The Sage of Sacramento: A Google search of the words “George Skelton” and “quotes” instantly guides you to one of the more profound thoughts ever written or uttered by a California journalist:
“Don’t worry. Things will get worse.”
We share this splendid existential insight today in tribute to Skelton, the L.A. Times lifer whose rare combination of craftsmanship, consistency and sheer crankiness has shaped political writing in California for the last century-and-a-half.
Last night, Skelton was to be honored by for his oeuvre by colleagues, friends and foes, not to mention the usual assortment of badge sniffers, hacks and hangers-on in search of free food and booze, at the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Sacramento Press Club (an affair, we note, that conspicuously excluded Dr. P.J. Hackenflack who, we further note, never forgets a slight and always carries a grudge. But we digress)
Hours before the historic event, the Great Man himself took to the pages of his paper to preview his impending veneration with a typically clear-eyed commentary on his decades in the Capitol:
The Legislature has become weaker and the moneyed interests stronger. You’d think that governors also would have become stronger, filling the legislative power vacuum. They haven’t. They try to deal, but modern legislators too often lack the courage and skills to compromise…
Not to put too fine a point on it.
Today, Skelton receives yet another, even greater, accolade, in the form of the Calbuzz? Little Pulitzer Lifetime Achievement in Investigative Punditry Award.
In granting the honor, the judges hailed him for a “a body of work that has edified, educated, elated, elucidated, engrossed, enlightened, entertained and enraged Californians about the state of their state government since his landmark coverage of the successful campaign for governor of Peter Hardeman Burnett in 1849.”
Ah, what a race that was.
For us, Skelton is the best at what he does for at least three reasons: 1) he never forgets that his first professional duty is to serve as a watchdog for his readers about the politicians he covers, and doesn’t surrender to the temptation of playing kissy poo suck-up games for access; 2) he possesses an encyclopedic institutional knowledge of the material of politics and government that disarms and disables any pols or sources who would spin or shine him on at their peril; 3) he actually cares about this stuff, and whether the government works in the public interest or not, notwithstanding the crusty, crotchety Mr. Cranky Pants sentiments reflected in his iconic quotation above.
Lest you doubt it, behold how Eeyore himself allowed a small ray of sunshine to creep into the kicker of his anniversary essay:
But after a three-decade slide in Sacramento, I see hope. The budget now can be passed by a majority vote. Independent redistricting and open primaries kick in next year.
One key lesson of the last 50 years: Emphatic voter actions have long-term consequences. They do more than just send angry messages.
Great work, man.
Splenetic in San Diego: A venerable California political strategist once explained to us the key to running a campaign when your candidate is far behind: “When you’re going nowhere, pick a fight with somebody.”
That nugget of political wisdom came to mind as we checked Calwhine, the latest blogospheric reinvention of San Diego U-T editorial writer Chris Reed, who marked his return to the internets by ingesting a vast quantity of Red Bull, chewing on the rug and then aiming a 1,000 word (!) hissy fit at Calbuzz.
We have a soft spot for writers who mainline invective as food and diatribe as strong drink, so it’s good to have Reed’s boisterous voice back in the mix, shrillness, stridency and adolescent petulance be damned. An arsonist running wild in a field of straw men, Reed has a huge and proven talent for afflicting the afflicted and easing the burdens of the embattled 1%, all the while woefully misreading and willfully misrepresenting the words of his elders.
Welcome back, Chris. We hope you’re feeling better soon.
Must read of the week: We’ve been kvetching for weeks about the Occupy movement’s need for political focus. Now Jane Mayer makes the most eloquent case for it yet.