Sometimes party loyalty asks too much, John F. Kennedy once said. California Republicans could have adopted this line when Kennedy in-law Arnold Schwarzenegger presented himself as a standard-bearer to them. Instead, they shelved their conservatism and championed the Kennedy liberal for the sake of party loyalty and advancement. “The benefit of having this kind of change in the governor’s office is worth swallowing hard and putting some of your old positions behind you,” says GOP consultant Ken Khachigian to the Los Angeles Times.
Putting some of your old positions behind you. What’s the point of winning again? So you can put some of your old positions behind you? A Schwarzenegger governorship benefits GOP operatives and GOP Sacramento insiders. But what are the benefits for conservatives beyond party circles if those “old positions” — the positions for which conservatives bother to vote Republican — are defunct?
Schwarzenegger has adroitly reduced conservatives inside the party to a tame minority. He made them feel as if they were gaining power politically even as he was taking power away from them within their own party. That conservatives inside the party refer to their agenda as “old positions” proves their powerlessness. It confirms that the liberal Republican rout of the California Republican Party is complete. Schwarzenegger has accomplished what Richard Riordan, Brooks Firestone, Gerry Parsky — country club Republicans who long sought to make conservatives followers rather than leaders inside the party — couldn’t. They lacked his political circumspection — like them he doesn’t take the conservative platform seriously, but unlike them he pretends to listen to Republicans who do and generally avoids sticking his finger in their eyes — his celebrity, and his power to win.
Schwarzenegger has rescued Riordan from political oblivion, naming him secretary of education. Conservative Republicans who a year or so ago declared Riordan a potential disaster for the state aren’t objecting to him this year. Riordan Republicanism doesn’t look so bad to them when Schwarzenegger’s stamp is on it. Who would have imagined conservative Republicans cheering a Richard Riordan appointment? (Yes, he supported ending bilingual education. But that doesn’t make him Mortimer Adler. His education credentials are still pretty dubious, as evident in the fact that during his mayoral stint he elevated Roy Romer, the former hack chairman of the Democratic Party, to school superintendent of Los Angeles.)
Schwarzenegger’s appointment of former Ted Kennedy campaign aide Bonnie Reiss as “senior adviser” hasn’t drawn much criticism either. Her background is amazing: She “has long been an influential, highly effective leader of Hollywood’s left-wing environmentalists, working with Norman Lear before forming her own organization promoting a broadly anti-market, anti-private property political agenda,” reports the California Political Review. She belonged to the Environmental Media Association “founded by Norman Lear, a group that worked to insert pro-Green messages into mainstream television programs and movies.” The Earth Communications Office (ECO) — her brainchild — led the Associated Press to report in 1991 that “because of ECO, ‘Designing Women’ created an episode about using cloth diapers, Michael Douglas is producing a movie about toxic waste, ‘L.A. Law’ addressed animal rights, ‘Murphy Brown’ took on recycling, and Barbra Streisand included an environmental message in her latest album.”
During the recall campaign Schwarzenegger sought advice from Robert Kennedy, Jr., who is probably to the left of Rachel Carson. The Los Angeles Times reports that Santa Monica environmentalist Terry Tamminem is “expected” to be named secretary of environmental protection. Do these sound like the appointments of a pro-business Republican?
Schwarzenegger’s named press secretary, Margita Thompson, comes from the booking department of the Larry King show (she also worked for Pete Wilson and Richard Riordan). Peter Siggins, an “independent,” will serve as Schwarzenegger’s legal secretary.
“This governor feels very comfortable selecting whoever he pleases for different roles and is not deterred by politics one way or another,” his spokesman Rob Stutzman said to the Los Angeles Times. “He very much enjoys observing debate and exchange of ideas and being able to take the best from that.”
That’s reassuring. He is just assembling a liberal team to liven up the lunch hour.
Then, finally, there is the most colorful appointment of them all — Schwarzenegger’s appointment of a private investigator to probe his history of groping. This must have brought a smile to Bill Clinton’s face. It takes a special brand of chutzpah to hire a PI to investigate oneself. But Schwarzenegger will get away it. After all, Republicans who impeached Clinton say that Arnie is clean.
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