Schwarzenegger Finally Showing That He Gets It
Learning on the job can be painful. Especially if you're a
rookie governor who's used to being a Hollywood
The question is how long can Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
stay in civics class without flunking out.
He has displayed a basic misunderstanding of the American
political system â€" exhibiting a cavalier
attitude toward the role of governor and a disregard for
some institutional pillars erected by the nation's
founders, such as coequal branches of government.
But he is demonstrating a capacity to learn from mistakes
and adapt to his new surroundings.
Even before his abrupt severance Friday of an $8-million,
sweet but smelly deal with some muscle magazines,
Schwarzenegger was showing signs of beginning to get
â€¢ You haven't heard "girlie men" or
"stooges" or "I am always kicking their butts" lately. The
partisan rhetoric has become less pugnacious.
â€¢ The political rallies have become
less gimmicky, less hokey. He has been spending more time
at the Capitol, although that's largely because of recent
â€¢ And let's give him credit for ramming
through a budget that was almost on time, certainly close
enough for Sacramento. That special election he called will
waste tax money, but it did set up a political dynamic that
prodded Democrats into submission on Schwarzenegger's
budget demands rather than be seen as the devils of
â€¢ He's trying to negotiate an agreement
with Democrats to place an alternative set of reforms on
the November ballot. But he's so weak politically and his
"reforms" so flawed, Democrats believe, that they see him
going over a cliff and are anxious to push. He'd be wise to
apply the brakes and ask for a bill canceling the election
but hasn't yet learned that lesson.
It didn't take long for the magazine lesson to soak in for
The Times and the Sacramento Bee reported the longsecret
deal Thursday morning. There was a media frenzy. By Friday
morning it was being reported on the front page of the New
York Times and on network TV shows.
Schwarzenegger quickly agreed with advisors that he needed
to cut his image loss by severing the money deal.
Let's back up for the basics:
Just before taking office, Schwarzenegger agreed to a
five-year deal with Weider Publications, founded by
longtime bodybuilding pal Joe Weider. The company publishes
muscle magazines that are crammed with advertising for
Last fall, Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill by state Sen.
Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) that would have prohibited
high school athletes from taking certain
performance-enhancing supplements. The National Collegiate
Athletic Assn. already had banned such supplements.
Recently, the California Interscholastic Federation also
moved against performance-enhancing drugs, requiring
athletes to sign an agreement not to use them.
In vetoing the Speier bill, however, Schwarzenegger
contended that her measure's definition of
performance-enhancing supplements was "unclear, open-ended
and difficult to interpret."
Schwarzenegger â€" a former steroid user
â€" long has been a promoter of nutritional
supplements. And it's irrelevant, aides argued Thursday,
that the Weider deal paid him 1% of the magazines' ad
revenue and guaranteed at least $1 million a year
â€" or that it contracted the governor to
"further the business objectives" of the publications.
Sure, you can argue that Schwarzenegger would have vetoed
the bill anyway, and it's believable. But we'll never
really know. He was, after all, taking millions from a
magazine group whose advertisers benefited from the
"It's embarrassing," said a veteran Republican consultant,
who did not want his name used for fear of alienating the
governor. "It doesn't pass the smell test by any standard I
The rule is that a Hollywood superstar â€" or
an all-star athlete, a platinum-plus rocker â€"
can make a consulting deal with a special interest that
pays him $8 million. A California governor cannot, unless
he doesn't mind creating the noxious odor.
There also was a reek of hypocrisy. While campaigning for
office, Schwarzenegger bragged of being so rich that he
didn't need special-interest political money or even the
governor's salary. But after getting elected, he began
setting a new record for special-interest money-grubbing.
He didn't pick up his $175,000 salary but started raking in
millions from a special interest.
Myself, I'd rather have a governor on the public payroll
than some special interest's.
But if he is going to take millions from the outside, not
disclosing it publicly until newspapers start sniffing
around and your employer feels compelled to report the deal
to federal regulators, it just adds to the suspicion of
There's also the issue of moonlighting. A governor should
be committed 24/7 to running the state â€" not
working part time for muscle magazines.
"I don't want there to be any question or doubt that the
people have my full devotion," Schwarzenegger said in
announcing that he had stopped taking money from the
But he won't be returning any checks. Giving back money, he
felt, could be interpreted as an admission of guilt, of
acknowledging a conflict.
Fine, keep it. For a day or two. Then send the money to
some charities that can actually use it.
And sign a new Speier bill that bans harmful supplements
for teen athletes.
Schwarzenegger has the ability to learn fast
â€" and better use it to avoid flunking.
See the article on Los Angeles Times website