Politics and do-overs

One of the best things about being a kid is the do-over option. Most youthful mistakes are easily fixed when understanding parents let you try something again. Of course, sometimes heaving a baseball through the neighbor’s window has them writing a check for damages. We called that a "don’t do-over if you know what’s good for you."

In politics, there aren’t many chances to rewind, and dumb decisions stick with politicians. But what if you could reel back in …?

What’s needed is a do-over list, so here are several off the political beat.

California Democrats who spent thousands of dollars propping up Assembly Member Nicole Parra in her 2006 re-election bid against Republican Danny Gilmore surely want a do-over. Parra, who is termed out, is supporting Gilmore for her seat this year. It would have been a lot cheaper to let the Republican win two years ago instead of having the Democratic incumbent go goo goo for Gilmore this year.

State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata’s decision to launch a recall against Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, has do-over written all over it. Perata tried to pull the plug on the failed recall, but it was too late. The do-over should have come the day Perata announced the recall.

Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez needed a do-over when he got caught spending tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on luxuries and foreign trips. The Los Angeles Times reported the spending spree included $47,000 for airplane flights, $8,700 for a stay at the Hotel Arts in Barcelona, $2,562 for "office expenses" at Louis Vuitton in Paris and $5,149 for wine at the Cave L’Avant Garde in Bordeaux.

Nunez and Perata definitely needed a do-over for pushing a measure on the February ballot that would have loosened the term-limits law to benefit them and their political pals. Voters saw through the scam, and crushed the effort by Nunez and Perata. Instead of a political legacy, they are now known as petty, greedy and politically tone deaf.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could use a do-over for his "blow-up-the-boxes" approach to government. It turned out that the governor handled the state finances the same old way as in the past: Stitch together the state budget with overly optimistic revenue projections, bonding ongoing obligations and continuing to spend more money than the state takes in.

Do you think that Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, wants a do-over for his decision to take a walk to a casino in Estonia to kill time during a congressional visit to the former Soviet republic? Cardoza was very lucky, dropping a few coins into a slot machine and hitting a $1,700 jackpot. He had to report the windfall on his congressional disclosure statement. On the other hand, this gambling venture did help improve the U.S. trade balance, so maybe the do-over isn’t needed.

Fresno City Councilman Mike Dages needed a do-over when he decided to run for mayor. Dages is a very nice guy, but he never had a chance of getting into the mayoral runoff. There were other also-rans in the 11-candidate field, but Dages’ usually keen political radar should have warned him away from this race.

A do-over would have helped Clovis City Councilman Nathan Magsig, who decided to go negative in his Fresno County supervisor campaign against rival Debbie Poochigian. Magsig was within striking distance before he began attacking Poochigian. She ended up crushing Magsig on June 3.

Fresno County Supervisors Henry Perea and Susan Anderson thought that creating an executive budget committee would make the contentious budget process much smoother than normal. It didn’t, and they should have known that tinkering with the system in a terrible budget year wouldn’t make the finances look any better. That’s definitely a do-over decision.

Let’s give Fresno Mayor Alan Autry a do-over for disavowing a federal court settlement on the homeless case that he approved.

And how about a do-over for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the California Air Resources Board for agreeing to a 10-year delay for cleaning up the Valley’s air? Have these people been outside lately?

Congress actually got a do-over when it passed a farm bill that didn’t meet legal muster. Someone was snoozing when Congress sent President Bush a version of the bill that didn’t include one of the bill’s titles. Bush vetoed that version; Congress passed the correct bill with all its titles; Bush vetoed that one, too; Congress overrode the veto.

As you can see, Congress can teach the rest of us a thing or two about do-overs.

(Jim Boren is The Fresno Bee’s editorial-page editor. E-mail him at jboren(at)fresnobee.com.)