Villaraigosa becomes L.A. mayor, spouts inanities

“What a beautiful country,” he said in Spanish to an audience of about 3,000. “I am proof that the United States is a country of opportunity and liberty. In what other country of the world could I be in front of you as mayor of a great city?”

Um, how about Spain, Brazil, Mexico, or the dozens of other countries where Latinos hold elected office?

When he introduced Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at Friday’s inauguration, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa set off a sustained wave of boos from those gathered at City Hall.

“Angelenos, excuse me,” Villaraigosa scolded the governor’s detractors. “There will be civility today.”

Antonio, Antonio, Antonio. Arnold wants to slash funding to cities, cut back on education, and destroy unions. So listen to your constituents who find Arnold’s actions noxious enough that he be booed at your Inaugural. Besides, didn’t you say you were progressive?

That unscripted moment at the start of Villaraigosa’s inaugural address put the Democratic mayor in the unlikely position of defending a Republican governor whose popularity is sagging. It also captured Villaraigosa’s effort to define himself as a centrist uniter.

“I’m a proud progressive,” said Villaraigosa, a former union organizer and American Civil Liberties Union leader. “But it’s time for those of us who call ourselves progressive to do more than just defend existing government programs. We need to be passionate advocates for change.”

Translation: I am no longer progressive and will distort the position of progressives, most of whom of course are little concerned with government programs in the first place and who already advocate for change.

Careful you don’t end up like Arnold, Mr. Mayor. It could happen.