Skip to comments.Schwarzenegger a different kind of governor for California
Posted on 11/15/2003 6:57:36 PM PST by FairOpinion
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - (KRT) - When word went out last month that Arnold Schwarzenegger would make an impromptu appearance in Silicon Valley, the phones began ringing as top tech executives clamored for details. Seventy showed up the next day.
Gray Davis never generated that kind of buzz.
Then again, the incoming governor is the most famous American actor to trade the screen for elected office. In his new role, Schwarzenegger will have an extraordinary opportunity - given his convincing victory in a historic recall election, his global celebrity and his vow to act - to bring actual change to Sacramento.
Clues are slowly emerging about just how he intends to take charge. He is a different kind of governor for California: one who straddles the political divide, appears as good at winning over enemies as making friends and uses his showbiz personality to push his will.
"Buzz is power," said TechNet CEO Rick White, a former congressman who hosted the Schwarzenegger meeting.
Unlike past inaugurations, the entire west side of the Capitol will be fenced off to accommodate 8,000 invited guests and 600 journalists for Monday's swearing-in, which will be broadcast worldwide.
With Sacramento awash in showmanship and lofty expectations, the question remains: How will the new governor deliver on his promise to fix the state's festering problems?
Schwarzenegger's shot at it will be aided by his ability to do what exiting Gov. Gray Davis couldn't: couple his charisma and the public's fascination in him with a ballot-box mandate to build relationships and press his agenda.
He will show up in places unexpectedly, use the cameras to plug his agenda, and rely on his charm to tame the capital's notorious partisanship.
"The big part of being an actor is understanding who your audience is, how to communicate with them and keep them satisfied - all totally applicable to being governor," said Hollywood public relations consultant Stephen Rivers, who knows Schwarzenegger and ran Davis' first campaign for Assembly. "Being an actor gives him a good sense of how to project himself on the political stage, but the downside is there are no special effects in the state budget."
Schwarzenegger's campaign, filled with gimmicks and symbolism, nonetheless resonated with voters looking for an optimistic leader. He comes to power based on an unsettled electorate demanding sweeping changes and he will be under pressure to make them.
But don't expect Schwarzenegger to engage in deep policy-driven debates, hold lengthy press conferences or spend late nights at the Capitol. Instead, he will rely on a broad-based cadre of advisers for the details.
The administration will be "a marriage between some of the Arnold people who are very L.A., you know hip, fun, smart, sharp, quick and Sacramentans with a real knowledge of government, a real knowledge of California," said Cassandra Pye, a state Chamber of Commerce executive advising Schwarzenegger on appointments.
What Schwarzenegger brings is his proven skill as a salesman.
"This is a very smart man, a very clever man who will bring a very different change in tone. He has a great personality. It's easier to do things when people like you, as opposed to disliking you," said Eli Broad, a wealthy Los Angeles home-builder and Democratic supporter of Gray Davis who also knows Schwarzenegger and now serves as a member of his transition team.
There was hardly a more surprised man in Sacramento two weeks ago when state building trades union leader Bob Balgenorth, a longtime Davis supporter, got a call from the governor-elect's staff requesting a meeting.
Schwarzenegger showed up the next day in Balgenorth's office, 10 minutes early. They chatted for a half hour about state issues and another common interest: motorcycles.
"It was very smart. I really appreciated it," he said. "For 20 years I've known Gray Davis. I've seen Gray in his house, his office, at hotels and fundraisers but he never has been to my office."
The celebrity factor also cannot be ignored.
State Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, arrived in Sacramento 1996 as a celebrity herself, albeit with much a lower profile. As a teenager, she played Zelda on the 1950s sitcom "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis."
"People would get goofy looks on their face when they saw me. The odds are already in your favor that they are just going to like you," she said. "He has a tremendous advantage over previous governors, and the state legislators are painfully aware of that."
Even though she was critical of Schwarzenegger's election, Kuehl rooted through boxes for an old photo of her and the actor, which now hangs in her Capitol office. But, she warned, good feelings only go so far when policies and politics collide: "We aren't going to roll over with our paws in the air."
The candidate who promised "action, action, action, action" has a few high-profile flourishes planned this week to honor campaign pledges, including rescinding the car tax and asking the Legislature to repeal the law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.
