Antonio Villaraigosa

Antonio Villaraigosa Bombs In National Debut

L.A. Mayor, already several levels above his level of incompetence, reveals Dems' shallow Golden State bench.


Antonio Villaraigosa stares blankly at America.

During one of his many appearances before the cameras at this year's Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke movingly about the mother of "indomitable spirit" who, according to his narrative, raised him after his father, an abusive alcoholic, abandoned five-year-old Tony Villar and the rest of the family, took up with a new woman and gave his first son by the new woman the identical name Tony Villar.

Villaraigosa has been retelling variants of this family history for many years. Tragically, he didn't wait until his father was dead before telling it. As Tony Castro reports in a profile of L.A.'s lame duck chief executive, several of the main characters have challenged the accuracy of Villaraigosa's Dickensian tale: 

Villaraigosa's father, Antonio Ramon Villar Sr., finally spoke up for himself in a 2006 interview in which he adamantly challenged the mayor's allegations.

"God knows that I was never an alcoholic and that I never hurt his mother or abused my family," Villar Sr. told me, denying the mayor's long-accepted account of his purported difficult childhood.

"I know the public has been poisoned against me, but this is the truth, so help me God."

Villaraigosa's claim that his father later gave another son the exact same name he had given him also is inaccurate.

That other son—christened Anthony Gustavo Villar, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz – has personally contacted Villaraigosa demanding to know why he has publicly vilified their father, said Estela Villar, Anthony Gustavo's mother and the wife of Antonio Ramon Villar Sr.

Villar Sr.'s second family portrayed him as a husband and father who has been gentle, loving, kind and deeply religious—and who in half a century of marriage never abused his wife or their four children, nor shown any hints of alcoholism.

Even without embellishments, Villaraigosa's hard-luck story remains compelling – and rare among major American politicians. Unfortunately, accounts of youthful privation had already dominated the speakers' setlists at both the Democratic and Republican conventions, creating a special irony for the feckless L.A. mayor. Villaraigosa was one of a vanishingly few people inside Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena who could truthfully claim the Hamiltonian tradition of low birth, but nobody wanted to hear it.

That wasn't the worst. Villaraigosa's on-camera disaster came when he overrode an obviously split floor voice vote with the unbelievable claim that a supermajority had voted in favor of the God/Jerusalem change to the party platform that President Obama favored. 

Correct procedure called for an exact vote count, and Villaraigosa appeared torn between his instinct for ward-boss strongarming and his longing to appear statesmanlike. Judge for yourself whether the nearly 60-year-old Villaraigosa in this clip does or does not look like a little boy overwhelmed by the complexities of a man's job: 

That the L.A. mayor's national coming-out would fail should have been known in advance. He didn't just come from humble beginnings. He's made of humble stuff. At the DNC, when he trumpeted the early assistance he got from an affirmative action program, Villaraigosa didn't mention that he went on to fail the California bar exam four times. This might not matter if he had bloomed in later life, but he did not. 

Melrose Avenue, where beautiful people come from around the globe to see and be seen.

Since Antonio Villaraigosa settled into the Windsor Square mayoral residence in 2005 (he later had to depart while divorcing the long-suffering Corina Raigosa), L.A.'s unemployment rate has soared. Its gross domestic product has dropped by double-digit percentages. World-famous retail streets like Melrose Ave. and Wilshire Blvd. are studded by "For Lease" signs and speckled with homeless people. The city's budget has not been balanced for four years. In his 2009 re-election race, Villaraigosa got a small majority even though he was running virtually unopposed and outspent his nearest competitor (politically unaffiliated gadfly Walter Moore) fifteen to one. 

Villaraigosa's good moves in office have been no-brainers like re-appointing Police Chief William Bratton and denouncing the L.A. teachers union in a 2010 speech. Observers have been eager to praise his evolution from shakedown man to steward of the commonweal. 

But Villaraigosa soured on unions not so that he can confront them but so that he can blame them for his failures. After years of dire and deteriorating city finances, he still allows government employee unions to carry out their tactic of ensuring that any slowdown in the rate of spending increases will be immediately visible to voters in the form of cuts to services. Does Villaraigosa believe voters will respond to office-hour reductions and crossing-guard-free intersections by demanding new taxes? His formerly reform-minded city manager is now calling for taxes on real estate sales, entertainment, petroleum extraction, and parking lot revenues. 

