- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2003

In hip and nonjudgmental California, Democrats are suddenly expressing shock over Arnold Schwarzenegger’s past sex life, his father’s politics and the example that his movies may have set for the young. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein expresses alarm over the fact that he used ugly-looking military weapons in movies about military combat. Democrats are shocked, shocked.

Voters ought to be disgusted, disgusted. With the state’s financial disasters and Californians fleeing to other states by the hundreds of thousands, you might think there might be something more serious to discuss than Mr. Schwarzenegger’s private life, his movies or his father’s politics.

The old “lack of experience” game that politicians like to play against any newcomer doesn’t have quite as much weight any more when you see what a monumental mess the experienced, lifelong politicians like Gov. Gray Davis have made. There could even be a lesson here for people in other states. When politicians talk about being “experienced,” the question should be asked: Experienced in doing what?

In deceiving the public? Evading responsibility? Claiming credit for what happens that is good and blaming others for whatever happens that is bad? Experience in spin or smoke and mirrors?

Let’s not forget that the people who succeeded in creating the United States of America — against all odds — were not career politicians. Yet they succeeded not only in freeing the American colonies from the control of the British Empire, they created the Constitution that has enabled this to remain a free country for more than two centuries.

There is no need to try to compare Arnold Schwarzenegger with the Founding Fathers. The California voters’ choice will be between him and a couple of hack politicians like Mr. Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

Polls have been bouncing around so much that it is hard to see how this election will turn out. And federal courts have been bouncing around so much that it is hard to know when the election will take place. The Voting Rights Act, designed to keep blacks from being denied the vote in the South decades ago, has now become a legal nightmare in California, where the approval of the U.S. Department of Justice is needed for this special election.

But what about Mr. Schwarzenegger? What kind of governor would he be, if and when the feds allow a vote to take place?

Everyone seems to be agreed that he is no Ronald Reagan. Mr. Schwarzenegger is a social liberal on things like abortion but a fiscal conservative in the sense of knowing that you can’t drive businesses and productive citizens out of the state without seeing the taxes they pay leave with them. This is not rocket science, but it might as well be as far as left coast politicians are concerned.

The big problem is that, even if Mr. Schwarzenegger becomes governor, the state legislature will still be in the hands of liberal-left Democrats, who think that they can impose all sorts of regulations, red tape and ever higher taxes on businesses and productive citizens without worrying about who will leave the state.

What could a Gov. Schwarzenegger do about that? He could veto reckless spending bills and — more important — use the bully pulpit of his veto messages to educate the public on what is going on and on the fact that there is no free lunch.

Although he would be stuck with filling out the remaining years of Mr. Davis’ term, he would not be stuck with the current state legislature for all that time, since there will be legislative elections during the governor’s term. Educating the voter might affect those elections.

Some Republicans worry that California is in such a mess that there is little that anyone can do in three short years to turn things around, least of all a Republican governor with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. Those Republicans who think like this would prefer to leave the Democrats in charge, to stew in their own juices and be left totally discredited when the next elections come around.

It may be too close to call but I will vote for Mr. Schwarzenegger and hope for the best.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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