Schwarzenegger gets an ass-kicking

Front page, LA Times

In just a few months, Schwarzenegger has gone from seeming invincibility to a politically precarious state, his approval ratings sagging and his staff plagued by internal scuffles. He has abandoned key parts of his reform agenda and signaled his eagerness to bargain on others.

“He picked too many fights on the wrong issues with the wrong people,” said Darry Sragow, one of many California Democratic strategists who are as surprised as they are delighted by the governor’s plight.

Even those sympathetic to the governor say many of his problems are self-inflicted, a result of overreaching, hubris, poor staff work and serious miscalculations.

This isn’t Hollywood where ‘journalists’ are pliant and PR firms smooth things out when you screw up. This is politics. Screw up and you have 5,000 protestors outside your fund raiser and police escorting the donors inside amidst the boos and jeers. That’s what happened in S.F. The California Nurses Association was there in force, so was ANSWER. Two days later, Schwarzenegger caved on most of his blustery agenda.

Front page Business section, LA Times

For all that he claims to absolutely love his job, he has never demonstrated a true enjoyment of politics as it’s normally understood — or for that matter, much aptitude for it. He doesn’t project any of the qualities we see in born politicians whatever their ideological stripe.

All that Schwarzenegger seems to enjoy is the opportunity to surround himself with attention and pomp — the trappings of political power, the appearances before huge crowds, the slavish interviews by Oprah and Katie.

His lack of understanding that politics is the art of building consensus and reaching compromise over the long term explains why he retreats into name-calling and petulant sulking when he doesn’t get his way, a personality trait that never has been even remotely charming and has now become tiresome and self-destructive.

Thus we have a pampered movie star throwing temper tantrums as he discovers the real world won’t play by his rules or even cares what they are. Politics is always about building alliances and consensus. That’s how you build power. Only in fantasy action movies does the lone hero arrive and change everything and only the deluded confuse that with the real world.

It’s also becoming clear why he has never articulated a coherent philosophy of government — he doesn’t have one.

No wonder that his wife recently appeared on “Oprah” to telegraph his reluctance to run for a second term. In the next gubernatorial term, all the problems that Schwarzenegger has failed to address in this one will come home to roost. He’d be insane to run again, and we’d be insane to reelect him.

Don’t blame me, I voted for Camejo.