We Recalled Gray Davis and Promptly Forgot Why

Reading coverage of Governor Doofinator is like reading something written by the lead guy in that movie Memento. Don’t remember that movie? Here’s a quick summary – a guy who gets total amnesia every 15 minutes stumbles through a series of misadventures, unable to place anyone or anything in any context, since he can’t remember anything for very long.
Which is what we get nowadays with all the “coverage” of “news” in Sacramento. People cover our fair Governor, usually giving him a free pass with every news conference, and the fallout from each little deal, each proposal, and every smiling photo op is chronicled. Yet we never, ever read any of this in any sort of historical context, and never once are we shown a comparison of why we were told we needed to recall our elected Governor, what was promised, and what we’re actually getting from Sunny Governor Doofinator.
Thus, our governor is allowed a free pass on breaking just about every promise he made to get there, and the end result is that we’re not getting anything different than if we’d kept Gray Davis in office – aside from an actor’s smile and popularity and a little “R” next to his name to make some folks happier than others. More to the point, our Governor gets a pass on a lack of ability we’ve attacked others for pretty quickly.
Fervent critics of Governor Davis and other Catholic Democrats for their stands on abortion, gay marriage, and other issues give a sitting GOP Governor with the same views a pass, in an odd and mysterious gap in otherwise consistent criticism (which is their right). The press and the political establishment give this guy more passes than any other governor in recent memory – which is great for the Governor, but no one else.
That’s why I coined the nickname “Doofinator” for him when he got into office – his image is significantly different than past politicos, but when you look inside, you see the same old hocus pocus that both parties have been dishing out for some time now – and the results to date haven’t been too great. He’s very funny to watch, and he comes up with clever lines – but when it comes to really putting in the time or effort or work to run the state, he’s just coming up short when we needed something a little more than a Republican Gray Davis in office.
Many early predictions seemed to come true, much to my dismay, and more recent analyses bear out my view – this guy is no more a reformer than any one of number of boring, groupthink politicos – he just has a better smile and a better image.
I’m not ashamed to admit that when I first heard of the concept of a Schwarzenegger candidacy, back in 2002, I’d wondered (and hoped) he’d be a good governor given his business acumen and an ability to chart a political course that did not require him to placate any particular party’s “goof-ball” wing. Heck, he could have run as non-partisan candidate and won outright, I’m convinced.
More to the point, I’d assumed that someone with his money and popularity could do an end run around the Usual Suspects and enact some real reforms that could undo the crazy-quilt of laws and contradictory legislation that makes California budgeting almost impossible. If nothing else, it would have been nice to see someone end the folly that we have now whereby local taxes are taken away by the state at will, screwing over local authorities because Sacramento’s politicos can’t get their act together.
That was then. Now we have a record to judge, and from my perspective, keeping in mind the promises of less than a year ago and avoiding the selective amnesia consultants, pundits, and reporters seem to enjoy, it looks like all we’ve done is trade in one short-term thinker for another, and the long term future of our state is once again being mortgaged by both parties for the sake of feel-good deals. Nothing has changed, not even the nonstop chase for campaign cash, maligned under Davis as “coin-op” government, but those very same practices are praised under Governor Doofinator. This is better HOW?
Unlike most partisan pundits, I hate it when I’m right about stuff like this because in the end I don’t really care anymore if there’s a D or an R next to someone’s name – I just want someone to not be a BS’er in office and to try and cut the Gordian Knot that is California State Government and restore some sense of balance and reason to the debate.
Thus, seeing the Governor fumble the ball with this great opportunity to set things right is no reason for me to cheer – as a Californian, it’s depressing to watch, especially after having gone through the high-priced recall spectacle, paid for by car alarm millionaires, special interests, and of course, we taxpayers.
Many people have called Gov. Doofinator a “strong leader,” but when you start reading about just how he’s conducted himself during his first budget negotiations, you quickly realize he’s a very thin-skinned Hollywood celebrity who is used to having people do what he says without question.
That’s fine when you’re a self-employed businessman and mega-movie star who consistently ensures box office revenues and DVD sales, but when you’re a Governor, you have to realize that you’re not the only one in charge, and we still live in a government of checks and balances. It’s all well and good to complain about how things aren’t always perfect when you’re a plain citizen – but when someone becomes Governor, the buck stops with them, and simply deciding that because people aren’t all bowing down in unison for the Governor, that means that it’s time to make them do so via constitutional changes, doesn’t say much about said Governor’s “leadership.”
It’s also clear that when anyone starts to demonstrate any opposition to his plans or challenges Our Tough Governor, he tends cuts and run, like he did when he caved into the all-powerful prison guards union (a move worthy of Gov. Gray!).
A more memorable capitulation was when heangered pet advocates after proposing to cut short the number of days strays got to stay in pet shelters to save a few bucks. The same governor who dished out some cute zingers about “girlie men” in the Legislature apparently was unable to stand up to a cute little puppy with a “Don’t Kill Me Arnold” sign?
Not exactly a “bold leader” when you can dish it out, but can’t take it. Surely the Doofinator can take a few bad jokes at his expense? Or maybe I’m assuming too much? Didn’t they used to say Gray Davis was thin skinned and humorless too? How is this better? Remind me?
So far, he’s made proposals to steer more power into the executive branch, for short term personal gain, as he has with his so-called legislative reforms, or his alleged reorganization of state government that’s nothing more than transferring more power to the executive branch in the name of efficency.
Great for the Governor in the short term, makes for great headlines, and Republicans get a short term boost, but once again, short term thinking could lead to some dangerous long term Unintended Consequences, which we see every time ill-thought out structural reforms compound the problems we’ve got today.
Think about it this way (especially my good friends in the Republican Party) – sure such reforms could help Gov. Doofinator today – but in the end the GOP will be kicking itself senseless when one day a Governor Democrat takes office and uses the office to do what they want – and they can’t stop them no matter what happens. And don’t say it can’t happen – remember how the GOP posthumously gave FDR the finger by limiting presidential terms – only to see it come to harm Republican incumbents ever since.
I’ll be honest – sure I nickname the Governor “Doofinator” and I’ve been critical of his administration so far. But unlike partisans who attack the governor for their own gain, I get nothing out of this. My criticism comes from another place – that of someone who started to actually believe in the promise that things might get better despite my misgivings, and being disappointed when another faux revolutionary is exposed as a Usual Suspect cloaked in Hollywood fabrications. It’s depressing to read and see another train wreck in slow motion when you realize that it doesn’t have to be this way. Especially with someone like the Governor.
Ultimately the big loser is not the Governor, it’s the people of California, who have passed on a chance to do something now, before it’s too late. When we’re paying higher taxes and seeing the results of deferred leadership in the next few years, ultimately we will have ourselves to blame for not demanding more than a sunny smile and a glib one liner from someone who had a moment in time to do something that was a challenge to the status quo – and not yet another bag of tricks to pass along today’s problems to tomorrow’s leaders. That’s easy to do in the “Memento” world of politics of today – but as we all know the easy thing isn’t always the right thing to do.
Maybe the Democrats need to recruit a Pound Puppy to run against the Governor in 2006 (hey, we can even get some ads up on TV right away!) Seems like either a pup or a prison guard seem to be the only ones that can beat this guy. That 80s revival is underway – by 2006 we’ll be seeing Pound Puppies: The Next Generation on TV…sounds like we have a plan?
For more fun and games, check out Arnold Watch, created by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica. Also ,the LA Daily News has an assessment of Governor D’s tenure here, that’s interesting to read.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

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