Mourning In America

A New York Democrat on politics, journalism, and the Mets

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Friday, August 08, 2003
Six Degress of The Body Lighten Up, Francis has a great entry noting the crossed paths of former Minnesota Gov. Jesse "The Body" Ventura and Wannabe California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- they each appeared in both Predator and The Running Man.

Re-Assessing Arnold My initial take on Arnold was that his press conference on Wednesday night revealed him as a poor choice for Governor (not that that will necessarily stop him from getting elected). He came across as painfully scripted and made at least one major gaffe, erroneously claiming that the state's credit ratings had fallen to junk-bond territory.

But upon further review, I realized judgements might be premature -- compare Hillary's appearance in 1999 at the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's farm to Arnold's announcement, and you'll see similarities. Arnold's missteps may have simply been evidence of his political inexperience, rather than his fundamental unfitness.

To take the Hillary analogy a step further comes this report from Arnold's KNBC-TV appearance this morning: He's planning a "listening tour!"

It'll be interesting to see how much further the comparison goes -- Hillary had two years to grow into the job (something she did very well), while Arnold only has 59 days. And I'm skeptical about how genuine he is when he pledges to listen -- Hollywood megastars are not known for happily taking direction from strangers, and his true thinking may have come across in the next breath:

"I'm going to go from morning to night, work every day, seven days a week, to get the message out there of what my plan is. I will go from house to house, knocking on doors, talking to families."

Is Silence the Best Policy? In the end, it may not matter. The NY Times quotes University of Minnesota "pop culture" Professor Karal Ann Marling saying: "If I was running his campaign, I'd have him say nothing. A 60-day election is a popularity contest. And in today's society, Arnold is the winner."

The cynic in me says she's right, but we'll see. He's promising a major budget-balancing plan in the next two weeks. (Incidentally, the snide, bitter old man in me wants to know how one wins a Professorship in "pop culture" anyway)...

Another Downside of the Deficit is reporting that a new book proposal by H. Ross Perot includes the suggestion that he's planning to run for president in 2004.

Collateral Damage Warning Apparently, his chapter on cutting government waste includes a call for adopting compatible computer systems across Federal agencies. The Salon writer dismisses it as motivated by self-interest (since Perot Systems is a large IT contractor that could be expected to land some systems business as the result of such an initiative). That's a shame -- the idea is sound, and should be a cornerstone of Democrats' economic program.

Just like the depression functionally allowed us as a nation to build massive amounts of physical infrastructure at bargain prices, we should be taking advantage of the IT downturn to improve our public knowledge infrastructure at bargain prices. This is the kind of public investment that can lead to enhanced economic growth for decades (both through making government more efficient, and by allowing IT companies to maintain R&D spending through the downturn that will mean that our corporations have even better products to choose from once they begin investing again.

Thursday, August 07, 2003
Ah, Yes ... I Remember it Well The Democratic Party in California is finally living up to its history of bickering -- the show of unity behind Gray Davis is dissolving as the filing deadline for October's recall election draws nearer. Both the Lt. Gov and the Insurance Commissioner (statewide elected officials) have thrown their hats into the ring. Ironically, this comes at the same time that Rep. Darrell Issa -- whose personal fortune got the recall on the ballot in the first place -- has dropped out, raising the possibility that there may be more high-profile Democrats on the recall ballot (to split the votes) than Republicans.

Davis' last refuge is a court decision delaying the election until March -- so that the question would come on the same ballot as the Democratic Presidential primary and he would benefit from a surge in Democratic turnout. But the state Supreme Court today decided not to get involved.

The Federal courts still may act -- there's a lawsuit contending that the urban counties' decisions to sharply cut back on the number of polling places (LA County, for instance, is planning 1800 recall polling places vs. 5100 in a normal general election) would actually serve to disproportionately disenfranchise minority voters -- and Election Law blogger Rick Hasen .thinks it might have a chance.

But regardless, you have to count Arnold Schwarzenegger as the man to beat right now. He's likely to draw a huge non-voter turnout, and if he stands almost alone on the GOP side of the ledger, will be tough to beat in a fractured field. Don't count the chickens before they hatch though -- there's a lot still to be learned about this "moderate" Republican, who pledged to "take care of the people" in his opening press conference. Is he a Republican or a Socialist?

It's on the California media to break him out of the script of "The politicians are the problem and I'm not a politician, ergo vote for me" to find out what his views are -- and whether they actually add up to a coherent platform. My guess is that a lot of his beliefs, like his pledge to "take care of the people" while cutting back government are inherently contradictory.

The early returns are not promising. He comitted a fairly major error in his opening press conference last night by declaring that the state's bonds are junk-rated. They're not, but I have yet to find a single reporter who called him on it. Perhaps the nation is so used to approaching the President's miscues with an attitude of "well, I kinda know what he meant" that no one cares about accuracy anymore...