During the so-called debates leading up to the recent recall election here in California, I was most unimpressed by Ahnold's extraordinarily thuggish behavior. After avoiding the debates for a long time, instead going around the state explaining his policies and plans ("I will be the people's warrior,") he finally joined in and spent the entire time shouting down anyone who had anything to say that was of interest.
One thing he did
promise was that the state budget, due the first of July, would not be late this year as it is nearly every year, sometimes as late as September.
This year -- well, we're down to the end of July and it's not here yet.
-- blame the Democrats as obstructionists and call them "girlie men."
Now let me say this -- I don't believe anyone
can actually ride herd on the mini-anarchy in Sacramento we call the Legislature, a passel of state reps who act like kindergartners O.D.'d on Coco-Puffs.
We here in the Golden State understand that our government most closely resembles a bipolar playground filled with selfish, aggressive, mean kids whose emotions and acting-out behavior continually swing from wildly optimistic to depressed and vicious.
Let me also say that the budget, such as it is, has already been settled and agreed to -- the stoppage has to do with issues that are tangential at best:
The Democrats want security, in this case, they want Mommy and Daddy to guarantee there will never again be a budget shortfall and never again any local takebacks by the state.
The Republicans -- actually, Ahnold himself cracking the whip --- decided they also want security, in this case, repeal of two current laws. One law allows employees to sue their own companies if they violate labor laws -- get rid of it. The other law prohibits the farming out of school functions such as food, transportation, and maintenance to private companies. Get rid of that one, too.
And Ahnold -- about whom some seriously disturbed senators are ballooning the idea of a constitutional amendment to allow some bully from a foreign country to run for president -- Ahnold is acting presidential in finest the Bush-Bush-Reagan tradition, i.e., blame someone else for your own failures. (I still remember how Ronnie used to preface his nastiest proclamations with "They have forced me to..." "This is what they have done to us..." and, of course the best one, about dealing with anti-war demonstrators, "Well, if THEY want a bloodbath, let's give it to them." Oh, oops, sorry, I forgot for a moment that he'd been recently canonized.)
Is Ahnold stupid because he couldn't get the legislature to do its job? No, of course not. He's stupid because he thought he could, because he announced he could, most of all because he promised he would
right out there in public. Damn -- for all its lousy box office, I always thought Last Action Hero
was his best movie, the one in which the movie hero finds out he's not a superman, but just a big, strong, good-natured loudmouth who wants to do good but doesn't know his limitations (as Clint Eastwood has made clear is the most important thing to know). Hell, he didn't know he had
Well, daddy was a policeman, a profession not overly involved in listening to contradictory opinions -- a policeman in Austria during the Third Reich, not a time when contradictory opinions were encouraged.
To be a policeman any time any place demands a certain amount of thuggishness. There is The Law, and whether or not any particular
law should be a law at all is not open for discussion at the street level. When reason fails, the stick and the gun become means of persuasion. That's the job. Integrity lies in doing what you're paid to do.
People who have lived in this state long enough regard Sacramento politics as entertainment. There have been so many initiatives passed in the past twenty or so years, (each of which becomes a Constitutional Amendment) there is barely anything the legislature can legally do. So they strut and fret and do the best they can to pretend they're earning their keep.
As as source of entertainment, many if not most Californians admire a politician like Willy Brown (even if one disagrees with or despises his policies and methods). This is a man who managed to get himself re-elected Speaker of the House even after his party became the minority party
. That's just flat-out amazing. This is a man who is a consummate player of the game, who can answer a question about the meaning of an obscure regulation posed by someone he meets in a chance encounter while shopping in a store, and do it clearly and concisely. And he's almost always fun to watch.
Pat Brown, Ronald Reagan -- men who managed to convince everyone they met that the people they met were smarter than he, the governor. And who doesn't love that feeling? "Hey, I'm smarter than he is, and he's the governor, so I must be pretty smart myself."
Thuggishness might work in the back rooms, and among the legislators themselves, but not from the governor, and not right out there in public. It's just not entertaining, especially when the local people we elect and whom we hope will someday actually deliver on their
promises are the ones getting clubbed.
Ahnold made his career being a congenial bully, in bodybuilding and movies, but he's not Hercules, and it's not going to work in this Augean stable of politics. Although he could possibly replace Don Rickles with his act -- being able to offend gay men, women, and macho straight men simultaneously with one comment speaks of a certain talent for insult.
Since he's been in office, people have stopped liking him so much. In a bookstore around the time of the recall, a man pointed to several prominently displayed bodybuilding books by and about Ahnold. He said, "Hell, if I worked that hard for that long to create that body, and the best I could get was Maria Schriver -- hell, not worth it."
Maybe if he'd married Maria Schneider instead. At least he'd know enough to get the butter.