| Back in 2002-03 it was hard to get away from media coverage of the failing Gray Davis administration. At least, that's how it got framed in the state and even the national press. At the time I was living in Seattle and all the coverage I saw was of Davis screwing up this way or that way. Friends would ask why Californians voted to reelect someone so clearly incompetent. With media coverage like that it was never any doubt that Davis would lose the recall.
Five years later California is in a worse situation than we were in 2002-03, when Davis was blamed for everything that had gone wrong in California and was recalled just 11 months after having been reelected. Arnold has given us a $40 billion deficit - larger than anything Davis grappled with. And when Democrats, facing a severe cash crisis, got creative in finding a solution and gave Arnold almost everything he demanded, Arnold vetoed the solution anyway. California bankruptcy seems more likely than ever, a direct consequence of Arnold's actions.
But that's not the story the media tells the public. The Arnold that you read about in the newspapers or see on TV is a strong governor willing to make tough choices for the good of the people. An environmental leader who has the people's interests, but who's weighed down by a typically screwy legislature, where Democrats and Republicans (though it's mostly Democrats) are to blame for any problems we face.
Last night's appearance on 60 Minutes was a classic case of media enabling of Arnold's failures:
But now "home" is in trouble. California is the foreclosure capital, and unemployment is above eight percent. The governor proposed to close that budget deficit half with tax increases and half with budget cuts. Republicans and Democrats opposed him.
When 60 Minutes sat down with Schwarzenegger at the Capitol, he had just left the legislative leadership and he seemed in no mood. Before they got settled, Pelley was worried that the last thing the governor wanted to do was talk to him.
"I'm not sure that meeting went all that well. You seem pretty preoccupied. You got the 'Terminator look' on your face," Pelley remarked.
That was basically the extent of the conversation on the budget and the economy - issues that dominate our state right now. The rest of the piece was typical greenwashing of Arnold's environmental record. Arnold is touting green jobs as a solution to economic recovery, and in a hypocritical Newsweek op-ed he called for sustainable infrastructure spending as economic stimulus...just as the state had to suspend ALL infrastructure projects owing to the cash crisis.
That crisis - for which Arnold bears primary responsibility right now - is even jeopardizing crucial planning work on high speed rail, which will create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in California - unless Arnold's efforts to destroy the state succeed in derailing that as well.
Arnold's 60 Minutes interview is an all too typical example of how the media has enabled his failures. The piece didn't mention his role in the budget crisis or how it makes a mockery of his green jobs goals. And because he gets fawning coverage while bold and inventive Democratic efforts to save the state are dismissed as trickery by the media, Arnold gets away with trying to bankrupt the state while talking a big game on the environment.
In fact, nowhere in the 60 Minutes interview was it explained that among Arnold's recent budget demands was a gutting of CEQA oversight of development. 60 Minutes doesn't tell its viewers that while Arnold plays an environmentalist on TV, back in Sacramento he is doing everything he can to destroy environmental protections.
And yet there is some evidence that, maybe, just maybe, the traditional media is starting to wake up to that fact. More over the flip.