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Jewish World Review Nov. 16, 2004 / 3 Kislev 5765

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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Premature amendation | No doubt there are good reasons for amending the U.S. Constitution to allow naturalized citizens to run for president. But you won't read them among the arguments posted by a California group pushing to rewrite our founding document so that naturalized citizens can run for president.

Its Web site acknowledges, "Naturalized citizens make a heckuva lot more effort to become Americans than those of us who were lucky and landed here at birth." But the group's entire reason for being isn't so much right or wrong: It's "Arnold," as in California's Republican governator. The effort calls home the Web site, which sells an array of "Amend for Arnold" products — T-shirts, baseball caps and coffee cups.

It's amazing: Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigned for the governor's job by promising to balance the budget without raising taxes because California's money woes weren't due to under-taxing but overspending. So far, Schwarzenegger has fathered one budget — and that one saw the light of day only thanks to a one-time $15 billion loan.

Schwarzenegger hasn't cut the size of government. He hasn't balanced what the state takes in and what it spends. He hasn't done anything particularly difficult yet. He has a record only a fan club of star-struck teens — or Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones of Menlo Park, Calif., who formed — could love.

Team Arnold, it should be noted, is not involved with this constitutional-change campaign. "The governor is always flattered when people are supportive of him, but he's focused on the problems in California," noted spokeswoman Margita Thompson. "We're dealing with problems that weren't created in a year, and it's going to take more than a year to rectify them."

Schwarzenegger's one-year anniversary falls on Wednesday. Thompson has a point that it was too much to expect the new governor to clean up the budget mess in a year. This is year two, however, and Schwarzenegger promised "action, action, action." It's time to say goodbye to Mr. Nice Guy and hello to a governor who can deliver on this promise by gutting wasteful spending. I don't want a governor who has never met a program he didn't like.

Morgenthaler-Jones defended Schwarzenegger's record by noting he has done "his level best." I'm not buying it.

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Let us be clear about what Schwarzenegger has done. In winning the recall race, Schwarzenegger spared California from having a truly scary governor — Democrat Cruz Bustamante, who with the Legislature would have taxed the Golden State into oblivion, or Republican Tom McClintock, who couldn't pass a note with this Legislature.

On his first day, Schwarzenegger showed he could keep even a bad promise — if voters loved the idea. He signed an order ending a car-tax hike and increasing California's red ink by some $3 billion. He also called a special session of the Legislature to repeal a bill signed by recalled Gov. Gray Davis that would have allowed illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. Democrats went along, as they were terrified of the wrath of the enraged California voter.

Candidate Schwarzenegger promised workers' compensation reform; in office, he delivered what is widely considered a tepid version of it.

Schwarzenegger was the rare Republican who could sit at the table with teachers and city and county solons; as a result, he cut deals that will make it harder for him to curb spending in the future. Already, he has burned through one finance director, and he doesn't have big cuts in state spending to show for it.

Asked what the governor's biggest accomplishments were, Thompson answered that the biggest was "restoring confidence in government and solidifying a tie between people and government." The best part is: The big galoot restored confidence in Sacramento while calling state politicians "girly men."

In his State of the State speech in January, Schwarzenegger promised his reforms would involve more than shuffling departments; he wanted to "blow up boxes." But that takes real muscle and an ability to withstand scorching political heat — which Californians haven't seen in Sacramento's action hero to date. His weakness is that he wants everyone to like him.

Last year, I voted for Schwarzenegger because I believed that, of all the recall candidates, he showed the potential to be great. A year later, I still see the potential for greatness but not the greatness.

Schwarzenegger hasn't made one move that is unpopular with voters. He hasn't shown that he is willing to make enemies to get the job done. So he has cut corners, a la Gray Davis.

And yet there are people who want to change the U.S. Constitution to allow Schwarzenegger to be president. Big mistake. He still hasn't got the part of governor down.

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© 2003, Creators Syndicate