How did the Democrats choose their leadership so poorly? Simply put, Villaraigosa fit the suit. His rise in the California party coincided with a power shift from the ancient Burton machine in San Francisco to a more shadowy labor/activist power structure in Southern California that was associated with former Assembly speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Vernon). In 2008, Núñez' son and three accomplices killed a college student while trying to crash a fraternity party (the son's manslaughter sentence was later commuted by outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger), but Núñez may yet return to California politics. His successor in the speaker's post, pro-tax community activist Karen Bass, shot directly to the District of Columbia as the congresswoman for the 33rd district. 

Kevin de León and Karen Bass try to get John Pérez to do some vigorous exercise.

Current Speaker John Pérez (D-Vernon), like Núñez and Villaraigosa, was a union official before getting into politics. Pérez is an incompetent legislative leader, and sometimes his incompetence has good results: A bill he muscled through the legislature in a backstairs attempt to save California's redevelopment agencies was later ruled unconstitutional, and those predatory agencies were dissolved. But mostly the results are bad. Californians have endured many cycles of unbalanced budgets and missed revenue projections. No reforms have been made to the government employee pension systems that are bankrupting large and small towns around the state.

The Democrats feel entitled to a Latin star, but throughout the Sunbelt the Republicans seem to be the ones nurturing sensations like Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. This is where the party's need met Villaraigosa's vaulting ambition. 

To give him an important job, the Democrats had to ignore all tests of outcomes. The LA Weekly's Patrick Range McDonald in 2008 closely examined Villaraigosa's work schedule to see how much time he was spending on city business, and the resulting "11 percent mayor" moniker stuck. Even The New Yorker, a magazine produced and read almost entirely within the liberal Democrat consensus, had sent a warning in the form of Connie Bruck's 2007 hit piece. 

Now Villaraigosa's bone-deep untrustworthiness, his emotional neediness, and most importantly his severe intellectual limits have been displayed for the United States. Even if there were to be a second Obama administration, he'd be a long shot for a major appointment given his poor administrative record. Villaraigosa, whose last term as mayor will end next year, may still hope for a solid third act in Sacramento, but his record of failure is extensive and Californians are not in a forgiving mood. 

Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel attempt to avoid physical contact at a Mar Vista shindig for big city politicians in June 2012.

Two of the Democrats vying to replace Villaraigosa as mayor next year were also in Charlotte last week. City Controller Wendy Greuel has performed actual public service over the past three years by continuing the aggressive public auditing work of her predecessor Laura Chick, putting light on phantom jobs, missing records and other abuses of taxpayer money. But Walter Moore points out that during seven years sitting on the City Council, when she could have made a difference, Greuel did little to reform the structurally unsound city government. 

Also cruising the DNC was mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti, the former L.A. City Council president who spent his time in Charlotte signing official-looking papers, getting his picture taken, and giving time to reporters. Neither Greuel, a San Fernando Valley native, nor Garcetti, the son of former District Attorney Gil Garcetti, can mimic Villaraigosa's populist nightclub act. 

But the toffish, cerebral Garcetti does reproduce Villaraigosa's indifference to pothole-level leadership. I lived in flat Hollywood, the heart of Garcetti's district, for six years. Garcetti is a Facebook friend of mine. Yet in all that time I only saw him at L.A. Times editorial board meetings and at big media events in other parts of town. In my neighborhood (which is considered distressed for the purpose of Targeted Employment Area subsidies) I saw more of Xavier Becerra, my local congressman, and even Tom LaBonge, a councilman from a neighboring district, than I ever saw of Garcetti. And Hollywood is full of potholes.

L.A. politics under term limits has a Putinesque quality, in which the same players rotate in and out of jobs in what looks to voters like a pattern of remission and inflammation. Over the years, many of the Democrats described above have traded legislative seats, appointed sinecures and elective managerial offices. 

