Joe Mathews is California and Innovation Editor for Zócalo Public Square, and writes the weekly syndicated Connecting California column, which appears in 30 media outlets around California. He is co-author, with Mark Paul, of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It. Prior to moderating a Zócalo/UCLA Downtown event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles titled, “Will California Pick the Next President?,” Mathews sat down in the green room and talked about the president he most admires, how he procrastinates, and iceberg lettuce.
What superpower would you most like to have?
I guess as a journalist who wrote more about Arnold Schwarzenegger than probably anyone alive, I guess the power to travel back in time has some value.
Who is your favorite president and why?
Certainly none of the Americans. Currently, President Moon in South Korea. All time? Mandela. If you made me pick an American, I would pick Jefferson. If he hadn’t won that election in 1800, this would not be the country it is.
How do you procrastinate?
By reading things other than the things I’m supposed to be reading.
What would you order for your last meal?
I wouldn’t eat it alone, but the family dinner for four at Little Toni’s on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood.
If you could be any animal, which would you want to be?
It’s pretty tough out there for the animals. The mass extinction. I think I’m gonna go human. Maybe one of the other monkeys, but I want to definitely be in the orangutan section of the animal thing.
If you didn’t live in California, where would you be?
Nowhere. No, where would I live if not in California? In the U.S., maybe in the Northwest. Probably somewhere in East Asia. Not the mainland right now, but Hong Kong, or Taiwan, or someplace that’s Chinese speaking. We have a long family history in China.
If you could legalize one crime, which would you choose?
Any of the crimes that involve stealing secrets of governments or corporations. Any of those would be great. Also, it’s still illegal to ride your tricycle, I believe, on a sidewalk in the city of Alhambra. We should get rid of that.
What vegetable best describes you?
I really like cucumbers, but I’m not cool as a cucumber. Well, I guess it would have to be ... I mean, I’m a California person, and I really like the Salinas Valley. I think it would have to be, like, kind of an iceberg lettuce. You know? It’s pretty common, it’s flexible, you can do a lot with it. I think my strength is I can do many different kinds of things.