Then Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante
O, glory be! Life had gotten a little bit too stale for California journalists -- pensions, budgets, tax initiatives, numbers, more numbers -- when the news arrived at the bar, like an old friend you'd almost forgotten, but badly missed.
Cruz Bustamante might be running for Congress.
Everyone knows that name.
The former lieutenant governor and legislative leader may run for an open seat in the Central Valley that includes his hometown of Dinuba, according to the Fresno Bee.
Why is this good news? Because while some politicians make politics look easy, Bustamante always had a special talent for making politics look like brain surgery performed by a guy who wasn't quite sure where the brain is, exactly.
Who can forget his unbelievably awkward, Democratic-ally disloyal campaign to replace Gov. Gray Davis during the recall, with its delicious "No on Recall, Yes on Bustamante" slogan? For those who love cognitive dissonance, it doesn't get any better than that.
Bustamante may still be completing sentences that he first started speaking during the 2003 gubernatorial debate, when he seemed to determine to speak so slowly that every syllable could be understood. The debate, of course, was dominated by European-accented immigrants -- Arianna Huffington and Arnold Schwarzenegger -- who spoke so quickly it was difficult to understand them. Lesson: in politics, having your words understood is vastly overrated.
And for those who want to go back further, there were Bustamante's campaign finance troubles, which led to him being sued by the Fair Political Practices Commission. Or the time he uttered the "n" word -- yes, that "n" word -- during a Black History Month speech.
More recently, his name was floated to be -- this is not a joke -- ambassador to India, prompting a wonderful Sacramento Bee editorial calling him "an international incident waiting to happen."
All that said, Bustamante had some successes as a legislator, and having a high-profile Congressman -- even one with an ability to put his foot in his mouth -- might help the Central Valley stay in the political conversation.
But if Bustamante makes the race, the clear winner will be journalists, who should get their digital voice recorders ready. This could be fun.