It's a poor breeding ground for national politicians, and that puts the national Democratic Party in a bind. With Wisconsin, New Jersey and even Massachusetts generating high-profile Republicans, California is the closest thing to a heartland the Democrats have left. Yet both the state's senators and many of its House members are antiques, and its rising generation holds little promise. There's just not a lot to choose from. The grimmest news about Villaraigosa's national debut may not be that it failed but that it was long overdue. 

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  1. Yet the state’s antique senators, less-than-fresh House members and Putinesque term-limit rotations make it a poor breeding ground for politicians.

    There – fixed

    1. Oh, plus “retarded voters who ask for all this with their selection of pols”.

      Fuck California. And Californians.

      1. Hey!

        Good (if depressing) article, though.

      2. Since when are Californian’s represented by their representatives?

        1. Yahhh!!

  2. [i]Judge for yourself whether the nearly 60-year-old Villaraigosa in this clip does or does not look like a little boy overwhelmed by the complexities of a man’s job:[/i]

    I personally found it hilarious. If ever there was a real world example of a kabuki dance this is it.

    1. with actual HTML even.

  3. Surprise! Tom Friedman is still retarded.

    the growing legions of the “far from ready,” people who dropped out or have only a high school diploma. Their prospects for a decent job are small, even if they are ready to “work hard and play by the rules.”

    Which is why if we ever get another stimulus it has to focus, in part, on getting more people more education.

    Yes, Tom.

    Let’s take a moment to consider the reinvention of vast segments of the economy, and the massive increases in productivity and efficiency which have been achieved, and then consider public education, which looks pretty much exactly as it did in 1920.

    The inescapable conclusion: We’re just not hitting it hard enough.

    1. more education?


      Someone needs to stand up and say that just because some education is good does not mean we need to be saturated with it at every level.

      I swear if education fetishists had their way, no one would ever actually, you know, *work*, which is what that education is supposed to enable.

      1. Yep,

        The Moar education solves all problems meme is such utter bullshit that it’s turning into a form of self parody.

        Besides, what it really means is give educrats more money.

        1. right. and we DO spend more and more on education, and get less and less per $dollar spent

          the amount we spend per student is RIDICULOUS and inflation adjusted, it’s skyrocketed.

          yet, we still have craptastic graduation rates and even amongst those graduating – heck, we graduate people from high school who are borderline functionally illiterate in some locales

          dems always want to throw money at a problem

          and when you bring up how private school (catholic schools in particular) have much better success at far less $ per student, they just say it’s because those schools don’t have to take the problem students.

          1. How dare you impugn the heroes that run our public schools.


          2. Marginal utility as a concept doesn’t exist for these people.

          3. My son has a learning disability, and with few exceptions, the public schools did a shitty job of dealing with it. So we began sending him and subsequently my daughter to private school. Not high end prestigious schools, but they weren’t bad. Turns out that the less expensive private schools are a bit of a dumping ground for kids who, like my son, could not function adequately in the public system. The idea that private schools don’t have to deal with problem students is utter rubbish.

      2. As someone who has a master’s degree and presently makes more money as a locksmith than most anyone in my graduating class I have to laugh at the bullshit of the edumacating hordes.

    2. the growing legions of the “far from ready,” people who dropped out or have only a high school diploma have a college degree. Their prospects for a decent job are small, even if they are ready to “work hard and play by the rules.”


      According to HuffPo, even college grads can’t get a job worth a shit, and they start off in a huge financial hole.

      I won’t lie, it appears that having a degree will land you a better* job than not having a degree. But that is in a case where both are able to readily find a job.

      In this economy, neither are able to readily find a job. But even if the economy was better, we have certainly hit a state in which there are a glut of college grads in the market, and an extra large glut of those who aren’t really all that qualified to do anything despite their degree.

      My wife, a woman with a graduate degree, is about to hap on a job, but because of skills she learned by the time she was 4 (multi-lingual). Her degree never did anything but enable her to have a good time in her early twenties.

  4. Nice informative article. But aren’t you being a little harsh about the lack of quality congress critters coming out of Cali? I mean, they do have Pelosi, Waxman, Boxer… uh… never mind.

    1. Let’s not forget Feinstein.

      1. I stopped before it got worse.

  5. Senator Paul on ABC this AM done good. Multiple references to the “productive” (private) sector of the economy vs “non-productive” (government) sector.

