Around the state (notice the expansion-this formerly was ‘Around the town’)


From the Publisher/Arnold G. York

Dateline Sacramento-Arnold, the other Arnold, aka Gov. Schwarzenegger, raised his right hand on Monday mid-morning and California finally had a new governor. I’m sure a momentary sigh of relief was breathed. Perhaps some of us in our hearts lit a candle for Schwarzenegger, which he is definitely going to need, because what’s coming at him I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Only the night before I had watched him in an old movie on cable, systematically dismantling a small Latin American country. Then the next day, boom, he’s our new chief executive. He’s going to look back on that Latin American country as child’s play compared to California. It’s very difficult to try to reconcile the two images of the man. In time, he’ll just be Arnold the Governor, and no longer Arnold the Terminator, but for now it’s very confusing.

Having said that, I’ll tell you something I never thought I would hear myself say, which is practically the same thing our attorney general said. I actually voted for Arnold. Not only that, compounding the crime in the eyes of some of my more lefty friends, I ultimately ended up voting for the Recall, and loudly tried to talk them into doing the same. Some viewed it as a sign of mental diminution brought about by my encroaching older years, and others as proof positive that ultimately all publishers turn into right wing curmudgeons, and perhaps my meds needed adjustment.

Well, the truth is, I had perfectly good reasons for doing what I did. Below are listed the reasons for my actions, so you can understand why I did what I did, along with millions of other Californians, who obviously came to the same conclusions.

Why I voted yes on the Recall

To the charge that a recall is a bad thing, particularly without any standards, and ultimately probably destructive, I answer-you may well be right. However, a recall is the law of California, put there in the early 1900s by political reformers to break the stranglehold of the railroads, which owned the Legislature at the time. The people have a right to exercise that franchise and they chose to exercise it; only history will tell if it was a good decision. But there were some things I knew for certain, which is why I voted for the recall.

First and foremost, the state of California is in dire financial straights and Gov. Gray Davis was absolutely dead in the water. He was locked in tight and couldn’t act. Whether he had sold too many parts of himself or was just incapable of acting I’m not sure, but what was absolutely clear is there was no way he could lead any longer.

For many reasons, some fair, some not, Gray had become the fall guy for a bad economy: a Legislature that couldn’t even pronounce the word “no” to any new program; a Republican minority in the Legislature that wanted to bring the entire house of cards down; an electorate (that’s us) convinced they can have it all without pain; a royal rip off of the state by the energy companies with the connivance of the Bush team; and, most of all, just general overall stupidity on Gray’s part and his profound inability to meaningfully articulate a way out of the mess. It was the prospect of three more years of watching poor Gray just twisting in the wind that finally convinced me that change, any change, was better than gridlock and that Gray had to go.

So why Schwarzenegger and not Bustamante, or even, heaven forbid, McClintock?

I did consider Lt.Gov. Cruz Bustamante. Now Bustamante is a decent guy. He’s been in the Legislature a long time; he’s the former speaker, sort of an uninspiring solid middle-of-the-road politician from the farm country in the Central Valley. In the Democratic Party he’s been considered something of a conservative but open minded and reasonable, if a bit pedestrian in his approach. He’s not one of the Legislature’s great brains, but smart enough. And, philosophically, I suspect I’m closer to Cruz than certainly Tom McClintock, and I wasn’t really sure where Schwarzenegger stood on anything.

Then Bustamante launched one of the most disastrous campaigns in recent political history and quickly dropped through the floor. The Bustamante campaign made a wrong decision at the very start of the campaign and it sunk them. They decided this would be an election that could be won by turning out their base, meaning Democrats, particularly liberal Democrats who they thought were most likely to vote. So Bustamante, who is naturally a centrist, was convinced to tack left, toward the more radical left of the Democratic base. The assumption was that Schwarzenegger, and probably Peter Ueberroth and McClintock, would split the Republican vote and Cruz would get a solid 40 percent, which would probably be enough to do it. Boy, were they wrong.

Then they wanted to do a big “get out the vote campaign.” That meant big T.V., which meant they needed big bucks. So they turned to the Indian tribes, which have been raking in gambling money hand-over-fist. At least $6 billion per year with very little going to the state or localities, which brings a great deal of resentment. The tribes gave Bustamante several million dollars. What he thought was a lifeline turned out to be an anchor, and he sunk without a trace. Bustamante had, in a self-inflicted wound, convinced everyone he was merely more of the same, up for sale to the highest bidder, and people turned away from him in droves.

So, it’s Schwarzenegger or McClintock

McClintock was clearly the most knowledgeable and experienced. But if that was all that mattered, so was Gray. So, why switch? Besides, he was simply too conservative for me. Ueberroth dropped out and that left Schwarzenegger, who frightened me at first because he was such an unknown quantity. The stories about Schwarzenegger and women have been around for a long time, and I waited for the shoe to drop. I also was uncertain if he was smart enough. Being governor is a tough job, requiring a lot of quick learning and then some decisiveness. Frankly, the bar wasn’t set very high and, whether you agree or not, the campaign showed he was intellectually acceptable, upbeat and seemed to enjoy himself, which is important in politics. That, and an assist from Arianna Huffington, convinced many people, including me, that Schwarzenegger could hold his own, so it was worth taking the chance on him.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.