Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Archive for August 16th, 2010

The View Across the Pond

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Did Arnold make his Hollywood persona "expendable", to suit political purposes?


I rarely read what the U.K. newspapers have to say about the American presidency. More times than not, they run with rumors and half-truths fed to them by political operatives and mischievous ex-pats– the sort of innuendo that plays big on the Drudge Report, but rarely pans out. 

That said, I am interested in how the British view the last phase of the Schwarzenegger Administration — “Arnie”, as the British like to call him. And, in analyzing the governor and the state of his state, how they view the tarnished brand that is the Golden State. 

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Philip Sherwell sums it up thus: 

“The Californian dream has faded, if not died, on this governor’s watch. That matters for the rest of the world – if it was a country, the 37 million residents of America’s most populous state would be in the G8 grouping of the eight richest economies. And it also matters deeply to the American psyche. 

For the Golden State has long embodied the American spirit of hope, aspiration and achievement. It is the ultimate can-do frontier, home to the dream factory of Hollywood and the innovation and technology nucleus of Silicon Valley. 

And Mr Schwarzenegger also epitomised that dream. He arrived as a near-penniless immigrant, made his name as the world’s top bodybuilder, amassed a fortune in businesses ranging from brick-laying to mail-order catalogues and then overcame that accent and the many sceptics to become the star of blockbusters such as Conan the Barbarian and the Terminator franchise. 

But for an actor, his political timing has been lamentable as he has ended up running the show during America’s great economic and housing meltdown.” 

I’m guessing that most Brits sees Schwarzenegger as a celebrity first, politician second. In fact, the hook for this story is the Governator’s cameo in The Expendables

But do Californians view their governor the same? Do they consider him a movie star now in a star-turn as a governor . . . or a governor who once upon a time starred in movies? If they still see Arnold as a celebrity/political hybrid, what’s the ratio — 50/50, or something less balanced? 

When we analyze Schwarzenegger’s impact and legacy as California’s 38th governor, as we’re certain to do (perhaps ad nauseum) in the interlude between Sacramento administrations, part of the discussion has to be Arnold’s celebrity status — specifically, did he lose appeal due to the effect that, as he became more bipartisan and “post-partisan”, he blended into the Capitol woodwork? 

Or, was such loss of star power inevitable given that, once elected and re-elected, Schwarzenegger guaranteed that his film career and Hollywood persona would become a distant image in the rear-view mirror?


Written by Bill Whalen

August 16, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Is Brown’s Pension an Issue?

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Perhaps California’s political press corps is a superstitious lot, and it decided to take a collective personal day last Friday the 13th.

That’s too bad, because the Brian Joseph, the Sacramento correspondent for the Orange County Register, had a most interesting analysis of California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s pension.

Per this report,  it seems that the Democratic gubernatorial nominee may be receiving a more generous pension than he deserves. And it’s clear that California’s pension laws are terribly arcane — so arcane, in fact, that they seem murky even after a month of one reporter’s analysis. Anyway, check out Joseph’s analysis and see if you can sense of it all.

The question here: why aren’t political reporters jumping on this story?

I think it’s a fair question given that:

1) Pensions are very much in the public spotlight, given both the scandal in the town of Bell and Gov. Schwarzenegger’s insistence that meaningful pension reform occur on his watch;

2) If Brown, who’s campaigning on experience and gained wisdom of government during his four decades of public service, can’t explain his own pension, what does that say about: (a) complicated pension rules and (b) his vaunted knowledge base.

3) Personal finance (Jerry trying to come across as a populist pauper while Democratic attacks dogs portray his foe as “Queen Meg”) is a big part of this election’s plot line.

This must be somewhat frustrating for the Whitman campaign, especially since the media coverage this past weekend wasn’t Jerry’s pension, but instead the $13 million check that the Republican gubernatorial candidate just wrote to the effort, pushing her self-funding total to $104 million, soon to surpass the $109 million that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg shelled out during his 2009 re-elect. 

One other thought: when Arnold leaves office, he’ll have accumulated seven-plus years of public service (November 2003 to January 2011). What dollar amount is he entitled to? And it based of a California governor’s current annual salary of $173,987, or the fact that Schwarzenegger (to his considerable credit) has done the job for free since wining the recall election.

Written by Bill Whalen

August 16, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized