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Arnold's Media Enablers

by: Robert Cruickshank

Sun Dec 21, 2008 at 22:40:01 PM PST


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.

Robert Cruickshank :: Arnold's Media Enablers
That's where Evan Halper's story in Sunday's LA Times is so significant. It's a welcome shift away from the hagiography of Arnold the Governator and a more accurate assessment of the risks to the state and to his own position that Arnold is taking with his reckless and destructive approach to our state's budget and economy:

But rejecting the plan carries big risks for Schwarzenegger. It shifts responsibility to him if things get bad enough that the government has to shut down or go into default. He must get the Democrats to blink to keep the situation from careening out of control....

The governor gave no indication that the additional cuts he is seeking amount to less than 1% of state expenses. Nor did he let on that a day earlier, he had told the Capitol press corps the tax hikes were not what stopped him from signing the Democratic package; rather, he wanted lawmakers to incorporate more of his ideas...

Some rank-and-file Democrats say the governor is exploiting a crisis.

More like that, please. Honest reporting that doesn't quite go as far as it should, but is a badly needed step in the right direction. By showing Californians that Arnold is a failure, a cause of and not a solution to our crisis, the media might actually help solve this mess.

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Arnold is a Sacrificial Piece (0.00 / 0)
It just now occurred to me that Arnold may be a sacrificial piece in a larger chess game that Republicans are playing. See, if he manages to royally screw California the Republicans could significantly hamper any national economic recovery efforts, or at least regional ones. What's more, the primarily Democratic legislature gets the blame in CA - never mind that the problem is due to an intransigent minority and screwy 2/3 budget rule. If the powerful CA Congressional delegation tries to compensate by concentrating stimulus on the state then it inflames sentiment against "coastal elites" and "liberals" spending corruptly. All of this as part of an attempt to discredit the Democratic economic message nationally.

If the Republicans can't have the state, then they'll just burn it down. Arnold doesn't care because he'll never attain higher office and his buddies in the corporate media will have his back.

The question is, then, how do we counter this? The best way to call attention to this is to put up a budget for a vote that gives the Republicans absolutely everything they want and then some. Make the bastards vote on the record so that Californians will know the kind of filth they will vote for. Once they're on the record supporting their abomination of a wet dream for the whole state, then you have an excuse to present a budget that cuts funding to just their districts as a trial balloon to see how well the cuts work - that is, unless they're willing to vote for the budget. Their own self preservation instincts should kick in at that point.

Not sure how to handle the media on that one to make sure it doesn't get spun the wrong way, but at first glance it looks like it can be spun the right way.


Excellent piece, Robert ... (0.00 / 0)
I nearly threw up when I saw Arnold on the front page of Newsweek being heralded as an environmental champion.  Do these people have ANY IDEA that he vetoed the budget package deal because it didn't relax environmental standards enough?

Arnold and the Reps (0.00 / 0)
  It's clear the Republican efforts are to shut-down the state.  They can then use the ensuing bankruptcy to repudiate union contracts and pension obligations (just like Vallejo).  Democrats should be preparing initiatives for the likel Rep referenda of the gas fee.

Bleed and Lead Media is worse (0.00 / 0)
I'm also not happy at how local happy-talk news is handling this story.

We need to think about how to get the message out in the current media environment.  While I'm not normally a big fan of demonstrations, I think we need to consider the kind of things that would get at least local media attention.  I think that youtube based reports of how the proposed (and current) cuts affect various people and groups are also needed, so that we can focus attention virally.

The press is not going to help here, unless pushed.  So we need to think how to push it.


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