Could Arnold Be the 1-Term-inator?

LA Weekly columnist Bill Bradley (who is not the Bill Bradley, former presidential candidate) looks at the buzz in California politics nowadays that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, right, may be vulnerable in next year’s gubernatorial elections.

Arnold Schwarzenegger could well be a one-term governor. Unbelievable as that seemed at the beginning of the year, which the action superstar entered as arguably the most popular governor in California history, it may end up that way…

Schwarzenegger’s proclaimed “Year of Reform” — intended to capture the national political spotlight in this normally off year — has turned into his year of living dangerously. In a few months, depending on the poll, he has lost a quarter, perhaps as much as a third, of his popularity. And his ballyhooed initiatives are falling like dominoes. Meanwhile, strategist Mike Murphy is said to be telling Schwarzenegger that things are fine.

Facing a firestorm of opposition, he has already had to drop his fatally flawed public-pension initiative. He will soon drop his initiatives on merit pay for teachers and lengthening the time it takes for a teacher to achieve tenure, now only two years. Like pension reform, merit pay was ill-conceived, and Schwarzenegger has already compromised his way from a 10-year service requirement for tenure down to five years; the Democrats want four years. No need for an initiative there.

The central problem the Governor has, frankly, is that he and his administration have accomplished very little during their time in office except for borrowing billions of dollars (which, by the way, was the solution to the budget crisis that Schwarzenegger campaigned against during the Recall election) and a series of gaffes.

In particular, the only headlines made by former LA Mayor Richard Riordan, who leads the governor’s education department, were generated when he bizarrely insulted a young girl during a photo avail. “…Riordan told a child at a reading-promotion event in Santa Barbara that her name [Isis] meant ‘stupid, dirty girl,’ then told the shocked crowd that he was joking. Riordan is expected to leave his post in the near future. ”

Things have gotten bad inside the Schwarzenegger camp too.

A telling scene came last week at a strange little event at the Capitol. Billed as a “Thank You, Arnold” rally, heavily promoted with blast e-mails, robocalls and talk radio, it was a complete bust. A mere 100 supporters turned up to see the strange duo of Hollywood libertine Tom Arnold (the comedian who was Schwarzenegger’s sidekick in True Lies) and abstemious conservative 2003 gubernatorial candidate Tom McClintock.

Looking as if they could scarcely believe their great good fortune, three of Schwarzenegger’s chief Democratic tormentors, Salazar, Steve Maviglio and Bob Mulholland, converged on the L.A. Weekly as the little rally reached its desultory end. “This is really happening,” said Salazar with a note of wonderment. “We shouldn’t compromise with this guy at all,” declared Mulholland. “We don’t have to.”

Warren BeattyEven Arnold’s Hollywood friends are turning on him.

“He’s operating as governor like he is in one of his movies,” notes Warren Beatty, right. Despite his long, friendly relationship with Schwarzenegger, who has cited the actor/director as a role model in learning how to control his Hollywood career, Beatty — whose buddy Jack Nicholson arranged coaching for Schwarzenegger when he was trying to break into movies — has broken the Hollywood superstar code of silence and is criticizing the governor. Shortly after a dinner at Schwarzenegger’s home, Beatty gave a widely noted speech last month at a fund-raiser for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a persistent Arnold antagonist, but turned down an invitation to speak at the Democratic convention because he didn’t want to look like he’s running for governor.

“This is an Arnold picture,” says Oscar-winner Beatty. “Superman walks in the room, and shit happens. That can be pretty spectacular. As long as all the characters follow the script. But this isn’t a movie.”


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