Gubernatorial Campaign Deja Vu All Over Again

 So there’s this new GOP candidate for governor, see.

 She is encouraged to run by the same folks who encouraged the current occupant of the corner office to run six years ago.

Her message is that what Sacramento really needs is new leadership, leadership California can trust.

It is eerily similar to the same pitch the incumbent governor made in 2003.

“I know the people of California want better leadership, they want great leadership,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on “The Tonight Show” announcing his candidacy in August 2003.

During his campaign, Schwarzenegger said runaway spending by the Legislature and then Gov. Gray Davis had to stop. Tear up the credit card, he vowed.

Six years later it’s déjà vu all over again. The state workforce needs to be cut and government spending slashed, California is told. 

Except this time the brave outsider is the hapless incumbent.

“Californians want to trust their leaders again,” Meg Whitman said in announcing her candidacy for governor on September 22.

Statements by Whitman advocating deeper cuts in state spending are a not-so-veiled criticism of the current occupant who, by inference, obviously isn’t cutting deep enough.

That certainly appeared to be how Schwarzenegger interpreted her remarks.

Nor did the current occupant seem real keen about Whitman calling for a freeze on implementation of AB 32, a cornerstone of Schwarzenegger’s legacy,

In fairness, unlike the current occupant, Whitman must win a GOP primary, which requires the periodic throwing of hunks of rhetorical red meat to the ravenous party faithful.

By simple math, the only way a GOP candidate succeeds in November 2010 is to win the support of the bulk of the 20 percent of California’s voters independent of either party. These are people largely moderate in outlook, not GOP true believers.

One can argue the efficacy of appealing to conservatives rather than cozying up to decline-to-staters – didn’t Clinton call it triangulation or something? – but either way, Schwarzenegger never faced a primary battle. 

So Whitman was probably just casting some chum upon the waters, as it were. Not without precedent in California politics.

But what has very little precedent is the result of Whitman’s chum-casting: A Republican governor publicly criticizing a statewide GOP candidate. The old saw is that the 11th Commandment is “Never Speak Ill of a Fellow Republican.”

Given Schwarzenegger’s generally moderate record, his criticism of Whitman might actually prove to be another chunk or two of red meat.

Of Whitman’s proposed 40,000-employee reduction in the state workforce, Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger’s press secretary was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle saying:

“I’m not sure how you cut 40,000 without endangering public safety.”

McLear noted that some two-thirds of the approximately 100,000 positions a governor has authority over are related to state prisons.

Of Whitman’s proposal to freeze AB 32 implementation, McLear said:

“While Meg Whitman has promoted climate change for years, including a recent cruise to the Arctic with activists, she is now promising to move the state backward by eliminating California’s landmark climate change law.”

Piling on was Tom Campbell, one of Whitman’s GOP opponents, who noted she offered no specificity as to where all this well-polling slashing might occur.

None of which even considers the complexity or, more likely, impossibility of convincing the Democratic majority Legislature to approve said slashing, when specified.

There’s an old joke about a politician who dies and goes to heaven.

St. Peter informs him than such events are so rare there is a special policy.

This policy entails the politician spending 24 hours in Hell then 24 hours in Heaven and making a final selection on eternity after those 48 hours of empirical evidence gathering.

Down the elevator he goes to Hell. The doors open, revealing a lush, flawlessly manicured country club. The politician’s friends, smartly dressed in designer cocktail attire, greet him and escort him to the tastefully appointed clubhouse where they delightfully drink and dine.

The Devil is convivial, witty and one helluva dancer. 

Too soon, the 24 hours are up and, with his friends waving a fond farewell, the politician returns to Heaven.

There, he plays harp, hops from cloud to cloud. He contemplates faith, goodness and charity. All he meets treat him sweetly, with deference and respect.

“Well?” says St. Peter at the end of the 24 hours.

“I think I prefer Hell,” the politician says, with all honesty.

“Very well.”

Down drops the elevator to Hell. The doors open revealing a desiccated and ravaged landscape dotted with smoldering ruins. His emaciated, sunken-eyed friends, draped in rags, stoop to pick up bits of the garbage steadily falling from the sickly, leaden sky.

The Devil stands near the elevator, armed folded.

“Wait a second. What’s going on here? It was completely different the other day,” the politician says.

 “The other day we were campaigning,” the Devil replies. “Today, you voted.”


Filed under: Venting

1 Comment »

  1. Just reading that joke was worth the price of admission.

    Comment by Missing the Point — 9.24.2009 @ 9:04 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment