Schwarzenegger Meltdown Continues – Top Dem Ally Brought in

Today’s Los Angeles Times – front page, above the fold – has a story titled “Schwarzenegger’s Top Ally Steps In.” The “ally” is, of course, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s wife, Maria Shriver, shown at right consorting with the enemy at last year’s Republican convention.

The Schwarzenegger regime (the Times refers them as his “senior staff” and “campaign team” ) is roiling from what insiders describe as a “dysfunctional” atomsphere and a “civil war” within its upper ranks.

Schwarzenegger is facing infighting among his senior staff and campaign team, which has contributed to a series of political missteps that threaten the once soaring governor’s ambitious agenda, more than a dozen aides and lawmakers said Thursday.

“More than a dozen” aides were quoted?! When that many people are talking with reporters, I think the term “meltdown” is accurate for what’s going on in the Governor’s office.

One sign of the governor’s troubles is the active involvement of his wife, Maria Shriver. The first lady is conferring with consultants to refine the governor’s message and working to ensure that her husband hears a broader range of voices.

Begs the question: Why? If we’re to believe Maria’s various quasi-patronizing quotes over the years about her husband’s right-leaning politics then we can assume that underneath her journalistic objectivity she’s still a Kennedy-style liberal.

Since she’s constantly stepping in to help Arnold out of political jams, further analysis would bring us to the conclusion that whatever her political beliefs are, she’s laying them aside in order to help her husband – and thereby the enemies of liberalism and its tenets of freedom, fair play, privacy and integrity -in the Republican Party. Shriver wades into these frays inside the GOP without batting a lash. This makes her a collaborator of the first order. Beyond that, whatever journalistic bona fides she may have had are forever compromised by these political activities.

Flipping it around, you also have to wonder why the Gop operatives around Arnold – like Mike Murphy, for just one example – would be comfortable having a Kennedy within the inner circle.

But back to the Governor’s problems:

Schwarzenegger is reeling after successive policy reversals, gaffes and clashes with well-organized opponents have deflated his once-buoyant approval ratings. The latest setback came this week when he told a newspaper publishers association that the United States should “close its borders.” He later apologized, explaining that he misspoke because of his imperfect command of English.

Who are you reminded of when you hear the excuse that Arnold’s “imperfect command of English” caused the gaffe?

If this were happening in, say, April 2006, as Arnold’s campaign for re-election was gearing up, I’d say there was genuine hope that he could be defeated. But, as I noted in a previous rant, Schwarzenegger can communicate with Calfornia voters via a megaphone that no other politician in the state can acces: He can go over the heads of the California television news – which doesn’t cover politics anyway – and go on Oprah, Access Hollywood or other national entertainment outlets – which most Californias do watch. This is how he got elected last time, and it’s almost undoubtedly how he’ll do it next year.

In fact, Shriver is already doing it:

Several people familiar with the governor’s office described Shriver as very “unhappy” and “frustrated” over her husband’s fortunes. Shriver, the niece of former president John F. Kennedy who has intervened before when her husband’s political interests were in jeopardy, is using a national tour promoting her new self-help book for teenage girls to defend her husband, making her case with administration talking points.

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.”

UK Libel Trial against Schwarzenegger Could Keep Him in Witness Box in ’06

The fifth paragraph in this story from article about the libel case brought against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by British TV talker Anna Richardson, right, caught my attention:

Unless the governor wins a late judicial reprieve or reaches an out-of-court settlement, he may find himself spending part of the 2006 election year — his re-election year should he choose to seek another term — in a witness box, answering questions under oath before 12 British jurors and a bewigged judge.

The article says that the Gubernator and his staff have tried everything in their power to quash the suit, however an expert on the British legal system, who also knows the Governor, says it now comes down to a choice for Schwarzenegger: “He’s going to have to fight this here or he’s going to have to capitulate. My expectation would be that he would come and fight it.”

Richardson was one of six women who came forward in an LA Times article published a week or so prior to the Recall election to reveal that they were sexually assaulted by Schwarzenegger. Reaction to the article in the MSM and rightwing radio was hard and swift – the article was painted as spurious agitprop from the liberals at the Times. (I know people who voted for Schwarzenegger because they “were convinced” the article was unfair, even if the allegations were true.)

The Richardson incident has proven to be the most durable allegation in the article. It happened in December 2000, when Schwarzenegger was in London to promote his film, “The 6th Day.”

According to her account, Schwarzenegger, who had behaved as a “perfect gentleman” in her previous interviews with him about his films, kept staring at her breasts during the 2000 interview at the Dorchester Hotel.

“I went to shake his hand and he grabbed me onto his knee and he said, ‘Before you go, I want to know if your breasts are real,’ ” Richardson told the Times. She said they were real and looked around for help, and “at that point, he circled my left nipple with his finger and he said, ‘Yes, they are real.’ ” Then, she said, he let her go.

When asked for a response to the charges during the Recall campaign, Arnold’s spokesman, Sean Walsh, referred reporters to a studio flack named Sheryl Main – you gotta love that! – who told a completely different story.

According to Main’s account, as quoted in the Times, Richardson stood up after the interview, cupped her right breast and said, “What do you think of these?” She then sat on his lap and was immediately escorted out.

Richardson’s suit does not focus on the groping incident but rather on the reporting of it. She’s suing the two flacks over their comments to the Times.

The response from Schwarzenegger’s lawyer is classic: “Arnold Schwarzenegger did not make any of the statements that were attributed to his aides. He didn’t ratify or authorize the statements.”

Right. Well, then. That settles it. Flacks in the employ of the movie star and his studio were just popping off, making wild, untrue and libelous statements without his knowledge. Happens every day, I’m sure.

But not in this town…

Arnold vs. the Nurses: ‘He Sees Women as Completely Subservient’

This, ladies and gentlemen – I do mean Democrats – is how it is done. The LAT ran a front page profile today of Rose Ann DeMoro, the executive director of the California Nurses Assn., a 60,000-member labor union that has been giving Gov. Schwarzenegger hell, of late.

“He was on a roll, he was unassailable, and people told us we couldn’t take him on,” said DeMoro, sitting in a fourth-floor conference room at the association’s brick headquarters here. Two Schwarzenegger bobble-head dolls, one labeled “Governor Girlie Man,” roosted on her desk. “We take extreme credit for his poll numbers dropping like a rock,” DeMoro said.

Schwarzenegger’s once-soaring approval ratings have indeed plunged, and his sweeping proposals to revamp state government have stalled.

He can’t seem to attend a fundraiser free of boisterous union protesters, with chanting nurses often in the front ranks. And one of his favorite lines for diminishing his opponents — “I am always kicking their butts” — has come back to haunt him, thanks to angry RNs mobilized by DeMoro.

Although she was never a nurse – she used to organize for the Teamsters in Hollywood – during DeMoro’s 12 years heading the association, the union has defied labor-movement trends by tripling its membership, according to the Times article.

In her battle with the governor, the tide turned when Schwarzenegger egged on the nurses, and unleashed her fervor for street-level activism. “When Arnold attacked those nurses, he just fell into a trap, and there’s no doubt the nurses outflanked him,” said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican strategist in Los Angeles.

DeMoro brands Schwarzenegger a “bullying” sexist. “I think he sees women as completely subservient,” she told the Times.

Poll Drop Forces Change in Plans for Gubernator

First came this – new poll numbers showing that Californians are finally seeing through Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gimmickry and media manipulation.

Then came this. Schwarzenegger does an about face on his threat to go over the heads of the Dem-controlled legislature and take his risky pension privatization scheme to the public via a ballot initiative.

The poll drop is significant and is in line with recent polling that shows the governor to be slipping in popularity. This latest poll found that “the governor’s job performance is approved by 49% of voters, disapproved by 38%. His rating is worse among all adults: 43% approval, 43% disapproval — a steep slide since it was 59%-26% in January. Polls last year had shown Schwarzenegger with stratospheric job ratings in the high 60s.”

Ahnold has a problem with the fundamentals too. “People also were asked a standard question about whether they think ‘things in California are going in the right direction or are they seriously off on the wrong track.’ Only 39% answered right direction; 49% said wrong track. In January, it was almost reversed: 52% right track, 35% wrong direction.”

Wait! I think I just heard bellowing from the general direction of Bel Air. Sounded like a man with an Austrian accent bellowing: “Maria! Get Oprah on the line!”

