Jewish World Review Dec. 27, 2004 / 15 Teves, 5765

Martin Kimel

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Consumer Reports

Ahnold and the Professor | Arnold Schwarzenegger recently hired an old law school professor of mine, Tom Campbell, to be the governor's chief policy adviser on economics and director of California's finance department. The announcement didn't exactly grab national headlines but, for those who know Campbell's career, the news may say a lot about Schwarzenegger's presidential plans.

Campbell has a resume as long as his arm and as impressive as Arnold's biceps - a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago, Harvard Law Review, Supreme Court clerk, White House fellow, antitrust director of the Federal Trade Commission at 30, tenured professor at Stanford Law School, California state senator, five-term U.S. Congressman, and dean of U.C. Berkeley's business school.

Campbell makes an unlikely Hans to Schwarzenegger's Franz (though both may be ready to "pump up" Kaleefornia's economy). The two men couldn't be much more unalike. For example, while economist Campbell was developing a quantitative measure of discrimination against women in the work place, actor Arnold was busy developing a reputation for groping actresses on the movie set. It's also ironic that the ultra-credentialed Campbell is now working for virtually the only major politician in America without a college degree. But as hardworking a campaigner as Campbell was in his two failed bids for the U.S. Senate, he lacks what Schwarzenegger oozes: charisma. (Sorry, Tom.) Perhaps because it was a third-tier celebrity, the late Sonny Bono, who thwarted Campbell's quest for the Republican nomination in his first Senate race, Campbell has now allied himself with a celebrity of the first rank.

It's easy to see why Schwarzenegger would hire Campbell, a moderate Republican who served as both a state and federal legislator. Perhaps most important, he brings to the job heavy-duty intellectual fire power — as opposed to the more traditional kind used in Schwarzenegger's movies.

What is less clear is why Campbell would take a leave of absence from Berkeley after little more than two years to make the long commute to Sacramento. After all, as a dean and former Congressman, Campbell is used to being the boss, not answering to one. The key, I think, is that Campbell is nothing if not ambitious (not that's there anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld might say). You have to be to run for the U.S. Senate, twice.

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Campbell denies that he sees the job as career stepping stone, but he could hardly do otherwise. In addition, it's difficult to see him going from managing California's $100 billion budget back to a comparatively puny $40 million budget at Berkeley.

It's possible that Campbell accepted the finance post because he is planning a third run at the Senate, and he hopes that some of Arnold's charm and star quality will rub off on him. As a wonk-turned-politician, pressing the flesh has never appeared to come easily to my old professor, who used to perspire a good deal while lecturing. But while Campbell may still dream of being a U.S. Senator, it's not clear that he has the appetite to try again after two bruising losses. In any event, there are no openings in the near future because Barbara Boxer just coasted to a third six-year term, and moderate Democrat Dianne Feinstein is expected to win re-election easily in 2006.

That Campbell has taken the position of aide after having been a principal may indicate that he has accepted that he's not a natural politician. It's a gift you either have or don't and, no matter how smart Campbell is, even working with the "Governator" won't transform him into something he's not. (But watch out if the two start working out together.) So California's new finance director may be setting his sights on an important presidential cabinet-level job, like Secretary of Treasury, or chairman of the Federal Reserve, as a fitting alternative to high elective office.

The immediate problem for Campbell is that he is fiscally conservative and socially moderate - exactly the opposite of the Bush-led Republican party. So, for now, Washington isn't a good option.

That's where Gov. Schwarzenegger comes in. His friends are pushing to amend the Constitution to allow foreign-born citizens to be president, and the governor himself supports such an amendment. It's a tough nut to crack, but underestimating Arnold has proven a losing bet at every stage of his jaw-dropping career. (After "Terminator 2," a wag remarked that the "Terminator" movies demonstrated Schwarzenegger's broad acting range - he could play both good "and" bad robots. The wag, like so many of us, was missing the point of Arnold entirely.) And William Safire recently went so far as to predict that a "28th Amendment" abolishing the U.S.-born requirement will be adopted in 2007, which would clear the way for the "Running Man" (from a truly awful Schwarzenegger flick of that title) to seek the nation's highest office.

In the meantime, Campbell is hitching his wagon to the governor's fortunes. The move carries some obvious risk: If California's economy goes south, so may the good professor's political future. It's a risk he wouldn't take, I think, if he didn't see potential rewards that went beyond state government. By taking the finance director post, Campbell positions himself for a cabinet appointment by a future President Schwarzenegger. This means that by taking the job, Campbell is also providing an endorsement of sorts for his boss's presidential ambitions.

Keep an eye on this new odd couple of California politics — the brainy wonk and the musclebound movie star. As one of them has said before, they'll be back.

Martin Kimel is a Washington, D.C.-area lawyer and writer. He also blogs at Comment by clicking here.


The Flack in the Hat ... (With apologies to Dr. Seuss)

© 2004, Martin Kimel