    Professor Krugabe had nothing of substance to contribute, but leapt eagerly at the opportunity to gratuitously insult Paul Ryan. Wear that Nobel with pride.

    1. Krugman is a troll, in appearance and manner.

  6. The Californians I know like to repeatedly and frequently blame the state of things on Prop 13, which the miniscule Democrat minority there is apparently totally powerless to do anything about.

    1. You must not know many actual Californians then. Because efforts to repeal it, even partially, always fail by 20-30 points.

      1. Yeah most people are glad Prop 13 is there to hold some of our taxes in check. Though with the absurdly high property values, we still end up paying more property tax than people in other states with lower rates

        1. prop 13 remains because while most people realize in the aggregate, it causes harm, they also … in the personal … realizes it benefits them greatly.

          that’s the conundrum

          they may be philosophically against it, but that opposition can’t outweigh their benefit they receive from it

          if i lived in cali, and i knew my tax rates would go way up if it was repealed, … well, to put it bluntly… i can understand

          1. Prop 13 is not a big deal. Other taxes are raised to compensate.

          2. I disagree that it causes harm in the aggregate

      2. I’m unfamiliar with the details of attempts to repeal it as I’m not a state resident; my familiarity is only from hearing people bitching about the Republicans being responsible for it, and its supposedly pernicious effects.

        1. The only people that complain about it are politicians, government parasites and the pseudo intellectuals that cover for both groups.

          It’s been the law for 30+years now, through years with budget surpluses and deficits so there’s just no way that it’s legitimately the problem.

          Besides which it’s the fairest way to administer a property tax, ie the tax is set at the time the property is purchased.

          1. “The only people that complain about it are politicians, government parasites and the pseudo intellectuals that cover for both groups.”

            So, petty much everyone in CA?

  7. I wonder why an article that’s critical of Tony Villar doesn’t shed more light on the fact that he slept with a local Spanish TV reporter who as assigned to cover him.

    1. Because we don’t playa hate here at Reason.

      1. unless it’s repubs and strip clubs, which is viewed as somehow news worthy, and a sign of “hypocrisy” which is totally stupid, since going to strip clubs is legal and there is nothing immoral or contrary to the republican platform.

        it’s as american as apple pie

        but it inspires breathless rambling articles and is supposed to somehow paint repubs in a bad light

        1. Scandals are all about what you claim to abhor. Republican scandals are about sex, Democrats scandals are about money.

          1. right. but my point is that repubs going to strip clubs, while i guess in some respect is related so “sex” is not a scandal, just like a democrat spending $200 on a tie is not a money scandal

            1. So pointing out how a bunch of guys who talk about how much they love the poor, and how they have SO much of a connection to them, are stinking rich, doesn’t count?

            2. Remember John Edwards’ $400 haircut?

        2. Except that Reason never painted going to strip clubs as being “bad”. The way it’s hypocritical is how Republicans blame any sort of erotic pursuits as being bad for America. Then what to do they at their convention? Go to legalized pornography clubs. That’s what watching strippers is all about, after all. It’s porn).

        3. The hypocrisy lies in the pols saying how evil those places are and how they would never go to one, then turning around and doing it.

          Just like Dems bitching about rich people not paying their fair share and then admitting during their “interview” before congress that they haven’t paid taxes in 5 years.

      2. Who hates beaches? And why are you speaking Spanglish?

    2. Why waste time recounting Tony Villar’s pathological mafia life as mendacious thug clawing his way up the protection racket?

      His clown act at the convention is worth chuckling over, however.

    3. To the extent that that’s a problem, it’s really the reporter’s problem than the mayor’s. The mayor is under no professional obligation to not fraternize with the press. On the other hand, journalists arguable should not fraternize with their subjects. Gender doesn’t play into it here.

  8. California is the closest thing to a heartland the Democrats have

    And what else do you think they need? California is exactly where the Demoncrats have always wanted to go. This is their greatest success story, Tim, this is the plan for the whole nation. If you haven’t grokked that yet then you do not understand Demoncrats. No matter how long you’ve had to live in Hollywood potholes.

