|I have been content merely to stand at the edge of the California political ocean, its waves gently lapping at my toes as I gaze out across the vast, incomprehensible, churning depths with their submerged currents, strange creatures, awesome powers and inexplicable rogue waves - all the while not actually having had the desire to wade in.
The freak governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger, even though it hasn't exactly been the type of regime I would have ordered, has elicited not much more than a shrug from me. How bad can this be, how much damage can he do, I naively thought after the circuslike special election that deposited him on our capitol's doorstep, seemingly a babe in the political woods. Another cartoonish governor - so what? I had in my mind a picture of Arnold as a marginally more intelligent, religiously less fanatic George Bush, with a better accent. I even indulged the naive hope that maybe Schwarzenegger could help bring some fiscal responsibility to the state after the energy debacle in 2000-2001 - not realizing at the time that it was Ahnuld's good buddies at Enron who had a lot to do with it.
It wasn't until I read the following two paragraphs in the LA Times last week - widely separated in a well-placed story that trumpeted A Great Pronouncement From The Mighty Governor Himself - that the light bulb really went on for me. After reading them, I realized with a start that Schwarzenegger was no better than his pals in the cabal running the White House and Congress: he would literally lie about anything in order to be reelected:
Criticized for failing to offer substantial remedies for California's healthcare problems, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today will propose installing new medical clinics in as many as 500 elementary schools, his aides said. [snip]
Administration officials said Schwarzenegger has embraced the idea of adding hundreds of new school clinics but would likely not make a formal proposal and flesh out details of the plan until next year, if he is reelected. [emphasis added]
- and thus, this diary, the second of two.
When we left him at the end of Wednesday's installment, Arnold already had lied about the environment and campaign finances, and was furiously backpedaling away from the leper colony at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In the midst of all of his clumsy attempts to dance around and away from his public utterances and previously stated positions, Arnold should remember that even Fred Astaire couldn't fool all the people all the time:
"Can't act. Can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little."
-- assessment of Fred Astaire's first screen test
Arnold may share a couple of those characteristics with Astaire, but dancing ability's not one of them. He's now finding himself forced cheek-to-cheek with some Big, Fat Issues that still have his number and won't stop calling him.
Over the past few years, to mollify the racist, xenophobic, Bible-thumping, homophobic members of his base, Arnold has thrown them some large chunks of red meat - vetoing a gay marriage bill, approving the execution of Tookie Williams, appointing a former Clinton impeachment case manager to the Orange County bench, supporting limits on access to abortion
- and, portentously, praising The Minutemen. And even long before that, Arnold was a board member of U.S. English, an overtly anti-Latino xenophobic group whose main stated aim is the abolition of non-English speech in the United States; he remains on the board.
Arnold expressed his admiration for Proposition 187, the blatantly unconstitutional anti-immigrant initiative passed by California voters in the mid-1990s before being struck down by the courts.
Now that Arnold is running for re-election, he's positively itching to get away from some of those positions. Only problem is, he's discovering the unavoidable fact that - big Hollywood star or not - when you lie down with dogs like those, you wake up with big, nasty fleas.
Last week in the supposedly safe Republican stronghold of La Mesa, near San Diego, a few miles from the Mexican border, The Triangulator got an earful from some who thought he hadn't done enough to fight illegal immigration:
"I voted for you, and right now I don't see much difference between you and [Democratic gubernatorial nominee] Phil Angelides," said Sally Plata, 66, referring to Schwarzenegger's Democratic opponent. "I don't see that you are standing up for the citizens of California."
The tone of the unscripted exchanges startled the governor. After the event, Schwarzenegger told reporters that he found the questions, which went "into dangerous areas," troubling.
"This was really the first time I had seen the intensity of prejudice," the governor said. "I had this woman come up to me [afterward] and say, 'Stop the invasion.' It was that kind of dialogue. It was 'invasion' or 'robbing our country' or they want to take it back."
. . . "the first time I had seen the intensity of prejudice"?!? Huh, and you thought Joe Lieberman was out of touch with his base!
When Angelides heard about the La Mesa smackdown,
Angelides pointed to an interview with the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion this week in which the governor said he thought Proposition 187 - the 1994 initiative to cut off most public services to illegal immigrants - was "the wrong decision."
Schwarzenegger has previously said he voted for the initiative but also thought it unfairly targeted children.
"What is his position?" Angelides asked. "He doesn't have a position."
Arnold's relationship with the Latino community in Kellyfoahnya has been, umm, shall we say, awkward. Take the case of State Senator Abel Maldonado. Although he later retracted the comment (no doubt under heavy pressure from his Repub benefactors), Maldonado, the highest-ranking Latino Republican in state government, pretty well summed up the governor's loyalty to Latinos when he said
"Our governor cares about one thing only, and that's Arnold Schwarzenegger," Maldonado said. [snip]
At Schwarzenegger's request, Maldonado had sponsored a bill to raise the minimum wage, a move that irked conservatives in the primary. "I kind of felt like I got left holding the bag," Maldonado said. [snip]
"When he needs Latinos, Latinos are always there for him," Maldonado said. "When Latinos need him, the answer's been no."
