Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Advice To A Fledgling Governor From Arrrnold

Cool Off, Chill Out, And Accept That You'll have To Compromise

Actually, we think that Governor Eliot Spitzer is savvy enough to know not only when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, but also when to publicly hit 'em over the head with that stacked deck, and when to negotiate a workable, if not ephemeral peace.

Yes, steamrolling 'em in Albany captures the public's attention, and wins the praise of political pundits with whom such rhetoric resonates, but believe us, it gets real old, real fast.

Just take a page from the lesson book of the early days of California's Governor "I'll Be Back." Invaluable, if not humorous reading, from "I'll act without them" to girly-men."

Given that Mr. Spitizer reads The New York Times, we're sure he's not only taken notice, but has grinned at the somewhat dubious connection.

Yes, it may seem hard to be humble when you think you're as great as your inner circle says you are, but we have no doubt that Governor Spitzer will temper his steamrolling with an appropriate smattering of that proverbial pie.

There is a real difference between flexing that muscle, and actually using it. If anyone can do both -- or not -- as the moment commands, it is New York's Eliot Spitzer!
- - -
Hungry for Change, a Pair of Governors Are Served Humble Pie
By Jennifer Steinhauer

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 9 — Eliot Spitzer, the people of California have seen the likes of you before.
The reformer, the new guy in the capital, the one who is going to shake things up. He comes in with a big agenda, smacks around the State Legislature — including members of his own party — with harsh words and grand statements about his mandate.

And then he sort of cools it. That was what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger figured out was necessary, if one really wants to get things done.

“Both Spitzer and Arnold are viewed as Davids versus Goliaths, taking on corruption, taking on the big guys,” said Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento. “And in many ways they both have pledged to take back government and be an instrument of the people.”

But if recent history is any guide, Governor Spitzer may also end up like his counterpart on the West Coast, cooling his heated language, editing his battle list and embracing issues that are popular with both parties.

Like Mr. Spitzer in New York, Mr. Schwarzenegger came to the governor’s mansion in California (or, ahem, the Sacramento Hyatt Hotel) with an appetite for big change and a pair of elbows that could cut raw meat. Craving to move mountains, he faced off with an entrenched Legislature and powerful unions, letting them know he would have no truck with obstreperous ways.

And Mr. Schwarzenegger ping-ponged from early victories to watching lawmakers sock it to him at will, just as Mr. Spitzer lost the battle over the state comptroller this week.

Not long after winning a recall election in 2003, Mr. Schwarzenegger revamped the state’s costly workers’ compensation system and addressed its inveterate budget deficits.

But he also lost his fight to change labor rules and transfer budget powers to the governor’s office and redraw the state’s Congressional and legislative districts. In the heat of a budget battle, he invoked emergency powers to cut state spending, provoking further legislative ire.

When he tried to pull an end run around lawmakers and take the issues to the public, voters said no thanks, and suggested at the time that maybe he ought to spiff up his résumé.

Mr. Spitzer, barely into his second month of a term he won in a landslide victory, also started off with a quick victory. He helped his party grab a State Senate seat in a special election on Long Island. But he was just as quickly foiled by legislators who disregarded an agreed-upon selection process for a new state comptroller, picking instead among their own. He has threatened to mess with the money that fuels that state’s big health care industry.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, when displeased, reduced his opponents in the Legislature to “girly men.”

Mr. Spitzer has opted to declare his Legislature’s “stunning lack of integrity.”

It is the stuff of good headlines, but at least in the case of California, it does not last.

After his 2005 referendum defeat and through his re-election campaign the following year, Mr. Schwarzenegger took a different tack. Calling himself post-partisan, he worked with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to win a critical bond measure. He sought environmental legislation.

And he is approaching this year’s budget with olive branches, rather than verbal cactuses.

The California governor, who once said of state legislators, “I will act without them,” addressed them this January with promises to many by name, referring to their pet issues and saying, “I will work with you.”

No doubt, there are differences between the governors and the respective states they serve.

Mr. Spitzer is widely believed to have visions of a presidential run — something the Austrian-born Mr. Schwarzenegger is barred from seeking — and so has more to gain in the long term by gilding his reputation as a reformer.

Generally speaking, California voters do not wake up every morning wondering which of their local representatives is about to be investigated, indicted or simply relegated to irrelevance in the largely debate-free legislative process that defines governing in Albany.

Mr. Schwarzenegger’s biggest problems have stemmed from his spectacularly failed ballot initiatives, a system New York does not practice.

Mr. Spitzer, unlike Mr. Schwarzenegger during his about-face, is not facing re-election any time soon, and he has picked an issue that could resonate with voters: overhauling the ethics of the capital.

So with Mr. Spitzer, it may come down to this: he succeeds at the highly unlikely task of flattening the state’s two top legislators, or he goes the Schwarzenegger route and speaks the language of compromise.

Fighting entrenched interests “are the themes that resonate with the voters,” Dr. O’Connor said.

“But as Arnold found out, the Legislature has a mind of its own. You learn that you can be rolled. And then you learn to make deals.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

No comments:

Post a Comment