More on Schwarzenegger

I’m with Mark on this (not necessarily on the recall tactic) and I think Jon is quite wrong about Schwarzenegger. He’s been a profound failure at the main thing he needed to do, and no better than mediocre at the second. He may be cunning, but he’s not courageous and not even very smart, as far as I can tall.

Schwarzenegger displaced a governor who richly deserved his oblivion, because he carried on an entire career in public service doing each job as though its only purpose was to get the next one, a gerbil on a careerist treadmill. Gray Davis was nothing if he wasn’t this or that public official, and probably knew it, but Schwarzenegger doesn’t need his current job. He has money and another good job whenever he wants it. This freedom is a priceless resource for a pol, and Schwarzenegger had a duty from the day his campaign opened (well, certainly from inauguration day) to say, again and again, what two generations of California leadership have conspired with an infantilized public to deny:

My fellow citizens, I entered politics to serve the values of the California electorate, and the truth. I can’t do the first until I do the second, and the truth we have to respect is that there are two and only two ways to run a state. We can have a government with minimal services and low taxes, or we can have a government with excellent and ample services (as we did in the fifties, sixties, and seventies) and the taxes needed to pay for them. What is not available to us is a low-tax, high-service state, and anyone who promises you that is a mountebank and a scoundrel. I will never promise lower taxes unless I also tell you what services we should forgo, nor propose new programs without recognizing what they will cost. But more important, I will never campaign against taxes in general, because when they buy good services we want, they are not “too high”; indeed, when the state can buy a lot of value for citizens for a really good price, it has a duty to seize that bargain.

A politician’s first duty is not to get reelected. Actually, it’s to realize that there are a lot worse things to lose than one’s job, and Schwarzenegger, lacking that realization, has lost those things. Instead, he violated the principles in the last two sentences of my imagined speech again and again, enabling the deeply dysfunctional instinct of voters to believe in Santa Claus instead of providing real leadership, and repeatedly concealing the facts with budgetary smoke and mirrors. And he has been nothing short of craven in the face of his own party’s declared policy of paralyzing the financial operation of the state in the legislature by enforcing an iron “no-tax” discipline on members. Shame on him. The summary judgment on his governorship is that he didn’t do the one big thing he was especially well situated to do, and advanced the decline of the common weal thereby.

He has been on the right side of some specific issues, including the environment, though mostly by running a little behind the curve and occasionally saying ” me, too!”. “Greener and quicker to catch on to global warming than George Bush” is quite the tepid encomium. But he has, equally importantly, cut the ground out from under the state’s attempts to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles by proposing to cut mass transit funding, an idea as wrong-headed as regards the well-being of the planet as it is economically ignorant. When people want to use their cars less, what does he think they should do to get around?

A better governor than some really bad governors; that’s about the best one can say about Arnold. Too bad.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.