    1. Grokked FTW

  9. Nice alt text on the pic of that idjit!

  10. The good news is that we’ve been experiencing a lot of little earthquakes lately. So maybe the big one is finally about to sink the city into the sea.

    1. Do you think that Donald Fagen will finally go back to Annandale?

      1. Well, Guadalajara won’t do, now.

        1. I was always partial to William and Mary myself.

    2. Learn to swim

  11. I think we are seeing the death of the democratic party via the disease of progressivism/socialism.

    Sadly, this is yet another of many examples of how this mentality and method is a failure, yet the lesson will be lost on most. Another fucking moron like obama will come along, sold on the notion of fairness and social justice. They will simply try again.

    I am sure they will get it right next time.

  12. You guys are knocking Antonio Villaraigosa? It’s clear that you don’t know what you’re talking about and here’s proof:
    “I can tell you this ? the president of the United States said, ‘Wow.’ The president said, ‘You showed why you were speaker of the California Assembly,'” Villaraigosa said. “The president, the vice president, Mrs. Obama, all of them acknowledged the decisive way I handled that.”

    1. And really, who can argue with that? When you bulldoze the will of your own delegates on national TV to impose the will of the Party wire-pullers, you’ve clearly shown yourself as someone with a future.

  13. Dave Weigel says that just mentioning Villaraigosa makes you a troll!

    I’m sure if the Republican platform left out God, lefty bloggers would have ignored it completely.

    1. I think if the GOP platform left out God, it would just be a blank page.

  14. Far as I’m concerned, you’re not much of a man at all if you badmouth your family in a public fora for the sole purpose of making yourself look sainted. That is doubly true if the things you’re saying are untrue, and when they can’t defend themselves from those charges.

    There is no question that Villaraigosa’s remarks are meant for nothing but self-aggrandizement — there’s not even a pretence that he’s talking about his family to help someone in a similar situation, or something of that sort. That type of person? Is the type who’ll backstab his business associates to climb higher up the ladder when the time comes.

    1. The Immaculate Trouser| 9.9.12 @ 4:36PM |#
      “Far as I’m concerned, you’re not much of a man at all if you badmouth your family in a public fora for the sole purpose of making yourself look sainted. That is doubly true if the things you’re saying are untrue, and when they can’t defend themselves from those charges.”

      True enough, but there’s another issue involved.
      Sooner or later, any ADULT has to stop blaming his parents/family for his failures and stop claiming success for doing so.
      Sorry, Tony, we all have families and not a single one of them is perfect. And whining just shows you haven’t yet become an adult.

  15. “L.A. Mayor, already several levels above his level of incompetence, reveals Dems’ shallow Golden State bench.”

    This is the most poorly written byline I’ve seen in a long time.

    1. You need to read more.

      1. joe also needs to grow more. At least if he wants to break into the five foot club!

    2. That’s not a byline.

    3. The Derider| 9.9.12 @ 4:36PM |#
      “L.A. Mayor, already several levels above his level of incompetence, reveals Dems’ shallow Golden State bench.”
      This is the most poorly written byline I’ve seen in a long time.”

      You need to read any one of your posts, dipshit.

  16. Putinesque term-limit rotations…

    Why ya gotta hate? Do you WANT political “service” to be a life’s career? It still can be, and one can still become an experienced politician: with term limits, you just have to work your way through several different political jobs before arriving at the top of the heap. There is nothing bad about that in theory. In practice, spoiled-brat politicians whine about how hard their jobs are, and the fact that they always must be campaigning for re-election (or for the next job); they claim that they cannot learn the ropes and become “effective” in the several terms and years allowed to them under California’s term limits law. This is crap.

    (concluded in reply comment below)

    1. (continued from above — Reason, really, get rid of the message length limits!)

      In the private sector, you shape up with six months or you are out. After a year or two, you are either in an upward trajectory — good at your job and actively gunning for promotion — or you are out. Our elected officials get an amazingly long “grace period,” in which to learn their own “ropes.” If they can’t learn the job and become good enough at it to be “effective” in the amount of time provided, then we really SHOULD fire them and get better representatives. If NOBODY can come up to speed in that amount of time, then we should think about two things: 1) simplifying and reducing the power inherent in the job (going back to a part-time legislature, for instance); 2) creating a more effective on-the-job TRAINING program, and providing systems to help reduce time and effort needed to learn and do the job well. Nobody is talking about this because what is REALLY at issue is seniority and power: The politicians want longevity in a single office so that they can create fiefdoms, as pols of old were notorious for doing (hence term limits in the first place). No solution that doesn’t give them the path to power that they seek will be sufficient in their eyes. That’s how it looks from here.

