WITH ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER just back from Hawaii, his new life in the chilly Capitol is heating up faster than a balmy day in the islands. For starters, his friendship with Democratic Attorney General Bill Lockyer may not be a buddy picture after all. And his new administration is shaping up so far to be less bipartisan than advertised, even though it will be more liberal than many expected. His new campaign opponent is already off and running for 2006. And his new residence is, well, a hotel.
For all the bipartisan talk of the Schwarzenegger transition team, the appointments to the administration are nearly all Republicans. In the governor’s office itself, there is only Bonnie Reiss, a Hollywood Democrat and environmentalist and friend of Arnold’s for more than 20 years who ran his afterschool program. She’s signed on as a senior adviser, a key role, for she will be practically the only one there who knew Schwarzenegger before he ran for governor.
It might have looked very different. According to sources, a very prominent Democrat, former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg of L.A., was strongly considered for the post of chief of staff to the new governor. As reported last month, Hertzberg, now an attorney in private practice, has been a very active member of the transition team. The moderate liberal is smart, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, all traits that appeal to the action superstar.
Also considered was a tandem arrangement in which Hertzberg would work with Republican Patricia Clarey. In the end, though, the choice was Clarey, an HMO executive and protégé of former Pete Wilson chief of staff Bob White, the gentlemanly über-adviser of Schwarzenegger. Clarey, a moderate Republican, served as deputy chief of staff under White during the Wilson administration and was the very efficient deputy campaign manager during Schwarzenegger’s late-breaking and sometimes chaotic run.
Though there aren’t many Democrats as of yet, some of the early appointments have pleased liberals. Environmentalist Terry Tamminen, head of the Santa Monica–based Environment Now, will be secretary for environmental protection. As such, he will head an agency that some mistakenly reported during the campaign that Schwarzenegger wanted to abolish. Some within the transition team opposed Tamminen, a friend of Maria Shriver’s cousin, environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
There was talk of a pro-business environmental secretary, even talk of retaining Davis environmental secretary Winston Hickox on the theory that he is a player who might better placate business interests. In the end, Schwarzenegger, who told the Weekly before he ever ran that he has an “expansive vision” on the environment and renewable energy, went with Tamminen, the architect of the new governor’s advance policy paper that prompted The New York Times to dub Schwarzenegger “Conan the Green.” “So far,” says top environmental lobbyist V. John White, “Arnold looks as good as Gray on the environment.”
Also drawing praise, more surprisingly, is Schwarzenegger’s pick as secretary of food and agriculture. A.G. Kawamura, a Japanese-American, is a ponytailed strawberry farmer from Orange County. During a recent appearance on Warren Olney’s Which Way, L.A.? radio show, Natural Resources Defense Council advocate Ann Notthoff was enthusiastic about Kawamura, calling him “an advocate of sustainable agriculture and integrated pest management,” a technique which eschews the usual pesticide carpet-bombing of fields.
Even on some labor matters, Schwarzenegger is a pleasant surprise to many. Though labor campaigned heavily for Davis and against him, Schwarzenegger agreed to allow the outgoing governor two more appointments to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, which will be a big help to the United Farm Workers.
IT’S NOT ALL PLEASANT, OF COURSE. Dick Riordan, the sometimes mercurial former L.A. mayor, prompted the resignation of the only labor rep on the Schwarzenegger transition team with his appointment as secretary of education. Though a champion of education, the moderate Republican repeatedly crossed swords with the teachers union while mayor.
Then there is the decidedly unpleasant — the incredible budget mess — which looks headed toward a debt-laden resolution, and very different conflicts emerging between the two Democrats who had been viewed as the party’s front-runners for governor in 2006, Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Treasurer Phil Angelides.
Lockyer may well be moving out of frame, either on account of his shock announcement last month that he actually voted for Schwarzenegger or on account of how he is handling his relationship with the governor-elect.
Lockyer stunned the political world and the media last month when he announced at the usual election postmortem at UC Berkeley that he had voted for Schwarzenegger. It came at the end of a very long and tediously thoughtful luncheon speech. A skilled partisan who was first elected to the Legislature three decades ago, Lockyer has always been a bit of a wild card given to unusual statements. During the power crisis, he mused gleefully about what fun it would be to escort Enron chief Ken Lay to his new home in a prison cell with a rape-happy convict named “Spike.”
