversy" and provoke a "response."
I've been in the radio racket for nearly 20 years. I have known talk show hosts who were 100 percent phonies; frauds who would say whatever they believed would generate ratings. Kevin was not one of them.
First as a colleague, then as a competitor, Kevin James earned the respect of his audience and co-workers for the intelligence and passion he brought to the fight for secure borders and an end to L.A.'s sanctuary city policies.
Last Tuesday we learned he believes otherwise.
"There are people who have so much to offer this country and for no good reason we put up too many barriers to get in their way," James told [Councilman Gil] Cedillo, as if anyone was talking about H1-B visas for foreign engineers and doctors.
Many, including this columnist, have changed positions over the years. But Kevin's evolution from anti-amnesty warrior to non-partisan agent for "positive change" -- aka the Spring Street party line -- reeks of appeasement.
On McIntrye's Facebook page, the column is getting a lot of support and at least some wishful thinking that James is a Trojan Horse who had to say those awful things last week to get inside the gates of the fortress.
LA Observed photo: James and Garcetti campaigning in the Valley