Arnold still haunting GOP conventions
By John Seiler
The ghost haunting this past weekend’s California Republican Convention in Sacramento was the steroid-bloated, hulking apparition of ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Just eight years ago, in 2005, Arnold was the toast of the GOP. He launched a “year of reform” that led to a Reform Slate of initiatives on the November ballot to rein in public-employee union power, reform teacher tenure and reform redistricting. He was carrying the Republican Party on his shoulders and would bring them back control of the Legislature and more statewide offices.
There even was talk among Republicans of amending the Constitution to allow foreign-born citizens to become president.
Then it turned out the Reform Slate was badly organized. Arnold campaigned tepidly for it. And every initiative went down to smoking defeat.
After that, Arnold panicked and dumped his Republican-influenced policies, claiming “the people” had shown him now to go. According to Ian Halperin’s biography, “Governator,” Arnold then effectively turned over his administration to his wife, Democrat Maria Kennedy-Shriver. Maria hired Susan Kennedy (no relation), an activist left-wing Democrat, as Arnold’s chief-of-staff. Kennedy became the “little governor,” while Arnold frolicked among his Hollywood cronies. Republicans in the Legislature claimed they were frozen out of Arnold’s circle of influence.
In 2006, Arnold signed into law the jobs-killing AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Republicans should have worked for his defeat in his re-election bid that year. Instead, they overwhelmingly supported him. They figured he still was “our Arnold” when, in debate, he attacked the tax-increase proposals of Democratic nominee Phil Angelides. And after all, he still was The Terminator, Commando, Predator and Conan the Republican.
He advertised himself as a new kind of Republican, a pro-business moderate, just the kind George Skelton is suggesting the GOP needs to promote today in 2013. He was teamed with Republican New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (now an independent) as a new kind of GOP standard bearer.
Thanks to hefty GOP support, Arnold won re-election with 56 percent of the vote.
In 2007, he proposed a socialized medicine scheme for the state so radical even leftist Democrats in the state Legislature rejected it.
The economy crashed in 2008, taking the California budget with it. In 2009, Arnold snapped into action: Breaking his pledge not to raise taxes, he increased taxes a record $13 billion. Doing so, as Chuck DeVore has noted, increased state unemployment another percentage point than it otherwise would have been, to 13 percent.
Arnold a promising young, conservative Latino state senator, Abel Maldonado, to provide a crucial vote for the tax increase. Abel was rewarded an appointment to be lieutenant governor; and with an initiative, Proposition 14, which instituted an open primary Maldo thought would help him. It didn’t. He lost re-election as lieutenant governor in 2010 and for a congressional seat in 2012.
In the 2010 election, California Republicans repeated their folly, nominating another “moderate” business person, Meg Whitman, for governor. She was wiped out.
In 2011, Arnold left office in disgrace. In his last days in office, he commuted the murder sentence of the son AB 32 ally and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. Arnold’s wife, Maria, ditched him after it became known he impregnated the family maid. It was a new kind of “Republican family values.”
At the end of the movie, “Commando,” Arnold single-handedly invades an island occupied by thousands of the troops of a foreign thug. After Arnold shoots everybody, an American general comes in for the cleanup, and asks, “Leave anything for us?” Arnold quips, “Juszt bodiez.”
After his seven years of misrule of California and attacking his own party, that’s what’s left of the California Republican Party: Just bodies.
May 24, 2013