Thursday, August 07, 2003
I haven't commented on Arnold Schwarzenegger's announcement yet because . . . I don't really have an opinion. I have no idea if he'd be a good governor. He could hardly be worse than Davis, but California has some deep, fundamental problems that I'm not sure anyone has good answers to - at least not answers that Californians would be willing to put into practice. No one socially conservative is going to get elected governor, so I'm not sure why some conservatives are perseverating about that factor. Schwarzenegger is no more liberal than Rick Riordan, and I was very supportive of his run. I just don't know how any of us know if A.S. is tempermentally fit to be chief executive of the state of California.
Two things I will say. First: you can be tempermentally difficult and, if you have the right ideas and the guts and determination to see them through, you can still make a huge difference. Exhibit A is Rudy Giuliani, who was not, to say the least, the easiest Mayor to work with (ask Bill Bratton about that some time) but who was right about the important things for getting NYC back on its feet: right about crime, (and about crime, and about crime), right about welfare, right about taxes. And he stuck to his guns and did what he said, and saved this city from doom. If Arnie has half the vision and half the guts Rudy did, it won't matter if he's a control freak or otherwise problematic.
Second: a hero riding in on a white horse cannot save a party. New York City is into its second Republican Mayor, and it's a legitimate question if a Democrat can win this city against any viable Republican candidate; the Democratic Party primary process is so disfunctional that it practically guarantees a disastrous nominee (Dinkins, Messinger, Green - there's a pattern). But there is no Republican Party to speak of in NYC. The GOP is just an empty vessel into which you pour the latest candidate with enough money or media presence to get himself elected. So no matter who we wind up electing, much of the city gets run by Democrats, and there are real limits to how much change anyone can impose from the top. Same in California. The California GOP is a mess, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, whether he wins or loses, won't change that. He could do a lot of good while he's there, within limits, but once he's gone it's back to square one.