In both cases, the unions cleverly made the debate about 'Arnold' rather than about the specific policy, and the news media lapped it up. Worse, the governor let them get away with it. Rather than remaining above the fray, he got caught up in name-calling, referring to the political leaders fighting his budget plans as 'the Three Stooges.' He failed to explain to voters what was really going on. He was on the defensive. His poll numbers plunged.From the tone of the article, it's clear that Stewart is a Republican partisan. But she also makes some good points. Schwarzenegger is not a conservative ideologue. The problem with Schwarzenegger, as with so many politicians, is that he is intellectually dishonest. He can't tell the truth, and he favors exaggeration and insult to honest debate.
In these tough times, Mr. Schwarzenegger's vaunted political independence is a handicap. He has few allies in Sacramento with whom to form a coalition. Yes, he's a moderate who has created the most bipartisan administration since the days of Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan, appointing scores of Democrats to top jobs and judgeships. But the Democratic-majority Legislature is crammed with rigid ideologues on both sides who care little about the governor's evenhandedness. Of 120 legislators, I'd describe fewer than 10 as moderates.
And now Mr. Schwarzenegger is compounding his mistakes by pursuing his special election. Yes, reform is needed, but in opening a special-election season he's handing the unions a vast platform from which to pummel him. It's nice to know he's gutsy, but he should be spending his time fixing nuts-and-bolts problems, not gearing up a messy political campaign.
Here, for example, is how his website quotes him calling for the special election.
"When I was elected governor I said I would put California's financial house in order and reform a government that no longer listened to the people," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "Without reform, we are destined to relive the past all over again -- 22 billion dollar deficits, higher car taxes and the threat of bankruptcy. We cannot just stand around while our debt grows each year by billions of dollars.The fact is that Schwarzenegger has done nothing to "put California's financial house in order." He did worse. He repealed the car tax, a progressive tax that would have helped close the budget deficit. He borrowed $15 billion instead of finding some way to pay for it. And his current budget is just more of the same. That's not being responsible; that's "standing around while our debt grows each year." Of course, that's another bit of dishonesty. The debt can't grow each year. By law the state budget must be balanced. That's why it took an initiative to borrow the $15 billion he borrowed last year.
But worse, not only does Schwarzenegger do nothing, but he blames the legislature for his own failure. That's intellectual dishonesty. Schwarzenegger may not be a conservative ideologue. He may even have some good intentions. But he isn't an honest politician either. And if he continues to operate the way he has been — by attempting to bully people instead of speaking honestly about issues — he deserves whatever defeat he brings on himself. Stewart should know that.
I take it back. She does know it. See her column of May 27, Arnold, Babe, You're Messing Up.