But let's forget about that for the moment, shall we? One Latino who is currently being there for The Triangulator is Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is seeking to take over the running of the Los Angeles Unified School District - the second-largest district in the country - by wresting it away from the Board of Education, and Schwarzenegger is supporting his effort. No doubt Schwarzenegger figures he can get some much-needed education mileage out of what very well could prove to be a Quixotic quest - assuming, of course, that it's not a - gasp! Heaven forfend! - cold, cynical, nothing-to-lose political calculation designed to improve the image of both players at very little political expense. As the LA Times put it in an editorial the other day,
Whether they are allies of convenience or conviction, the two Californians with the household (but tongue-twisting) names are the state's dynamic duo, joining in common cause for political victories that are not by nature partisan. Villaraigosa is onboard with the governor's infrastructure bonds, and Schwarzenegger backs the mayor's school governance plan. Each sings the other's praises. Each is savvy enough to see that the other poses no inherent political threat, regardless of party difference.
Part of the reason, no doubt, that The Triangulator has labeled the Los Angeles Unified School District "horrible" is that, at least according to him, they are dominated by the teachers' union.
[Schwarzenegger] discussed the issue of teachers union influence in the schools. "I think what Villaraigosa is doing will take away half their power," Schwarzenegger said, "but it does not mean they will take it out of the mix."
[LAUSD Superintendent Ray] Romer disagreed, saying that union influence was not diminished in the deal worked out between Villaraigosa and union leaders. Union officials have tried to reassure their membership with the same conclusion.
Throughout his term, Schwarzenegger has been consistently anti-union, a stance that no doubt cost him dearly during the special election he pushed so hard for last November, in which every single one of his pet ballot initiatives went down to defeat. This was due in no small part to the all-out assault waged by police, fire and nurses' unions against some of the measures. In an article in last Sunday's LA Times, Peter Schrag, author and former editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee, wrote
Public employees, nurses in particular, showed up to picket and heckle at almost every Schwarzenegger event - to the point where the governor had to sneak through back doors and garage entrances to get into the hotel ballrooms where he held his fundraisers. [snip]
Ahnuld has since refined his strategy with unions, to the point where he succeeded last week in dividing and conquering. Once again displaying a masterful combination of pandering and politicizing, he appeared at a "healthcare summit" at UCLA, attended by, among others, representatives from the Service Employees International Union, the United Farm Workers and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America - but picketed by the California Nurses' Association.
One union that could very well spell a lot of trouble for Schwarzenegger - and Angelides, for that matter - this November is the very powerful California Correctional Police Officers Association (CCPOA). CCPOA has nearly $10 million to spend on issue ads during this campaign, and hasn't yet decided where its loyalties lie - in other words, which candidate will pander to them more. CCPOA's corrupting and corrosive influence on California politics is nothing new. Under former governor Gray Davis, CCPOA negotiated a sweetheart deal that has strained the state budget, as well as the credulity of most of those familiar with its terms.
In an excellent article in this week's L.A. City Beat, author Dean Kuipers details the sorry state of California's prisons, and tells of just how the uber-powerful CCPOA has had the past two governors in its pocket:
No one benefits from the system as it exists today - no one, that is, except the state's powerful prison guard union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. The CCPOA has emerged as one of the top contributors to every state legislative campaign in the past decade - it will spend as much as $10 million this fall - and in the past has fiercely opposed just about every attempt to downsize the prison system. [snip]
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger agrees [that the prison system needs revamping and downsizing] - or at least he did during the Recall Election in 2003, when he refused to take money from the CCPOA and declared his intention to address the abuse and overcrowding in the state's prison system, close prisons, and cut wasteful spending. [snip] Schwarzenegger's own prison reform commission, headed up by former [Republican] California Governor George Deukmejian, found in 2004 that one key to reforming the system lies in reducing the numbers of inmates. And the governor repeated this logic only 18 months ago, during his January 2005 State of the State address, in which he announced the formation of a new $6 billion corrections agency that would squeeze inmates and union influence out of the prison-industrial complex.
Yeah, but that mindset is so pre-re-election. Instead, we get this:
In something of a reversal laid out in this year's State of the State speech and announced again with new emphasis on June 26, Schwarzenegger has proposed a $3.6 billion gift to the union - an expansion of the state corrections system, easing crowding by building two brand new prisons at $500 million each[snip]. He has called for the state legislature to act on these ideas in a special session in August.