Angelides Enters Anti-Arnold Race Early

With approval ratings in the 60s, Gov. Schwarzenegger appears to be invincible, and his ability to manipulate the national media – not to mention the international entertainment media – gives him edge over every conceivable contender, with the possible exception of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who would be pushing 80 at the end of her first term, if she chose to run. The first candidate to put his hat in the ring is state Treasurer Phil Angelides.

The resident state political expert at the LA Times , George Skelton, assesses early opposition to the Gubernator:

The [Angelides] strategy isn’t exactly to carve out the role of anti-Arnold for himself, because Angelides has been doing that practically from Day One of the Schwarzenegger administration. He’s now trying to make sure Democratic activists and ordinary voters know about it.

“I stood up and said Schwarzenegger was wrong and I didn’t care how high his poll numbers were or how big his megaphone was,” says Angelides. “And too many other Democrats laid down.”

He means [Atty. Gen. Bill ] Lockyer [Dem.], who acknowledged voting for Schwarzenegger in the recall election. “I think people ought to be judged by how they act in the crucible of critical times,” the treasurer asserts.

Angelides, 51, a rich Sacramento housing developer and former state party chairman who first was elected in 1998, says there’s another factor that distinguishes him from Lockyer: “I’m not a lifer in the public sector.” His 15 years as a developer, he contends, gave him “a keen understanding of what’s required to build a strong economy.”

Gov. Conan Girds for Battle, Ready to ‘Kick Butts’

The most peculiar thing about state politics here in California is that the local news media has abdicated any serious role it may have had in reporting on the issues. Sure, the local stations will host debates among politicians, but not if they are scheduled to interfere with the primetime line up. During the actual nightly newscasts, politics are rarely mentioned because the topic bores viewers and cuts into coverage of today’s car chase or drive-by shooting.

This works tremendously in favor of someone like Gov. Schwarzenegger who has free access – not just to the national media – but to its most popular sector: the entertainment media. If there was a moment that won the election for him last time, it was his appearance on “Oprah,” where his friend the talk show host lodged a bunch of softball questions toward Arnold and Maria. No surprise that questions about groping or call girls never came up.

That’s what we can expect in the coming debate about Schwarzenegger’s “reforms” of the state government. When the going gets tough, he’ll appear on “Entertainment Tonight” and call his opponents names. Unfortunately, this appeals to a large sector of Californians, mostly men, who rarely vote but who love “The Terminator.” This trivialization of politics would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous.

From the Washington Post today:

Critics say the governor is avoiding the budget deficit, and even some of his allies question why he decided to take on so many fights. Schwarzenegger said he was elected “to create reform, to fix the problem, fix the broken system,” not to move slowly. “Remember the greatest things that you can accomplish, the more risks you take,” he said. “It’s directly related to risk. Everything like this — investments and everything else. If you’re willing to take risks, then the upside can be spectacular.”

Schwarzenegger has roused widespread opposition. Now when he travels the state, in addition to crowds of enthusiastic supporters, he is met with protesters: nurses, teachers, firefighters, police and correctional officers, PTA leaders. Schwarzenegger labels them all special interests and inflamed matters when he dismissed the protests of nurses at a women’s event last December. “The special interests don’t like me in Sacramento because I am always kicking their butts,” he said.

Schwarzenegger Tries Bush-Style Media Manipulation

Deploying propaganda through paid surrogates, fake news reporters and tricked out video reports that are passed off as news is a de facto admission that the policies of the Bush Administration – and now the Schwarzenegger crew in Sacramento – can’t stand on their own.

Adding salt to the wound in the body politic is the fact that all this GOP chicanery is paid out of the public dole. (Now there’s a place to cut the budget.)

On the federal level, it is illegal to produce propaganda using taxpayer money. Fortunately for President Bush, the corrupt conservatives who control the US Congress will never investigate anything this Administration does.

On the other hand, Governor Schwarzenegger faces a legislature controlled by Democrats. And while the Pravdazation of government news reporting needs to be exposed to the antiseptic of endless committee hearings, it would be uncharacteristic of the Dems in Sacramento to make a fuss. More likely the fake news tapes will resurface as an issue in the governor’s race next year.