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“He would not stoop; he did not conquer.”

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After you have read Arnold post #1 and the transcript from which it flowed, absorb the front page story on intra-Demo fueding in CA and Bill Bradley’s always timely take on the Golden State’s unusually complicated politics of ’06.

The Arnold-Antonio Alliance is up against the Angelides-Newsom-CTA Coalition. What is very interesting about this is that the conservatives have no stake in either camp. Arnold’s capitulation after last November’s drubbing drained the enthusiasm from their ranks, and the appointment of Susan Kennedy stunned the regular activists and the hard left nature of much of his team across the agencies, and especially within the environmental bureaucracies, put farmers and builders at odds with him as well. The money that the CTA, the tribes and trial lawyers can muster between now and November will be huge. Though Westley would have posed a much more serious problem to Arnold, Mr. Peepers has resources, and a willingess to play as dirty as anyone in the history of California politics. Bob Mulholland isn’t hanging around HQ for no reason.

So Arnold has to worry that the base will stay home, or that even if it grudgingly shows up to vote for Tom McClintock or to keep the Congressional majority, that it will collectively register its dismay at Arnold’s glass jaw by leaving the lever unpulled at the top of the ticket. The Arnold-McCain partnership isn’t exactly the way to overcome that danger either.

So what’s he to do? Sure, he brought in some key Bush folks like Steve Schmidt and Matthew Dowd, and his vetoes of the more aggressive of the left’s attempts at social engineering remind the base they have something to lose if Arnold goes down to defeat.

But gnawing away at that on advantage is the suspicion that –re-elected and termed-out– Arnold will sign the sorts of bills that he once vetoed, and thus legitimize with a Republican signature the wilder expressions of the Legislature’s hard left leadership.

Arnold fumbled the chance to put a thorough-going conservative on the state’s Supreme Court as a means of providing conservatives some lasting benefit from his tenure.

And his appointees have done much to undermine the only real new infrastructure projects worth the name –the completion of the Orange County toll road system, to name one prominent project from the heart of the red county he must carry decisively.

He’s also failed to do much for the GOP outside the borders of California, other than a nice speech at the 2004 convention and a barnstorming trip to Ohio with President Bush.

So, how to get the party loyalists and the conservative activists back in the game?

A few obvious suggestions.

First, bring Jim Rogan or some similarly credentialed conservative into the inner circle. Put him or her in charge of judicial screening and explicitly promise to keep them there for the entire term. The promise of some serious appellate appointments would give conservatives a reason to work. And get a commitment from the White House to clean up the absurd process that has given control of federal judicial appointments for the state to Senators Boxer and Feinstein.

Second, reorganize the California Department of Fish and Game and put people in charge who command the respect of both conservationists and landowners.

Third, two serious problems are on the horizon, at least one of which is going to happen. Even if you can’t fix it, at least alert the public to the public pension sinkhole that is going to appear in the near future. And move beyond talking to actual preparation on the H5N1 virus. Waiting for appropriations to get the necessary stockpiles in palce is crazy.

Fourth, and most important, get out of California and into the states of some GOP candidates who could use the star power that Arnold still packs. Team up with Pennsylvannia’s Lynn Swann and Ohio’s Ken Blackwell. Get down to Florida and help Attorney General Charlie Christ succeed Jeb Bush. Look at the list of “The Big Ten” Senate races. Lift a finger.

My guess is that none of these things will come to pass. Carol Platt Liebau thought she heard “petulance” in Arnold’s answers to my questions yesterday, while I was just hearing fatigue at the prospect of actually having to persuade conservatives that he’s a better choice than Angelides.

Whatever he was thinking –and it was probably just a simple “Who is this guy again”– he really can’t expect to simply receive the support of party activists and conservatives. If he does, or if he resents having to ask, that’s trouble.

From Churchill’s portrait of The Earl of Rosebery, in “Great Contemporaries”:

One had to face the caucus, the wire-puller and the soap-box; one had to stand on platforms built of planks of all descriptions. He did not like it. He could not do it. He would not try. He knew what was wise and fair and true. He would not go through the laborious, vexatious and at times humiliating processes necessary under modern conditions to bring about those great ends. He would not stoop; he did not conquer.”


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