But unfortunately, Schwarzenegger's not alone in this sickening pandering. Oh no - it's equal opportunity in this particular, disgusting, wasteful case. Here's what the Sacramento Bee had to say a few weeks ago:
Gubernatorial candidates Arnold Schwarzenegger and Phil Angelides are falling over each other to launch a new era of prison construction. This is bipartisan, equal opportunity pandering and fear mongering, with an obvious impetus. The prison guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), has $10 million to spend to help or defeat a candidate for governor.
How obvious is this link? Schwarzenegger recently told The Bee editorial board that Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez, a card-carrying member of the CCPOA, would be handling his prison bill.
Unlike the rest of his infrastructure package, Schwarzenegger intends to bypass voters to pay for his prison-building plan with revenue-payment bonds that don't require a vote of the people. The reason: The governor and legislators know that it will be tough to sell the public on paying to build more prisons.
How deliciously ironic - the same "maverick" who declared that he would bypass the "girlie men" in the state legislature and go directly to The People Of Kelly-foah-nya via the initiative process to get things done, has now evidently - after having gotten his ass handed to him on a platter in an expensive and embarrassing special election last November where those very same People Of Kelly-foah-nya made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with his policy proposals - decided The People might not fully appreciate the nuances of a bill backed by one of the most powerful unions in the state, a union that has $10 million to throw around for this election cycle, and which would be the single biggest beneficiary of the bill.
Gimme a break. What a load of hypocritical crap.
Just how bad is the situation with California's prisons? Well, in 1995, a federal judge appointed a special master to oversee the reform of the prison system in the state, a process that is ongoing. And earlier this year, the same judge determined that the state prison's healthcare program was so horrible that earlier this year, it was put into federal receivership.
At a hearing last month by the special master, no punches were pulled:
[Court-appointed special master John] Hagar laid out his case at an extraordinary hearing in a San Francisco courtroom. As stunned onlookers stifled gasps, Hagar, a special master overseeing prison reforms for a federal judge, fired a barrage of accusations at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his innermost circle, alleging perjury, the trading of favors, politically motivated intimidation and more. [snip]
State Sen. Jackie Speier, who attended the hearing, said that in accusing Schwarzenegger of giving the union undue influence, Hagar demonstrated "more guts than any public official in California."
Speier, a longtime critic of the prison system and the union of guards who police it, also said that political fallout from Hagar's report - coupled with other problems plaguing the prisons - is creating a huge liability for the Republican governor. "I think it will be every bit as big as the energy crisis was for Gray Davis," said Speier, a Democrat from Hillsborough.
Just this week, the federal judge in the case ordered the state director of finance added as a defendant in the case.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Robert Sillen, the federal receiver appointed to handle reform of the state's prison healthcare system, said
"This is an abomination and an utter failure of state government," Sillen said in the interview. "State bureaucracy is not geared to resolving these issues. We are going to fix it. If it requires court orders to change existing state laws, regulations, processes, etc., that's the way we will go."
He estimated the system wastes "hundreds of millions of dollars" that could go to provide better treatment.
For example, the pharmaceutical system alone costs taxpayers $46 million to $80 million more per year than programs in other states with large prison populations, according to an audit ordered by Sillen.
Heh: "If it requires court orders to change existing state laws, regulations, processes, etc., that's the way we will go." Now who's a girlie man, Arnie?
Schwarzenegger has tried to pander to virtually every interest group there is in his re-election campaign so far.
At the same time, the Republican governor is using the power of his state office to generate more media coverage and attention than Angelides. He has shown up at levees being repaired, a Girls State conference, a Latino health center, high school drama classes, the Mexican border, an ethanol plant, and, in a bright yellow jacket, among firefighters at the Southern California wildfires.
In one particularly galling instance, just hours after a photo op where he was surrounded by a group of Girls Scouts and pledged to "continue putting our children first," Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have provided healthcare for 800,000 uninsured children in the state.
That's so cynical, it's insulting. Cold-hearted bastard. Straight out of George Bush's playbook.
Given how many interest groups he's trying to con, Ahnuld might find himself tripping over his own schtick pretty soon. Even his raw, red base is beginning to realize the Mr. Olympia has no clothes:
"I think that the governor needs to come out with a very clear emphatic statement about his position on illegal immigration and not waver from it," said Republican political consultant Karen Hanretty, who worked on the Schwarzenegger campaign in the 2003 recall election.
"There's a real problem shaping up for him which is people question what his core values are, or whether he even has core values. And that's not good just months away" from the election.
"I think he's going to have some problems in November," said Proposition 187 co-sponsor Ron Prince. "It's very difficult to go to one group and say one thing, go to another group and say another and go back to the first group and start the process over. People aren't that stupid."
But no matter how much he tries to ooze and dance and glad-hand and suck up, it's entirely possible that Ahnuld's triangulation will all be for naught, and Honest Abe's assessment - that you can't fool all of the people all of the time - will prove correct.
Or, as another American president put it,
There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.
Got that, California voters?