Since remarrying and fathering a child at age 61, Lockyer seems to have mellowed, and increasingly questions the hardball political game he has mastered in the past. After praising critics of the attack-dog faction of the Democratic Party during the run-up to the recall election, Lockyer himself entered the fray by decrying what he called Davis’ “puke politics,” a phrase that stuck. So it did not surprise me Lockyer voted for Schwarzenegger; the two have known each other for years. His announcement was the surprise.
Lockyer said he was sick of the politics of relentless negative campaigning and character assassination that have become central to Democratic campaigns and wanted to identify with the “optimism and positive energy” of Schwarzenegger. So far, so good. But when asked about the charges of sexually obnoxious behavior against Schwarzenegger, which the new governor has largely admitted, Lockyer reasserted his penchant for unusual statements. He dismissed it as “frat boy behavior.”
Within days, Lockyer was backtracking, explaining that he hadn’t meant to equate groping with graffiti. Meanwhile, he was pursuing his relationship with Schwarzenegger, sharing a chummy Chinese takeout dinner and allowing his chief deputy attorney general to become Schwarzenegger’s legal affairs secretary. But last week, at the close of a press conference about telemarketing abuses, Lockyer stepped in it again. Asked about the charges, which had receded from view, the AG opined that Schwarzenegger should have an investigation of them. Giving in to the temptation to gossip, he then went on to say that he had just had a private conversation with the governor-elect, who is “very concerned.”
Team Arnold overreacted, putting together a press conference call to denounce Lockyer for violating attorney-client privilege, which did not exist. The next day, only The New York Times explained why Schwarzenegger thought the privilege existed. Lockyer himself said that in many ways the two had “client-attorney privilege.”
After making the story bigger than it would have otherwise been, Schwarzenegger then gave it legs by having communications director Rob Stutzman say an unnamed investigative firm will check out the allegations. In response to Schwarzenegger’s overreaction to his violation of a private conversation, Lockyer overreacted by going on a radio show and reporting he had heard “a third-hand rumor” of another purported incident. Meanwhile, upwards of 70 percent of the voters say they have heard enough about this.
Schwarzenegger needs to give a general accounting of his behavior, apologize for it, and do his job as governor. Credible women accused Bill Clinton of rape, something far beyond the issue here, and he served as president to the acclaim of many who attacked the governor-elect. If someone wants to sue Schwarzenegger, they should do it. Lockyer needs to decide if he is going to careen around making poorly chosen statements, revive his relationship with Schwarzenegger, or run for governor.
ONE PERSON WHO KNOWS exactly what he is doing is Treasurer Phil Angelides. Moving smartly into the vacuum left by Lockyer’s angst, Angelides is off and running for governor, challenging Schwarzenegger on his much-rumored plan to put $20 billion or more of bonds on the March ballot to restructure the state’s past debt and ongoing budget deficit. Angelides points out that the interest on the bonds would cost every California household about $3,500 over 30 years. He doesn’t say how much the mostly unspecified taxes he calls for in lieu of the bonds would cost. He is also challenging the Terminator on energy policy, calling for, yes, the issuance of billions in bonds to upgrade the transmission grid, which he says is neglected by profit-hungry firms in the more deregulated market Schwarzenegger prefers.
In the general disarray of the Democratic Party, Angelides is one astute leader who knows what he is doing. He wants to position Schwarzenegger as a deficit spender overly friendly to big contributors who don’t want to pay taxes and as a champion of an extreme deregulationist agenda, though Schwarzenegger’s energy policy, with its emphasis on long-term contracts and bigger renewable energy standards than Davis pushed for, is hardly radical capitalist.
It’s all enough to make an action hero long for the comforts of home. In Sacramento, since he really can’t jet back and forth to work all the time as he had previously suggested, that will be a hotel suite, at least for the foreseeable future. At the Hyatt Regency at Capitol Park, a short and picturesque walk from his new office. It is a nice hotel, but the former Mr. Universe should be wary of room service. It was there that Kobe Bryant ordered a cheeseburger and cheesecake that he claimed gave him food poisoning during a playoff series with the Sacramento Kings. And look what happened to him.