Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee has an excellent piece today, Now’s not the time for Schwarzenegger to turn ‘squishy’:
As Iraq’s seizure of Kuwait escalated into war in 1991, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reportedly cautioned President George Bush against “going squishy.”
It’s a fundamental tenet of both military and political warfare. Once you launch a war of either variety, you’d better be ready to see it through, or you merely suffer casualties without achieving any objective.
Arnold Schwarzenegger should remember Thatcher’s words because he may be backing away from the war he launched to change the tenor of the Capitol, and in doing so, undermining the legitimate cause of reform.
In fact, the MSM is abuzz with the fact that the Democrats in the Legislature and the Governor are negotiating a deal which would eviscerate the Schwarzenegger reform initiatives.
MSM pieces are:
Schwarzenegger, Democrats Exploring Truce
With polls showing his once-soaring popularity dropping to Gray Davis-like levels, and his two most important ballot measures trailing, Schwarzenegger last week showed signs of squishiness. He didn’t exactly beg Democrats for a face-saving deal, but by issuing a semi-mea culpa, appeared to be heading in that direction.
Asked by a reporter whether he accepts any responsibility for Capitol friction, Schwarzenegger replied that “all of us in this building can share blame, all of us, including myself.
“People make mistakes sometimes, and I think that we learn. These are very clear messages that we must work together. And so I am looking forward to that. I really look forward to working together and to solve this together, because it’s the best for the people of California. They feel good when things work well, when people work together.”
But, the Governor held this Girlie Man press conference before the next day Field Poll was released showing the Paycheck Protection Initiative and the Termination of Pregnancy Notification Initiative winning.
The Governor was premature in his gloom but then again the MSM has been all over his ass for weeks with falling poll popularity numbers.
Truth is, the California public often expects results from politics that are mutually exclusive, such as high levels of services and low taxes. Californians recalled Davis because he personified the unacceptable status quo, and elected Schwarzenegger on his promise to clean up the mess in Sacramento, but at the same time, paradoxically, they expect politicians to work together for change.
Schwarzenegger could not clean up the mess if it took the cooperation of Capitol politicians who helped create it in the first place – the deficit-saturated state budget being the prime example. If he was to fulfill voters’ expectations and his own promises, he had to become confrontational.
The mea culpa Schwarzenegger should issue is not for creating Capitol angst, but for misleading voters that reform would come bloodlessly. He finally realized his error but never admitted it as he shifted to a more confrontational mode a year ago, and ever since has confused Californians – a populist warrior one day, a teddy bear the next.
The case for fundamental reform is crystal clear. If California’s dysfunctional state government is to have any chance at responding to the state’s many serious policy issues – transportation, water, the budget, education, energy and housing, to name but a few – it needs to radically change.
The Truth is the Governor has positioned himself well despite transient poor popularity poll numbers but he does not seem to realize it.
The specific reforms that Schwarzenegger has championed are not the complete answer, but their enactment would send a message that the public supports change. There is room for a genuine compromise that would make significant progress toward governability, but with Schwarzenegger’s declining popularity, any deal that the Capitol’s entrenched interests would accept would be – if history is a guide – merely a veneer that would allow the unworkable status quo to continue.
Schwarzenegger’s dilemma, whether to battle on or retreat, is not unlike the one that his political mentor, former Gov. Pete Wilson, faced in 1992.
Republican Wilson, like Schwarzenegger, had inherited a huge budget deficit and, to continue the parallels, had forged fairly good relations with Democratic legislators during the first year of his governorship, much to the dismay of conservatives in his own party.
As their budget crises continued into their second years, however, both Wilson and Schwarzenegger found themselves in eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations with the Legislature. Wilson, like Schwarzenegger, was savaged in the media and saw his popularity plummet.
But Wilson prevailed in the Legislature, and his single-minded toughness brought him a landslide re-election in 1994. When Thatcher warned the elder Bush about becoming “squishy,” she also reminded him that her political standing soared when she fought and defeated the Argentinians in the Falklands War.
Pete Wilson did prevail and handily won a second term. Although a moderate on social issues, Wilson was a former Marine and advance man for Richard Nixon.
He was anything but a Squishy Politician or a Girlie Man.
Now it is time for Arnold to PROVE that he is not.
Cross-Posted to The Bear Flag League Special Election Page