But promises to fix workers compensation and develop a long-range state budget fix will be slower in coming and require intricate negotiations with legislative leaders.
"What Arnold will do," in fact, has become a favorite Capitol guessing game.
"No one really knows how he is going to perform as governor," said Leon Panetta, a Democrat and former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, causing discomfort for both sides of the aisle. Republicans are wary because the socially moderate Schwarzenegger "represents something different in Republican politics." And although Democrats appear to be welcoming him, Panetta joked that "they still have their grenades next to them."
To deliver the performance the electorate desires, he must corral a state government, largely controlled by the state's craftiest Democrats.
John Burton, the irascible Democratic Senate leader, gave the cigar-loving Schwarzenegger a lighter in the shape of a middle-finger salute. It summed up the conflicted feelings of many Democrats. Some mugged with him for the cameras recently, then, a few days later, held press conferences to denounce his budget solutions.
Schwarzenegger also got a quick lesson about who to swim with in Sacramento's shark-infested waters, getting in a tiff with the Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
Schwarzenegger's camp held a press conference to complain that Lockyer, a veteran Democrat who considers himself a friend of the former actor, inappropriately relayed a private conversation the two had over how to handle lingering sexual harassment allegations. The spat reignited national media attention on pre-election charges that had mostly fallen off the media's radar screen.
Already, the coverage of the governor-elect is very much shaped by Schwarzenegger's personality. Since he arrived in America as 21-year-old immigrant, he has built his career, from body-builder to movie star to politician, by using the media to full advantage.
And that's not going to change. Although Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown attracted national attention as governors, Schwarzenegger is expected to write a new definition for media-centric politician: a governorship heavy on visual symbolism to sell his ideas and spread his populist image.
"We're always going to let Arnold be Arnold, but it's a new job with great responsibility," said Mike Murphy, a political consultant who is advising Schwarzenegger. "His charisma, his focus and ideology are all things that people in California are very interested in."
Even so, he can't ignore that California voters are in an irritable mood, with nearly three-quarters believing the state is headed in the wrong direction.
"He got nearly 50 percent of the vote based on a platform that we need action," said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. "Now comes the hard part."
Schwarzenegger's shot at it will be aided by his ability to do what exiting Gov. Gray Davis couldn't: couple his charisma and the public's fascination in him with a ballot-box mandate to build relationships and press his agenda."
I think Arnold will surprise a lot of people who are "misunderestimating" him and he will accomplish a great deal, bringing CA back from the brink.
Agreed that there are a lot of agencies and boards, but the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus is not a board or agency. It is just a name like all the other legislative caucuses. There is no staff, no budget and no cost to legislative caucuses, they are just PC statements and most of them never even meet or do anything. Its a way for the Asian legislators to say hey look at us there are four of us now.
California African- American Museum? That requires a state agency? There's that much black history in California? Georgia I can see, but California? Can't it be privately funded??
Is it even legal to use charisma and the name of the former gov. in the same sentence? Davis didn't have any. He was tested and found chemically free of any trace of charisma.
I would love to spend some time in CA, and work in some of the restaurants there, but there is no way I'll spend time in a state that won't let me carry to protect myself.
I don't expect Arnold to turn that around next week, but I'm pleased with the possibility that someday it may be thinkable.
Probably the only chemical he could have been found free OF...
But, K-State beat Nebraska 38-9 today! That is an Earthquake also!
It is that third one though that must still worry you and us. The third becomes the imperative final arbiter of whether or not your faith was well-placed -- and whether or not we conservatives and the rest of the not-Leftists weren't totally screwed.
No matter how much you've protested in the past, I detect that you still exhibit some shakiness in your own faith. I think that's understandable given that there are more than the 3 trouble spots I laid out at number 17 above.
It's refreshing to see that you've finally acceded to those fears to some extent. A sign of your sanity instead of your factionalism.
In the first of 3 concerns I named for you I wrote: "First, it is possible the state could go lower still out of no fault of his own."
Well, Arnold just acknowledged this in his inaugural speech when he said "It is true that things could get worse."
So, don't you finally agree with us?
Arnold also continued "I'm not afraid of a challenge."
You could use him as a model there. This is day 3.