Sunday, January 8

SCHWARZENEGGER'S POLITICAL RETREAT

Even the Left Coast's pre-eminently Left-leaning, MSM-propaganda mill, The Los Angeles Times, which vehemently opposed Arnold Schwarzenegger's ascendancy to the governorship of California in the 2003 recall election, now mocks him as a laughingstock for his all too transparent transmogrification this week into a spendthrift liberal democrat.

'INFRASTRUCTURE" is not a word that trips lightly off the shag carpeting that is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's tongue. And yet, there it was five times in his State of the State speech Thursday.

The official faith this year is public works. Conan the Constructor used some form of "build" 17 times and talked about "roads" and "highways" 11 times. "Schools" were invoked 17 times.

How the tenets of Terminatorism have changed.

Last year, it was Arnold the Oracle, divining the people's will and going forth in their name. Looking up from the scattered ceremonial entrails, he proclaimed a great reform, and lo, that went very poorly for him, with all of his initiatives smote dead at the polls.

This year, as he tried to gather up his personal scattered entrails, Arnold the Penitent mentioned "reform" only six times.

In his first year, newly anointed by divine recall, Schwarzenegger read from the book of "jobs" 17 times — we were all going to have fantastic ones just as soon as he "tore up" the state's credit card.

Politicians talk about cash only when they want to cut it, and in 2004, he was on a rhetorical tear, mentioning "dollars," "money" and "spending" 27 times.

This year, as he called for a $222-billion building crusade, the green stuff and its expenditure found their way into his speech 12 times.

And rightfully so! Schwarzenegger is deserving of scorn. The man clearly has no core political beliefs. He is a political chameleon -- a proponent of expediency over principal. Reagan he is not. It didn't take long for California's powerful special interests to bend The Terminator to their will and extinguish his short-lived commitment to Republican principles of fiscal restraint and limited government. Pumping iron can transform the body, but not the heart.

The powerful public employees unions and well-entrenched, Democrats-dominated state bureaucracy have had their way with The Arnold, turning him into the kind of "Girlie Man" he claims to disdain. And if this capricious, self-serving shift to the Left effects his election to a second term, than no doubt Governor Schwarzenegger may well become for the Democratic Party the Zell Miller equivalent of 2008 -- i.e., the keynote speaker at the Democratic Party's national convention.

And, please, don't be misled by the Right Coast's liberal wellspring, the New York Times, in its casting of Arnold's political sleight of hand as a shift to the "center." Tax-and-spend, big-government prescriptions are the unmistakable signposts of progressive liberalism, not middle-of-the-road, heartland America solutions.

Ironically, Gray Davis has been returned to office by the man who chased him out and that's not a nod to "centrism," but to political cowardice. Arnold may well become in time California's version of Georgia's Sonny Perdue.

But even the New York Times, in its jubilation over Schwarzenegger's political tack to the Left, couldn't resist making the point that even liberals question the genuineness of the governor's Dianne Feinstein-endorsed epiphany.

Reaction to the plan, and to Mr. Schwarzenegger's latest political persona, was not all positive. Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, a unit of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said selling billions of dollars in long-term bonds without raising revenue to pay for them risked the state's fiscal future.

"If we're not careful," Mr. Pulaski said, "we're just leveraging against the unborn."

He also was wary about the olive branch that the governor seemed to extend to labor and Democrats after the political warfare last year. He said he was happy to see the governor embrace an increase in the minimum wage, but he complained that Mr. Schwarzenegger continued to reject cost-of-living increases.

"After last year," Mr. Pulaski said, "we approach Arnold the way Ronald Reagan approached the Soviets - trust but verify. But in this case, we want to verify first."

That's what California's conservatives should have done way back in 2003 -- verify first.


FOLLOW-UP: The "Orange County Register" (free registration required for online edition) has a news column up today by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson that points to Republican concerns about just who Governor Schwarzenegger has been listening to:

But now it's a growing number of Republicans who fear it is they whom Schwarzenegger isn't hearing. Many contend Schwarzenegger went too far with the speech, abandoning their core principles.

"He's not an Austrian oak, he's a French willow," complained Mike Spence, president of the influential California Republican Assembly who is calling for his party to withdraw their endorsement of the governor. With his speech, Schwarzenegger has "basically announced that the recall movement is dead," Spence said.

John Koch, a Republican who lives in Cypress, accused Schwarzenegger of "tacking left. He went in as a Republican and when the Democrats start liking him, you know he's not a Republican anymore," Koch said.


FOLLOW-UP II: "A U-turn from the fiscal conservative playbook." Read more in this column by Lynda Gledhill in today's "San Francisco Chronicle." As Gledhill reports:

"There is no question this is a U-turn from the fiscal conservative playbook," said Terry Connelly, dean of the Ageno School of Business at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

The sheer size of the proposed general obligation bonds -- $25.2 billion in the first five years and another $42.8 billion in the next five years -- stunned both Democrats and Republicans.

"We still have a $4 billion structural deficit and this loads billions of interest costs on to the state general fund," said Assembly budget chair John Laird, D-Santa Cruz.

Jon Fleischman, publisher of a popular conservative Republican Internet blog called the FlashReport said he was "blown away" by the amount of borrowing and spending proposed by the governor.

"I didn't work to elect Schwarzenegger so that he could work with the Legislature to increase spending," Fleischman said.


FOLLOW-UP III: Here's a link to the referenced (see FOLLOW-UP II) "FlashReport" blog and its author's, Jon Fleichman's (a former Director of the California Republican Party), thoughts on The Arnold.