There was Larry King Live, now there’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. What’s next? Comedy Central’s news parody program The Daily Show?
The tittering Republicans so enamored with Arnold Schwarzenegger undermine their own case that the crisis is dire by addressing it in such a light setting. Doesn’t it occur to them that their candidate’s announcement on a show of gags and jokes just buttresses Gray Davis’s argument that the state is not in a solemn crisis justifying a recall? The superficiality of it all lends support to the Dems claim that the Republicans are engaged in a frivolous power grab.
A serious Republican filed papers to run in the recall this week. But his name is not Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is Tom McClintock, a budget hawk in the state legislature who was carefully laying out his plans to address the $38-billion budget crisis while Schwarzenegger was screwing around on Leno.
A Schwarzenegger run represents power without purpose. It seeks to substitute a liberal with a D after his name for a liberal with an R after his name. Boy, what a meaningful recall: We could go from a tainted pol to a tainted celebrity!
McClintock, however, isn’t engaged in a lark. He is not interested in a cheap celebrity victory but in rescuing the state from a deadly serious budget crisis. He says he will cancel the electricity contracts Davis signed in a panic during the state’s power crisis in 2001, call for a special session of the California Legislature to rewrite California’s business-destroying workers’ compensation laws, and rescind the car tax Davis has tripled to pay for his excessive spending. These acts do not require legislative approval, so McClintock says he could do them “before lunch” on his first day in office. He has also told the press that he is committed to “zeroing out the budgets” of every duplicative agency in the state government.
What does Schwarzenegger stand for? Nothing as specific as McClintock. As Schwarzenegger stood behind a podium emblazoned with “The Tonight Show” — a little show-business back-rubbing at its best (Leno’s surrogates no doubt worked out some deal with him to field questions behind a “Tonight Show” podium) — he spoke in generalities and banalities about his plans for the state. To the extent that he said anything, he sounded not like a fiscal conservative but a moderate Democrat. He said that he wanted businesses to come back to California so that the state government could collect enough tax revenues to provide social “programs.” This is the sort of obtuse comment middle-of-the-road Democrats always make, forgetting that businesses are leaving the state because they are tired of paying high taxes for those big government social programs.
Schwarzenegger is the sort of Republican Jay Leno could love — a Republican in name only, capable of advancing an essentially Democratic agenda through the Trojan Horse of liberal Republicanism.
Schwarzenegger’s Republicanism is about as real as his movies. It is jokey — after heart surgery, he cracked, “We made, actually, history, because it was the first time ever that doctors could prove that a lifelong Republican has a heart” — and P.C. to the core. He has told the press he is “very liberal” about social programs, supports abortion and homosexual adoption, and advocates “sensible gun controls.” His entree into politics last year was a proposition Democrats endorsed because it raised state spending for what amounted to state babysitting — before-school and after-school programs that cost the state up to $455 million a year.
He has complained openly about the party’s conservatism. In an interview with CNN after Richard Riordan tanked in last year’s primary, he declared that a “conservative Republican will not win against Gray Davis.” Talk magazine described him as “impatient” with the religious right. In an interview with George magazine, he expressed disgust with the Republicans who impeached Clinton. “That was another thing I will never forgive the Republican Party for,” he said. “We spent one year wasting time because there was a human failure. I was ashamed to call myself a Republican during that period.”
Given this, we are supposed to believe Schwarzenegger is the solution to the California GOP’s collapse? He is not a solution to the GOP’s collapse; he is a symptom of it. The party is so rudderless it is content to field candidates Kennedys can vote for.
If the Republicans want an honorable, not hollow, victory, they will get serious and support Tom McClintock.