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True Lies

For Republicans, Arnold’s Personal Scandal Is Consistent with His Political Betrayal


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Amid the profusion of bad-taste jokes instantly following the news that Arnold Schwarzenegger secretly fathered a love child, one crack struck a special political chord for ex-supporters of the ex-governor.

The comic Andy Borowitz, offering a full report on the state’s former GOP chief executive at an imaginary news conference about his sleazy behavior, included this bit of dead-pan reportage:

“The former governor and film star said that he knew the child in question was his ‘after no one could understand a damn thing it was saying.’”

Capitol Letters

That bit of black humor resonated with many Republicans, especially those who worked to elect Schwarzenegger during the 2003 recall and who now admit they never really understood what the guy stood for. And while seamy details of Arnold’s personal behavior are being reported around the globe, they said what’s most important to Californians is his betrayal of political principles and policies he pretended to represent.

“He’s betrayed the people who supported him from Day One,” the anti-tax crusader and recall sponsor Ted Costa told political writer Carla Marinucci, echoing the sentiments of GOP leaders across the state. “I don’t know why people are shocked.”

To Costa and others, Schwarzenegger’s double personal life was matched by his duplicity in office, as he talked tough for years about the state’s fiscal problems as he oversaw them getting worse: After campaigning as a fiscal conservative who would “tear up the credit card” of California, his first big move as governor was sponsoring a $15-billion bond issue to increase and sustain state borrowing; in allowing the payroll to grow by thousands of new employees, he enraged Republicans by embracing plans for higher taxes; after decrying deficit spending, he left office with California further in the red than ever.

Area GOP leader and former supervisor Mike Stoker recalled that he backed then-state senator Tom McClintock against Schwarzenegger in 2003, at a time when many in his party were hailing the erstwhile action hero as “the second coming of Ronald Reagan.”

“A lot of Republicans drank the Kool-Aid at the beginning,” Stoker said. “The problem with Arnold Schwarzenegger was that he never had an agenda, he never had a plan, he never had a bigger calling or cared about the people he represented. It was always all about him.”

SACRAMENTO AND THE SUPREMES: The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision requiring California to reduce overcrowding in state prisons raises the stakes significantly in the current budget battle between legislative Republicans and Democrat Governor Jerry Brown.

“This case arises from serious constitutional violations in California’s prison system,” Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the court’s four liberal justices, wrote in a strongly worded decision released Monday. Graphically describing horrific conditions in several facilities, Kennedy said that “needless suffering and death have been the well-documented result” of overcrowding, and ordered the state to lower the prison population from its current 143,000 to 110,000 within two years.

Brown has proposed sending more than 30,000 lower-risk inmates to local lockups as part of his “realignment” plan for government in California, a policy that Kennedy noted in his decision. But doing so would require the state to send more than $1 billion to counties and cities to offset costs; while the governor has signed legislation to do so, the plan requires voters to approve his proposal to extend higher tax rates for five more years.

GOP lawmakers denounced the court’s decision, warning that it would result in tens of thousands of dangerous felons being released into communities; at the same time, however, they said they will not give up their steadfast refusal to provide Brown the votes he needs to put the tax measure on the ballot: Democrats “are looking for any excuse they can to try to have more taxes,” Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton told reporters.

The governor, still hoping to negotiate a budget deal that includes taxes, played his cards close to the vest in reacting to the decision, saying only that he “will take all steps necessary to protect public safety.”

PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS: As Republicans search for a viable candidate to challenge President Barack Obama, keep an eye on former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who’s making a fundraising swing in California this week. With a trio of heavyweight politicians — Governors Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels of Mississippi and Indiana, respectively, plus ex-Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee — recently passing on the race, Huntsman could run strong in a weak field, if he overcomes GOP distrust about serving as Obama’s ambassador to China.

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