Guest column

Excerpted from remarks to UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy on May 21.

One night a few months ago in Los Angeles, I found myself offering some advice for the current governor of our state. (He was not there.) I was a little tougher on him than it had been fashionable in Hollywood to be, up until then.

I’ve never enjoyed being publicly negative about actors in public office, like Ronald Reagan, whom I really liked, or Sonny Bono or George Murphy, because I’ve always had a real soft spot for actors even if they are right-wing.

And although I’ve never known Arnold very well, I’ve always liked him. When he went from body-building into the movies and said in interviews he’d like to do it like Clint Eastwood does it and like Warren Beatty does it, of course that’s pretty much all you have to say to have me eating out of your hand.

But now that he’s a politician, I say, why not rise to the higher levels of that calling, rather than denigrate your fellow politicians, calling them “stooges” and “girly men” and “losers.”

They give years of their lives to public service in the legislature of what is intended to be a representative form of government, where public policy on decisions affecting 38 million people’s lives are adequately discussed — not a government by ballot initiatives financed by huge advertising monies that bypass a careful examination of a bill by the people’s elected representatives.

Can’t we accept that devotion to the building of the body politic is more complex and a little more sensitive than devotion to body-building?

Does that make me a girly man?

I said that night that, although there was an awful lot to do here in California, there was nothing wrong with his wanting to be the president of the United States. Doesn’t every Austrian parent want their son or daughter to grow up to be the president of the United States?

Fine. Fine. But to embrace the reactionary right-wing agenda here in California in order to gain a national political party to become the president with? No. No.

It’s become time to define a Schwarzenegger Republican. A Schwarzenegger Republican is a Bush Republican who says he’s a Schwarzenegger Republican.

I’ll repeat I wanted to be rooting for Arnold, but he’d have to take some of that bombastic marketing and market the right thing — telling rich people like me the truth: that with a state debt of $18 billion caused by energy deregulation and the dot-com bust, our taxes are going to have to be a little higher on the rich. No matter what that group of advisers say. And maybe only temporarily. Which is what both Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson did.

And tell them, Governor, just as your adviser Warren Buffet told you before you told him to be quiet and do 500 situps, that Proposition 13 has to tax businesses the same as homeowners, and that’d raise about $5 billion a year. It won’t make business leave California. And that the Bush tax cuts for the upper 1% in California alone amount to about $12 billion a year, so what’s the point of ruling out all new taxes on the rich other than to make sure they continue to finance your nonstop campaign advertising?

And what is the sense in running to Wall Street and borrowing $15 billion, raising the debt to over $30 billion, and then coming back here and trying to cut programs and obligations to nurses, firemen, teachers, cops, students, schools, the elderly, the blind and disabled, and then denigrating these good people as special interests? Please. These are the people you should be especially interested in.

We are not the governor’s dumbbells.

It’s not fooling anybody for him to run around raising money from Wall Street and K Street and rich Republicans all over the country who hope that if they can get this reactionary stuff started in California, they can get it done back in their own states and actually dismantle the New Deal, which they simplemindedly forget saved American capitalism. And then they can dismantle the Fair Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society and the entitlements and the rights and the guarantees that make the society safe for everyone including the rich.

And then to call a totally unnecessary $70 million extra election in November, when we’re going to have another one in June, is nothing but a strategy to distract attention from the failure to deal honestly with the budget and a fear of losing the support of the rich if he raises our taxes, while legally he can raise an unlimited amount of campaign money this year but not next year.

What is the need for an initiative on reapportionment when there is basic agreement in the legislature? Nobody wants the legislators to pick their voters, and everybody wants the voters to pick their legislators.

The Republican Secretary of State, Bruce MacPherson, has said the reapportionment cannot be done by 2006, is very questionable by 2008, could be done by 2010 — but then a court would throw it out, because in 2010 a new census will be done. So why call an extra election in November of 2005 when you’ll have another one in June of 2006?

The governor wants to attract conservative attention nationally with an extra election at a time when very few elections are going on in the country, and win credit from the right wing for winning on this fake issue, something everybody already basically agrees on.

And for bullying labor and the little guys with this anti-worker, misleadingly named “paycheck protection” ballot initiative — which would make it almost impossible for union members to pool some of their dues, unite on political issues and stand up to the big guys behind this scam that tries to castrate the labor movement and vitiate the dignity of working men and women — and spend $70 million of the public’s money doing it.

Cancel it, Governor. Call it off. Or you’re going to hear the sound of a lot more losers and stooges and “girly-men” like me who want to hear the sound of their own voices than you seem to think.

Now this is what I call good advice. I’d like to help. So imagine my chagrin when on television Arnold expresses reluctance to listen to my advice. He said to Chris Matthews that if I promise not to give him advice on politics, he’ll promise not to give me advice on acting.

I can only advise him at this point that if politics and acting are both off the table, we are left only with hair and makeup. And you know? I don’t want to give him advice on that.

But I can advise on cosmetics and cover-ups in the makeup of American politics: The base that is used to constantly conceal the mistakes and the mischief in the misanthropic agenda.

As a public-policy dermatologist, you might advise that just a couple of minutes a day of sunlight would be more than helpful. And you might cut down on the photo ops, the fake events, the fake issues, the fake crowds, the backdrops, the signs, the distractions, the scapegoats, the “language problems,” the broken promises, the minutemen, the prevarications and put some sunlight on some taxes.

Nobody likes taxes. But everybody wants their family to be safe and the society secure.

Not only will the economy benefit if we don’t ask our children to pick up our tab, but inside most Democrats are people who feel they might some day get as rich as Republicans and don’t want to destroy for themselves the possibilities in the American dream that responsible capitalism offers, any more than conservatives do.

Stop trying to milk the illusion of bipartisanship. You are a conservative Republican who likes to have a few Democrats around for show. This is good advice.

Do I think Arnold will eventually take it? I think so.

Of course, he can joke that I want to defend the nurses because I’m closer to needing one, and the elderly because I’m nearer to being one, and the blind because I can’t see past tax-and-spend liberalism. And then I can joke that he should defend the teachers because he has so much to learn. But finally it’s not funny.

Government is not a joke, and despite what he’s said, it’s not a movie.

But he’ll have to listen. He’s not stupid. He knows I’m a private citizen just as he was a year ago. I’m an opponent of his muscle-bound conservatism with longer experience in politics than he has, and although I don’t want to run for governor, I’d do one helluva lot better job than he’s done. But I can name you lots of Democrats that would be so much better than I would, and maybe even a few Republicans.

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