      1. xxx “you shape up WITHIN six months…”

        Y’know, if I didn’t have to spend time artificially dividing and serially posting messages that exceed the length limit by just a couple of hundred CHARACTERS or so, I would have more time for proofreading. Just sayin’.

        So, in summary: 1) Please eliminate the length limits; 2) Please provide post-publication editing of comments for the commentators you have forced to register on this site.

        1. 1) Please eliminate the length limits; 2) Please provide post-publication editing of comments for the commentators you have forced to register on this site.

          1) Agree, or at least increase the max characters somewhat. 2) NO. It keeps the dishonest fuckers honest. Imagine if somebody like MNG could go back and change his old posts. “I never said that…!”

          1. Atanarjuat| 9.9.12 @ 10:11PM |#
            “2) NO. It keeps the dishonest fuckers honest. Imagine if somebody like MNG could go back and change his old posts. “I never said that…!””

            Bingo! Or shithead trying to hide his latest lie.

      2. If NOBODY can come up to speed in that amount of time, then we should think about … simplifying and reducing the power inherent in the job [and] creating a more effective on-the-job TRAINING program


        Other approaches might involve mandatory probationary periods during which recall is facilitated and, prior to running for office, objective assessment of knowledge (that should be) required for the job.

  17. New Flash: mormons have still not killed Matt and Trey. There have been no effigies burned, violence, or vandalism by radical mormo-fascists in relation to the book of mormon

    1. That’s just what a mormo-fascist would say.

      1. gosh. gee. i’ve been outed. fiddlesticks (downs some jello). not sure what to do now



        1. Is your sarcasmometer off today, Dunphy?

          1. Maybe yours is. WWBYD?

            1. yes

              for the sarcasm impaired.

              mormons tend not to swear. they say “gosh”, “gee” and stuff like that

              mormons eat a lot of jello. cultural thing

              JS = Joseph Smith
              BY = Brigham Young

              1. Well damn, I must know the wrong Mormons then.

                1. jello is to mormons as spam is to hawaiians (residents of the state of, not necessarily kanaka maoli)

                  utah consumes more jello than any other state


                  fwiw, i loathe “mormon cuisine” it tends to be bland as hell, and just sucky

                  you know you are at a mormon household when they are serving tacos. you ask for salsa and hot sauce

                  host looks at you like you are asking for a pound of saffron

                  host furiously digs in pantry

                  pulls out an ancient, never opened container of PACE PICANTE… MILD.

                  it was like ketchup with chunks

                  my worst mormom dining experience was one thanksgiving. the turkey guy brings the turkey over. I’m anxiously awaiting the skin

                  “oh, i threw that away. it’s unhealthy”


                  metric assloads of processed carbs at that meal, but GOD FORBID you eat turkey skin

                  i feel the same about mormons as trey and matt. silly stories. very nice people. they make the best neighbors.

                  but to me, a kitchen HAS to have stuff like

                  a few kinds of hot sauce (maybe tabasco, sriracha, whatever)

                  again, LOVE the people. HATE the food

  18. “But Villaraigosa soured on unions not so that he can confront them…”

    as long as I get my money next Friday

  19. “I said, ‘I know. evvaboddy funny. Now you funny, too.'”

    1. Best song lyric ever. Even though it’s spoken.

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  21. “has personally contacted Villaraigosa demanding to know why he has publicly vilified their father,”

    Because Villaraigosa is a sociopath, and does not give a gnat’s fart how his actions affect anyone but himself. All these politicians are sociopaths- their actions prove it every day, and yet everyone calls *me* crazy for noticing it.

    And he’s not even one of the alpha sociopath who plot and scheme their own rises. He’s a puppet politician of various moneyed special interests. Honestly, if this miseryshit dropped dead of an aneurism tomorrow the world would be a slightly brighter place.

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