Jewish World Review Dec. 22, 2003/ 27 Kislev, 5764
The Terminator meets his match
The deal that put a $15 billion bond issue on the ballot as the solution to the state's money mess may be the cure for what ails California. Or it may just be more of the hair of the ravenous dog that threatens to eat the nation's largest state. Whatever. Maria Shriver's getting the credit is all the buzz.
It mostly depends on what the meaning of the word "credit" is, of course, because to get the votes to put the bond issue on the ballot next March, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had to dispense with the cap on future spending his fellow Republicans demanded as the price of their support. When the cap went, so did the Republicans.
The state Senate agreed to put the measure on the ballot by only a single vote, and all but two of the votes were cast by Democrats determined to protect their belly-busting appetites.
The deal, praised by the Democrats who couldn't believe their good fortune, was dead until Maria Shriver resuscitated it with a blitz of the legislature and the help of a liberal Republican or two.
At one point, when the deal had begun to suffer the first stiffening of rigor mortis, she even rushed to Sacramento to make a speech scolding legislators, a la Hillary Clinton. "I say that if some of these legislators were children," she said, "we would give them a 'time-out.' We would teach them that, with every person, you can find common ground; that you should play nicely with them, work to a common goal and work it out."
All it took to make the legislators "play nicely" together, like children threatened with a nice spanking, was a village of bullying Democrats. With time running out before the deadline imposed by state law for getting the bond measure on the ballot, the Democrats, led by the powerful state Sen. John Burton, employed an updated version of the hoary threat, beloved of big-spending city-hall pols everywhere, to close the orphanage: If the Republicans insisted on limiting by law future spending just the sort of blow-the-budget spending that got California in the mess that gave Gray Davis' job to the Terminator in the first place there wouldn't be any money for schools for the little children. Mom knows better, and a Kennedy mom knows best of all.
With the bond deal headed for the morgue, the Terminator returned to his Brentwood home badly in need of wifely solace and the gentle consolations of marital balm. Maria was waiting with news that she had been talking to his lobbyist in Sacramento and was ready to go with him to a conference with the California congressional delegation in Palm Springs.
There she would huddle with Leon Panetta, who was Bill Clinton's chief of staff. "I had a chance to talk to Maria," he told the Los Angeles Times, "and I just stressed the importance of the governor having to make a deal with the [Democrats in the] legislature."
Having marshaled all the usual Democratic arguments against frugality with taxpayer money, all she needed was the ritual "me-too" from a doughty Republican. Enter George Schultz, Ronald Reagan's secretary of state and now a visiting fine fellow (well met) at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. Surprise, surprise: He, too, told the governor to take the Democratic deal.
With his spirits bucked up at last, the Terminator could join his wife in a conference call with his aides, and they all decided to make a final push for a deal on Democratic terms. The Terminator returned to Sacramento on Monday morning by himself. Maria had to stay home with a sick child, but by Tuesday the child's fever, which had spiked at 104, was down, and that's when Mom got back to Sacramento to make her let's-all-play-nicely-together speech.
The Democrats allowed the Terminator a fig leaf in the form of a "rainy-day fund" instead of a spending cap. This reserve fund sets aside certain revenues for a future budget crisis, but as a "compromise," it cost the Democrats nothing. Future legislatures, which the Democrats confidently expect to dominate, can choose to spend the money any way they want.
Frittered away was the Terminator's opportunity to
intimidate the legislature with an appeal to the public while he
still has weight and heft, like the real Terminator. Instead, he
demonstrated that a Kennedy, even if she gets the genes
from a Kennedy mom, can still be a potent force in the
nation's politics. Lady MacBeth of Little Rock has a clone in
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