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The Perils of a "Glamour Pick" for Public Office: Arnold Schwarzenegger apologizes for being a Republican

January 21, 2008

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R? Yes, but apologetically) sat down with the L.A. Times yesterday and apologized -- deeply and from the bottom of his heart -- for being a Republican, citing "political inexperience" as his excuse for having espoused semiconservative ideals and principles during his first campaign and in the early years of his Governorship.

The man who rode into the Governor's mansion four years ago on a wave of dissatisfaction with former Governor Gray Davis and the budget crisis he wrought was, by all accounts, sober in his reflection on the last few years in office, telling Times writers and editors "that he now regrets a number of the policies he championed in his early days in office and acknowledges his own rhetoric was at times overheated and naive."

Now, after enough time as a member of the Establishment, the man who once championed himself as the antidote to the woes brought on California by that Establishment is showing the effects of a hard-earned lesson in politics and governance -- that it's easier to go along and to get along than it is to stick to principle and to fight for change -- and has accordingly dropped almost all of the conservative, change-centered, state-saving rhetoric and stated principle that inspired Californians to twice elect him to the state's highest office.

Four years ago, California was in the midst of experiencing a near-unprecedented level of hardship. Under the watch of Democrat Governor Gray Davis, the state was running an annual budget deficit of $14 billion, and conditions were rapidly worsening for California's employers and citizens, as Davis was pushing through the legislature bills granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and mandating employer-provided health care, just to name two.

Just as California was slipping into a single-state depression from which it seemed that it might never recover, a proverbial knight in shining armor appeared to rescue the state from the growing darkness.

Onto the deck of that foundering ship of state stepped Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican, rock star, relative (by marriage) of the Kennedys, speaker of all things good, and potential curer of all ills facing the West's largest state, ready to unseat the current failed Governor and to take over as his competent replacement.

Schwarzenegger said so many of the right things during the recall campaign to unseat and replace Gray Davis. He "labeled many state legislators as inept;" he railed against the "waste, fraud and abuse" that played such a key role in swelling California's state budget -- and working deficit -- to the obscene proportions it had taken on; and he called for repairing the Golden State's failing education system without spending more of the taxpayers' money.

He promised to eliminate dozens of useless state boards and commissions; he promised to cut the funding of state programs and entitlements that had become "bloated and inefficient;" he promised that "never again" would the state of California face a $14 billion deficit, because he would not let the taxpayers' money be handled so irresponsibly and derelictly.

Four years ago, he said so many of the right things.

Now, facing yet another $14 billion annual budget deficit, with far more bills coming due in the next few years than Sacramento will have incoming checks with which to pay them, Governor Schwarzenegger -- in a moment of sober honesty -- recanted the principles on which he ran, and for which the citizens of California elected him in the first place, once and for all.

"I have learned a lot of things where I felt one way before I went into office, and all of a sudden you learn things are not quite this way and you change," he told the Times. "People call it flip-flopping. I would rather flip-flop when I see something is a wrong idea than get stuck with it and stay with it and [keep making] the same mistake."

One of the biggest mistakes he seems to think he made was to conclude that "waste, fraud and abuse" in Government budgeting and spending was a bad enough thing to spend time trying to reform. "If you look at the $14.5 billion we need [to make up the budget deficit for this year alone], you don't even have to look there," he said. "You are not even going to find 1% there."

Another is calling for the voters to replace Establishment lawmakers with principled outsiders of the variety that Schwarzenegger once fancied himself. "I despised the idea of these guys being so locked in and safe and all this in their positions, and staying up in Sacramento doing deals," he told the Times. Having seen the supposed error of his ways on this issue, Schwarzenegger is now working to remedy this "mistake," and has endorsed an initiative on the state's February ballot that would greatly ease term limit restrictions on State Senators and Representatives.

And those purposeless boards and commissions he wanted to cut from the state payroll? "Political inexperience" is how Schwarzenegger is explaining that once-held view. "People just love to hold on to those because it gives them a chance to appoint someone," he said. "Both parties came to me and said, 'You are out of your mind.' Like I was totally insane...I didn't want to stop all the other things I wanted to get done just because of this.

"There were a lot of things when you go in as an outsider that you learn you can't do," he told the Times.

Long gone are the days when this rebel actor-turned-politician, once heralded as the savior of the Golden State, used phrases like "economic girly-men" and challenged his legislative opponents, rather than giving in to them. Now, in the face of yet another impending fiscal disaster for the state whose voters hired him to prevent such things from happening again, Schwarzenegger has found new purpose, and is reaching deep within to find the strength and conviction to maintain and to act on that purpose as committedly and as enthusiastically as he once spoke of maintaining and acting on the principles for which he was originally elected.

This new purpose, and what passes for the principles on which it is based, bears almost no similarity to that character-and-principle-driven ideology to which Schwarzenegger vowed to adhere when he first presented himself for elective office.

The Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that California's voters thought they were getting would not, for example, have responded to looming economic disaster by choosing to "close 48 parks, release tens of thousands of inmates early and roll back or eliminate healthcare programs for the needy" instead of slashing the actual wasteful spending on departments and entitlements which have bloated California's budget to its current size.

The Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that California's voters thought they were getting would not, for another example, have continued to push a $14 billion "universal health care" bill -- built on tax increases and an assessment of crippling financial penalties on businesses large and small -- through the state legislature and onto the November ballot when the budget deficit being faced by his state was of an equally obscene amount.

Most importantly, the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that California's voters thought they were getting would not have called a meeting with the editorial and reportorial staff of the Los Angeles Times for the purpose of apologizing for his misguided adherence -- however brief, and however small -- to even semiconservative principles.

The Arnold Schwarzenegger who is currently serving as Governor of California is not the man the citizens of the Golden State once thought they were putting into office. His actions during the last several months of his term have made this as clear as it needs to be. However, with last week's public renunciation of those principles for which he was elected, and that statement's accompanying request for penance and forgiveness from the Liberal overlords whose supremacy the Governator has finally come to accept, all doubt regarding Schwarzenegger's intentions and loyalties has been removed.

Schwarzenegger's loyalty is no longer to the people who so trustingly put him in office, and his intention is no longer to abide by a single promise or principle he made or espoused during that first run for office in 2004.

With Schwarzenegger, Californians are experiencing the downside of a "glamour pick" for the state's highest office.Though his current term will not expire for another two years, now is not too early for the people of California -- not just the Republicans -- to consider what the Schwarzenegger years hath wrought, and to commit to vetting the next Governor -- and his promised adherence to purpose and principle -- far more closely than was done with the current one.

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At 5:10 AM, Blogger Steve said...

Nobody really expected California to fix its problems by cutting government, did they? What a silly idea.
I'm stuck living in this state for awhile, too. I wonder how much of my income will be taxed in the years to come, once the inevitable tax hikes come into play... 50%? 60%?
How depressing. So it goes...

At 3:45 AM, Blogger benning said...

I lived in SoCal from '77 to '85 and left when I thought things were too far out of whack. I can't imagine how it is now. And Ahhhhnuld has just agreed to make them worse.

Sad is the description for California. Very sad.

And McCain seeks his endorsement for the Republican Nomination? Ye Gads!


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