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New Year, Same Old Crap

AND SO IT IS TIME for one of those very conventional New Year’s Resolution columns. But first, this:

When Gov. Schwarzenegger hobbles out of bed at the end of the week to attend his own posh inaugural bash, he’s going to be packing more than just the crutches he needed after his recent skiing mishap. Arnold will be toting along a couple of deep, very deep black bags to haul away the $1.5 million in loot being offered up as tribute.

With absolutely no legal limits on how much can be socked into his inaugural committee, a motley collection of Class A special interests have chipped in as much as $50,000 each to pander to the Governator. The fat-cat list brims with the usual suspects: the Chamber of Commerce, realtors, developers, grocers and growers. You know, selfless jillionaires whose first thoughts are always about the common welfare.

But here’s the kicker: Among those pitching in the biggest piles of unregulated cash to the governor’s big event, billed as “Leading the Green Dream,” are none other than those good citizens over at Chevron. You will excuse my cynicism, but last time I looked, Chevron’s political-funding record was much more motor-oil brown than dreamlike green. Over the past decade, according to Greenpeace, Chevron has pumped millions of dollars into a fleet of anti-enviro groups as well as right-wing antiregulatory think tanks. But we knew that already.

It’s precisely this sort of moral sludge that makes Schwarzenegger so vexing. His green legislation really is green. He really has thrust California into national leadership on the issues of climate change and alternative fuels. But who can truly believe in this guy? Schwarzenegger has been a smart and effective centrist governor (most of the time) but he has absolutely and continuously failed on his central campaign promise of three years ago: to change the way Sacramento does its business by shutting out the special interests. Indeed, if anything, he has shown his predecessor, the hapless Gray Davis, to have been a mere piker in the real world of high-flying campaign financing.

You have to assume that Arnold’s program of the moment — the green one — derives from pure political calculation and is therefore amendable, or disposable, whenever it might become expedient. That is, unless you believe his spokeswoman Julie Soderlund, who vowed there could never be a link between the political contributions showered on the governor and, say, his policy proposals. Oh heavens, no! Julie also assures that Arnold will be reaching down with his bare hands into the 20-foot-long aquarium that will grace his inaugural ceremony and will be pulling out gulping red cap orandas and converting them, before our eyes, into steaming-hot loaves of Russian rye.

Give the gov some credit, however, for his sense of humor. From across the partisan aisle, he lured the veritable godfather of big-money politics into serving as his inaugural master of ceremonies. Da Mayor Willie Brown will be there, no doubt in one of his trademark Brionis, to narrate and animate the inaugural celebration. Anyway, he’s a great choice to play Arnold’s lead jester. After all, who other than Brown — defender of the little people by day and tobacco- and drug-company lobbyists by night — better understands the psyche, and the game, of the supposed reform politician who enacts no reform?

This rant, by the way, has nothing to do with Republicans per se. For evidence of Democrat turpitude, you need look no further this week than toward the incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s own four-day-long, cash-fueled self-coronation. Pelosi’s getting a Baltimore street named for her, attending a Catholic mass staged in her honor, throwing a party for the people (but by invitation only), sucking up tea with a couple of hundred well-connected lady friends, being spotlighted at a private Tony Bennett recital (“I left my heart but not my checkbook in San Francisco”), and finishing it all off with a fund-raiser where tickets will sell for $15,000 (for lobbyists), but will be available to some 1,200 little people for a mere $1,000 each.

All this proving that the first woman speaker in history plans to govern pretty much like all the men who preceded her. And, oh yes, that there really is hope for broad bipartisan agreement, as long as the issues are restricted to the virtues of endless campaign cash and self-glorification.

The news on Pelosi’s four-day vanity event comes at the same time we learn she has nixed a proposal by C-SPAN that would allow the cable network to control and direct its own cameras on the House floor. Since C-SPAN’s inception in 1979, the House has maintained control and has fixed the cameras on tight shots of the exalted speakers gassing away at the podium. C-SPAN thought it might be more instructive to let their lenses roam freely and show the public what our honorable representatives are really doing while on the taxpayers’ clock. Pelosi, who has vowed to run the cleanest, most transparent Congress in history, said she turned down the request to preserve the “dignity and decorum” of the House. Rim shot!

So back to this being a New Year’s Resolution column. Like almost every New Year of my adult life, I will make the same wish as always. Oh Lord, let there be some harmonic convergence, some great electromagnetic storm, some inexplicable intervention by a deus ex machina, anything, whatever it takes to force a tectonic political realignment, something that pushes aside the carcasses of these two rotting political parties once and forever. I know it’s futile. But at least it’s a tradition.