Schwarzenegger Signals Intent to Govern Like a Democrat While Confounding, Criticizing Republicans
While watching our newly re-elected Governor take his “Blue State Republican” bow on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday (transcript here), I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for Mike Villines and Dick Ackerman. The new Assembly Republican leader and the returning (though rumored to be vulnerable to a Jim Battin-led leadership challenge any day now but, you know, what else is new) Senate Republican Leader couldn’t have been imbued with much holiday mirth watching our Governor, the California Republican Party’s lone electoral bright light, poke a sharp stick in the eye of other elected Republicans while staking out a uniquely Democratic-progressive agenda for 2007, all on national television’s highest-rated hour among the “geek chic” demographic.
Of course, the most talked-about “oh snap” moment was a muscular verbal body-slam of U.S. Senator James “Global Warming is the Greatest Hoax Ever Perpetrated” Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, as “backwards” and “back to the Stone Age,” an ovation-worthy encore to his recent description of the Democratic takeover of Congress as “good that we have new blood coming to Washington.”
From a public policy standpoint, however, the most substantial offering was his sneak peek at the Schwarzenegger Agenda for 2007: “fixing our health care problem,” including reducing health care costs and “insuring EVERYBODY,” including the 6.7 million Californians currently uninsured, while, at the same time, “paying down our debt this year” and eliminating the structural deficit within the next two fiscal years. How paradoxically ambitious. How positively Clintonian. Sure, the devil’s in the details, but this Governor just raised the expectations bar on health care reform higher than it’s been since 1994.
For months, Capitol insiders have been wringing their hands over the most-asked question in Sacramento: “Once the election is over, which Arnold are we going to get: the partisan bomb-thrower of 2005 or the conciliatory dealmaker of 2006?” Well, that debate is over. Because, unless we are witnessing the most convincing headfake since Jordan’s retirement, this Governor is sending every possible signal that he intends to build on this year’s successes over the next four years – with a big, bold, bipartisan, progressive agenda. Leaving our friends on the other side of the aisle gasping for relevance.
For California Democrats, it’s time to take “yes” for an answer and hold the Governor to his word. And, of course, enjoy watching hardline Republicans in the Legislature react. This is good news – even if the most influential Democratic voice in our state sometimes seems to be a Republican Governor.
The interview was so surreal that, at the end, Tim Russert actually asked the Governor whether he would “stay a Republican.” To which the Governor responded “absolutely yes.” Which makes mathematic sense since (unfortunately) poll after poll shows that California voters today are more willing to trust a Republican Governor to do the right thing on health care and education than they are a Democratic Governor to hold the line on taxes. Californians want both. And this Governor seems prepared to do everything in his power to give it to them. Shame on us if we don’t acknowledge that and leverage it to our advantage.
The most overlooked moment? Russert being Russert, he asked the obligatory “Who are you supporting for President in 2008?” Schwarzenegger demurred, then offered this interesting litmus test: whoever he supports must be pro-environment, committed to reducing global warming, supportive of “economic stimulation and creating jobs” and “rebuilding our infrastructure,” and dedicated to “helping our most vulnerable citizens.” Other than Rudy “Can’t Survive the Primaries” Giuliani, can you name a single Republican contender who could possibly fit that bill? Not so fast, McCainiacs.
Now picture this: it’s January 2009 and newly-elected President Hillary Clinton, in a sweeping and historic bipartisan gesture, is swearing in her new U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Senator Barbara Boxer, now facing only Dick Mountjoy and Claude Parrish in her 2010 bid for re-election, looks on approvingly. You heard it here first.
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